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HOKA ONE ONE Kaha GORE-TEX Review

Feels like you are wearing pillows on your feet. With cushy soles and hi-cut protection, they are a great choice for those who value comfort on the trail
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $220 List | $219.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Amazing comfort, stable, great traction
Cons:  Not as capable in off-trail terrain, rockered sole feels unnatural at first
Manufacturer:   HOKA ONE ONE
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 21, 2020
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 16
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Stability - 20% 8
  • Traction - 15% 7
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Water Resistance - 15% 7
  • Durability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The HOKA ONE ONE Kaha GORE-TEX (also referred to as the Sky Kaha GTX) is the most luxuriously comfortable hiking boot that we have had the pleasure of testing. They don't resemble anything close to a classic hiking boot, but these unique boots are not only super comfy but also bring high-performance capability to the trail. After getting over our initial impression of jaw-dropping comfort, we were also pleased to discover just how much stability the high collar offers, making them a great choice for longer hikes with heavy packs as well as for adventures closer to home. We awarded the Kaha our Top Pick for Comfort thanks to its stability and support, crazy comfort, and low weight, especially if you tend to stick to trails and don't do a lot of scrambling.

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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Kaha GTX almost defies a being placed in a category. Is it a high-top trail running shoe, a lightweight backpacking boot, or something in between? Whatever designation you choose to label the Kaha with, it is a phenomenally comfortable shoe that is not just a one-trick pony. This boot does well in almost all of our review metrics, making it an easy decision to award it a Top Pick for folks looking for a padded ride.

Performance Comparison


Rough trails ahead? With the Sky Kaha  you can be assured that the durable leather upper will resist the wear that other lightweight models will see.
Rough trails ahead? With the Sky Kaha, you can be assured that the durable leather upper will resist the wear that other lightweight models will see.

Comfort


The Kaha GTX boots blew us away with their extraordinary comfort. Seriously, these boots don't even give other models a fair fight trying to compete against it in this metric! Thanks to a blend of proprietary foam layers as the basis for its midsole construction, the one word to best describe the feeling of walking around in the Kaha is plush. Straight out of the box these boots delivered excellent all-day comfort, allowing our feet to move around without being loose, and our feet did not feel nearly as fatigued at the end of a long hiking day as with more minimal midsole constructions.


We preferred the lacing system of this pair of HOKA's. It consists of a leather cutout eyelet at the start of the laces, followed by four metal eyelets. In the middle of the lacing system, two eyelets are located side by side. Choosing the eyelets further forward makes the lacing system tighter across the top. Opting for the eyelets located further back makes the heel box feel snugger. We liked the adjustability to accommodate personal preferences. Two hooks at the top of the upper allow the user to tighten the collar around the ankle with ease. The heel box felt excellent to the feet of our reviewers, with no slippage reported. We like this lacing system but missed the lace-locking feature found on some models.

Ultra-plush for days on the trail or even on the paved walking path - these are our favorites for comfort.
Ultra-plush for days on the trail or even on the paved walking path - these are our favorites for comfort.

Our reviewers hit the high desert trails and while we did not need the additional waterproof Gore-Tex barrier at all times, appreciated how breathable it was. If your hikes don't take you into wet weather conditions, consider a boot without such a liner.

Stability


The Kaha has dimensions that make it one of the most stable boots for its weight that we tested. The forefoot width clocks in at 4.75 inches wide, giving it a wide platform that resists rolling, making this one of the safer boots to protect against rolled ankles. Its collar height is a towering 6.2 inches when measured from the footbed to the top of the collar, allowing it to be securely laced up above the ankle, providing the security of an ankle wrap with a lot more comfort and mobility.


The torsional rigidity of this boot is impressive, considering its lack of a shank. It has decidedly more rigidity than models with a similar weight, and it is hard to detect this rigidity thanks to the rockered sole that promotes more of a rolling motion without the need to articulate as much at the ball of the foot as other boots.

The Sky Kaha is one of the tallest in our review but doesn't come with the weight penalty. These offer great support and stability in all conditions.
The Sky Kaha is one of the tallest in our review but doesn't come with the weight penalty. These offer great support and stability in all conditions.

While we want to emphasize the stability underfoot in this boot, it is worth noting that the material that the collar is made of it lighter and softer than that of a more dedicated hiking boot or a boot meant for mountain scrambling. Those boots have more rigid material around the ankle.

Traction


Featuring a Vibram MegaGrip outsole, this is a top-tier boot when it comes to on-trail traction and grip. Other boots, also use the MegaGrip rubber compound on their soles, but the tread pattern is not nearly as effective as the one found on the Hokas. These boots have a surprising amount of grip given their shallow lug pattern and excel in dry trail conditions as well as in wet and slippery situations, and even in heavy snow, the grip of these soles is confidence-inspiring.


They may not do nearly as well in loose sediment as boots with deeper set lugs like found on mountain boots, but in the majority of on-trail scenarios we encountered, we felt that the wearing the Kaha GTX was similar to riding a fat tire bike - there is so much sole surface area contacting the ground that you can't help but have amazing traction.

The soles of the Sky Kaha have multi-directional tread and are really capable in all but the loosest surface conditions.
The soles of the Sky Kaha have multi-directional tread and are really capable in all but the loosest surface conditions.

Weight


These weigh a respectable 2.45 pounds per pair in a size 11. Sure, other boots weigh less, though, for the height of the cuff and the amount of sole cushioning you get, this is an incredible boot for its weight. For a slight weight increase, you can gain top-tier traction in all mountain conditions with the boot better suited for mountain adventures, though neither of these has the plush comfort found in the Kaha.


More streamlined models might be light as a feather, weighing nearly a pound less, though they do not have the same protection and stability. Simply said, this boot has a comfort-to-weight ratio that is unmatched by any boot in this review, and for those who have aching knees and are looking for a way to increase their longevity on the trails, this boot is a perfect choice.

For being so tall  made of full-grain leather and with what feels like inches of cushy foam under your feet  the Sky Kahas weight less than 2.5 pounds.
For being so tall, made of full-grain leather and with what feels like inches of cushy foam under your feet, the Sky Kahas weight less than 2.5 pounds.

Water Resistance


These boots have a flood height of 5.5 inches, as measured from the bottom of the sole to the top of the waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex brand membrane. This liner provides an adequate barrier to incoming water, and we had no issue while testing this in our simulated 5-minute underwater test or testing during daily use in the backcountry.


A previous iteration of this model used a different waterproof barrier (eVent), which we feel breathed a bit better. The Gore-Tex liner used in the Kaha GTX is not quite as breathable in hot conditions.

We test these boots in streams  in mud  and in snow. Here while post-holing through a foot of fresh snow on our local trail  we were happy that the Sky Kaha did not leak at all.
We test these boots in streams, in mud, and in snow. Here while post-holing through a foot of fresh snow on our local trail, we were happy that the Sky Kaha did not leak at all.

Durability


During our test period, we did not experience any durability concerns with the Kaha, and they are new enough that not many other users have been able to report on long-term issues. This model has full-grain leather comprising it's upper and has beefed up its sole with firmer rubber compounds that should resist wearing better than softer foam. The eyelets are for the most part protected with metal, and the traditional lacing system is easy to change out if a lace breaks in the field.


Value


These boots do offer good value, as they provide outstanding comfort. If you desire a plush ride on the trail, then these are worth every penny.

Conclusion


We became fans of the HOKA ONE ONE Kaha GORE-TEX on day one. Lacing them up for the first time, these shoes feel lightweight and surprisingly stable. Most of all, Hoka turned up comfort to 11 with this boot, reducing foot fatigue and soreness better than any other model tested. Comfy feet make for great backpacking trips, and this pair nails it.

Ryan Huetter