Hoka One One Kaha GORE-TEX Review
Cons: Not as capable in off-trail terrain, rockered sole feels unnatural at first
Manufacturer: Hoka One One
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Kaha GTX almost defies 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 model does well in almost all of our hiking boot review metrics, making it an easy decision to award it a Top Pick for folks looking for a padded ride.
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.
Our reviewers hit the high desert trails and while we did not need the additional waterproof Gore-Tex barrier at all times, we appreciated how breathable it was. If you don't tend to venture into wet weather conditions on your hiking excursions, consider a boot without such a liner.
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.
While we want to emphasize the stability underfoot in this boot, it is worth noting that the collar's material is 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.
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, wearing the Kaha GTX felt 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.
These weigh a respectable 2.45 pounds per pair in a size 11. Sure, other boots weigh less, but considering 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.
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.
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 its 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.
Should You Buy the Hoka One One Kaha?
We became fans of this pair on day one. If you desire a plush ride on the trail, then the Kaha are worth every penny. They're lightweight, stable, and we found them to reduce foot fatigue and soreness better than any other model tested.
What Other Hiking Boots Should You Consider?
We love these boots for their plush comfort underfoot, but if you know you'll be venturing into more mountainous, rugged terrain, check out a beefier model like the Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex or Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX. If you're looking to save a few bucks, the Keen Targhee II Mid is a solid all-around pair to check out.
— Ryan Huetter
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More