Monday, December 28, 2020

Hoka One One Kaha Low GTX Multi Tester Review: 100% Pure Hiker, 100% Pure Hoka!

Article by Dominique Winebaum, Jeff Beck, and Sam Winebaum

Hoka ONE ONE Kaha Low GTX ($200)


Sam: Hoka has in the last couple of years expanded their Sky hiking collection with the Kaha trekking boot (RTR Review).Toa light hiker (RTR Review), the Hopara water and hiking sandal (RTR Review) and the radical TenNine Hike GTX ( (RTR Review). Slotted in the Sky collection along with their trail runners, the Kaha Low GTX is unmistakably a dedicated hiking shoe and not a rebadged trail runner.  Yet it shares many trademark attributes with its run cousins such as massive cushion well beyond any other hiking boot or shoe and Hoka’s MetaRocker. Will some run in it? Maybe, but we will stick to walking and hiking in our test here.

It has a super supportive Nubuck leather upper with Gore-Tex Leaf waterproof breathable bootie and a stout abrasion resistant toe bumper over a massively and densely cushioned and protective midsole and is shod with a Vibram MegaGrip outsole with 5mm lugs.

It is also 100% a Hoka as that midsole is a dual layer construction similar to road shoes with a softer plush EVA underfoot and a big layer of rubberized foam below that. Note though this is not run shoe or even trail shoe soft foam . For purpose it is denser and firmer.

The giant stack of 33mm heel / 27 mm forefoot men's, 31mm /25mm women's (shown above) is pure Hoka as is the MetaRocker for a smooth roll on the go as is the zonal Vibram MegaGrip outsole.

Having tested the high top Kaha last year I was eager to see how the “low” fared!


The Toa was my first introduction to HOKA hiking boots and I hiked in them for 200 miles through Switzerland (Via Jacobi), trails in the Wasatch and in the Uintas (UT), and the rugged terrain of the White Mountains --  more than a dozen NH 4000 footers.  It was time for a replacement and I was fortunate to receive a pair of Kaha Low GTX.  A low top, the Kaha is nevertheless a sturdier hiking boot than the Toa with better protection from the upper to the outer sole, yet the feel is super cushioned and comfortable.  A great hiking low top with a GTX upper built to handle rough and rocky trails in wet conditions, yet so comfortable and incredibly cushioned, that it is a great option for hiking all kinds of terrains, but perhaps preferably in cool weather.    


After running in or reviewing literally dozens of different Hokoa, this is my first Hoka hiking shoe - and there’s a lot there. Sam and Dominique paint a very clear picture: this is a beast of a shoe and it is unmistakably a Hoka. I don’t have nearly the hiking pedigree as my colleagues, but I tested the Kaha Low on several trails around the Denver area, and on a pair of particularly slushy days heading into the office. All day comfort is real.



Massive cushion on a broad platform that is impenetrable by any obstacle yet more than adequately stable, and while stiff, easy to roll up or down any trail

Incredibly supportive comfortable leather upper which should prove durable for years and years

A great work shoe for those on their feet all day outdoors and potentially indoors


A midweight and comfortable hiking “shoe”/boot that provides maximum protection from the upper to the midsole. A great low top hiking option that is equally supportive as higher boots

Super well designed shoelace system with an extra eyelet for foot lockdown, if needed.  

Awesome cushioning and roomy toebox for a comfortable fit and ride.

Great durability.


Every element of the shoe feels sturdy, nearly overbuilt - these things might stand up to a direct strike from a nuclear blast!

Really nice cushioning, there’s a lot but it’s firm in a good way, truly all day comfort

Outsole is very durable with good traction



While fantastic in its support, hold, and durability the upper is potentially over built and not ideal for warm conditions

You can get most of the goodness (but maybe not the durability or quite the support) in a Hoka Speedgoat or Stinson ATR that costs less and can be run.

Pricing for this premium shoe is up there at $200.


This is a cool weather shoe that might not be a good option for warm and hot weather conditions.
Its price point,, which is high, should  be offset by the expected long term durability of the shoe.


Upper, including Gore Tex, is very heavy in weight and heat retention

Price is hard to swallow, especially since it’s so clunky when attempting to run

Toebox is decent for a Hoka, but after a few hours I’d love a little more width



W 31mm heel 25mm forefoot

M 33mm heel 27mm forefoot


Men’s : US8.5 16.24 oz / 432g, US10.5 16.7 oz / 474g

Women’s  US9 15.2oz / 430g Men’s 


W 5–11(B) M 7–13, 14(D) 

Available January 2021  $200

First Impressions and Fit


The Kaha was a welcome upgrade from my well-worn Toa, and as a sturdier hiking option, more fitting for the rugged terrain of the NH White Mountains.  A low top that delivers plenty of support and protection, more so than the Toa, it is designed more specifically for hikers.  In spite of its sturdy built, the Kaha is surprisingly lightweight and incredibly cushioned, as well as quite comfortable. 

I am testing the Kaha in my regular size 9, and the fit is secure and comfortable with plenty of room to wiggle my toes and to accommodate any kind of foot swelling.  Feet are securely in place, well padded and cushioned, whether hiking uphill or downhill, and if need be, the shoelace system can be adjusted for foot lockdown.  My hiking experience is enhanced by the great fit, ultimate protection, excellent traction, and super cushioned feel of the Kaha.  


As I mentioned above, this is my first Hoka hiking shoe, but having a long history with Hoka - there’s a lot of familiarity. The most striking feature of the shoe is how well padded it is in every facet. Sure, virtually every Hoka has a massively cushioned midsole, but this shoe’s upper is also padded in a way that the running shoes never are. There’s a premium feel to every part of this shoe, and while it is easy to point at the price tag and shrug your shoulders, the lack of weight concern is likely the cause for the all premium feel. Padded doesn’t mean loose, and this shoe holds the foot incredibly well without going above the ankle. The Kaha Low reminds me a lot of a pair of Vasque hiking boots I had for about ten years starting in the late 90s, only much more comfortable. Definitely stick true-to-size, and use the lacing to dial in the fit.

Sam: Massive and in a serious earth dust color the Kaha Low, before you even put them on, practically shouts stability, cushion, durability, security, and traction. The foot is totally locked down from heel to toe in a dense, thick and very reassuring cocoon of nubuck leather. It has an incredibly supportive upper. 

Underfoot one immediately notices the broad platform and the massive not overly soft cushion. Instant confidence to tackle just about anything or to just stand on your feet on concrete all day. The fit is true to size and generous with the very substantial wear resistant toe bumper somewhat noticed over the toes but not a bother.



A resilient thick upper made of Nubuck leather that is very protective and durable with a rubberized toe cap that enables you to negotiate rocks without bump pain.  The thickness of the upper with its reinforced heel and toe cap creates a safe environment for your feet in rocky terrains.  

The collar is well padded in like manner to the tongue helping create a comfortable and secure fit.  

A low top that is comparable in weight with the Toa (only 2 ounces more), despite its sturdy and bulkier build.  The shoelace system helps keep your foot securely, very securely  in place on the platform, no loosening of laces as you hike, and feet comfortable.  I find that a GORE-TEX upper on a hiking boot tends to be a negative in warm and hot weather conditions, when I tend to hike the most.  However, it does open the door for more year-round hiking.


Dominique isn’t kidding - this upper is incredibly thick and padded. The toe cap is more substantial than any shoe or boots I’ve ever worn (besides my LL Bean duck boots) and there’s a level of protection in this shoe that is top notch. A few months ago I would have bemoaned the upper for its lack of breathability, but it’s funny how moving from Phoenix to Denver in September completely changes your outlook on outdoor footwear and warmth. Then there’s the durability - which thus far is nothing shy of incredible. My pair shows virtually zero wear, just a couple marks on the toe cap from a near stumble. As expected with a GORE-TEX upper, the tongue is gusseted to help keep the foot dry, and between that and the several lace loops going down the center of the tongue, this thing isn’t moving off-center a bit.

Sam: The others have described the upper well. Think heavier duty backpacking boot in a low profile. 

While thick, the nubuck upper where it is not reinforced by the stout toe bumper and rear overlays is decently pliable. 

The padding around the collars is exceptionally comfortable and suitably not “plush” for purpose and provides total hold of the rear of the foot. 

The Kaha’s upper is of course not an airy run shoe upper and while not suffocating even in moderate heat it is clearly more at home in wet, high mountains, and cooler weather. 



A hiking shoe with a multi-layered cushioned midsole that is at once plush, durable, and supportive. The top dark blue layer is  EVA foam to create that plush feel against the foot that is so characteristic of a HOKA running shoe.  The bottom lighter blue layer is made of rubberized foam for a supportive foundation that is both cushioned and protective.  Fully and deeply cushioned but also supremely stable, I hit the trails without feeling any discomfort or foot placement insecurity despite the high stack of  


Boasting what I think is Hoka’s firmest midsole to date, the Kaha Low does firm cushioning right. Many firm shoes are also dull, but this midsole has just the right amount of give to avoid “dull” without going too far and sacrificing stability. The shape of the midsole is plenty wide, a Hoka staple, and the underfoot protection is without issue. Some of Hoka’s bigger running shoes have midsoles that go up around the side of the foot, giving the shoe a bucket seat feel, but the Kaha Low relies on the sturdy upper to do that. No point in giving a shoe a supremely built upper without using it.

Sam: Take an exceptionally broad but not awkward geometry, put slightly softer EVA below the foot then a giant layer of rubberized foam, secured if you will by the outsole stabilizing influence, and you get an exceptionally deep, stable and comfortable midsole quite unlike any other hiker (even Hoka’s others in the Sky collection) or for that matter running shoe. This is clearly a platform designed for hiking, broad, stiff and stable. Hoka’s Meta  Rocker is clearly felt and moves it along at any hiking pace over every terrain but don’t expect to run much in the Kaha Low. If you are not on the trail it is an exceptionally comfortable shoe to stand around all day in as the massive denser cushioning, platform, and stability come together to protect and cushion legs and feet.     



Vibram Megagrip hi-traction outsole with multidirectional 5 mm lugs designed to handle wet and dry conditions, rugged terrain, mud and sand.  Plenty of traction, protection, and support.  To enhance the properties of the outsole, the lug pattern is designed into zones with different lug sizes and shapes that are multidirectional and well spaced.  

The periphery of the outsole is lined with wide and large lugs to increase support,  traction, and increase durability whereas in the center the lugs are smaller with “open spaces.” of exposed midsole foam.  

Flex grooves throughout the outsole increase flexibility and delineate the different lug zones.  The heel has its own zone to create a more effective rolling movement of the foot as the heel strikes the ground, which is particularly noticeable when hiking on flat terrain.  This is an outsole built to handle rugged and flat trails that offers plenty of traction and support without weighing you down. 


I couldn’t agree more with Dominique, this outsole is beefy. Vibram Megagrip rubber with lots of big lugs gives you a recipe for tons of grip and lots of miles. The exposed midsole around the center/back-center of the shoe is surprisingly durable, and I don’t mind the flex grooves - though they don’t help too much. This midsole is thick enough, there isn’t that much flexing going on, but might as well make the outsole not hinder things any more than it already is. The mud, slush, dirt, and rocks were all nothing that the Kaha couldn’t handle. I’m not sure what terrain could give this shoe more than it could deal with.

Sam: The MegaGrip outsole while not full full coverage has grip and wear surfaces everywhere it is needed with 5mm lugs of relatively firm rubber. As with all MegaGrip durability should be excellent.



I don’t plan on taking my KAHA on a trail run as HOKA has better trail shoes for that, however, as a hiker, it delivers a cushiony ride with plenty of support, and extra protection when the trails get rough.  This is KAHA’s first edition as a low top and this low version has the matching qualities of a high top mountaineering boot as it provides so much support and protection, yet without the weight and the stiffness.  A boot that will help you get through tough trails and rough conditions, and for the long haul. 


I did try running in the Kaha Low briefly, and it became very clear that just isn’t it’s forte. You could probably alter your gait to make them work, but why bother when there are so many great max cushioned running shoes on the market? For hikes though, this shoe punches above its weight with a very comfortable ride that is as surefooted as anything out there. I have to imagine this is the bar for all day hiking shoes.


You will ride over and through anything in the Kaha Low GTX  in total security and I found fresh legs at the end. The Meta Rocker and overall geometry is effective for hiking paces letting the massive stack roll right along lively even on flatter terrain and with none of the clumsiness of heavy duty backpacking boots.  I did not miss a higher top here and in fact found the thicker nubuck upper and rear collars made them more stable than the higher top Kaha GTX with its more supple thinner leather and shakier lace up. And if your are just standing around all day or working all day outdoors on your feet I can’t think of a better option to keep you stable and aligned. 

Conclusions and Recommendations


It is definitely a “boot” as yes its upper construction is more boot like than trail runner, thick supportive Nubuck leather and all  that is adaptable to a wide variety of terrains and will serve its purpose best when hiking on trails that are challenging.  It is perfect for the NH White Mountains and plenty comfortable and smooth rocker rolling to take on easier trails.  

However, it may be overbuilt when mostly hiking on smooth trails.  My TOA was my go-to hiking boot for the past year, however, it was not as supportive and protective as the KAHA.  The price point of the KAHA is a bit high, however, its durability should offset the cost.  There is something to be said about hiking in a reliable and comfortable boot , so longevity is a good thing if the type of boot and its best uses is a good match from the start.  My main issue with the KAHA is that it is going to be a warm boot in the summer, but in the cool and cold weather, the GTX will be a welcome addition to keep my feet dry and protected. 


9.6 / 10


My first Hoka hiking shoe, and I was very impressed. Gobs of traction, massive yet cushioning, and the most protective upper around, the Kaha Low is a hiking shoe for literally anywhere. The upper’s heat retention might make it a less than ideal choice for hotter climates or summer hikes, but it is going to be a mainstay for me, likely for years to come. While the $200 price tag can create sticker shock, if this shoe lasts as long as it appears it will, then it might be the most cost effective shoe I’ve ever reviewed. It’s understated looks also help it’s long term viability - nobody in the office looked twice when I wore them on snowy days. Many trail shoes have adopted Vibram rubber outsoles, but this one seems to be among the most stout on the market.

Jeff’s Score 9.3 out of 10

Ride: 9 Fit: 9  Value: 9 Style: 10 Traction: 10 Rock Protection: 10


Is it a shoe? Is it a boot? I say it is a hiking shoe for rugged terrain with all of the pluses of ankle and foot support of a serious mountain/backpacking boot but without the extra materials and weight of such boots. This said it is not light at over 16.6 oz / 470g  in a US9 but unlike often heavier boots you will get 33mm of heel stack and 27mm of forefoot stack for a protective and comfortable ride mile after mile on any terrain. At $200 the pricing gives pause but this is a very well crafted, very rugged leather “shoe” with full GoreTex and a great Vibram MegaGrip outsole all combining which should make it last for many seasons of adventures. The sober styling and standing on your feet all day comfort also make it a great outdoor work, travel and leisure shoe.

Sam’s Score: 9.56 /10

Ride: 9.6 (30%) Fit: 9.6 (30%) Value: 8.5 (10%) Style:9 (5%) Traction: 10 (15%) Rock Protection: (10%)


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Hoka One One Kaha GTX  trekking boot (RTR Review)

Sam: Take the same underfoot platform and give it a higher top and softer thinner leather upper which all adds to weight to bring it in at 18.2 oz vs. 16.5 oz for the Low. The higher version has the advantage of being a bit more flexible through its upper including a less massively secure rear hold with more forward flex overall so it is a better trekking, long easier terrain “marching” boot maybe..while the Low is notably more secure in its overall hold despite its lower upper. I struggled to get a good lace up around the ankle for more technical terrain in the high Kaha and had no such issues with the Low.

Hoka Ten Nine Hike GTX (RTR Review

Sam: Weighing about the same,  the radical Ten Nike Hike with its yet broader geometry and outrigger tail makes a statement that’s for sure and a colorful one which the more workman like Kaha avoids. It has a similar massive cushion stack on a yet broader platform than Kaha. Let’s just say tail and all it is not as “practical” or discrete, limiting its showings compared to the Kaha. On the trail for a long trek with lighter pack on moderately easy terrain the geometry moves along smoother and faster than the Kaha with the upper lighter and more breathable.  This said, and Ten Nine is $35 more, the Kaha will tackle rougher terrain better, its upper should prove more durable over time and Kaha is more versatile otherwise and a better value.

Hoka One One Toa (RTR Review)

Dominique: It is a much sturdier hiking boot than the TOA with better support and protection.  The TOA will do the job on most trails, however, the KAHA is noticeably more supportive and protective, but not as easy going, though plenty comfortable.  

Inov-8 Roclite G 400 GTX  (RTR Review)

Sam: A premium new age agile hiker that can even be run some, the mid top G 400 combines rear stability from a plastic exo skeleton running from heel through mid foot with a far lower yet decently cushioned stack and unlike the Kaha plenty of front flexibility. Again ,as with the Kaha High, I found it more difficult to get a secure stable lace up here than in the Low.  The G 400 is more than 2 oz lighter and $35 more and features a Gore-Tex upper with an exterior ceramic coating for durability. It is a better option for those moving very fast over technical terrain at shorter distances where some running may be in the mix. The Kaha Low is a better choice as a more stable and cushioned pure hiker.

New Balance Hierro v5 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Both fit true-to-size. The Hierro is billed as a trail running shoe, but it’s heavy weight (375g / 13.2 oz) and just adequate underfoot protection made it much more at home on easier hikes. While the Hierro comes in a few ounces lighter and definitely cheaper, the Kaha Low is a much more serious trail shoe, and a much more durable one as well. If you are looking for all day comfort that is going to last season after season, get the Hoka.

Available Now at Hoka One One HERE

Products reviewed were provided at no charge for testing. The opinions herein are the authors'

RTR Team's Best of 2020 Articles
Road Running Shoes HERE
Trail Running Shoes HERE
RTR Contributors Best of Run 2020, Year in Review Articles

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