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Footwear Flying Forward

Sharpening competitive edge in a crowded market means evolving to reflect the ever-changing wants and needs of consumers – and for athletic footwear brands such as HOKA, its evolution takes form in dynamic versatility.

The market is primed and ready for novelty in the space: It is forecasted that performance and outdoor footwear categories will outpace the growth of the overall footwear market in 2023, according to a recent report by NPD Group – and retail experts note that consumers have changed, embracing dynamism and a penchant for multi-use athletic footwear.

So naturally, brands are following suit. Spurred by an uptick in performance sports shoe sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, multi-use athletic footwear is trending up as it is designed to allow consumers to seamlessly shift from one fitness activity to another.

Matt Powell, sports industry advisor at NPD Group, said that the multihyphenate fitness consumer has led to notable changes in footwear sales. “On the sports side, the biggest news is the growth of running, walking, and hiking shoes. After strong growth in 2021, spurred by running and walking shoes, performance footwear is forecasted to stay steady, at rates slightly higher than before the pandemic, and unit sales will increase.”

Powell explained that these emerging consumer preferences will “require brands and retailers to rethink the cadence and content of their footwear releases” – and rethinking for HOKA, a mainstay in the running shoe segment, led to the debut of its newest product, the Kawana, a run-first shoe that is versatile for forward motion activities outside of running.

Creatures of Comfort

The Kawana embodies a premium look and feel with the same celebrated cushioning the brand is known for, outfitted in a stylish, sporty aesthetic suitable for multiple uses as its wearer transitions from outdoor to indoor fitness activities.

Zack Paris, Senior Product Line Manager at HOKA, told Fairchild Studio that the Kawana is praised for its protean prowess. “Kawana seamlessly blends style and HOKA’s newest, most comfortable geometries. A wide platform makes for a very stable base, great for support while running and beyond. The new extended heel and swallow tail designs allow for incredibly soft and smooth landings when you are on the road, and a refined rocker makes sure that smooth roll underfoot is even better than before.”

And the backbone of its move into this hybrid product category is centered on the lasting trend that “comfort reigns supreme,” according to Paris. “More people than ever before are looking to maximally cushioned footwear for running, working out, and their daily routine.”

HOKA’s Kawana sneaker.

“We are taking the newest geometries and foams and providing the ride of a high-performance running model, with a supportive midsole,” Paris explained, adding that “The upper uses a single layer jacquard upper, blends breathability with support, and a sock like comfort. Brought together, you get a sleek, comfortable package that offers support in all the right places.”

Rise of the “Fitness Omnivore”

The introduction of the Kawana is reflective of consumers expecting more from brands – and for HOKA, that means catering to a wider range of fitness enthusiasts or “fitness omnivores,” consumers that embrace many facets of fitness in their daily routine and seek singular products to help them embody the mighty trifecta of working out, running and adopting fitness as a mental or physical way to enhance well-being or connect with others, the brand said.

“[Shoppers] are discovering the HOKA experience for the first time and we want to build on that unique comfort that we’ve brought to millions of runners,” Paris said. “The Kawana reflects HOKA’s commitment to bold midsole designs and run first comfort. If we can solve comfort for the highest impacts running places on the body, we can tune it to also excel for a wide range of other activities.”

And as far as what’s coming up for HOKA in 2022, Paris told Fairchild Studio, “Conquering mountains and flying over tarmac! HOKA is such a fun brand because we get to bring that HOKA experience to athletes where they are, whether it’s in the gym, on the roads, or on top of mountains.”

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