A combined structural and quantitative biophysical profile of the DNA binding affinity, kinetics and sequence-selectivity of hairpin polyamide analogues is described. DNA duplexes containing either target polyamide binding sites or mismatch sequences are immobilized on a microelectrode surface. Quantitation of the DNA binding profile of polyamides containing N-terminal 1-alkylimidazole (Im) units exhibit picomolar binding affinities for their target sequences, whereas 5-alkylthiazole (Nt) units are an order of magnitude lower (low nanomolar). Comparative NMR structural analyses of the polyamide series shows that the steric bulk distal to the DNA-binding face of the hairpin iPr-Nt polyamide plays an influential role in the allosteric modulation of the overall DNA duplex structure. This combined kinetic and structural study provides a foundation to develop next-generation hairpin designs where the DNA-binding profile of polyamides is reconciled with their physicochemical properties.