Where once bike brands focused their entire marketing strategy on carbon (before it became so commonplace that the PR needle turned to aerodynamics), the same is now happening in running. Cue this second-edition of Hoka’s Carbon X, which faces carbon competition from the likes of Adidas, Brooks and the giants who re-started this carbon craze, Nike (Reebok and Zoot were both experimenting with carbon soles in the 1990s and 2000s, respectively).
How much is performance-based versus sellable-based is hard to quantify short of a lab, especially in the X2 as the carbon plate is sandwiched between a soft-foam insole and rubberised-foam outsole that results in a foundation that’s 32mm at the heel and 27mm in the forefoot (it’s 30mm heel, 25mm forefoot in the women’s version). The result is a carbon plate that’s arguably consumed by foam, meaning it lacks the explosive propulsion of, say, Nike’s ground-breaking Alphafly. In fact, the easy stride makes this much more of a traditional training shoe by feel. It begs the question: is that carbon plate style over substance to justify £160?
What’s clear is that we really grew to enjoy the X2, which became choice number one when building up to March’s hopeful Green Lantern Half Marathon in Exeter. That’s despite a bugbear of ours – a creased toe box. To be fair, I’m one thin-footed individual, raising the chances of excess upper material. But it’s particularly noticeable here.
That was it for moot points, with the upturn beginning with comfort. The engineered-mesh upper, in spite of that upfront folding, proved particularly comfortable. The gusseted tongue (stitched to the upper) heightened the tactile stakes, while cranking up in-shoe stability. In fact, stability’s good throughout your run gait, which admittedly could derive from that carbon-fibre plate. It’s flex enough for smoothness but solid enough for efficiency. The wide midsole and extended heel also helps here. All in all, you enjoy the meta-rocking motion that Hoka is famous for.
We’d read that some users were complaining of losing traction in the wet. We can see why as the outsole’s near-cliff-face smooth but it’s not something we experienced, despite a particularly biblical test period.
The upper also fended off a downpour or two pretty well for such a well-ventilated shoe. Weight-wise, it’s near identical to X1 (271g here vs 270g). That and the feel makes these perfect for longer runs and tempo work. For all-out sprints, you’ll need something with a touch more oomph – you can see how Hoka’s new Rocket X fares in issue 390’s race-day shoes test (out on 15 April).
Verdict: A trad feel using contemporary materials; a good long-distance shoe, 82%