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Is Hoka’s Carbon X 3 the shoe to help transform your performance?

Introducing the Carbon X 3, the latest update of 3x Ironman World Champion Jan Frodeno's go-to Hoka shoe...

Hoka Carbon X 3 running shoe

If you stare at people’s feet for long enough on race days (strange, we know, but not without cause) you’ll have noticed a growing trend over the past decade. Namely that more and more athletes are now cladding their feet in shoes from Hoka’s unmistakable range of footwear.

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That’s the case across both pro and amateur ranks, with Dave Jewell’s infamous ‘Kona Shoe Count’ revealing the brand was the most popular choice at the Ironman World Champs in Hawaii in 2018.

Though we’ve been without triathlon’s most iconic event for the past two years, we’d bet a substantial wad of cash that the same will be true for the year ahead.

Only now there’s a raft of carbon racing shoes vying to be the most popular shoe for pro triathletes too. Among them is the new Hoka Carbon X 3, three-time Ironman world champion Jan Frodeno’s go-to Hoka shoe according to the brand.

We’ll get to the Carbon X 3 in a minute, but first, let’s take a look where this shoe came from…

The Hoka Carbon X series is born

Hoka’s first-ever Carbon X running shoe

After more than three years of development, Hoka launched the Carbon X in 2019. At the time, then director of design Matthew Head told 220: “We’re been implementing carbon fibre technology in our footwear gradually over the last five years.

“The carbon plate is designed to help the amplified Meta-Rocker present in the Carbon X retain its shape over long miles and many uses, ensuring the geometry remains efficient and that there’s minimal breakdown in that efficient gait cycle.

“It doesn’t act as a spring, but rather as a lever, keeping the shoe and the athlete using it as efficient as possible.”

The shoe helped Brit Joe Skipper to a win at Ironman Florida, where he clocked a 2:39:01 marathon, while our expert gear testers praised it for its ‘impressive forward thrust’ and ‘comfy inner’.

A Carbon X 2 followed just over a year later promising an evolution of what came before. After testing the shoe for 220, reviewer James Witts wrote that the shoe was ‘perfect for longer runs and tempo work’, while also praising its stability and the extremely comfortable upper.

Hoka Carbon X 3: The story continues…

Jan Frodeno runs in the new Hoka Carbon X 3 running shoes

And now Hoka has announced the latest in the series, the Carbon X 3, a shoe that the brand says delivers an even more propulsive ride than the X 2 and has been reworked to help every athlete reach new heights. So what’s new?

Well, for a start there’s an energised new foam midsole that the brand says offers even more propulsion than the X 2 and while providing ‘optimal cushioning in a lightweight package’ (it’s 17g lighter than the X 2 for men and 10g lighter for women). 

Hoka says this combines with the brand’s iconic Meta-Rocker and carbon fibre plate (the same one as is found in the X 2) to deliver a propulsive, efficient ride. Meanwhile, the rubberised EVA sole is said to provide a softer and more responsive experience.

Then there’s the new upper, with a reworked premium knit designed to offer an improved fit while delivering breathable performance. At the rear, you’ll find an extended heel tab designed to make it easier to pull the shoe on and off, which is exactly what you need in T2.

Geometry-wise, you’re looking at a 5mm drop in both the men’s and women’s version (men’s: 32mm heel, 27mm forefoot; women’s: 30mm heel, 25mm forefoot).

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Is the Carbon X 3 the shoe’s best version yet?

We’ve already got our hands on the X 3 for a review, with our tester giving it an impressive rating of 88% and saying the shoe ‘performs best over tempo efforts and makes a solid companion for longer distances’.

In our review, we had this to add: ‘It looks stylish and performance-ready, feels extremely light and is flexible when on. The material expands comfortably as the foot swells during long runs, while the sock liner and oversized heel tab means it’s quick and easy to slip your foot into it – ideal for a swift T2.

‘The softer EVA midsole is great at absorbing impact and feels soft on the joints. There’s propulsion a-plenty thanks to the same ‘responsive carbon fibre plate and aggressive Meta-Rocker’ as seen in the X 2. Meanwhile, the curved geometry with 5mm drop encourages a smooth rolling movement from heel-strike to toe-off, helping to maintain an efficient foot strike.’

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Hoka Carbon X 3 gallery