The release of the Hoka One One Carbon X is both risky and a game-changer for Hoka. It shows they are ready to lean in and challenge and we are here for it. They are one of the fastest-growing running shoe manufacturers in the world yet they are ridiculed for their design choices and their cushioning levels. Meanwhile, they are allowing more people run than ever before and now the big players are starting to mimic them as well. We have our thoughts, but the world has already spoken and it shows the running community has been waiting.
The upper on the Carbon X is as simple as it gets. It is one piece of elastic engineered mesh. It will wear quickly, but it is just there to hold you and keep that midsole and outsole under you. There is no structure and there are no overlays here. It’s a sock basically and I wouldn’t expect it to handle the weather too well.
Construction: Midsole & Outsole
The midsole on the Carbon X is where the tech in this shoe really lives. Like all other Hoka shoes, it features their Metarocker design which helps with foot transition and toe-off and is still one of the strongest out there. The midsole itself is actually the combination of the mid and outsole as the design blurs the lines of where one ends and the other begins. This combination design is made by the sandwiching of their new PROFLY X EVA foam, a carbon plate, and then rubberized EVA foam. The carbon plate will never really break down over time and helps store energy and transition it forward during the stride. That rubberized foam provides even more cushion but is durable and grippy enough for consistent ground contact.
Style & Aesthetics
The Carbon X will not win any awards for this first pass of styling. Launching with an all-white shoe and then following with a light grey version is a massive risk. We do know that other colors including black will be coming out, but right now it feels almost prototype like up top. It definitely looks like a Hoka from the profile, so its nothing crazy different, but they better get moving on those other color options. This will definitely cost them in the short term as people have very strong feelings about white.
I’m going to be real here and start off by saying this is the single best shoe I have run in quite a while. I can get into the details, but before I do the bottom line is Hoka has really done something here and I expect everyone else to follow the trend. Higher stack, carbon injection, wider platform, roomy toe box, minimal drop… on paper this thing is everything you could ever ask for, so when I went in I was already pumped, but I had no clue what I was in for.
Out of the box the shoes visually underwhelm, the color choices are just average and while they will do more with it obviously and can easily print these in event styling, the shoe feels like an in-progress visually in the upper. Once they get on your feet though, things get real. The upper has a nice elasticity to it that feels like a second skin, no structural elements anywhere. They lace down tightly and the foot feels secure. You then stand-up and are welcomed by Hoka’s Metarocker design which feels like something you already know if you’ve run in something like the Clifton. You don’t feel like you are going over your toes (ahem Nike 4%), they just feel natural.
In a run, things start off pretty normal as you build up your pace and get into your rhythm. Again, very minimal material or support up top, but the midsole cradles you in place keeping you secure. Then something starts to happen you won’t be aware of right away and it surprised me and others every time… your pace drops. On my first run, I was 6 miles in and just rolling along as normal and knew my pace at that spot would typically be around ~7:20/min, looking down at my Garmin I was shocked to see a 6:40/min time. The thing is, I wasn’t forcing it and I wasn’t even feeling it any differently than my prior runs and this is what makes this shoe so awesome. I also saw this repeated over and over again on run after run, regardless of distance. I also saw high 5s for the first time in my life in these with no changes to my training regimen. There is simply something here.
This shoe is a game-changer in every sense. The Carbon X recipe will be the model that all other manufacturers will follow and we are already seeing brands like Nike move to higher stacks in their performance offerings after they shunned it prior. The day of more cushion, more bounce, and materials that encourage the maintaining of pace with little effort is definitely here. It’s not the most stylish shoe, but it’s a perfect template for what is to come from Hoka.
Technical Stats, Pricing & Availability
- Weight: 8.7oz (size 9)
- Drop: 5mm heel/toe
- Cushion: 32mm
- Type: Neutral Cushioned Road
- MSRP: $180.00
- Available: Now