Hoka came into the carbon plated game strong with the Carbon X back earlier in the year, but that shoe was meant for racing. It was only a matter of time before we saw a bit more consumer friendly model and now we have it in the Carbon X-SPE. The shoe gets a little more of an upper with a little more support, but they can still fly like anything. They call it their Endurance Racer, but we see it as the carbon shoe for the more casual runner who wants to bring some speed into their workout.
Quick Details, Specs, and Availability
- A more consumer-friendly update to Hoka’s original carbon racer offering.
- We verified these things can fly and yet are still super cushioned.
- Weighs in at 8.8oz or 249g for a US Men’s 9.
- Has 35mm of cushion and a 5mm heel/toe drop.
- Retails at $200.00 USD and comes in 1 color for Men and Women.
We totally loved the original Carbon X when Hoka released it primarily because they retained everything we love about their shoes including the high stack and wider toebox, but the upper was so thin it was clear it wouldn’t work for everyone. With the X-SPE, we see something skewing a bit more towards a normal everyday runner, so we were excited to test them out.
The bootie fit really works for these and gets around the tongue issues we see in many race shoes. You do need to make sure the shoe fits you properly though because the opening is only so narrow, wider feet will struggle to get into the shoe. That subtle heel also works well to lock you in place and that interior padding, albeit fairly thin, is really welcome. The midsole feel is exactly the same as the Carbon X so you get Hoka’s rocker design, a decent amount of plushness, and just a ton of bounce.
In run, the X-SPE goes just as quick as the X, but you will notice the additional weight if you are truly seeing these as race shoes and you are already quick. Those 2+oz that have been added here make a difference, albeit minor for most. Normal runners just looking for a speed day bump will find these more successful because that extra support in the upper is fantastic, especially as your foot tires over the course of a longer run. The bootie also works pretty well on here and even at higher speeds, there isn’t a lot of slippage, and it breaths pretty well.
Overall the Carbon X-SPE is a nice next step in the Hoka lineup and we think everyday runners will definitely find them to be much more usable than the original Carbon X. In this world of plated shoes, most of them are only meant for high-performance runners, but the X-SPE does a decent job of filling that gap.
The upper has a touch more structure than the original and is composed of a single layer of polyester with a kind of mesh cage outside that. The entire upper is basically a mesh bootie so your foot just kind of slides in there and it holds you reasonably well. The lack of a tongue definitely makes the upper feel more comfortable over all. They also have a molded heel on here that is also subtlety padded on the inside, but it is very slight so make sure you have a good sizing fit.
Midsole construction on the X-SPE is almost identical to the Carbon X. Hoka has used their firmer PROFLY X midsole technology which is designed to give you a bit more kick. It is not as soft as some of their other shoes, but still, with 35mm of cushion, there is plenty here. Sandwiched between layered of this foam is the carbon plate which works exactly the same as others, helping you go faster and more importantly, retain that speed with minimal effort. It also features their Meta-Rocker design which aids in foot transition through the gait and they have also widened the forefoot a bit on here to give you a bit more room and a broader landing platform.
The outsole on the X-SPE continues to use a rubberized EVA. This allows Hoka to keep the shoes lighter than using straight rubber while also keeping it somewhat durable. The shoe has decent enough traction and given it is targeted at racing, should last long enough.
Style & Aesthetics
The Carbon X-SPE comes in only one colorway and it is sleek looking. It maintains a very similar profile to the original Carbon X and continues to build on that white colorway. It can get a little dirty so be warned, but getting them dirty is half the fun. We do really hope they go for some brighter colors and bring some of those great colors from the rest of the lineup into this shoe as well because they may start to feel a little stale.
The Hoka Carbon X-SPE is a solid shoe. It builds on everything that made the Carbon X successful but adds enough structure to make it capable for the everyday runner. It still remains a speed or race day shoe though, so be warned… this should not be an everyday shoe, but something used specifically for that portion of your workout regime. We can’t wait to see where Hoka takes it next as these first two offerings have been great, but we can only imagine what it truly will turn into.
Check Out Other Reviewers Thoughts
As always, we gather together some of our favorite reviewers so you can get a well-rounded view of the shoe. Here are our favorites.