When HOKA launched the Carbon X last year, they did it with a lot of fanfare. The shoe itself was solid, but in our own words, we felt it half-finished. The upper was so minimal it really did nothing for the non-racer, and while it was fast, the demographic was limited. This of course made way for the Carbon X-SPE which featured an improved upper on top of the same midsole and outsole, but nothing game-changing. With Carbon X 2 however, we are talking about something that is a full redesign of what carbon means in the HOKA lineup. Even the Rocket X which we loved is now on notice… for some people.
Quick Details, Specs, and Availability
- Truly the best “everyman” carbon plated racer HOKA has produced to date.
- Weighs in at 8.4oz or 238g for a US Men’s 9, 7oz or 198g for a US Women’s 7
- Features 32mm of cushion (30mm for Women) and has a 5mm heel/toe drop
- Retails at $180.00 USD and comes in 5 colors for Men and Women
When HOKA released the Carbon X, the running world was excited but it was expected by many of us because every big shoe manufacturer was creating a carbon shoe and the question was more, when will Hoka launch theirs. We had seen glimpses of what is the current Rocket X in the wild, but the Carbon X came in a more consumerized package and HOKA really leaned into it. They tried to break the 50 mile mark with a live-streamed event and reception was truly very high. The shoe was solid and from a performance perspective definitely felt like a HOKA, but kicked it up a notch and it delivered. There were some issues that many of us had particularly around that upper and while it was designed to be a racing shoe it felt more like a test in many ways and we saw that even with that original white color palette. Now, we have the Carbon X 2, and it really leans in to fixing all of that and then also adding a whole bunch more on top of it.
If you have looked at our review of the Mach 4, then you will notice a lot of similarities with the Carbon X 2. For instance, the new elongated heel with that fishtail design and even the profile appears similar. However the X 2 actually runs much narrower than the Mach 4, so looks can be a little deceiving. The upper material itself is similar, but there’s actually a lot more lock-down in here between the gusset and even the mid-foot support elements they’ve added. The shoe really holds you tighter than ever before. The toe box does have room for movement, but again it’s going to run a little bit narrower than you might find on a Mach or Clifton. The overall stance is also narrower because, in the end, these are more performance-centric. It is also a bit heavier than the Carbon X was and it is slightly noticeable and honestly makes us question where it sits in the lineup exactly. Is it really a replacement or something like the Rocket X?
The miles on these feel faster than normal, but not insane. We say this because many shoes like the Alphafly just feel bonkers different from a normal run and the X 2 feels more like what you’re used to just bumped up a bit. It does of course feel a little firmer, but it isn’t going to feel like that much of a departure if you’re already running in a HOKA shoe. The X 2 doesn’t unnaturally increase your speed like some other shoes do, in many cases these carbon shoes just create a sense of speed increase and it sounds weird to hear, but for those who have run in them and had the experience, it is very tangible. The X 2 does not feel this way, it feels more controllable somewhat, but it also means it takes a little more to really kick it into gear. Once in that gear, it locks in fairly well and speed maintenance is simpler.
So now after plenty of miles on these, we have come to some decisions about where it will fit in our lineup most appropriately. For some of us this will be a race day shoe and if you’ve got a toe shoe rotation then carrying this with your normal trainer especially a Clifton 7 or a Mach 4, then it will be great. If you have a broader quiver, then we actually would use this as our speed day shoe and probably still race in the Rocket X. The Rocket X still feels more race-oriented, more disposable in many ways, but overall it is lighter and faster. This is very much our experience so racing in the X2 is totally fine and it will perform well, but it truly feels like HOKA wanted to deliver a plated experience that people could use on a more regular basis.
The upper on the Carbon X 2 feels so much more substantial than the original and while it still makes use of engineered mesh, the build up and mid-foot support definitely sits a level above a lot of the other plated shoes on the market. It also features a gusseted tongue and a well designed heel counter and Achilles protection. The mid-foot is also better supported so you can expect more side to side control than in the original.
The midsole on here uses HOKA’s two part system they call PROFLY. We have seen this on many others prior including the Mach, Cavu, Elevon, and more. It is engineered to be a mix of soft and responsive with each foam type being strategically placed to handle landing and take-off. The carbon plate is then sandwiched in there just like the original model providing that super responsive takeoff. You will note it has a slightly elongated heel and then a fish tail design all which helps with heel striking and general overall comfort.
The rubberized outsole on here is identical to most HOKA models and while you shouldn’t expect a ton of traction, for the majority of road scenarios you should be just fine.
Style & Aesthetics
With the Carbon X 2, HOKA has delivered on 5 different color options for men and women. The shoe isn’t flashy and most of these color options are single color uppers with a different color logo treatment. We would love to see this evolve more in the future into more of a tri-color palette similar to the Mach 4. Still it remains a pretty solid looking shoe.
With the Carbon X 2, HOKA has truly delivered on a really strong plated offering more for the average runners. Professional runners will of course be able to blow the doors off with these shoes, but the shoe feels satisfying enough that an average runner can use them on those speed days or those race days and still see gains, but without all the drama that’s associated with carbon. This is a very similar shoe and natural progression from something like the Mach 4, so if you want a good pairing that will be the one. The technological improvements including that elongated heel and angled rear all contribute to something that feels so much better from the first offering. This is one of the best second editions we’ve seen in a long time from anyone.
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.