It feels like the HOKA Carbon X launch was just yesterday, but here we are almost two years later. The shoe had a lot of fanfare around it, a huge launch event, and it was super fun to run in. It wasn’t necessarily fully finished; that upper felt a little funky and unfinished, but it was fast and fun, and more than anything, it felt like a HOKA. For 2022, HOKA has released the third iteration, the Carbon X 3, and the shoe retains the great midsole from the X2, but with an all-new full knit upper. Now we know this midsole can deliver but is that upper an improvement or a step backward?
Quick Details, Specs, and Availability
- Features the same fast midsole/outsole combo but with an updated knit upper… that left us wishing we had the mesh version back.
- Weight – 7.8oz or 221g for a US Men’s 9, 6.6oz or 187g for a US Women’s 7
- Cushion – 41mm of cushion and a 5mm heel/toe drop
- Pricing – $200.00 USD
- Colors – 2 options for men and 3 for women
Construction and Materials
- Upper – The Carbon X 3 gets a fully updated upper that uses a vegan engineered knit with an integrated knit tongue. It is roomy and breathable.
- Midsole – The midsole uses their CMEVA with PROFLY, similar to the feel of the Mach 4, along with a carbon fiber plate. It also features their early-stage Meta-Rocker which helps with foot transition and propulsion.
- Outsole – Like most HOKA shoes, the X 3 uses a rubberized EVA in lieu of dedicated rubber in order to keep the weight down.
What we loved
The midsole on this shoe is the star but remember it’s just a perpetuation of what we loved in the X 2. When they went from the original Carbon X to the X 2 they gave you a softer landing area by moving the carbon plate further down in the midsole. This meant you had plenty of cushion when your foot hit the ground and then their MetaRocker combined with that carbon plate turned the shoe into a springboard to move you forward. It was also comfortable and easy on the legs, which is tough for a carbon shoe, and also made it a very capable distance racer. It also paired well with the Clifton or even the Mach so if you wanted to train in one and then transition to another one race day there was a similar feel to them all. So they’ve got this midsole nailed and glad they kept it on the Carbon X 3, but let’s talk about the other side of it.
What we didn’t
The bad on this one is easy, it’s that knit upper. It’s just such a dumpster fire because it takes what is a fabulous midsole design with a great plate and makes it almost unusable for most. It is simply too loose and too warm to be effective and frankly all the sliding around in there is frustrating. If you’re thinking about your race day, you want something a bit lighter and something that breathes. Instead, we are left with something that’s a bit bulkier, that doesn’t necessarily fit right, and a shoe that has too much movement. We long for HOKA to move this upper material back towards a more simple and breathable mono mesh design. They have some great models to work with in their lineup, yet for some reason, they took this left turn and went with knit and it is not working for us.
I think it is safe to say where we fell out on the HOKA Carbon X 3, that upper really killed the shoe for us. We actually felt even the X 2 mesh was a little weird but this all-new knit version takes it to a whole another strange place for us. It runs a little warm, it doesn’t have enough structure, and while you think it would breathe better… it does just the opposite. It’s also a little loose on the foot which is not something you want out of a speed shoe. Don’t get us wrong, the midsole on here is fantastic and as someone who loves HOKAs, we still think these can deliver solid times. So try them on and if you love that knit upper, stick with it, but we are going to be holding out for the X 4 in hopes that we see the same mesh you might find on the Clifton show up here as well.
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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.