Shoe Reviews: Hoka Carbon X

Hoka Carbon X

Overview: ‘Carbon X’ is Hoka’s highly anticipated, premier performance racing shoe release. Truly one of a kind, the ‘Carbon X’ serves up a padded punch of gusto through the pavement for quick miles over prolonged distance. This shoe is a flat out runners’ thrill ride. Picture this… you roll out of bed feeling whipped and defeated like a flat tire. You look to you shoe collection. At once, the Carbon X stands apart from the rest and whispers gently, “It’s Time to Fly”. It’s racing upper vacuum seals the foot, the classic Hoka oversized geometry instantly removes weight from your feet, and the featured carbon plate complements the contoured Hoka Meta-Rocker, tipping the foot forward into perpetual motion.

“Force-ridden strides no longer feel obliged to dance gingerly across pavement in minimal racing flats.”

The Appeal: To be frank, ‘Carbon X’ enables runners to wail on the pavement with minimal consequence. Force-ridden strides no longer feel obliged to dance gingerly across pavement in minimal racing flats. I was radiant with excitement at initial try-on. Footfalls were muted and swift. The full-fabric upper just flat-out feels fast. Zonal stitching surrounds the heel counter for a soft, yet discernible heel hold. The remaining engineered mesh is intimately contoured to the foot. I was immensely thankful to Hoka for going against the grain in bypassing the recent trend of elastic knit uppers on racing shoes. The engineered mesh provides a gimmick-free foot hold.

Props to Hoka for dotting glue beneath the sockliner insole. Both Nike and New Balance have endured embarrassing design flaw episodes related to racing shoe insoles. Embedded deep within the cushion, the propulsive carbon plate is the main attraction. The Carbon Plate design is fork-shaped and asymmetrical. Picture a long prong extending through to the outer tip of the toe, and short shank on the inside to promote an efficient toe-off. Above the Carbon Plate is Hoka’s new high-rebound ProFlyX EVA cushion formulation. The cushion experience is lively, but certainly firmer than Hoka’s core training shoes. Below the Carbon Plate is a rubberized EVA that forms the firm basement layer of cushion for maximized stability.

Hoka Carbon X launch event.

What’s Lacking?: Running on the outer edge of the foot is a complement to rapid turnover. I can envision runners unaccustomed to racing shoes feeling tilted outward onto the shoe’s outer edge. There’s also It’s the diminished ground feel that slows turnover.

Takeaways: If not the fastest shoe on the road today, the ‘Carbon X’ is at very least a zippy companion to accompany daily miles. Those racing in this shoe should reserve this weapon for half-marathon distance and beyond. Rather than feather light, connected feel, the ‘Carbon X’ is fast on the merit of fatigue resistance over prolonged distance. “Probably, 10K to One-Hundred mile racing.”, says 3:56 metric miler Jackson Pearce.

Subtle, gritted texturing reduces slip at the bottom of the rubberized EVA foam outsole.