Hoka One One Carbon X Intro
It was a matter of time until Hoka One One jumped on the bandwagon with their own version of a highly cushioned, carbon-plated performance shoe.
Following in the mold of the acclaimed Nike VaporFly 4%, this new Hoka One One offering contains an ample amount of premium lightweight cushioning with a stiff carbon fiber plate in the midsole.
The Carbon X is designed to provide a soft cushioning from the foam with a snappy, performance based responsive ride from the carbon fiber plate while having that unmistakable Hoka One One Meta-Rocker feeling.
Initially released as part of a 50 mile and 100K world record attempt (successful mind you with 50 Miles run at 5:48 pace by Jim Walmsey), the Carbon X is designed to be the distance racer for the Hoka brand of running shoes.
This shoe is made more for distance and durability than the Carbon Rocket.
As I have already done, the Hoka One One will draw many comparisons to the VaporFly 4%, but there are some significant differences in the shoes.
The Carbon X is heavier, yet more durable than the Nike offering and the carbon fiber plate is shaped differently providing a different feel. The plate will make up a majority of the Sole unit section of this review.
Hoka One One Carbon X First Impressions
The first time putting the Carbon X on I admittedly had some issues getting my foot into the shoe and properly locked down.
The heel area is reinforced with stitching which ended up feeling good and holding the foot in place well, but made slipping the Carbon X on difficult. To counter this, there is a large loop heel pull tab.
An eyesore on the shoe but with a very specific purpose.
I found with not just my first run but all of them, the loop was actually too small and tight to the shoe to get my finger through while my heel was trying to slip into the shoe.
On every run with the Hoka One One Carbon X i needed to really loosen the laces to get my foot in properly.
The needing to unlace the shoe to get in properly seems to be a minor annoyance and isn’t much of a knock on a shoe, many shoes, especially racers, are tough to get into.
The problem with the Hoka One One Carbon X is what happens when the shoe is a little loose due to the weight of the sole unit compared to the light upper.
More to come on the bottom-heavy weight of the shoe later, however if the upper is in any way loose and not locked in than when running in the Carbon X there is a flip flop effect that counteracts the use of the shoe.
The foot lifts bringing the upper with it and the foot is physically separated from the sole of the shoe. The sole then slams the bottom of the foot afterward.
While this can happen in any shoe in theory, the amount of fabric in the upper of the Carbon X allows it to happen when not totally tight.
The Hoka One One Carbon X is a unicorn of sorts. On one hand it is a fast race-day option, especially when running up on the forefoot, but it almost is too heavy for that.
On the other hand, it is a highly cushioned great long run option that keeps you rolling through your stride comfortably, but it has an overly aggressive toe-off feeling.
In order to capture what this shoe is and when or why you may want to purchase it, I put the Hoka One One Carbon X through various types of runs including long and slow, recovery pace, tempo workouts, and to the track.
The Carbon X proved to be a good new option to the running shoe marketplace that more seasoned runners may be interested in to use for distance training.
Hoka One One Carbon X Sole Unit
The carbon fiber plate is the central star of the Hoka One One Carbon X.
Unlike the carbon fiber plate in “the other shoe,” the Hoka One One Carbon X features a plate that bifurcates in the midfoot area creating independent sections of the plate in the forefoot.
In other words, the plate is shaped like the letter Y. This plate provides a few functions that makes the Carbon X stand out.
First the plate provides some flexibility in the forefoot while running.
Second, and most prominently, it is designed to give you the fulcrum effect of a Hoka One One Early Stage Meta-Rocker to force you immediately onto the medial forefoot.
In other words, through the portion of the gait cycle while your foot is on the ground in the Carbon X, the shoe basically throws, or falls, the runner onto their big toe for their next push-off.
This creates a quick turnover, forward momentum feeling with a responsive kick by the snappiness of the carbon fiber plate under this forced toe-off.
I found that when heel-striking the plate does not provide much of anything for the runner, however with a mid or forefoot strike you really feel the effect of that forward momentum pop.
Above the carbon fiber plate is the Hoka One One ProFly X foam which is light and responsive in of itself. Under the plate sits a rubberized foam which promotes durability for the Carbon X.
While the outsole is just a giant block of this rubberized foam with small grooves, it will hold traction over time. There is no real durability concerns with the Hoka One One Carbon X.
Hoka One One Carbon X Upper Unit
The upper of the Carbon X is made of a full length engineered mesh with reinforced stitching in the heel for support wrapping the foot.
There is the mentioned heel-tab loop stitched to the heel, though the loop could afford to be larger.
The tongue did not slide at all through testing and the upper proved to be very comfortable. Around the heel of the foot is reinforced stitching which when laced properly helped the foot feel secure in the shoe.
There is a small reflective element on the top of the foot at the base of the lacing system, and the laces themselves are sufficient in length for double-knotting, runner’s loops, or any alternate lacing techniques as needed.
Hoka One One Carbon X Conclusion
Flat out, the Hoka One One Carbon X is a contradiction. Just confusion from what the shoe is, what it is trying to be, how it rides under the foot, and how I think this shoe should be considered.
This new shoe offering is simultaneously too heavy for a race day option with a solid fast feeling under the foot for mid to forefoot strikers.
The Carbon X has an aggressively fast feeling with serious cushioning to hold up over time and offer enough of that cushion deep into long runs.
A good option for short and fast efforts, while still a solid choice for longer distance. Hoka One One has made us a shoe that is good to great at a lot of things but not amazing at anything.
When thinking about my next run, regardless of type, I find myself thinking that the Hoka One One Carbon X would be the perfect shoe for it and the last one I’d grab in my repertoire for it.
I’ve already compared the Carbon X to the Nike Vaporfly 4% a lot in this review. And I’ll lay out the major differences in the feel and when you might consider one over the other.
Much like the Zoom Fly, compared to the Vaporfly 4%, the Carbon X is heavier and firmer.
While the Zoom X in the Nike option is soft and pillowy with the responsiveness provided by the pop of the carbon fiber plate, the ProFly X in the Hoka shoe is firm and responsive by itself.
In fact the plate in the Carbon X does more of forcing you rolling forwards and enhancing the early stage meta-rocker.
The weight difference is significant as well and over the course of extended distance the bottom heavy weight of the Carbon X does begin to show up and become pronounced.
With this in mind, I think there are plenty of runners who will want the Carbon X to be a training and a racing option for all distances.
Honestly, if you can only afford to have one shoe going for you at a time and are looking for performance, the Hoka One One Carbon X will do you well.
However, if you are rotating shoes and want to know the distance that the Carbon X would shine for a race, I believe it is the 10K.
The Carbon X can work well in a marathon or a half, but the weight may start to drag you down.
In fact, this shoe does not work nearly as well with a heel-strike, so if you’re a midfoot striking runner whose form may change to heel in the late stages of a marathon, you’ve now strapped a shoe that will come to haunt you later in your race.
For a 5K, mile, or shorter the Hoka One One Carbon X won’t give that exciting pop and is frankly too heavy.
On a 10K, this shoe can shine. Long enough that the cushioning will matter and help, short enough to keep that form that the shoe needs in check while ending before that weight starts to creep up on you.
If you’ve ever watched or played baseball you might be familiar with the batting doughnut.
A weight you add to the baseball bat while taking some practice swings so when the doughnut is off and you swing the bat at the plate it feels light in your hands and you can rip through the swing aggressively.
The Hoka One One Carbon X is my batting doughnut.
We purchased a pair of Hoka One One Carbon X from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.