Hoka One One Rocket X Intro
We are in a crazy time when carbon-plated super shoes that cost north of $200 is the norm.
Like me, you must have asked yourself why they cost double the amount that a normal daily trainer costs. Surely a carbon plate can’t cost that much to make?
Whatever the reason that super shoes cost half a month’s rent, Hoka has taken a different approach. For the same price as an Adidas Ultra Boost, you can get Hoka’s latest carbon fibre super shoe, the Rocket X.
So the big question is, for its price, can the Rocket X compete with other super shoes? Aliphine Tuliamuk won the women’s US olympic marathon trials in February this year wearing the Rocket X so it definitely has credibility.
The Rocket X is the evolution of the 2019 Evo Carbon Rocket, a firm-riding, stiff carbon fibre shoe which was more suited to half marathon distances or shorter.
The Rocket X has been updated with more rubber on its outsole, a single-density midsole and a more streamlined upper.
The drop has also been increased from 1mm to 5mm and the stack height has been increased by 6mm in the heel.
But wait, doesn’t Hoka have another $180 carbon plated shoe called the Carbon X? What’s the difference between the Rocket X and the Carbon X?
The biggest differentiator between the two shoes is their weights. The Rocket X tips the scale at 7.4 oz compared to the Carbon X at 8.8 oz.
Both racers have 5mm heel-to-toe offsets but the Carbon X is 35mm in the heel compared to 32mm of the Rocket X. The Rocket X also uses a slightly softer midsole foam and has a lower toe spring.
With more and more people warming to the idea of using carbon fibre plated shoes for training, there is a trend towards daily trainers with plates in their midsoles.
Nike’s Tempo Next% has a composite plate, Saucony’s Endorphin Speed has a nylon plate and New Balance has the FuelCell TC which has a full-length carbon plate.
Skechers’ unreleased Razor Elite also has a carbon-infused plate but it is only in the forefoot.
At $180, the Rocket X falls into the price range of a training companion but is it durable, versatile and forgiving enough for high mileage training blocks?
How does the performance of the Rocket X compare to the other carbon fibre super shoes and is it a bargain or are you better off paying through the nose for one of the flashy super shoes?
Hoka One One Rocket X First Impressions
In my opinion, this is the best looking Hoka trainer ever made. Previously, I would never be seen dead, out in public wearing a Hoka if I wasn’t running but I don’t mind wearing the Rocket X at all.
It’s definitely one of the sharpest looking super shoes.
The first time I saw it on the wall in the store, I was immediately a fan of its sleek, modern look in the signature Hoka White/Diva Blue colourway.
I love the yellow outsole and how the blue and yellow design on the upper extends down into the midsole.
When I tried on the shoe in the store in my regular size, it felt a bit long and wide in the forefoot so I tried on a half size smaller but it felt way too snug.
I decided to get my normal size because it felt more comfortable. The Rocket X fits best when you go true to size and you wear thick socks.
My first run in the Rocket X was in light rain and the grip was fantastic. I never felt like I was going to slip and I didn’t have to slow down when going around corners.
The first thing that I noticed was how smooth and consistent the ride felt. The ride of the Rocket X is the most natural-feeling carbon fibre shoe.
Most of the other carbon fibre shoes I’ve tested felt like they wanted me to strike in a certain way and it felt like they were in control of me.
In the Rocket X, I didn’t have to change my form and I felt like I was in complete control of the shoe.
I was surprised at how forgiving the shoe felt. With the nickname, the “speed dagger”, I expected the Rocket X to be a lot firmer and the ride to be harsher. Instead, I felt like long distances in them would be easily doable.
Hoka One One Rocket X Sole Unit
For the marathon distance, the Rocket X has the perfect level of cushioning. The forefoot is firm enough to feel fast and foot protection is sufficient.
My longest run in them was 35 kilometres and at the end of the run, my legs didn’t feel beaten up or tired. The midsole foam is also not overly soft so you don’t have to work harder to get a quick turnover.
Even though the Rocket X has a carbon fibre plate, it doesn’t have any flare or oomph and that’s a good thing. The 1mm carbon plate which has some flex to it, is not at all intrusive.
The carbon plate’s feel is concentrated at the midfoot and not up in the front, so there is no forward tipping sensation like in the Alphafly and Vaporfly.
The carbon fibre plate and the just-right midsole foam work together to provide a cohesive and consistent ride.
The midsole is made from compression molded EVA and doesn’t feel as spongy as the EVA used in the Clifton and Rincon.
If the softness level of the Clifton is a 9/10, the Rocket X is a 3/10. There is also very little sink-in feeling during foot strikes.
The Rocket X feels a lot less responsive than other super shoes with new-age foams like ZoomX or FuelCell but it feels a lot denser and more durable. Hoka says that it’s the lightest foam they’ve ever used.
I put the Rocket X through the wringer and tested it on all types of runs: marathon-paced, tempo, easy, threshold and even recovery runs.
I swapped in an Ortholite insole from the Bondi 7 for the recovery run for extra sponginess which made the shoe a tad heavier.
Speed is in the Rocket X’s DNA and it felt best on tempo, marathon and threshold runs when I was going below 5.30 per kilometre.
Even though it’s best suited to faster runs, there are a couple of ride characteristics that make the Rocket X suitable for daily training:
Ride transitions are extremely smooth and efficient due to the single-density EVA midsole.
Its wide forefoot, midfoot and rearfoot make it as stable as a daily trainer so no extra pressure is placed on your ankles.
So then you might ask, why spend $180 on a carbon fibre trainer when other daily trainers are in the $120-$130 price range?
The main reason is the weight. At 7.4 oz, the Rocket X is much lighter than the Pegasus, Cumulus and Ghosts of the world. The average daily trainer comes in at 9.5 oz so the Rocket X is feather-light compared to them.
Another reason is that the Rocket X can fulfil two roles; it can be your race day shoe and your training shoe leading up to the race because it is so versatile.
The outsole of the Rocket X has much more rubber on it than the outsole of its predecessor, the Evo Carbon Rocket. The windows through which you could see the carbon plate have also been closed up.
The heel high wear areas are covered in rubber as well as most of the forefoot and the rubber is recessed into the midsole which results in smooth ride transitions.
I found traction to be excellent, even on wet surfaces which surprised me because there aren’t any protruding lugs to bite into surfaces.
The durability of the Rocket X is average. The outsole rubber on my pair shows normal wear, especially on the high wear areas on the outer heel and under the ball of the foot.
The exposed midsole is a much higher density than other ground contact midsoles like Fresh Foam X in the Beacon V3 so it has better abrasion resistance.
Hoka One One Rocket X Upper Unit
The Rocket X fits more like a daily trainer than a snug racing shoe. The midfoot and forefoot are so spacious that I would recommend going down a half size if you prefer a racing fit.
For the purpose of daily training, the accommodating upper of the Rocket X was perfect.
The airy mesh reminds me a lot of the mesh used on the Rincon 2. It has no stretch to it and feels slightly rough to the touch.
It has an internal heel counter and double last row eyelets for heel-lock lacing which I used to get a more secure fit. Lockdown was great and I experienced no heel slippage.
The semi-gusseted tongue is attached underneath the insole and it stays in place during runs.
There is a large, reflective patch on the heel. The fact that Hoka added this proves that they intended the Rocket X to be used for training because during races, you don’t need reflectivity as the roads are closed.
My only gripe with the upper of the Rocket X is that the laces are too long. I had to cinch the laces tight which resulted in the loops being so long that they touched the ground even when I used heel-lock lacing.
Overall, the upper of the Rocket X has good breathability, excellent lockdown and is comfortable enough for long-distances.
Hoka One One Rocket X Conclusion
If you want a marshmallow-soft ride usually associated with Hoka One Ones, the Rocket X is not your shoe.
The Rocket X, as its name suggests, is a super shoe that shines during races and tempo runs. It has a cushioned but efficient ride due to its just-right EVA midsole and its unobtrusive carbon-fibre plate.
For runners who have never run in a carbon fibre shoe before, the Rocket X is the perfect shoe to make the transition in because form doesn’t matter as much as with other carbon plated shoes and it is incredibly forgiving.
It’s the carbon fibre shoe for beginners.
Its stable ride, smooth transitions and comfortable upper make the Rocket X a shoe that I could easily train in daily. It is well-built and can handle high mileage training cycles.
Like the Asics Metaracer, the Rocket X is the traditional racing flat reimagined. It doesn’t offer much mechanical assistance to make you faster but it has great ground feel, stability and impact protection.
In my opinion, the Rocket X is like the Pegasus of carbon fibre shoes: it doesn’t do any one thing particularly well but it’s a well-rounded, dependable option.
I probably won’t be using the Rocket X for my next marathon but I definitely will use it for training runs leading up to it. For races, I prefer a midsole foam which returns more energy, the harder I strike.
If I could change anything on the Rocket X, I would give it a more aggressive Meta-Rocker because transitions feel a bit old-fashioned and flat. I would also shorten the laces.
With the Rocket X, Hoka has proven that you don’t have to pay over $180 for a super shoe. The Rocket X is a versatile, consistent racing shoe which can double up as a training shoe and has no major flaws.
We purchased a pair of Hoka One One Rocket 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.
Hoka One One Rocket X Price Comparison
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