Anyone looking for a non-carbon plated training shoe or someone looking for a good racing shoe that isn’t as expensive as the carbon-plated options out there would do pretty well with these shoes.
If you have the Hoka Rocket X2 and are searching for a non-plated alternative for training or for shorter distances, this is it.
If you are a half marathon or above racer looking for a shoe that can double as an interval and longer tempo shoe, this isn’t for you. This shoe doesn’t handle longer distances with comfort.
The Hoka Cielo Road is Hoka’s offering for shorter distance racing, such as the 5k/10k. It can also double as a fast training shoe.
This shoe may remind running veterans of the lower stack racing flats that were ubiquitous in the past. This shoe reminds of the Adidas Adios 8, which is another shoe that I have reviewed.
In comparison, this shoe is much bouncier but shares similar characteristics in its breathability, lightweight feel, fast ride, and good outsole grip. One major difference with this shoe is the midsole is made of Peba foam, which is the reason for the bouncier feel.
In the Hoka racing lineup, this shoe sits below it’s carbon-plated counterpart, the Hoka Rocket X2. While both have the lower profiles with Peba foam midsole, the Rocket X2 includes the carbon plate for extra propulsion and comfort for longer distances.
When first opening this box, the first thing that stood out was the open mesh throughout the upper and how lightweight the shoe felt.
At 7.1 oz for a size 9, this is a very lightweight shoe.
When trying to put it on for the first time, the only difficulty I had was that this shoe didn’t slip right on. Similar to the Adidas Adios 8, the thin materials in the upper don’t really allow for any support for your foot to slide right in.
My first run in these shoes was an easy 5 miler. The shoes felt comfortable enough but I could feel some rubbing on the back of my Achilles. As it turns out, while I didn’t get a blister, I definitely had some irritation left on my skin. While it was a hot morning, the mesh uppers helped my feet breathe as best as possible. The shoelaces stayed tied for the duration of the run on a single knot.
My first workout in these shoes was a tempo/threshold run that totaled 13 miles. There were two 5 mile intervals. Both intervals felt pretty good at pace as the bounciness of the shoes helped me keep the paces up. There was still rubbing on the back of heels but, again, no blisters. My feet didn’t feel great in the latter half of the second set. That was about 10 miles in. At that point, the paces felt great but there wasn’t enough shoe to help me feel comfortable.
The shoe fits true to size for my size 9 feet. As mentioned earlier, there is an issue with the rubbing on the back of the heel but I will say that it’s possible it’s only limited some sort of break-in period.
By miles 35+, the rubbing seems to have disappeared. The upper is well constructed and the mesh is very much see-through. It helps your foot to breathe while keep the weight of the shoe as low as possible.
The laces were fine for me although I can see how some people might think they are a bit short. The tongue is not gusseted but it stays in place very well.
The sole unit of this shoe is what helps this shoe shine. Beginning with the Peba foam, this shoe has lightweight bounciness all over it.
You feel energized and the shoe is made such that there is a rocker feel to it. Unlike the Brooks Hyperion Max, it doesn’t seem like you have to land a certain way in order to feel the full propulsion of the rocker.
This shoe just helps you do the work however you’re running.
The overall heel drop on this shoe is just 3mm (33mm heel, 30mm forefoot). The ride on the Cielo Road is very smooth and even easy runs can feel fast.
One complaint of the midsole is the lack of stability. While the shoe is smooth and fast, that is mostly on straighter or gently curved roads. When it comes to sharp turns, I never felt comfortable taking it fast.
The outsole of this shoe is pretty good. There is a good amount of rubber throughout the bottom of the shoe. After 50+ miles, the rubber seems to be holding up pretty well.
The grip is ok. I ran in rainy conditions once and I didn’t feel particularly stable both because of the foam and the rubber outsole.
This rubber definitely doesn’t compare to the Continental rubber that Adidas uses but it’s adequate enough for non-rainy runs.
Overall, the Hoka Cielo Road is a fine lightweight shoe that is built well for short distance races and lower volume fast training.
Because I’m currently in marathon training mode, I have to be particular about pulling out this shoe to make sure that the volume of my run fits within the comforts of this shoe.
I didn’t love the initial heel rubbing that I experienced but it has since disappeared.
This is going to be an interval shoe for me for the foreseeable future but I might have to experience a 5k race with it once marathon training season is over.
This shoe is a great option if you’re looking to save money and not spend on a carbon-plated shoe.
It’s also made very well, so you’re likely getting more value for your money than other lightweight trainers/racers from other brands.