This racer is recommended for runners looking for a very soft super shoe which can handle long-distances. The Rocket X 2 is for runners looking for a propulsive alternative to the Vaporfly 2 & Adios Pro 3 which has more stability.
If you prefer a firm racer with a lightweight build, the Rocket X 2 is not the shoe for you. It’s not one of the lighter super shoes and its soft ride is built for long-distance comfort.
As a brand that dominates the daily trainer market with their maximalist, rockered workhorses, Hoka’s racing shoes leave a lot to be desired. The Carbon X 3 had a terribly loose upper with heel slippage while the original Rocket X didn’t feel like a super shoe. Both racers didn’t offer as much speed assistance as other super shoes.
The problem is that their compression molded EVA foam works well in their training shoes but when used in a racing shoe, it lacks the energy return and dynamism required in a competitive racing shoe.
PEBA (polyether block amide) is one of the most popular midsole foams used in super shoes because it’s light and it provides an incredible amount of energy return. It was first made popular by Nike’s Vaporfly but now it’s used by Saucony, Reebok, Skechers, Under Armour, and Mizuno. The Rocket X 2 is now also PEBA powered.
The new Rocket X 2 weighs 8.3 oz (235 g) for a men’s US 9 which is quite a bit heavier than the Vaporfly 2 and the Metaspeed Sky+. It’s 0.9 oz (26 g) heavier than the first Rocket X. The stack heights have been increased from 30 mm/25 mm to 36 mm/31 mm.
When the Rocket X came out back in 2020, it cost only $180. A carbon-plated racer which was the same price as a max-cushioned trainer represented extremely good value. Now, just one version later, it costs $250, probably the biggest jump in price ever in the history of running shoes.
At $250, you expect it to compete with the fastest marathon racers on the market. Spoiler: it does.
When I tried the Rocket X 2 on in the store, the toe box felt really narrow (like most Hokas) so I decided to go up a half size from my regular size. Most runners who are planning to run long distances in it will need to go up a half size.
My first run was a workout of 1 km intervals followed by 200 m intervals. Within the first 500 m of the warm up, I could feel that the Rocket X 3 was something special. It felt softer and way more bouncy than any other Hoka shoe I had tried.
The plate setup combined with the new super foam in the midsole made the shoe feel incredibly propulsive and snappy. Transitions felt very smooth and the cushioning felt deep enough to handle the full marathon distance.
It felt completely different to the original Rocket X and it reminded me more of the Vaporfly Next% 2 but with a wider midfoot section and a more stable base.
The upper fit was comfortable but I did notice a bit of a loose heel so I had to stop to tighten the laces once.
The Rocket X 2 has an upper made from a plastic-like material which feels similar to VaporWeave of the Vaporfly Next% 1. It’s smooth, doesn’t stretch and doesn’t absorb liquid. I find breathability to be average- the upper doesn’t have large holes for the heat to escape.
Its flat tongue is semi-gusseted and it doesn’t slide sideways but does slide downwards during runs. I find that when I wear thin socks, I can feel the lacing pressure on the top of my feet if I tie it too tight because the tongue is so thin.
There’s no heel counter and there’s only padding on the inside of the heel counter on the sides, not the back, so the heel always feels like it’s loose but there’s no heel slippage if I use a runner’s knot and tie it tight enough.
The Rocket X 2 has a narrow fit with a very narrow toe box so go up a half size if you enjoy a bit more toe splay room. I do feel that most runners will find a half size bigger much more comfortable than true to size. I don’t recommend it for wide footed runners because it has a typical Hoka, narrow fit.
So how fast is the Rocket X 2 and can it compete with the fastest super shoes? The answer is a resounding yes. In my opinion, the Rocket X 2 offers just as much speed assistance as the top tier racers currently on the market. The combination of the new foam and the redesigned carbon plate propel you forward powerfully, like a springboard. The faster you go, the more propulsion you feel.
Those runners who have been wishing that Hoka would change from old school EVA foam to something more energetic will not be disappointed with the ProFly X in the Rocket X 2. To me, it feels most similar to Adidas’ Lightstrike Pro but softer and more bouncy.
The carbon plate is stiff and has an aggressive placement in the midsole- it starts high in the heel and then dips down, close to the ground in the forefoot like an S-shape. I’m a bit disappointed that the front of it is forked because the Rocket X 2 could have been even more propulsive. Puma realised this and changed to a regular, non-forked plate design in the Deviate Nitro Elite 2; it feels much snappier than the first version.
The Rocket X 2 doesn’t feel as tall as other super shoes like the Wave Rebellion Pro or the Alphafly Next% 2. The reason for this is that the foam compresses really easily so when you’re striking the ground, the midsole edges surround your feet and you feel like you’re inside the shoe, not on top of it- this is Hoka’s bucket seat feature. This is why the Rocket X 2 feels much more stable to me than say the Vaporfly 2 or the Adios Pro 3.
It has a 5 mm drop which is the same as the Metaspeed Sky+ and is lower than the average super shoe. 5 mm is the standard Hoka drop and I can’t say I notice more than a higher drop during runs. My calves/Achilles don’t get stiff after runs and I don’t feel that I need the extra assistance to get from heel to toe-off while transitioning.
There’s a large cavity or void underneath the Rocket X 2, situated under the rearfoot and midfoot. This is a key factor in dropping the weight of the shoe and increasing energy return by allowing the plate and midsole foam to deform during footstrikes. New Balance also uses this in their SuperComp series as well as various other racers like the Deviate Elite 2, Wave Rebellion Pro and Endorphin Elite.
My longest run in the Rocket X 2 was 40 kilometres at mostly steady pace with a section at marathon pace. It had enough cushioning for the full distance and it felt stable throughout the run. This is definitely a super shoe that you can use for a full marathon even if your form is not great.
I tested the Rocket X 2 at a variety of paces and it could handle all of them. From easy pace down to 100 m pace, the Rocket X 2 felt punchy and propulsive although I feel that it’s best suited to marathon pace due to how soft its ride is and its 8.3 oz (235 g) weight.
The Rocket X 2’s outsole is relatively flat so transitions are really smooth. It has a good amount of rubber coverage and the exposed midsole foam is durable so it doesn’t chip or scrape as easily as ZoomX foam. I didn’t have any problems with grip but I didn’t get a chance to test it on wet roads.
The Rocket X 2 is now deserving of its name. It’s not even comparable to the first version because it’s so much faster, softer, and more effective at speed assistance. It’s heavier than the Rocket X 1 and a lot more expensive but at least Hoka has a proper super shoe now. I think $250 is a fair price for the Rocket X 2 when you look at competitors in the same price range.
It’s not perfect though: I think the upper of the Rocket X 2 can be improved. Its toe box is too narrow and there isn’t enough padding in the heel so it feels loose. For some runners who prefer feather light racers, the Rocket X 2 will also be too heavy.
I would however race a full marathon in the Rocket X 2. It offers plenty of speed assistance and it’s softer than the Endorphin Elite and Adios Pro 3. It’s also relatively stable and decently durable for a racing shoe. I think it’s a better racing shoe than the NB SC Elite v3, the ASICS Metaspeed Sky+ and the Alphafly Next %2.
If you enjoy a racer with a really soft ride, the Rocket X 2 would be the number 1 pick because it outperforms the SC Elite v3- its upper is so much better and the midsole geometry is more aggressive.
The Rocket X 2 is my favorite Hoka running shoe to date. Being such a large and popular brand, they have finally invested in a midsole foam which can compete with the best in terms of energy return and cushioning softness.
Profly X makes the Rocket X 2 extremely fun and exceedingly engaging to run in.
Now that Hoka has a seriously competitive racer, it has a much more complete shoe rotation; the Clifton 9 for easy and daily runs, the Mach 5 for speedwork and the Rocket X 2 for racing.
Now, Hoka just needs a good plated training shoe. The upcoming Mach X could fill that role.