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REVIEW: Hoka One One Carbon X

Our thoughts on Hoka's first crack at a carbon-plated shoe, the Carbon X

The Carbon X is Hoka’s response to the carbon-plated shoe craze that’s taken over the running shoe industry. The shoe was introduced in May in time for Project Carbon X, which was a 50-mile and 100K world record attempt by Hoka runner Jim Walmsley. Walmsley didn’t quite hit the 100K world record but he did snag the 50 mile en route to a new 100K personal best of 7:05:24.

RELATED: Project Carbon X: Breaking2, Hoka-style

RELATED: Walmsley breaks 50-mile world record at Hoka race

Thus far, carbon-plated shoes have felt synonymous with a delicate shoe. The Nike Vaporfly has been proven as a very useful tool for racing and training, there’s no disputing that, but the shoe breaks down quickly due to its extremely light foam and delicate upper. And at $330 CAD, it’s not a shoe most people can afford to replace often.

The Carbon X offers a solution to that problem. While it’s got a carbon-fiber plate just like the Vaporfly, that’s about all the two shoes have in common–one is not a stand-in for the other. First, the drops are significantly different. As is traditional with Hoka, they’ve kept to their 5mm drop, as opposed to Nike’s 10mm. Also, the Hoka is about 30 grams heavier than the Vaporfly. Ultimately the two shoes are trying to accomplish two different things–one is purely a racing shoe and the other is a little more malleable. Because the Carbon X was designed to race up to 100K at a time, it could be worn for training runs and races and hold up well for both. The Carbon X is also less expensive–at $270 CAD it’s a touch more affordable than some of its competitors.

Photo: Matt Stetson

What it’s for

I wore the Carbon X during a couple of training runs: one easy run at around 4:45 per kilometre, and a tempo run, which was closer to 3:45 per kilometre. The shoe felt good for both, but particularly on the faster run. However, once I started running really fast, doing a post-run stride for example, I wasn’t as crazy about the shoe. When I’m sprinting, I like to be able to feel the ground and due to Hoka’s stack height, that wasn’t possible.

This shoe is designed to race, and I could certainly see it as ideal in a marathon or road ultra. However, if you’re running a 5K, I’d opt for something a touch more minimal, like the Hoka Tracer.

Photo: Matt Stetson

The upper

The upper is one piece of mesh with a thicker collar to prevent chafing around the heel and ankle. The tongue  is also attached underneath the insert at the midfoot, to ensure zero distraction. There’s a heel counter, but it’s not too stiff, which allows your foot to move naturally.

The midsole

The midsole is a combination of the company’s ProFlyX foam with a carbon plate. There’s a pretty significant rock to the shoe, as with all Hokas, but the rock is more pronounced with the addition of the plate. The shoe feels sturdy but certainly not stiff. The shoe is very comfortable, largely due to the soft upper and ProFlyX foam.

Photo: Matt Stetson

The outsole

The outsole is the most minimal aspect of the shoe, presumably to save on weight. This is purely a road shoe, so there isn’t the need for a significant tread. I wore the shoe on both wet and dry roads, and it performed well on both.

This shoe is for someone who’s looking for a racing shoe that is a little more durable than the Vaprofly 4%. If you’re willing to compromise a bit on weight to buy a shoe that will last a little longer than the competitors, the Carbon X is the shoe for you.