Hoka Hoka One Carbon X 2 Review – the X2 makes ‘the fast’ run faster
I’m not convinced this shoe will give YOU the free speed you hope for but it does appear to make me faster in certain circumstances and that’s why I’m sharing some thoughts on the new Hoka Hoka One Carbon X 2 in this fairly detailed review.
Jeez, this is a pretty running shoe. But prettiness only makes you fast in your head. I’m also going to look at some of the carbon-plated running shoe alternatives and share my thoughts on why this shoe might not speed up every runner in the real world.
Hoka Hoka One Carbon X 2 – The Goldilocks Zone and the X2
Our weight and running dynamics are different. For me, the Hoka Carbon X 2 feels faster between 3:25/km and 3:55/km. Then slowing down to 4:15/km, I reckon the X2 is still faster than my Hoka Rincon 2 but just doesn’t FEEL faster at that speed ie the stats tentatively suggest it requires less energy.
If I go faster than 3:25/km down to 3:00/km then I’m using a forefoot strike and I can’t see or feel where any significant additional energy return is coming from. If your footstrike is different to mine at that speed you’ll almost certainly go faster with these shoes.
Going slower than 4:15/km then we get to longer run territory and it’s a #shrug moment. I just want something for the longer miles that are cushioned and going to stop me from getting injured. I don’t need this shoe for those runs and it isn’t specially designed for them either.
Hoka Hoka One Carbon X 2 – The Carbon Plate and why it’s fast on the X2…or, why it won’t be fast for you
If you hold the X 2 in your hand you cannot bend the sole. It’s stiff. Like…REAL stiff.
However, when you are running there are very significant impact forces in play. I weigh less than 70kg but if I’m running at 4:00/km and heel striking then there are some serious forces whacking the rear end of the carbon plate and then it DOES flex. If I run faster with the same footstrike or if I was heavier at the same speed, then the impacts are greater still and that stiff carbon plate is probably going to spring back and return more energy rather than dissipate it all away.
If you mid-foot strike or forefoot strike then I can see an argument that the plate will still bend, albeit in a lesser way. I would guess an energy return exists but in a less profound way.
A second way that the Carbon X 2 can make you fast is from the action caused by the shape of the rear of the sole. Heel striking does feel slightly unusual to me in the way I am quickly transitioned to the flat foot and then toe-off. This might encourage less time on the ground, a more active toe-off or…something else…either way, this might explain some of the perceived speed gains. Although this feeling is probably also a product of the carbon plate.
A third way the Carbon X 2 can make you fast is simply because it is fairly light. Simply put, the weight of a running shoe absolutely DOES make a material difference to your speed. Think of the energy required to move swinging weights at the end of a pendulum – the shoe is the weight and the pendulum is your leg…it’s the swinging weight and not the absolute weight that makes the difference. That said, just because these shoes have the word ‘carbon’ in them doesn’t mean that they are especially light. My size 44s with a Stryd pod weigh in at 266g…but that’s heavier than my Rincon 2 at 218g ie the X 2 is ‘slower’ in this specific respect. You can get very significantly lighter racing flats but then the fantastic weight savings of such shoes need to be set against the increased pounding your body will take when using them as, typically, lightweight racing flats have little cushioning and a low drop.
There are many other performance subtleties too but those 3 should be enough for now.
Science link, these kinds of shoes really are faster: springer.com
The Key Decision-Making Factors
- Speed – in light of the previous section you need to be realistic about what speeds you can run at. Whilst your 5K pace might be in the Goldilocks zone from above, it probably will not be anywhere near the same on the marathon leg of your Ironman race.
- Race Distance – for many 5k runners I reckon these shoes will give you some PBs this year. As the distances get longer and as you necessarily get slower I suspect that many people will be too slow to get the free speed that is on offer to higher-level runners.
- Footstrike – if you are a neutral heel striker then all is good here for you. I pronate slightly and wear corrective orthotics so I should be OK too, whilst I probably do mid-foot striking over shorter distances, as I fatigue the heel-striking kicks in.
- Race day terrain – These seem fine to use on a variety of harder surfaces. There’s not much grip so a wet, grassy downhill could give you some unpleasant issues
- Durability – The first Nike carbon shoes had a reputation for a short life. I don’t yet know about the durability of these Carbon X 2’s but they were designed by Hoka for ultra marathons so you’d hope for multi-3-figure mileage. For me, that should handle all my 2021 races.
- Price – These shoes will sit nicely in the sub $200/£160 zones and may fall lower. That’s expensive but actually not too bad compared to the prices of some of the other carbon plate shoes.
Hoka Hoka One Carbon X 2 vs. The Competition
It used to be oh so simple in 2017. You got out your chequebook and bought a pair of Nike carbons and hoped to improve your time by 4%, or something along those lines. Now every brand wants in on the premium carbon shoe game and Nike’s clear dominance is no longer as obvious as it used to be.
If you are an elite racer you won’t be reading this review as you will be sponsored and if you have $200 or more to spend on shoes you will probably get the Nike if you can get hold of a pair. That leaves the rest of us.
Hopefully, this very brief summary of all comparable models to the X2 will put you on the right track for choosing the best carbon plate shoe for you and your race. But you face dilemmas if you are a relatively slow runner or if you forefoot strike or if you want a cushioned ride or if any of your races are not in ideal road-like conditions.
These all have carbon plate tech of some sort
- Adidas Adizero Pro (discontinued)
- BUY: Adidas Adizero Adios Pro (current) – novel carbon rods and a small carbon plate deliver a fast shoe at all distances. A contender for the best marathon shoe.
- BUY: Asics Metaracer (current) – built more for shorter distance speed over 5k and 10k
- Asics METASPEED Sky – helps runners who get faster by increasing their stride. Due 2021
- Asics METASPEED Edge – helps runners who get faster by increasing their stride and cadence. Due 2021
- Brooks Hyperion Elite (discontinued)
- BUY: Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 (current) – At £210 this is over-priced and not as good as cheaper shoes. Give it a miss.
- Hoka’s Carbon X (V1, 2019, discontinued)
- BUY: Carbon X 2
- BUY: Hoka Rocket X (current) – At £140 this is a sensible performance all-rounder for training fast and for your B race.
- BUY: New Balance FuelCell RC Elite – A top-level 5K to marathon racer at £210.
- BUY: New Balance FuelCell TC – At £180 you would use this in rotation as a training shoe as you aim to use the ELITE version for your Races.
- BUY: Nike AlphaFly NEXT% 2 A marathon PB shoe that’s more for the masses but rarely in stock and £260. This is heavier, costlier and bulkier than the Vaporfly, possibly less stable too.
- BUY: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% – A soft, super-cushioned ride for your A race, providing it’s on the road. If you can find some restricted stock and have £240 to blow, get a pair. Great for all the longer distances but AlphaFly edges it for a marathon if you have the choice.
- BUY: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next% 2 (Review) – Same sole as the Next% and different upper. Different price…CHEAPER at £209. I’m going to get a pair for an HIM.
- BUY: On Cloudboom – a firm ride for 10k and 5k and probably over-priced at £170
- BUY: On Cloudboom – a firm ride for HM and Marathon and probably over-priced at £160
- BUY: Saucony Endorphin Pro – a much, much better choice for a firmer shoe over long distances than the On Cloud. £190
Note: All buy links go to the manufacturer/brand site.
If you’re a runner looking for a carbon-plate racing shoe for marathon distances and beyond, the Carbon X 2 is the perfect choice because it offers stability and cushioning in spades.
What’s the difference between Hoka One One Carbon X 2 and the current Hoka One One Rocket X?
The Hoka One One Rocket X and Carbon X 2 are both current models but which is best for you?
The Rocket X is lighter, softer and more suited to shorter, faster running whereas the X 2 is officially aimed at ‘moderate pace’ running and/or longer half-marathons or marathons.
What’s the difference between Hoka One One Carbon X 2 and the earlier Carbon X?
Hoka has made some notable changes from the X to the X2, firstly is the swallow heel design, which now extends further to the rear and if you heel strike this will make contact earlier with the ground and you may get a smoother ride smoother, more efficient ride as a result. Secondly, the midsole foam is now slightly softer, which I prefer, and the carbon plate is now lower and closer to the ground.
Hoka One One Carbon X 2 Review – Shoe Specifications
The key specs are shown for the X2 in the image below, namely that the weight is officially 239g and there is a 5.00mm heel to toe drop. If you have calf or Achilles issues then a larger heel to toe drop might place less strain on those areas.
Hoka’s official view agrees with mine that their cushioning on this model is less than on some of their other models. However, Hoka does claim that, in general, all their shoes have good midsole cushioning.
Buy Hoka One One Carbon X 2, Check Availability
The links below will click through to give you a couple of choices of retailers if more than one is available for your country. At the moment (April 2021) there is a direct deal and that same deal is also available via Wiggle where you can try any Hoka shoes for a month and return them if not happy. Which seems pretty decent to me. Furthermore, Wiggle Platinum members (me!) should get a good deal on the X2 and, indeed, when I bought these X2 shoes myself I got 12% off at the price shown below.
Hoka One One Carbon X 2 Review Verdict: Free speed for already-fast, neutral-striking, long-distance runners.
Price - 75%75%
Build Quality & Design - 95%95%
Weight - 80%80%
Comfort & Cushioning - 85%85%
Hoka One One Carbon X 2: Summary
This is a good-looking and well-made long-distance running shoe. If you are aiming for a half-marathon or above and you prefer a firm but fast ride to complement your neutral footstrike then the X 2 offers you some free speed. Take it.