Hoka Carbon X Review | Carbon Fibre Running Shoes

For as long as I have been selling running shoes customers have always asked jokingly if the shoes they were purchasing would ‘make them run faster’. Off course the reality has always been that a shoe that suits your gait will make it more comfortable to run, reduce the chance of you getting injured, allowing you to run more and get fitter, run further or faster.

There was an attempt to change this recently, when running companies like Hoka One One and New Balance started releasing shoes designed to help you maintain cadence and spring. Namely by using a carbon fibre plate inside the midsole. We took a pair of Hoka Carbon X on a few test runs to find out if they were successful.

Hoka One One’s Carbon X is a well cushioned shoe designed for every distance. It has a carbon plate in the midsole to create a ‘rocker’ in the shoe, which helps maintain an upright posture and a quick cadence as it rolls you through landing and toe off.
Whilst they appear narrow on first inspection, potentially narrower than other Hoka shoes that are narrow compared with all the other brands we sell, looks can be deceptive and there is more room in these shoes than other Hoka styles. They are definitely a little wider than the Rincon and a bit wider than the Clifton 6.

Usually shoes designed for speed are firmer in the cushioning and not usually described as ‘comfortable’. They ‘become’ comfortable once you are moving at a faster pace. This is not true of the Carbon X. You are aware that the shoes are firmer than a lot of other Hoka shoes but they are far from hard. They are definitely comfortable enough to wear all day.

Test 1
My first run out in them was 1 mile efforts. Not too hard, just cruising along at something just under the pace I could hold for an hour. I used this training style simply because I had used it a week ago and this would help me assess if the Carbon X was going to make me run faster. The first thing you notice is the curve in the midsole. During my warm up I run down a long, steepish hill to my marked out mile and on that section the Carbon X definitely made me faster. On the mile efforts themselves the feeling of strength and power that I usually get in zero drop, responsive cushioning running shoes wasn’t there so much, and my first impression was that I was moving slower, but my legs where moving quicker! The reason for this is that the curve of the shoe keeps your cadence quick and the cushioning makes the shoes feel very comfortable. As a result, your effort feels somewhat reduced, but you’re still moving well. Upon completing the mile efforts, my time was bang on the same as the previous week with the same heart rates and power readings.

Interestingly the full session takes just over an hour and I was just over 2 minutes quicker in the Carbon X than my normal speedy shoes. It was in the ‘jog’ warm up and warm down that I was moving quicker!

The next day almost all of my body felt much fresher than it normally does after some quicker running. The hamstrings were tested a little more than usual just because of the rocker and subsequent slightly different gait as a result.

Test 2
The next thing I tried was a ‘threshold run’. This is getting to the pace I can hold for an hour, then running continuously for 3 miles. I experienced the same kind of results, in that the threshold pace was no quicker but I warmed up and down quicker with no increased feeling of effort.

My conclusion is that these shoes can do what Hoka says they do. I am sure that I would see an increase in the pace I could maintain for longer runs like marathon distance and beyond. I think that the curve and the carbon plate irons out your imperfections, so the amount of improvement is probably more marked in those with a less tuned gait cycle.

I recommend giving these a try for your quicker sessions. They’re a pleasant surprise. Remember though, although on the surface these sound like the ‘perfect’ shoe that we have all been looking for you, the shoe is doing a lot of the work that your body should be doing.

I do not recommend the Carbon X is run in every day. I am sure that your posture and cadence will improve by using these for your faster running and races, but you should look to rotate them with a less ‘controlling’ shoe. For this reason, Hoka are going to launch a training version of the Carbon X that essentially interferes less. These are scheduled to be launched in March 2021 and are the perfect accompaniment.

Charlie @ Northern Runner

Looking to run quicker over shorter distances? The Hoka Rocket X is due for launch in the UK in November 2020. These are the shoes that Hoka’s Elite Athletes are using for Marathons and shorter races. There is much less cushioning, and the carbon plate has a lot more spring in it to push you into your next stride.

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