Hoka Rocket X 2 Review

Looking to run faster on race day? Today’s Hoka Rocket X 2 review might be for you! When Northern Runner first opened its doors 25 years ago customers used to come in and joke about wanting shoes that would ‘make them run faster’. This is no longer a joke. What I call ‘super shoes’ are designed to make you run faster. Hoka’s Rocket X 2 is one of these amazing shoes.

The second version of the Hoka Rocket X has been completely redesigned to make the Hoka Rocket X 2 the ‘perfect’ racing shoe. The upper is made from a technical synthetic mesh that is so thin you can see the light through it, with a rip stop design to make it durable. The heel cup has no plastic cup or support at all. It is completely collapsible and will mould easily to your heel shape. The upper has an internal cage made from overlays inside the upper. When you lace up the shoes the cage pulls the upper in around your foot giving a snug, hugging fit. The big toe line is straight to facilitate a strong toe off. The toe box has a bit more room than Hoka shoes tend to have, which gives a bit more space for your toes to spread when hitting the floor.

The tongue is gusseted to prevent it from moving. It is very thin but offers enough protection from the laces. When laced up, even though the upper is pulled in around your foot it feels like you ‘haven’t got a shoe on’ because it’s that light, soft and pliable. Even when cornering at speed or running down hill I didn’t feel that my foot moved around inside the shoes at all.

With such a lightweight upper it is no surprise that the shoes are very light. A UK 9 is 236g and a UK 6 is 190grams and the Rocket X 2 is unisex shoe.

< See Image Left > My more square and broad feet generally fit Altra or Topo Athletic shoes best due to the broad rounded toe box. However, I had enough room in the Rocket X 2 in the same UK size than I would use in my Topo Athletic or Altra running shoes. I’m not suggesting that they are a wide width, but they have more width than the regular width in most Hoka shoes.

The midsole is made from two pieces of a brand new highly and responsive foam. Sandwiched between the two pieces of clever foam is a spoon-shaped carbon plate. These are two of the three components that help you run faster. When your foot touches the floor, it flexes the carbon plate. This stores the energy and releases it as it recoils. This provides an additional propulsive force. The foam makes the landing feel very cushioned, so you don’t feel the hard, stiff carbon plate inside the midsole. It also rebounds very quickly giving the Rocket X a very bouncy feel.

The third key component to making you run faster in the Rocket X 2 is the early-stage meta rocker. Essentially this is the curve to the midsole. Hoka uses this curve in lots of their shoes but the shape of it varies depending on whether the shoe is designed for ‘easy’ running or ‘faster’ running. The rocker in the Rocket X 2 is designed to help you maintain a quick cadence. When your foot touches the floor the curve in the midsole reduces the breaking force by keeping the foot moving through the gait cycle to toe off. This reduces energy loss and the stress on the body that adds to fatigue.

The Hoka Rocket X 2 helps your legs move quicker, increases the distance that you cover with each stride and makes it all feel easier so you feel like you can keep moving at an increased speed.


It sounds too good to be true. However, having run in the previous Rocket X and the Carbon X I had experienced shoes that allowed me to run quicker with the same effort. The feel of the Rocket X 2 is very different. The Carbon X felt like a very controlling shoe. I felt like my legs were running on a hamster wheel and couldn’t get off. The Rocket X was a very comfortable shoe that felt like it didn’t have a plate in it. I couldn’t feel the extra propulsion and so it seemed like magic that I was able to run quicker in these than other shoes. The overwhelming feeling that I get from the Hoka Rocket X 2 is the bounce. I expected this to reduce once I had run in them for a few miles but they are still very bouncy. The rocker doesn’t force your legs to go quicker, it just facilitates it. When your foot touches the floor, it can’t stop moving due to the shape of the shoe, so your foot is moved through to toe off. This movement helped to stimulate my hamstrings and glutes and encourages me to pull my leg back the moment my foot touches the ground. I could also feel the push forward that I got from the shoes at toe off.

How much faster you will run in a ‘super shoe’ is dependent on many factors. A few of these to consider are your running style, fitness level and the terrain you are running on.
If you land midfoot with your foot under your centre of gravity, an upright posture and lift your feet off the floor rather than push then you will load the carbon plate more effectively than someone that lands heel first and has little knee lift. You will therefore get more spring from the plate which will push you forward more effectively and give you more help.

Although the curve of the shoe makes your stride smoother with less braking force, meaning less fatigue for the body to deal with, you need to be strong enough to maintain a good posture for the duration of your run and your leg muscles need to be strong enough and fit enough to maintain the high cadence. Use them too much or for too long initially and you could over work your hamstrings and glutes, leaving them sore.

Super shoes like the Rocket X 2 are designed for using on flat, hard surfaces. They are essentially road shoes. The plate is stiff and so on rough ground or uneven roads you can get thrown from side to side a little. There are trail versions of carbon plated shoes with split plates (Hoka Tecton X) that will cope with some uneven surfaces but to effectively propel you forward the carbon plate needs to be loaded and this is most effectively achieved by running on a flat, hard surface like a smooth road.

The shape of the curve and the carbon plates are designed to work best on the flat. On a gradually downhill you will still gain some propulsion but on a steep downhill you are unlikely to load the plate effectively. This type of shoe also isn’t great for uphill running on anything more than gradual. The foam is so soft you tend to ‘sink’ into it and the carbon plate isn’t loaded enough to give you any propulsion. The effect of the rocker would also be reduced, as you are running mainly on your toes. This is illustrated by the fact that the fastest time on the uphill legs of the Ekidon Relays in Japan have been set by runners wearing conventional racing flats. Whereas on the flatter legs the record books have been re-written by runners wearing this type of shoe.

The modern world of running has become more like cycling in that there are now shoes that are designed for particular aspects of running. Your pair of ‘super shoes’ are like your road time-trial bike. Much quicker on flat roads but not the best bike for road races that have a few more ups and downs!

The Hoka Rocket X 2 is simply the fastest shoe I have run in. For the same effort I am covering distances quicker. I see this on steady runs or a session of mile reps. Where these shoes really surprised me during my review miles was on my undulating terrain. We have a morning run loop that is just over 4 miles with about 400 feet of ascent. In carbon plated shoes that I have used before I have found that I ran no quicker than I would in a racer/trainer with no carbon plate. This wasn’t the case in the Rocket X 2. The foam isn’t too soft but is ‘bouncy’! You don’t sink into it as much on the steep hills. This meant I was able to maintain the gains that I made on the flat and gradual downhill sections of the course, which made the Rocket X 2 a quicker shoe on this loop.


A lot of shoes with soft foams and rockers reduce your perception of effort. This is partly because they make your stride more efficient, which reduces fatigue and partly because they reduce the work that your feet, ankles and calves do and reduce fatigue. The effect this has is that you feel like you can keep running at the same pace. I had this feeling while running in the Rocket X 2 too.

Issues With Over-Training in Carbon Plated Shoes

A word of warning. The more work the shoe does for you, the less work your body does. For this reason, it’s a good idea to only use your carbon plated shoes once a week or so. If you are running in shoes that stimulate foot function in between, your feet will get stronger and you’ll run faster in your carbon plated shoes when you put them on. You will also be less likely to get issues with your feet or calf muscles as a result of getting weaker.

The rubber on the outsole of the Hoka Rocket X 2 is quite thick for a racing shoe. I have done close to 100 review miles in the pair I have been running in and there is no sign of wear on the outsole. The midsole also still has the bounce that I initially felt when first running in the shoes. Quite often carbon plated ‘super shoes’ aren’t very durable. It looks like the Hoka Rocket X 2 might be an exception.

In summary the Hoka Rocket X 2 is a very light, comfortable and fast racing shoe that can also be used for fast sessions or tempo runs. I definitely moved quicker and felt less fatigued!

Other Considerations

Topo Specter: Although not strictly a super shoe they do make you run quicker with less effort. Topo shoes have a broad rounded toe box that suit’s those with wider feet, feet that are broad at the toes and those that want some space for their feet to function in. The Specter has a rocker and a Pebax foam in the midfoot that gives you some propulsion but, allows more foot function than a plated shoe. Here is a link to our review for more information: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/topo-athletic-specter-review/

Scott Speed Carbon RC: Scott and Hoka where the first two brands to use rockers in their running shoes. So, it’s no surprise that Scott has a go faster carbon plated shoe. These are firmer and have a more responsive feel than the Rocker X 2. Here is a link to our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/scott-speed-carbon-rc-review-carbon-plate-road-running-shoes/

New Balance Fuelcell RC Elite v3: Fuelcell is a soft and bouncy foam similar to the one used by Hoka. The RC Elite v3 has a narrower fit with a more pointed toe box. Here is a link to our v2 review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/new-balance-fuelcell-rc-elite-v2-review/

Brooks Hyperion Max: Although not a plated shoe these are worth a mention because they offer a good level of propulsion, and the foam maintains it’s bounce which makes it suitable for racing longer distances. Here is a link to our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/brooks-hyperion-max-review/

Altra Vanish Carbon: Zero drop but, with a bit of a rocker the Vanish Carbon has a rounded toe box like the Topo Specter but, is made on Altra’s slim last so it isn’t as broad fitting. The foam is soft and gives a very cushioned ride. Here is a link to our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/altra-vanish-carbon-review/

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