Hoka One One is quickly making a name for itself in the carbon-plated “super shoe” arms race happening within the running community right now.
In my humble opinion, Hoka did really miss the plot when they released their initial running super shoe, which was the original Carbon X.
To give you a very in depth look, here is our Carbon X review
It has actually proved to be a beloved shoe by some loyal followers, but from a performance perspective, it just was not able to compete with the likes of Nike, Brooks or Saucony.
It seems that Hoka has learned from this, and pivoted in two strategic and intriguing directions. As it has framed the Carbon X 2 as an ultra-marathon super shoe that can easily cross over as a blue-collar marathoner’s racing/training shoe as well.
Furthermore, the release of the Rocket X has proven to provide a level of performance that can really compete with the other brands on the market.
If you need more proof of this, just look at the 2020 US Olympic Marathon trials, where Aliphine Tuliamuk put on a masterclass of a race in a pair of the Rocket X.
This is definitely not to undercut her personal performance, but I would argue a large reason that companies sponsor athletes in the first place is to show them winning in their shoes (which then legitimized their performance and makes us consumers more likely to buy them).
All of brand politics and marketing aside, you are here to know which Hoka carbon plated super shoe is right for you, so let’s get into the breakdown.
Normally I would start with the different features of each shoe (and there are plenty of design differences), but it feels more correct to cover the intended uses of each shoe before speaking on the features that make it so.
This might also save you time in your decision-making process as well!
Rocket X -
This is the simpler one out of the two, so we will keep it simple and clear.
The Rocket X was built to help you optimize your performance on race day and in key workouts between the 10k and marathon distances. It delivers.
There is a really nice blend of responsiveness and snap, coming from the carbon plate, but it pairs so well with the CMEVA (compression-molded EVA) midsole to get you just enough energy return for a really optimized stride pattern.
In my experience, I have found the Rocket X makes running anything slower than marathon pace feel incredibly awkward and almost unsettling, but DANG does it get you going when you need it the most!
Furthermore, the signature Early Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry feels a bit like a rocking chair for your feet, and people who strike the ground closer to their heels will benefit from this forward momentum.
Beyond its performance on race day, the midsole and outsole are durable enough to be worn on some key workout days in your build-up training as well.
However, I think it would be best to use sparingly, as you could lose some spring and freshness from the midsole foam and carbon plate if used too much.
I will say though, that this shoe can really hyper-activate your post chain muscles and tendons, especially calves and achilles, so if you have any issues there be weary before stepping into your pair before a rep session or long run.
So overall, it’s a race day performance shoe above all else, and it does a great job if you are looking for a new “super shoe” to try out in your next big race coming up.
You can find some different color options on Hoka’s Website.
Carbon X 2 -
The Carbon X 2 has me very excited.
Essentially going over a full redesign from its predecessor, the original Carbon X.
The Carbon X 2 has pivoted well to being one of the world’s first Ultra-Marathon “Super Shoes”, with features that have been optimized to help those running even longer than a marathon while on the roads.
Full disclosure, I am not an ultra-marathon runner by any means, but I have absolutely loved my experience running in the Carbon X 2.
It fixed many of the issues from its predecessor by reducing the stiffness and enhancing the upper material to fit better and just feel more comfortable.
So although the Carbon X 2 feels built to optimize performance on the ultra marathon scale, this shoe’s best uses can be pretty versatile. I have enjoyed it for steady long runs, tempo runs, fartleks, and even some pace work on the track when I want some more protection without sacrificing much performance.
This versatility has a lot to do with its construction from top to bottom. Looking at the midsole we see a good mix between the PROFLY X and Resilient CMEVA foam above the Carbon Fiber Plate, which is actually strategically made to split and curl under the lateral toes which allow for resupination.
That is a lot in one small paragraph, so to break it down, the midsole foam is similar to that which we see in the Rocket X, but it is just a hint better for me when it comes to shock absorption.
Furthermore, the carbon plate feels a little less aggressive in this shoe, which allows me to expand the array of runs I can use it for (and I am one who loves versatility).
Seriously, if you were looking for a single shoe that you could train for and then race a marathon in, then this might be one of the better options on the market.
It is also feeling quite durable, which I think has a lot to do with the Injected Rubberized EVA underneath the carbon plate, and also making up the outsole as well. It has proven to be quite resilient and grippy, which is a big plus for me.
If you are looking for a shoe with a stable platform, then you’ll be happy to hear that Hoka did a good job by implementing a Flared Midsole Forefoot Platform to enhance support and stability with a more accommodating and comfortable fit.
We haven’t even talked about the wonderful lockdown with the engineered upper mesh and the sleek sock liner that reduces rubbing and irritation within the shoe.
I think there is a lot of versatility and performance opportunities with the Carbon X 2 and I have enjoyed an array of uses for this shoe.
Ultimately, the Carbon X 2 is made to optimize performance over the ultra-marathon scene, but I have seen the most use of this shoe with more modest Long Runs and Tempo runs.
You can find a growing array of different color options on Hoka’s Website.
Although I was not a big fan of the original Carbon X, many people were big fans, and you can probably find it on sale nowadays so it may be worth a try!
Without overwhelming you, I think you now have a great idea of what each should provide and how you might be best able to implement either into your training and racing rotation.
To review, I think the Rocket X is the best option if you seek to optimize your performance on a target road race day ranging from 10k to the marathon. It is really a performance racing shoe before anything else, and what’s not to love about that!
The Carbon X 2 is going to provide a little less top-end performance, but the spectrum of versatility is quite long with this one, possibly ranging from daily training all the way to racing a marathon (or road/track ultra-marathon).
Who knows! Maybe there is enough here to justify having both shoes in your rotation, although that may feel redundant at some point.
I prefer to lay out the facts and let you decide, so take this final bit with a grain of salt. If I could only grab one of these shoes again, it would unequivocally be the Carbon X 2.
Last update on 2021-06-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API