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Road Shoes

Shoe of the Week: HOKA Carbon X 2

This ideal 100k shoe, HOKA's Carbon X 2 shines at all speeds for any stride, making it a super shoe for more than super runners.

HOKA Carbon X 2 Review

Weight: M8.4oz, W7.0oz

Offset: 5mm (M: 32mm heel/27mm forefoot, W: 30mm heel/25mm forefoot)

Price: $180

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HOKA Carbon X 2 pair
Photo: 101 Degrees West

Top Line

Made with the 100k world record in mind (check out HOKA’s record attempt on Jan. 23 in Phoenix, Arizona), the Carbon X2 treads the intersection of sustainable speed and comfortable performance — and sets the standard for a “super shoe” that works well for most runners at any speed.

What’s New

HOKA tinkered with the original Carbon X, incorporating a lighter, softer foam midsole and smoothing the gait cycle with a wider forefoot and slightly modified rocker. The engineered mesh upper is also more supple and breathable.

This is the shoe for you if…

You want the performance benefits of a super shoe for longer than a marathon or don’t have the biomechanics and strength required by many of the mostly-stiff carbon fiber, spring-loaded models that demand runners to be up on their toes before they reap the shoes’ superness. Even in contrast to HOKA’s Rocket X, the Carbon X2 performs better for mid- and rear-foot strikers and, accordingly, is the better choice for lower-cadence runners or the vast majority of runners who simply don’t run up near their toes. This also makes them well suited for road ultramarathons, and for use as a training shoe.

HOKA Carbon X 2 top
Photo: 101 Degrees West

First Runs

Running for two to three hours in a pair of shoes requires a whole lot less, in terms of cushioning and comfort, than does running for six to ten hours. Which is why the Carbon X2 is built differently than other “shorter distance” super shoes that are built with the intention of racing 10Ks to full marathons — but no further. Carbon X2 is less of a toe-off shoe, accommodating heel and midfoot runners and offering more in the way of creature comforts for a shoe built to perform for longer distances.

Given the shoe’s broad appeal, it is no surprise the Carbon X2 received glowing approval from our test team. “I love how springy these shoes are! I felt like I got some good launch on the takeoff so it made me feel speedy on the roads,” said one, who added, “Additionally I liked that it was well cushioned for the landing. It was a comfy, swift experience.”  Another characterized them as even more of an “everyone’s super shoe than the first version with a more forgiving, more adaptable fit, softer ride and the same less-aggressive rocker than the Rocket X.”

One satisfied tester compared the Carbon X2 to a contestant on “the Bachelor,” “I would absolutely give it the first impression rose. It had me at sculpted, sleek and Bauhaus Red.” Another commented, “They made me feel swift, energized and like I wanted to do a few pick-ups just because.” As a testament to the speedy feeling the Carbon X2 imparts, almost all of our testers felt compelled to use it for tempo training, even when they hadn’t planned on doing speed work.

The upper is a very breathable single layer of durable, engineered mesh that is more supple than the original knit material. While the upper fit is generally generous and comfortable, testers found it to be long in the front and rear, especially with the sculpted dovetail heel, and some wished for a wider toe box for more splay room. The tongue gusset and ergonomic heel tailoring finish off the upper with detail.

The Carbon X2 features a softer, lighter and more responsive midsole foam — which is a light, resilient EVA blend rather than the bouncy Pebax of many super shoes, delivering a more stable ride with less deflection. The new foam is combined with a wider forefoot for greater support and stability. The feel falls in the sweet spot between cushioning and responsive rebound; between “snappy” and “absorbing,” although one tester was hoping for a little more trampoline sensation.

HOKA Carbon X 2 rocker
Photo: 101 Degrees West

The y-shaped carbon plate keeps a similar rocker shape as the original, one that kicks in early in the gait but is smooth and gradual so that it eases through to toe off and doesn’t alter the stride as much as some other shoes’ stiff, steep rockers. That plate, however, is embedded in the midsole closer to the ground, resulting in more foam above it, further enhancing the cushioning and smoothing the effect of the rocker. It felt as though it was tuned to a wider range of running speeds compared to other super shoes that demand a more rapid turnover before they shine.

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