Road Shoes

Shoe of the Week: HOKA Rocket X

Blast off with the Rocket X, HOKA’s high-end carbon racer for speedy runners.

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HOKA Rocket X Review

Weight: 7.4 oz all gender

Offset: 5mm (29mm fore; 34mm heel)

Price: $180

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HOKA Rocket X
Photo: Lorenzo Muñoz

Top Line

If HOKA’s Carbon X is the Super Shoe for the Masses, the Rocket X is the Super Shoe for the Elite; an explosive, rigid racing flat best for forefoot or, better yet, toe strikers.

What’s New

While this shoe is completely new to HOKA’s lineup it conjures memories of the firmer, lower Evo Carbon Rocket as well as the higher, softer Carbon X. The Rocket X takes over as the brand’s sleekest lightweight carbon fiber racing shoe, one that uses HOKA’s new lightweight compression-molded EVA midsole, 1mm curved carbon-fiber plate, and strategically-deployed thin, rubber outsole to produce a responsive, firm, relatively low-profile performance shoe.

Photo: 101 Degrees West

This is the shoe for you if…

You’re an efficient, high-cadence runner who stays up on the fore of your feet, looking for a light, tightly-strung shoe for speedwork or racing 5k to half-marathon distances, up to the marathon for the most efficient (like Aliphine Tuliamuk, who wore them to win the Olympic Trials marathon last spring). At $180, it is also relatively affordable as a carbon-plated super shoe.

First Runs

As one of the firmest of the super shoes, the Rocket X leverages its rigidity, low stack height and minimal heel drop for what our testers described as a “snappy” feel that got them right up on their toes.

“Close your eyes and pump your arms. This shoe wants to rip when you really get the turnover going. Super playful, responsive and I instantly wanted to clip off 6:30’s,” raved one tester. “The shoe made me feel energized, light on my toes, and, most importantly, exceptionally speedy. I am in love with this shoe and intend to run in it until it’s in tatters,” glowed another. A third loved the Rocket X because, “It made for a super light and swift ride on the roads. I did some unplanned pick-ups in the shoes simply because they felt so fast and it was easy to start flying down the streets.”

But, unlike the Carbon X, which boasts a big sweet spot and long, rocking toe-off, the sharper meta rocker of the Rocket X puts the transition zone under the metatarsals, feeling like it doesn’t kick into gear until far forward in the gait, near toe-off. As such, the rigidity and low drop requires the leverage of a high-turnover, powerful forefoot runner to reap the benefits.

HOKA Rocket X toe spring
Photo: 101 Degrees West

The Rocket X is a super shoe for super runners, which explains its appeal to those of our test team who run with a cadence higher than 180 steps-per-minute and who tend to stay up on their toes. For them, the Rocket felt flexible and springy and encouraged an upright posture. Those testers also appreciated the lack of weight of these race-ready shoes.

Female testers observed that the fit of the Rocket X, which is billed as “all gender,” is higher in volume, especially in the “generous” toe box, so it is advised to try them on if you are on the edge of a size. The upper wrapped the foot smoothly and comfortably “with a surprisingly supportive heel counter and collar.” The test team rated the open mesh upper as comfortable, breathable and having a secure lockdown, enhanced by the stretchy straps anchoring the tongue to the sole.

Concluded one tester, “For a super shoe, maybe the Rocket X is just for the 1% of runners, or reserved for those top 10% effort runs?”

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