Hoka One One's Rocket X isn't the first carbon plated shoe from the brand but it may be the most important one – especially when compared with the wide range of competitors that hit the market in 2020.
It's most notable predecessor is the Carbon X, a versatile shoe that offers an all-round experience from training miles to race day. However, when compared to some of the more prominent carbon plate racers released over the last year, it's a shoe with significantly subtler performance benefits.
- Upgrade your footwear: The best road running shoes to buy for men | The best road running shoes for women
The Rocket X is designed to be both lightweight and responsive, focussing specifically on race day speed over shorter distances. As well as Hoka's latest midsole foam, it includes an early stage meta-rocker and a breathable mesh upper.
We've been putting the Hoka One One Rocket X through its paces over 60 miles of running. Is it worth investing in as your next race day trainer? Let's take a look
Price: $180 | Weight: 210g/7.4oz | Type: Road | Stability: Neutral | Heel to toe drop: 5mm | Sizing: Fits to size | Alternatives: Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT%, Asics Metaracer, New Balance Fuelcell RC Elite, Saucony Endorphin Pro, Nike, Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%
At its core, the Rocket X is a shoe focussed on race day speed, stripping down some of Hoka's previous features into a lean performance shoe at a significantly more agreeable cost than some of the leading carbon plate options out there.
However, despite its impressive 210g weight, it's a shoe that packs a punch when it comes to technical elements, delivering a lot more than you might expect.
Perhaps the most important feature of the shoe is the full-length carbon plate – the same one that sits in Hoka's popular Carbon X. There's also a good level of EVA cushioning in the midsole, a 5mm drop (an increase from the 1mm found in the earlier EVO Carbon Rocket), and a light covering of rubberized foam on the outsole.
The upper is made from a soft breathable mesh – slightly more rigid than that found in the original Carbon X, a thin anatomical tongue design and an early stage meta-rocker to aid propulsion.
We've found that the shoe fits true to size, however, being designed specifically for racing does mean that the fit is quite secure across the midfoot area, so worth noting if you have wider feet.
As more carbon plate shoes are released the temptation to compare with Nike's leading options is, thankfully, lessening. As we've found over the past year, just because a shoe incorporates a carbon plate shouldn't put it in direct competition with the Vaporfly or the Alphafly options out there.
The Rocket X has, as you'd expect, more in common with Hoka's Carbon X. It's a subtler carbon shoe that feels more like a traditional racer than the sort of bounce we've come to expect from Nike's premium shoes – and that is by no means a bad thing.
The experience of running in the Rocket X is impressive. It feels lightweight and fast when you're picking up the pace but still feels grounded in comfort. The Carbon X is a very similar shoe but just lacks the speed or responsiveness available from the Rocket X.
We've tested the Rocket X out over multiple distance and training levels and found that – like the Carbon X – it's a very versatile shoe. For speed sessions, it ticks a lot of boxes and delivers a responsive yet cushioned ride that's conducive to race performance from track sessions to half marathon distance. Although for anything above that we would use a shoe with a higher level of cushioning.
Unlike some carbon plate shoes, the Rocket X also works well when not being used for racing and we found that even for longer, slower runs it had enough cushioning to feel like we were benefiting.
As with all race shoes designed to minimise weight across the shoe, the outsole of the Rocket X does have limited rubber, so durability may be an issue if using it for high mileage. However, we have found that the Hoka midsole is one of the more resilient options out there and there was very little wear over the testing we did.
The Rocket X is an excellent option if you're looking for a high performing carbon plate racer at a good price. It delivers an impressive experience under race conditions and also works well as a tempo training shoe to support the use of other carbon plate racers in your shoe armoury. For the price, you couldn't really ask for more.