The Rocket X is Hoka’s best carbon shoe: it’s lighter, faster and more enjoyable to run in than the Carbon X3. It’s a good short-distance racer and a versatile training shoe, and though you will still get more performance gains from other carbon shoes, the Rocket X offers great value.
- Fast and smooth ride
- Cheaper than most carbon shoes
- Good for training and racing
- Not as fast and efficient as top carbon racers
- Some will find it too firm for longer races
You can trust Coach We give honest reviews and recommendations based on in-depth knowledge and real-world experience. Find out more about how we review and recommend products.
Given the dizzying hype that surrounds the launch of most new running shoes, it’s very rare for something to be undersold. Yet that’s exactly what I think Hoka One One has done with the Rocket X.
While the brand still lays it on thick, describing the Rocket X as an “incredibly lightweight, insanely responsive racer”, it’s also pitched as a shoe geared to elite athletes and shorter race distances. While that may well be true, in my experience it’s a lot more versatile than that and I think runners of all levels would love using the Rocket X as a lightweight racing and fast training shoe.
It’s also good value. Yes, £140 is a lot of money, but it’s par for the course for new launches, and it’s far cheaper than other carbon plate shoes. Nike’s top racers are £240 or more, and most brands cluster around the £200 mark, with Adidas’s Adios Pro (£170) and Hoka’s Carbon X (£160) offering the best value before the Rocket X launched.
The Rocket X isn’t like Adidas or Nike’s carbon racers, with an EVA midsole that doesn’t offer the same soft and squishy feel. But it’s not excessively firm either – the ride is comfortable and smooth, and it sometimes felt like I was barely touching the ground at all when running fast, so quickly did the rocker in the shoe move me through my foot strike.
At 217g in my UK 9, the Rocket X isn’t the lightest super-shoe out there. The Nike Vaporfly is under 200g and other options from New Balance and Brooks weigh in nearer 200g. However, the Rocket X didn’t feel like it was weighing me down on fast runs.
I’ve used the Rocket X for a couple of tempo 10Ks, plus two tough sessions, including a 10 x 1km workout on the track where I alternated 3min 30sec/km and 3min 10sec/km paces for the reps. I was surprised and impressed by how the shoe handled this kind of speedwork. It definitely fits the bill as a fast training shoe and short racer.
I was equally surprised and impressed by how comfortable it was over a steady half marathon effort. I thought the shoe would start to feel harsh after the 16km mark, but I was wrong. I’d go so far as to say the Rocket X would be a good half marathon and marathon racing shoe too. I certainly think it’s better suited to fast running than Hoka’s Carbon X over any distance, though I’ve yet to test the new Carbon X 2.
The upper on the shoe is comfortable and the fit was true to size for me. The tongue could do with being a bit longer, especially if you prefer to heel-lock your laces, and the laces are unnecessarily long too – they will flap around even if you heel-lock and triple knot.
There’s nothing of note to the outsole, which just has a thin covering of rubber on the forefoot and around the heel to keep the weight down. After 100km of running on pavements and the track I’ve not seen much wear and tear.
The Rocket X is easily Hoka’s best carbon shoe yet. It’s faster than the Carbon X and far more comfortable than the Carbon Rocket, which was really suitable only for short distances owing to its firm ride. The Rocket X is also a pretty stable shoe, especially for a carbon racer. I think most runners will get along with it, whereas shoes like the Nike Alphalfy and Vaporfly can be more divisive because of their distinctive rides.
However, while there’s nothing really bad to say about the Rocket X, it still suffers in comparison with some of the competition. Saucony’s Endorphin Pro has a similar feel but I rate it as the faster racing shoe, and given the choice I’d still opt for one of the Nikes on race day.
The relatively low price of the Rocket X redeems it though – it’s cheaper even than many of the training partner shoes in other brands’ line-ups, like Nike’s Tempo NEXT% and the Saucony Endorphin Speed. The Rocket X has the stability and comfort to be used regularly during training, while still having the speed to shine on race day. That versatility, paired with the price, makes it a carbon shoe worth checking out, whether it’s to use in concert with another racing option like the Vaporfly or as your fast trainer and racer combined.
Buy from Hoka One One (unisex) | £140
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.