Hoka One One’s Carbon X 2 Is Comfier—and More Inclusive—Than Its Predecessor

The marathon-racing trainer underwent a slight tweak to become heel striker-friendly.

The RW Takeaway: The second iteration of one of Hoka’s fastest shoes has a more streamlined fit and embraces all gait patterns.

  • More secure upper with ample toe room and a locked-in fit
  • Protruding heel lends stability and supports heel strikers
  • Runs large, so consider trying half a size down

Price: $299.95
Road, Racing
240grams (M), 200grams (W)

The X 2’s predecessor, the enigmatic Carbon X, had us recording fast splits over mid-to-long distance runs. Nonetheless, it was difficult for us to pinpoint just whom the Carbon X was for. Eventually, we discovered midfoot strikers got the most out of the shoe’s construction. A heel-to-toe roll propelled by the early-stage Meta-Rocker was quite aggressive for some testers, especially heel strikers who couldn’t find their groove.

This time around, heel strikers won’t feel left out. A protruding heel, which is similar to the one on Hoka’s TenNine (though not as massive), absorbs shock and provides stability for runners who push off on their heel. “If I raced a marathon or less, I’d go with the Saucony Endorphin Pro,” said a heel-striking tester. “If I raced a 50K or more, I’d use the Carbon X 2.” As a fellow heel striker and tester of the Endorphin Pro, I couldn’t agree more.

A Hardier Distance-Racing Shoe

The X 2 feels hardier for longer mileage, as well as more resilient. As with the Endorphin Pro and Hoka’s other racing shoe, the Rocket X (also priced at $299.95), a carbon-fiber plate is implanted in the midsole to promote quick and snappy transitions. Fans of the original liked the refined upper, saying the reinforced lacing and new sleek design made it feel more secure.

When I spoke with Hoka’s brand reps, they differentiated its two fastest shoes, the Rocket X and Carbon X 2. The Rocket, according to Hoka, is intended for short distances but “efficient enough for the marathon.” Of the two, the X 2 is the “more accessible” shoe. While the Rocket is strictly for race day and caters to elite runners, the much softer X 2 can pull double-duty as both a training and racing shoe.

Racing in the Carbon X 2

Keeping up with my tradition in testing competition shoes at road races, I drove up to a little racing festival in the Poconos this past March. Due to a nagging foot injury, I opted out of the marathon and switched to the 10K instead. (Please be advised I don’t condone running through an injury. But when I say I intend to race in a shoe I’m testing, darnit, I’ll race in that shoe I’m testing.)

Confession: I also packed my pair of Saucony Endorphin Pros as a fallback. But the X 2 was the wiser choice. The shoe surprisingly worked in my favor because of its comfort and stiffness. When I ran the Boston Marathon virtually last fall in the Pros, by mile 20 the top of my right foot was sore from pressure, the shoe’s upper too narrow, the lacing too tight. The X 2 isn’t as flexible as the Endorphin Pro, which prevented my metatarsals from flexing and further aggravating the already-injured area.

The Carbon X had a responsive ride favoured by mid foot strikers.
The X 2’s exaggerated heel makes it more heelstriker-friendly.

Running in the original Carbon, I felt like the shoe was forcing me to change my gait and that I was sliding on the footbed. I went half a size down with the X 2, which resulted in a more secure fit, and the ride felt smoother and more supportive with the snugger midfoot and protruding heel.

Injury prevented me from attempting to PR, but I managed to roll through the finish at third place. For the rest of my day, I remained in the upright position. I have the Carbon X 2—and my decision to trade in 6.2 over 26.2 miles of disaster—to thank for that.


Wear Tester Feedback

Larry S., tester since 2014
Arch: High | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Midfoot

“For a road shoe, this is better than most I have worn. The fit was very good. It held my heel in place while having plenty of room for my toes. The insole conformed well to my foot. The shoe has a firm/stiff feel, which I prefer to a cushy sole, but still had a great toe-off. And it is the lightest shoe that I have had in a very long time.”

Tim O., tester since 2014
Arch: Medium | Gait: Overpronator | Footstrike: Heel

“I’ve recently started wearing size 11 instead of 11.5, and these fit perfectly. The gusseted tongue is great. For a shoe I would race in, it doesn’t feel like they skipped out on anything. The upper is thin, but that’s how I like shoes. I don’t see any need for a buffed-out upper in a running shoe. The heel is more sturdy than other racing shoes.”

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