Hoka One One Rocket X review TL;DR: less chunky than other Hoka running shoes, the Rocket X retains responsiveness but loses propulsion, compared to other high-performance Hoka racing shoes.
One of the best running shoes I tried in 2019 was the the Hoka One One Carbon X: those shoes are on par with the well-hyped Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% and deliver a high-octane running experience. The Carbon X combined the Hoka-signature chunky midsole with an embedded carbon-plate and threw a comfortably tight upper on the top to create a brilliant racing shoe that's well worth the asking price.
The Hoka One One Rocket X builds on the foundation laid by the Carbon X and blends it with characteristics borrowed from another Hoka shoe, the Hoka One One Evo Carbon Rocket. One might think that with the Rocket X, Hoka is trying to streamline its running shoe offering by combining two similar running shoes into one, but that's not the case here. If anything, Hoka muddles the water even more with introduction of the Rocket X. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. What is the Hoka One One Rocket X good for in the first place?
Hoka One One Rocket X: price and availability
Hoka One One Rocket X review – Key Specs
Weight: 226 grams (men's UK 10)
Drop: 5mm (30mm / 25 mm)
Price: $180 / £140
Colour: Fiesta/Red, White/Diva Blue
Characteristics: carbon-plate, high-stack, locked-in feel
Hoka One One Rocket X review: the tech
The Hoka One One Rocket X is very similar to both the Carbon X and the Evo Carbon Rocket. Embedded in the foam, you'll find a 1mm carbon fibre plate which is said to deliver a "smooth transition through the gait cycle". The 'early stage Meta-Rocker' sole geometry aids this 'smooth transition' even more: the nose of the shoes curl up aggressively, which, combined with the carbon plate, helps you move forward more easily.
The thick midsole foam is great for reducing impact force despite it being significantly less sizeable than the one found under the Carbon X. It's still rather thick, but maybe not quite as wide and it also feels narrower too. For those runners who haven't got the 'sickness for the thickness' and generally don't like the Hoka-signature mega-soles, the Rocket X might provide a good compromise between size and responsiveness.
I personally like tight running shoes and found the reworked upper on the Rocket X brilliant. It's highly breathable and light, with the 'anatomical' tongue construction dispersing the pressure from the laces perfectly. The Rocket X is designed for racing and definitely has that 'racing tight' feeling to it.
Hoka One One Rocket X review: the ergonomics
Running in the Hoka One One Carbon X feels natural, for better or worse. Better in a sense that the shoes won't force you to go fast if you don't want to, and worse for the exact same reason. The Rocket X is a racing shoe, so it should encourage you to push the pedal to the metal everytime put them on.
Yet, albeit responsive, I definitely wouldn't call the Rocket X a conductor of speed. It's perfectly fine as a fast training shoe, even for tempo runs, but maybe not something I would put on to break my 10K PB. The extra foam underfoot could certainly come in handy during longer distances, though.
Hoka calls the Rocket X the "lightest racing flat in the HOKA lineup" and although the 5mm drop is pretty flat (in road shoe circles anyway), given the stack height, I wouldn't necessarily classify the Rocket X as a racing flat. Don't get me wrong: 30mm foam under the heel is not super thick but neither it is direct contact with the ground.
The foam is soft but not quite as bouncy as the ASICS Novablast or the Saucony Endorphin Shift, which is ideal since the Rocket X is supposed to provide good energy returns. It certainly does return some energy but doesn't feel as propulsive as other carbon-enhanced racing shoes, like the ASICS Metacarer.
I found the internal heel counter pretty much perfect – firm but not restrictive – and the shape of the collar comfortable. It's cut deep to avoid the ankle bone and indeed, I experienced no sign of rubbing or chafing anywhere in that area.
Hoka One One Rocket X review: the aesthetics
The design of the Hoka One One Rocket X reminded me of the Carbon X, a lot and in a good way. Despite the bold colours (Diva Blue!), it doesn't feel like the Rocket X is trying too hard to look cool. The shoes look snazzy and I most definitely wasn't embarrassed to wear them on the street (looking at you, Hoka One One TenNine Hike GTX).
Thanks to the comparatively smaller midsole, other elements of the Rocket X can take centre stage: the textured midsole, the contrasty outsole and 'HOKA' sign on the lateral side of the shoes. The way the the colours are applied at the front and the back makes it look like the Rocket X is raring to go. Nice touch.
Hoka One One Rocket X review: the verdict
The Hoka One One Rocket X has its merits. It's light, the upper has a sublime fit and the midsole is more manageable than on other Hoka racing shoes. Yet, I'm not entirely sure what to do with the Rocket X. It's not quite as propulsive as other racing shoes with a carbon-plate, even just looking at the Hoka lineup, let alone other brands.
I think the biggest issue here is that Hoka markets the Rocket X as a racing shoe: it works much better as a long-distance running trainer. It might work in other shoes, but here, the combination of the thick(ish) midsole and the carbon plate just doesn't work together well-enough to give you the competitive edge in races. However, the same combination is more than capable of supporting your feet during fast training sessions and can help reducing the negative effects of running longer distances.
The budget-friendly price also helps in establishing the Rocket X as excellent long distance training shoes. It might not be as cheap as some other running trainers, such as the Adidas SL20, but it's not crazy expensive either. Your call.
Hoka One One Rocket X review: also consider
Hoka One One Carbon X 2 is the more emphasised version of the Rocket X but uses the softer PROFLY midsole, an even more aggressive Meta-Rocker geometry and, of course, an embedded carbon-plate for propulsion. The Carbon X 2 is basically the Rocket X on steroids.
The brand-new Under Armour HOVR 2 features a high-ventilation mesh fabric upper for improved breathability and reduced weight, as well as a new tongue construction that is thinner and retains less moisture than before. These Bluetooth-enabled running shoes can connect directly to the UA MapMyRun app: using the app, runners can measure their foot strike angle and ground contact time plus greceive real-time coaching tips too.
This is part of T3's Fit for 2021 programme, which will be running throughout 2021 to get everyone fit and healthy. We aim to bring you tips on diet, lifestyle and exercise that will help you shape up for what is certain to be a challenging year for many. One thing we can guarantee: it WILL be better than last year. And hopefully we'll help you get the most out of it.