First Impressions, Hoka Carbon X
Posted on June 06 2019
Well its been a long time coming and there has been lots of hype so it was a real pleasure to finally get out and run in a pair. This mornings run was our usual run to the peak and back and if you are interested you can see it here https://www.strava.com/activities/2427124972 .
An interesting mix of climbing, some challenging grip paths, and some fast descents but all on paved roads and paths. My usual choice is the Challenger ATR for this route because I like the cushioning for the long descent. So a useful comparison for a shoe focused on being a fast road shoe rather than a hybrid which is what the ATR is.
As this is a road shoe I am also comparing it to the adidas adizero Boston Boost which I enjoy for training also.
The basics. A light shoe (241g) with a 10mm drop (37mm to 27mm). Substantial cushioning for the weight and what Hoka refers to as an embedded Carbon Fibre propulsive plate in the midsole.
So right out of the box and on first wearing you really do know you are in something different. The 10mm drop combined with the carbon fibre reinforce toe off (almost 50 mm) gives you a shoe that almost tips you on your face when you move.
I love a shoe that has a great transition and one of the reasons I like the adizero Boston is for exactly that reason. It makes you run whether you like it or not. The Carbon X takes this to a new level.
The Carbon fibre plate reinforces the Toe-Off on the Carbon X to the extent that it is a full 10mm more aggressive than the adizero Boston. (also 10mm more that the ATR 5 or the Clifton 6 too).
This has the effect of making it extremely easy to transition from mid foot to forefoot and roll into your next stride. Its a strange feeling standing in the shoes
for the first time. But how will this translate to the run... ?
The run this morning is basically an up and a downer so the first part involves varying degrees of climb. Because the carbon plate is forming the shape of the front part of the shoe the first thing I noticed, as a normal midfoot striker, my footfall and push off was almost silent.
As my foot was already shaped by the plate, as the incline got steeper my toes were already flexed as I transitioned to toe striking on the ascent. The impression is this will absolutely increase efficiency.
The midfoot and forefoot cushioning is plush so there is enough to make for a very comfortable stride.
On the flat (and there is a little on this run) the natural geometry of the shoe is almost designed to make you run on your mid foot and forefoot with the heel there to provide support. Again, this felt like a very efficient stride.
The feeling is not so much of energy return by the plate but more a reinforcement of the rocker, tipping you onto your toes and pushing you forward. Of course that makes you feel fast. (even if I wasn't :-))
One part of the climb is on Chatham Path which some of you will know as probably the slimiest, greasiest path in Hong Kong, even in the dry. There was a bit of slithering but not worse than the ATR for instance. Its not Vibram Megagrip but I wouldn't want the weight of that on a road shoe anyway.
One of the reasons I like the ATR Challenger for this run is to have the cushioning for the long descent from the Peak. On the Carbon X there is 37 mm of cushioning at the heel. Absolutely perfect and with the aggressive front of the shoe pounding down felt fast and smooth. No problems of confidence in the grip on normal road surfaces even with a bit of dampness here and there. I will test them in the wet when I can.
So its only one run and I will be doing more miles in this and see how it develops but first impressions are great...
One thing I did notice though was at the end of the run the stiffness of the carbon plate seemed less and when I remeasured the toe off it had dropped by 5mm
I will be curious to see how the carbon plate holds up after a few hundred ks. But for now ..... a wonderful shoe!