HOKA TECTON X First Impressions
Posted on May 12 2022
Carbon plates are all over the road running scene now and a few manufacturers have taken the concept to the trail and HOKA have just launched the Tecton X which is a dual carbon plated trail shoe. We have had it out on the trails for a first test this last weekend and done around 40km in the shoe. The terrain was mixed, Hong Kong trail, somewhat technical, catchwaters, country roads, some technical trail in Tai Tam Country Park. Generally dry conditions.
Firstly, here is Hoka's launch video which shows a little of the shoe construction
Weight 9.5oz/ 269g (US 10.5), Women's 240g (US 8.0)
- 2 x Parallel Carbon plates for spring combined with flexibility
- Drop: 4mm
- Ground height: 33mm /29mm (same as the Speedgoat 5)
- Midsole: PROFLY™ dual-density EVA midsole delivers a super soft ride with responsive energy return
- Sole: Vibram Megagrip Litebase with zonal rubber provides traction on loose surfaces
- Engineered mesh upper is breathable and provides a comfortable fit
- Toe rand provides some protection and durability in high-wear areas
- Early-stage meta-rocker for a smooth ride and fast transition to the forefoot
Initial look out of the box, the shoe has shades of the Zinal about it but with a lot more cushioning (23mm/18mm Zinal v 33mm/29mm) which is a relief because I have felt the Zinal is a little lacking in cushioning under the forefoot. The 10mm step up would seem to do it.
Stepping in, no real issue, nice tailored fit. The engineered mesh upper moulds itself to your foot and the lacing is relatively easy to adjust to get a good lockdown feeling. I imagine the laces extend so far down the shoe to allow for more space in the toe-box if required through more flexible lacing.
So what am I expecting from this shoe?.
Well, it's one of the first trail shoes with carbon plates and definitely positioned as a trail racer. I have often wondered if I have been missing carbon plates on trail runs. With such an uneven stride pattern and the need for a reliable foodplant does carbon enhance or detract from the run?.
A previous experience had a road shoe carbon plate cracking longitudinally after stepping on a sharp stone, would it perhaps be too stiff and cause a more unstable feeling ?.
Perhaps this is behind Hoka's thinking to use two completely separate, parallel carbon plates in the shoe to address that potential for instability while still enhancing the toe-off at pace. We shall see.
We also know that plates do not bring energy return in isolation, the midsole foam playing the bigger part. Here we have a couple of layers of HOKA's top foam the PROFLY.
The outsole is Vibram Litebase and while we did not have wet conditions to really test the grip, but we all know Vibram Litebase will deliver the grip we expect, so should be no problem there.
The first striking thing that hit me was the softness of the cushioning under the forefoot. The Speedgoat is harder in my opinion. The Tecton X is surprisingly soft. This was particularly the case on catchwaters and country roads and the familiar flit of the carbon plates playing through on the transition was clear. There was also a slight feeling that the shoe was concaving in, in the middle which had the effect of wrapping the shoe more tightly around my foot. Mmmm, lets see how that works out.
Stable on the downhill paved sections too. So many super foam road shoes are too soft in the heel for stable downhill running or if you are a major heel striker, but this foam felt stable. .
Heel lockdown was good. I have seen some reviews that talk about the soft heel counter but I didn't feel that to be any problem, Good amount of cushioning around the heel collar but not excessive. Not much padding in the tongue but in combination with the lacing, no real issue.
Heading onto the trail (albeit not massively technical) I found the shoe to be nicely stable. While the plate effect on the paved sections was clear, I didn't really feel the effect of the carbon plate on the technical trail. Maybe the aim here is avoiding the plate getting in the way of stability when on technical ground and rely on the foam for the energy return. The carbon plates acting as a rock plate almost. What was good though was as soon as the trail opened up, there is the same feeling as on the paved sections so this works as a good combination. Stable when you need it, fast when you don't.
My only gripe after the 40kms in the shoe is the slight narrowness of the toe-box. I have narrow feet but I have grown to really like having the ability to spread my toes, particularly on fast descents. The effect I mentioned earlier of the concaving of the shoe seemed to exaggerate the narrowness somewhat. I may be able to fix this by fiddling around with the lacing but I ended the weekend with a small blister on the outside of my big toe.
This may just me my particular fit challenge and it certainly would not stop me running or racing in the shoe. It's a nice fast feeling shoe especially when you get some open trail to let things go.
CONCLUSION: I like the concept of having a shoe that feels like it is changing as the terrain changes, not sure if it is intentional on HOKA's part but it felt good. Stable when you need it, fast when you don't makes for a quick shoe. This is a good shoe.
Check out the collection HERE