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** the Carbon X3 were gifted from Hoka as part of a paid social campaign
A personal review of the Hoka Carbon X3 Shoe!
Someone messaged me on Instagram recently saying that I seem to opt for more classic everyday shoes rather than ‘fast/new tech’ shoes. The truth is that I haven’t felt the need to wear ‘fast’ shoes while I’ve been base building. Most carbon shoes have less durability and shorter life span than everyday trainers and are often more expensive. So I typically save them for goal races with a few training runs beforehand.
Whilst I’m not going for a PB in Big Sur (with that course profile, even if I was in amazing shape, it wouldn’t happen!) it is my goal Spring race and I want to wear some super shoes on race day!
I posted on IG to get some recommendations and the one that came up multiple times was the Hoka Carbon X. Weirdly at the same time Hoka got in touch to see if I’d like to try their new Carbon X3 and knowing that I’ve loved many of their shoes before, and they came highly recommended from so many online, I jumped at the chance.
Hoka Carbon X3 Shoe Review
The new Carbon fibre plated offering from Hoka launched at the beginning of March. Carbon shoes are created to help you run faster but also to reduce perceived running effort and improve recovery. The Carbon X3 does this by helping improve running posture and increasing cadence thanks to the meta-rocker (curved midsole) and carbon plate.
Hoka’s Carbon X shoe was known for being one of the most durable and stable Carbon fibre plated shoes, that was built for road ultra distances ( the Carbon X2 was launched with Jim Walmsley’s 100K record attempt). Improvements have been made from previous versions of the shoe,
These shoes are designed for long runs, very long runs. Originally pitched as their Elite ultra shoe, whilst the Rocket X was the marathon shoe & true Hoka road racing shoe.
Hoka Carbon X3 Design and Performance
An update from the Carbon X2, the upper is a one-piece knit with no tongue. Personally, I like this as it is less likely to rub. And suits my slightly wider feet, as does the roomy toe box. It’s comfortable and breathable although those with narrower feet may find it a little loose fitting.
With new supercritical foam and a full length carbon plate, the midsole has been designed with EVA foam to be smoother and softer than the X2. However, it is still firmer than other options. Personally, this suits me perfectly for Big Sur where I want a stable ride over the 4 -5 hours that I imagine I’ll be running!
With a drop height of 5mm, the stack height is 32mm (the current limit is 40mm). This is lower than many other shoes and helps make the shoes feel stable and more similar to everyday trainers. The swallowtail heel is extended out in a bid to make foot strike a more smooth transition.
These are lighter than the Carbon X2 although heavier than other carbon plated options; the Carbon X3 women’s version weigh just 188g and the men’s are 222g. (According to Hoka, a 20g reduction from the Carbon X2.) I put the shoes on my kitchen scales and my size 6.5 women’s were 222g!
Hoka Carbon X3 Pros
Unlike many other super shoes, these can be used in training as well as race day (for perspective, Nike reports their Vaporfly only have about 100 miles in them whilst I’ve seen other testers put over 200 miles in the Carbon X3). The rubberized EVA sole rather than full rubber does mean it is best for roads only. However, it’s likely to last you a lot of miles!
This is firmer than a lot of carbon plated options. And thanks to the Meta-Rocker and the lower placement of the carbon plate the ride is smooth and stable. When you’re not all out racing, or running ‘fast’ (all relative, I know), this gives support and comfort whilst not losing the responsiveness.
Compared to a lot of the competitors in the market, Hoka Carbon X3 is a better value option. Compared to the Nike Vaporfly Next % at well over £200, the Hoka’s are closer to the price of an everyday shoe at £160. (To be fair this could be both a pro and con – £160 is still not cheap, and bear in mind the Hoka Rocket X is £20 cheaper).
Hoka Carbon X3 Cons
These wouldn’t be my BQ attempt shoes as they do lack the raw speed of many true super shoes. The midsole foam seems to be without the bounce and propulsion in many other carbon racing shoes.
I’ve seen some reviews report that the shoes come up big, especially those with narrow feet who may experience some bunching in the knit upper. I typically go up 1/2 – 1 whole shoe size however this may not be necessary in these. The extended swallowtail design also adds length to this already large looking shoe. I do wish the back didn’t go quite so high up the heel and that seam under the ankle bone was a little softer, but that’s personal preference.
Are Hoka Carbon X3 Shoes Worth It
Overall these are exactly the type of shoe I’m looking for when picking a Big Sur race day shoe. A shoe that will hopefully make the comfortably-hard pace feel that little bit easier on race day. A shoe that I can run numerous miles in during the lead up to the race rather than having to save for ‘Sunday Best’.
I would describe them more as a long run or tempo shoe than a racing shoe. Designed to make your long runs and consistent pacing feel more efficient and the legs feeling fresh.
If you’re looking for a marathon racing shoe from Hoka, I’d probably go for the Rocket X after hearing great things about it, I’ve actually just ordered a pair to try. I’ve also going to be buying a pair of my all time fave and most comfortable Hoka’s – the Arahi to replace my Brooks Ghost 14s that have had a lot of miles over the last few months!
Hoka have a 30 day return policy which I love, if you buy a pair of their shoes, wear them and run in them and they’re not right for you, you can return them. Even if you’ve worn them in the rain, mud, sand etc – as long as they are returned in the original packaging.