Physical Therapists Using Clinical Analysis To Discuss The Art And Science Behind Running and The Stuff We Put On Our Feet

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 Hoka One One Rocket X Multiple Tester Review

   After watching Aliphine Tuliamuk win the 2020 US Olympic Trials Marathon on a brutal course in the Hoka Rocket X, interest has continued to rise on Hoka's true debut in the carbon fiber plated super shoe race. It is now officially coming to market with a larger release and is a true evolution and massive improvement on the prior Hoka Carbon Rocket. Featuring a carbon plate, a soft bouncy sole, a meta-rocker and a secure and snug upper, this is one distance racer you are going to want to check out if you like Hoka. 

Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 7.4 oz (men's size 0)
Stack Height: Not Provided
Drop: 5mm
Classification: Carbon Fiber Plated Distance Racer


Matt: The Hoka Rocket X is a cushioned, carbon fiber plated, fast distance racer. Featuring a soft bouncy midsole paired with a stiff plate and a snug upper, the Rocket X is best for 10k to half marathon for most and up to the marathon for the elite. With a surprisingly stable forefoot, this shoe will keep you going at fast paces for miles. 

The HOKA Rocket X is one of the new wave high stack carbon plated distance racing shoes. The shoe features an interesting design with a really soft foam coupled with a really stiff carbon fiber plate and a rocker design. The result is a protective, stable, and responsive racing shoe that can do everything from 10k to marathon (5k for those who like some more protection). 

Nathan: First, the HOKA Rocket X is the slickest and best looking HOKA I've ever put on my feet. It's streamlined and doesn't carry the "bulk" that other HOKA shoes tend to have. On top of the aesthetics, this shoe has a lower positioned carbon plate that gives an unexpected sense of ground contact in the presence of high stack, cushion, and bounce. 


Matt: The Hoka Rocket X fits true to size in my normal size 10. The fit overall is fairly normal to Hoka with a slightly more snug forefoot. I had a little pressure on both 5th toes the went away with time. The fit is fairly secure throughout. I had no issues with slippage, although for longer efforts would suggest lace locking the shoe. The forefoot fits a bit snug over the lateral side, but runs straight on the medial side with enough room for the big toe. The midfoot is average to slightly snug and the laces lock down the foot very well. The heel is fairly average width. There is a heel counter, although it is slightly flexible and cause me no issues with rubbing or pressure on my heel bone (calcaneus). The tongue is just a little short, but fits fairly securely. The mesh upper does stretch a little and is moderately breathable. It is >90 degrees most days here in Southern California at the moment and at temperatures below 80 are fine but above that, even my feet get a little warm. Overall a comfortable fit that takes a little time to break that lateral forefoot in.

The HOKA ONE ONE Rocket X appears to fit true to size. I was sent 0.5 up from my normal size of 9.5 at a size 10. The toebox is normal width to slightly narrow, midfoot normal width with a nice hold, and a normal width heel. The length of the shoe appears to be slightly long (even for being 0.5 up) but not problematic. The upper is breathable and reinforced well especially through the midfoot and forefoot. I had no translation in hard turns. The heel locked down ok if you laced the shoe down tight but could have some slippage if not done. The upper is slightly on the thick side for a racing shoe, but breathes well enough for 26.2. The tongue is thin with just enough padding for lacing the shoe down tight. It is also a little on the thick side compared to other racing shoes, but again it still works well for the shoe and for performance. That is knit picking. 

Nathan: The Rocket X fits true to size. The heel and midfoot are secure with a great lock-down from the upper and lacing system. To compliment this, the mesh upper provides space in the toe box for a bit of swelling over long runs. For those with experience in other HOKA shoes, the midfoot to forefoot is designed for race day, so expect slightly more snug throughout in comparison to your Rincon/Clifton/etc. There is a semi-rigid heel counter that has adequate padding for protection, and the attached tongue wraps and secures the midfoot well onto the platform. Overall a race day fit with a bit of room in the toe box.



Matt: Soft, smooth and bouncy best describe the Rocket X. A full length CMEVA midsole is used combined with an early stage meta rocker and a plate to provide a smooth roll no matter where you land. There is far less of a heel bevel than usual for Hoka, however the sole compresses very well and feels smooth with rearfoot landings. The 1mm carbon fiber plate plate does stiffen the ride, particularly in the forefoot, but the soft foam still provides some give and a smooth toe off. This is MUCH less stiff than the EVO Carbon Rocket and the ride is far more forgiving. There is a 5mm drop which is more or less pronounced depending on where you land. Although I noticed this at first, it went away as my body got used to the rocker. Overall, a very smooth ride and a nice bouncy but controlled midsole.

The Rocket X has an interesting ride that I like a lot. The foam and midsole itself is soft and protective, but this is potentially the stiffest plate out of the "super shoes" that I have run in. That isn't a bad thing. The resulting ride is a really smooth and protective feel that feels fluid underneath you when running fast on the roads. The shoe does have a subtle yet effective rocker built into the shoe with a high amount of forefoot stiffness that helps with a responsive toe off. The shoe is really smooth from nearly every striking point or pace. Because of the stiffness however, the shoe is definitely a shoe you will want to reserve for faster efforts in workouts or racing situations. The midsole compound is a compressed molded EVA that keeps the weight down and has a good amount of rebound. The shoe is protective and stiff, but in a good way where the plate isn't overly felt in the ride. 

Nathan: The design of the midsole and subsequent ride of this shoe are unique and enjoyable. The midsole is a soft and bouncy compressed EVA that produces a smooth cadence when combined with the early stage meta rocker. Additionally, the position of this carbon plate is closer to the outsole from heel to toe, which I found helped it mirror the ground and gave a bit more ground feel (in comparison to its competitors) for a shoe with higher stack and soft cushion. I personally am a heel striker, and despite the fact that there is less of a bevel than typical HOKA, heel striking is incredibly smooth. Overall, this shoe gives a smooth, bouncy, and protective ride. The little bit of rubber outsole that does exist is grippy and provides security for propulsion and turns. 



Matt: I was nervous about stability given the soft feeling of the midsole, but the Rocket X is a fairly stable neutral shoe. There are no traditional methods of stability, but a few elements really help. The last (shape) is fairly consistent as the midfoot does not narrow too much. The heel and midfoot are fairly average in regards to stability, but the plate and early stage metarocker really adds a nice amount of stability and roll through in the forefoot. There are some mild medial and lateral side walls at the heel, although I did not notice the during the run. So for those who want some mild stability up front, this may be a great option. Overall a decently stable cushioned racing flat, but more so in the forefoot than the heel/midfoot.

For being a high stack height racing shoe the Rocket X is actually really stable. The plate creates a large amount of rigidity in the shoe and prevents exaggerated mechanical deformation upon landing. The shoe's rocker design is done well and keeps movement linear. The platform is a little wider than some of the other racing shoes on the market and creates a nice surface area to land on the road. The heel is actually the least stable part of the shoe for me. It isn't horrible but the space is noticeable. They do a good job of preventing any irritation on the achilles, but it is a little on the wide side requiring a good lace down or heel lock for some that are more sensitive. 

Nathan: HOKA has been in the business of high stack and softer foam shoes for a long time. They've learned how to take these inherently unstable elements and provide some stability. The Rocket X still uses these mechanisms of stability (side walls, medial/lateral sole flares, midsole geometry), but they are all much more mild. That ultimately means that this shoe is a bit less stable than many of the counterparts. That said, this is typically the case for racing flats. Despite being less stable than some other neutral shoes in the HOKA line, the plate does provide stability particularly to the forefoot. It is a wonderful propulsion platform for the foot. In addition, the lock-down from above makes this shoe feel safe and secure on turns.


Matt: The Rocket X is a lighter and faster carbon fiber plated shoe that will likely work for most people from 10k to half marathon. Elite runners will be able to take this to the marathon and beyond, but the stiffness, softness and responsiveness make it best at mid range long distances. I have used this shoe for a variety of runs from easy to 1k repeats and found that the Rocket X does best during efforts above 10k pace. All out efforts are a bit difficult due to the softer foam, but feels great for longer intervals, tempo runs, long steady states and even easy runs. This is a great long distance racer that provides plenty of cushioning for your workout along with the warm up and cool down for many. Personally I would max out at a half marathon in this shoe and would probably reach for the Carbon X for a marathon, but that might also be a reflection of the shape I'm in right now too.

The Rocket X is a high stack racing shoe that does really well at faster controlled efforts. I have taken this through workouts ranging from 4:30 mile pace to 5:40 mile pace, both on track and on road. For me 5k pace at the moment is 4:55 and shoe felt ok at that effort, but difficult to really getting it moving beyond that (like when I was turning the pace up on the track). I did several 5:15 miles on the road in these and had 12 continuous miles on road through the whole workout with warm up and cooldown included and my feet felt ok throughout the duration. There was a tiny bit of soreness at the end, but for a racing specific shoe this is actually pretty good. Overall, a little awkward at sub 5k pacing but for controlled fast efforts the shoe is really smooth and responds well. Warm ups and cool downs are ok, but the shoe definitely rides better at quicker paces. 

Nathan: It's no mystery that this shoe is fast. Tuliamuk wore these in the US Olympic Trials in 2020 and came away with the victory. If you're an elite or "near-elite" marathon racer, this shoe will be able to do the's been done. However, that isn't me. As you'll see in my bio, I run a 1:30 half marathon and have a PB of 3:54 for the marathon. This shoe certainly lent itself to feeling best for me any anything under a 7:30 min/mile pace, with it really feeling its smoothest at a 6:30(ish) min/mile pace. The interplay between the plate and foam felt most productive at those gliding, faster paces. There's certainly enough protection to take this shoe the marathon distance, and for many it will still work in bringing it to a 10K race. 



Matt: I currently have 20 miles on my pair and am very surprised to only see minimal wear on the left posterior lateral heel. The Rocket X features a fairly flat full ground contact outsole with additional rubber for durability. This has actually worked quite well and I am seeing far less wear than I expected. The upper has absolutely no wear and looks great overall. I would put the durability around that of a lightweight trainer and would expect to get 200-300 miles out of these.

I have 20 miles on my pair and have not noticed any major wear on the outsole. With how much exposed EVA there is I was expecting much more wear, but hardly anything. I have 9 track miles and 12 road miles and its holding up really well. I would expect normal durability for this shoe, especially if only run on roads or in workout/race situations. I think Matt's estimate of 200 is fair. The midsole or upper are solid and I don't expect any degradation there.  


Matt: We talk about stability features outside of traditional posting frequently here, but many readers have asked why many of the higher stack "super shoes" have lower drops (usually, the Nike Vaporfly 4% was an exception). The answer is that shoes with lower heel toe offsets are usually more stable compared to those higher heel toe offsets. With high stack height shoes, the higher you go, the easier it is to tip over. So a large heel drop will place the heel in a very high and unstable position unless compensated for. This is why companies like Hoka usually have to have very wide soles to compensate for the instability from the height. This is similar to a tall building. The taller it is, the easier it is to tip over. A lower drop keeps the foot a little more centered and stable at both the front and back of the shoe. There are many ways to do this outside of using a lower drop, including the wider sole mentioned above, but having a bit lower drop is also something that Hoka uses frequently (not just in racing shoes). This can go too far however, particularly with a carbon fiber plate. The lower the drop, the more the calves have to work to push off during midstance to terminal stance. A forefoot rocker (metarocker) can help with this, but if you go too low and really stiffen up the sole with a plate, it can make it difficult for someone to appropriately progress through the later part of the ground based gait cycle.  This is one of the challenges many of my patients had with the Carbon Rocket was a carbon plate that was too stiff and had a too low heel drop, which made it a difficult shoe for some people to run in.  Other individuals with ankle dominant running patterns and super strong calves appeared to do very well in that shoe!  The Rocket X adjusts this mechanism slightly by utilizing a rocker with a 5mm drop from heel to toe, rather than the 1mm drop seen in the Carbon Rocket. So certain designs aren't necessarily bad, they just work for different people!  Just like different stiffnesses, heel to drop, widths, etc. So find what works for you and know it may not work for your running buddy (or the internet).


Matt: I am really impressed by the Hoka Rocket X. I would love to see a bit more room around that 5th toe for less pressure. The Rocket X is also a little heavy and may conflict in function with the Carbon X 2 (I have not tried it yet), so dropping a little weight may be advantageous and make it a little more versatile for shorter distances.

After seeing this shoe in several different performances I had a good feeling about it. The shoe definitely delivers in a positive way. My main recommendations for the shoe are regarding upper and fit, for everything else is already pretty good. I think the heel could be secured a little more, either with an upper narrowing or with a lace lock mechanism. The upper could also be thinned slightly as well. Overall the shoe is a solid shoe for distance racing. (Keeping in mind that I was a half size up)

Nathan: Recommendation 1: keep this shoe looking the way it is. Yes, I'm a little obsessed. My other recommendation falls in line with Matt's, to slightly widen the toe box right at the terminal end of the lacing system. 


Matt: The Hoka Rocket X is a soft, fast, forgiving 10k to half marathon racer and borderline lightweight trainer. The 1mm plate is paired very well with a soft and protective midsole, while a perforated upper provides a great lock down and fit. This has been a very versatile shoe and one that I reach for during both workouts and easy runs where I want a lighter shoe. The versatility will allow many people to use this as a great marathon racer, while others needing a bit more cushion in a light but stable forefoot based package will love this for some shorter distances. I am extremely impressed by this shoe as it encompasses everything I love. A secure fit, a stable front, versatile for longer workouts but able to handle easy running when I want something light. I am very impressed by what Hoka has here and think it will work for a variety of people. It is not the most aggressive shoe, which will make it a great choice for more people interested in lighter racing flats but wanting some cushion. I will have to update this review as I am sure this shoe will continue to grow on me. It feels like that brand new person you meet but feel like you've been friends forever. Great job Hoka!

The Rocket X is a high stack height elite racing shoe for those looking for a shoe that is soft, yet still very firm through the midfoot and forefoot. The ride is very smooth with a slight bounce and feels really fluid on the road. With how stiff the plate is, the shoe does not feel vaporfly soft, but still protective enough and arguably smoother in its transition points. The shoe will probably work for a larger population for the transitions feel much more natural than some of the other super shoes on the market, though not quite as "explosive". This is DEFINITELY worth a look when comparing the elite racing flats.  

Nathan: The Rocket X is a soft, bouncy, and fast elite marathon racing flat that is for those who like protection underneath but still might want a touch of ground feel. The shoe is soft and protective enough for long distances while also being light enough and propulsive enough for the 10K-half marathon. 

Fit                    9.5 /10 (Secure, but a little pressure on the little toes)
Ride                 10 /10 (REALLY smooth, bouncy and natural)
Stability           9 /10 (Very stable forefoot, average to slightly above at heel/midfoot)
Speed               9 /10 (Great for mid range distances 10k-half marathon, limited below 10k)
Durability        9 /10 (A little wear at the posterior lateral heel, but overall really good)

Fit                     9/10
Ride                  9.75/10 (REALLY smooth, natural, though some spacing issues in heel, but minor)
Stability            9.5/10 (heel spacing, otherwise good for racing shoe, HIGH forefoot, average midfoot)
Speed                9.25/10 (really good at controlled fast efforts, a little awkward at top speed efforts)
Durability         9.5/10 (Surprised me! Really good for a racer, but still expect some wear compared to other full outsole shoes)

Fit                     9.75/10 (secure race fit upper, slightly snug at initiation of toe box)
Ride                  10/10 (bouncy, protective, fast, smooth)
Stability            9/10 (high stack and soft take away some stability)
Speed                9.5/10 (more versatile long distance racer, able to go 10K-marathon)

Total Score: % (M: 9.3/10  D: 9.4/10 N: 9.56/10 )

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 140 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  He is particular to less cushioned shoes and close to the ground shoes, but can handle a little cushion when he gets beat up.

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, IG handle: @docsofrundavid

Dr. Brown is a 155 lb male with notable PRs of 18:18 5K, 39:25 10K, 1:29:01 half marathon, and 3:54 marathon. He typically runs between 20-40 miles per week at a variety of paces from 7:30-8:30 min/mile for recovery runs to 6-6:45 min/mile for tempo runs. He typically prefers shoes that provide some cushioning underfoot but still maintain a more firm and responsive feel. Current goals for 2020 are to break the 1.5 hour half marathon and 3:30 marathon. IG handle: @nate.docsofrunning

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Hoke One One for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 35-50 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently we have 20 miles (Matt), (in progress) miles (Nathan) and 21 miles (David) on our pairs. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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