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Hoka Cielo X LD Track Spike Review: Carbon Plate Loaded for Your Fastest Run Yet
By Chief Editor/Founder Matthew Klein

While a great deal of focus has been on road racing shoe development, many of the same technologies are beginning to be seen in track spikes. The rules on stack height and shoe design are becoming more strict, limiting the number of road super shoes that can be used on the rubber oval. This has pushed companies to integrate many of the new foams and plates into the next generation of track spikes. Hoka, with its focus on plates, has added a carbon plate to their new distance and middle distance spikes along with complete redesigns. The Hoka Cielo X LD comes in as the distance version of these spikes with a few new advancements worth discussing.

Price: $159.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 3.7 oz, g (Unisex men's size 9)
Stack Height: 12 mm / 8 mm
Drop: 4 mm
Classification: Carbon Plated Distance Track Spike


Matt: The Hoka Cielo X LD is a distance track spike featuring a Cielo inspired upper design, a carbon plate and one of the lightest distance spike on the market. The ride, while minimal, is surprisingly cushioned while coming in at 3.7 oz. The plate is snappy, but combined with some gentle toespring and a forefoot PEBAX plate, the transition off the toes is solid. The upper is secure and comfortable, making it optimal for sockless wear. A track spike with versatility for cross country, those who want the lightest possible ride with some snap should check the Hoka Cielo X LD out.


Matt: The Hoka Cielo X LD spike fits small in my normal men's US size 10. The upper is a breathable engineered mesh with see-through slits. It is well ventilated and drains well as I found when I tested these on wet grass during some recent rain. While water gets in easily, it also goes out just as quickly. The fit is narrow and snug throughout the length of the spike. The forefoot is particularly narrow even for a track spike but the upper does stretch. The fit is on the small side, but I was able to get away with it as the upper is comfortable enough to wear sockless. The inner mesh is seamless and I had no hotspots even up to 10k of intervals and jogging. For those that want to wear socks, I would consider going up a half size unless you want an extremely snug fit. As with most track spikes, there is no heel counter. Instead, the heel collar features extra padding on the medial and lateral sides. The fit is secure enough that I did not have to lace lock this spike. Overall the upper is lightweight, breathable, drains well, and will work best for those who want a snug, narrow and secure fit.


Matt: The Hoka Cielo X LD has a super light and snappy ride. The CMEVA midsole foam provides a surprising amount of cushion for the shoe coming in at 3.7 oz. This is most noticeable at the heel with a transition into a stiffer/firmer forefoot. This spike is not highly cushioned and does have a high level of ground feel. However, the foam seems to take the edge of impact off. The combination of the carbon fiber plate and forefoot PEBAX plate makes for a snappy transition off the forefoot. The toe spring helps reduce the stiffness of the front, making for a fast and easy transition upfront. While there is a 4mm drop listed, this feels lower due to the compression of the heel midsole foam if you land on the rearfoot. For those interested in wearing the Cielo, you should ease into using it if you do not have prior spike experience or have not worn one for a while given the lower overall drop.

The Hoka Cielo X LD is primarily a track spike. However, the traction is good enough to be used on softer grass cross country courses. The traction on the PEBAX plate is great and combined with the spike and rearfoot traction piece digs into grass and track well. Well-groomed courses are where this spike will excel, whereas on tougher courses with rocks, asphalt or tree roots, it may not work as well. The upper is light enough that I would be concerned about durability if it is a difficult terrain. Less aggressive courses are likely where this spike will excel. Distance-wise this shoe will work for 3k to 10k for most people. Those who have conditioned their legs to handle less shoe for longer periods will easily be able to take this for 10k given the CMEVA cushioning. Those used to running in the more maximal level of stack height shoes will find this works better at shorter distances. However, the Ceilo X MD may be a better choice for the mile and below for those that want additional stiffness.

The durability on this spike has been good. This will not have as much durability as a traditional trainer, but my pair have almost 20 miles on them. The heel traction piece on the outsole is still intact and outside of some dirt there is almost no wear on the outsole. Overall the Hoka Ceilo X LD is a long-distance spike that can handle both track and grass cross country courses. It provides a little bit of cushioning at a super light weight with a new carbon plate that adds additional snappiness to the toe off.


Matt: The Hoka Cielo X LD is a neutral track spike. However, there are several things that make this spike stable, while others make it less stable. The midsole has small but noticeable sidewalls on the medial and lateral sides of the anterior heel into the midfoot. These do well to provide very mild guidance through the midfoot. However, the last of this spike is extremely narrow, making this necessary to help keep the foot on the platform. The carbon plate and forefoot PEBAX plate provide rigidity through the length of the sole, especially in the forefoot. Additionally, there is a significant guidance line that runs through the heel and midfoot. This creates inherent stability that slightly offsets the narrow last. Overall, while this shoe does not have traditional stability methods, there are a few that will provide subtle guidance. This is not a tool that should be used if someone greatly needs stability, but the above mentioned methods, having a lower stack height and close to the ground ride will provide plenty of proprioceptive feedback to help the body react quicker.


Matt: There are a number of track spikes coming out that feature carbon plates. The new Nike Air Zoom Victory, Brooks ELMN8, New Balance Fuelcell SD/MD/LD, Asics Metasprint and the Hoka Cielo X LD/MD are a few of these. It should also be noted that the Hoka Cielo X LD and MD are unique in that they use both a carbon plate and a forefoot pebax plate. Track spikes are inherantly closer to the ground compared the carbon plate, super foam road racing flats. Although some have seen increasing stack heights, these are being limited by World Athletics. This means that these stiff places are going to be closer to the foot.   

Plate location relative to the foot may have a large impact on economy and mechanics. A study by Flores et al. (2019) found that plate location made a significant impact on running biomechanics in the propulsive/push off phase of gait. This study specifically noted that a when a stiff plate is placed closer to the foot, it increased ankle plantarflexion and metatarsophalangeal (toe joint) motion, decreased torque at those areas and decrease ground reaction forces compared to when the plate was placed lower/farther down in the shoe. In simpler terms, the decreased torque, improved motion and re-orentation of the resultant ground reaction forces meant that the runner would push off more efficiently. So these track spikes having plates closer to the foot may provide an economical advantage. Add the superfoams in there with a few of them and you have super track spikes. There was previous research done comparing the road super shoes to traditional track spikes that found the road super shoes to be more efficient. The mechanical advantage of less shoe, super foams and unique plate placement now seen in these new super spikes may turn the tables (Healey et al., 2021). However, caution needs to be taken with how close the plate goes to the foot as more is not necessarily better. If the plate gets too close to the foot, it may reduce comfort. On road this is important given the harder surfaces, whereas on the track with shorter distances this may be more acceptable. Regardless, we know there is an optimal level of stiffness and perhaps having the plate too close may go over the edge (McLeod et al., 2020). The key here is finding the optimal place, which may vary depending on each individual. Thus the true answer in optimal performance spikes and shoes may still be individual customization.


Flores, N., Rao, G., Berton, E., & Delattre, N. (2019)
. The stiff plate location into the shoe influences the running biomechanics. Sports BiomechanicsDOI: 10.1080/14763141.2019.1607541

Healey, L., Bertschy, M., Kipp, S., & Hoogkamer, W. (2021). Can we quantify the benefits of “super spikes” in track running? SportRxiv

McLeod, A. R., Bruening, D., Johnson, A. W., Ward, J., & Hunter, I. (2020). Improving running economy through altered shoe bending stiffness across speeds. 
Footwear Science12(2), 79-89.

Shimmering interior of upper showing breathablility


Matt: While I like this spike, I've always been curious that Hoka doesn't make a more cushioned distance spike. At this time, this is actually one of the more minimal and lightweight spikes. Compared to the Adidas Adizero Avanti TYO, the Nike Dragonfly, New Balance Fuelcell LD-X, and the Brooks Wire v7, the Cielo X LD has the lowest stack height. Its weight is only rivaled by the Nike Mamba v5 right now, but the lower stack is odd for a company known for maximal shoes. So I challenge Hoka to consider a higher stack spike option, which may need to be a completely different spike.

The sizing is another thing I would consider modifying. This spike fits small and I will be sending it to David to find out how a half size larger feels. For me it limited it to sockless wear, which fortunately is something I am used to. However, others may need to size up a half size if they are wearing socks. Additionally, the forefoot is especially narrow, and although the upper stretches, may be a bit uncomfortable over longer distances for some people. I would consider reworking the last to be a little more anatomic.


Matt: The Hoka Cielo X LD is a super light, carbon plated, snug-fitting track spike for 3k to 10k efforts. Between the rearfoot outsole traction piece and the grippy spikes/PEBAX forefoot plate, the traction is solid enough for both track and grass cross country courses. The upper fits on the small/snug side, so those with narrower feet or who want a snug fit will enjoy it most. The sole is on the minimal side, although still has some mild cushioning from the CMEVA midsole foam.  Those wanting a fast, carbon plated track spike without additional bulk/cushioning should definitely take a look at the Hoka Cielo X LD.


Fit: B/B+ (Comfortable, snug/narrow high performance upper. However fits half size small, although those going sockless may be able to handle true to size)
Performance: B+ 
(Snappy and super lightweight ride. Best for longer distance races for those used to a little less shoe)
Stability: B/B+ (Neutral track spike, but sidewalls and guidance line improve general stability despite narrow last. Stable forefoot from carbon plate and PEBAX plate)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Impressive getting a 3.7 oz weight with a cabron plate. Sidewalls and guidance line are great ways to provide subtle guidance. )
Personal: B- (A good lightweight, more traditional stack spike. I prefer the more cushioned spikes coming out given that I focus on longer distance events/workouts. Plus fit is off)
Overall: (One of the lightest spikes out there with a snug fit, a carbon plate and a ride that works for both track and grass cross country)


Price: $159.95 at Running Warehouse

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

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 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.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. 

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

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 to 70 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, 

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.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Hoka for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. 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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