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Hoka Mach X: A Baby Between...
By Matt Klein

Hoka has had an interesting relationship with foams and plates. They went all in with plates but delayed truly adding in a super foam. The recent release of the Rocket X 2 was their first full example of a super shoe and quickly after came the Mach X. The Mach X is unique within the Hoka line but part of a group of "half-super" shoes recently released that feature a layer of super foam in the midsole and some kind of plate/stiffening agent. This includes the Adidas Boston 12 and the Saucony Kinvara Pro. This new breed of performance trainers holds a unique place as we uncover more about how people respond to different shoe types and try to figure out what shoe creates optimal performance in each individual across different speeds. 

Hoka Mach X
Price: $179.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 9.4 oz, 266 g (men's size 9), 8.0 oz, 227 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: M: 39mm / 34 mm; W: 37mm / 32 mm
Drop: 5 mm
Classification: Plated Performance/Uptempo Trainer


The Hoka Mach X is a performance training shoe meant for uptempo efforts, workouts and potentially races for some. The fit is lower volume and slightly snug with a secure racing-style upper. The ride starts as stiff and a bit rigid but transitions into moderately responsive and snappy. The Pebax plate and midsole require some break-in but make for an excellent speed/workout shoe for those just getting into newer foams/plates or experienced runners looking for a super shoe alternative during training.

: Adidas Boston 12, Saucony Kinvara Pro


The Hoka Mach X fits me true to size, if slightly short, in my normal men's US size 10. The fit is snug and performance-oriented. The volume is low, especially across the toes. This combined with a quick taper especially on the medial side makes the shoe fit almost short. This snug fit continues into the midfoot, which is secure thanks to the fit and well-gusseted, thin tongue. The laces are slightly elastic and lock down well. I did not have to lace lock this shoe at all and had a great lockdown. The heel is normal to slightly snug with a low but moderately stiff heel counter. There is a small amount of heel collar cushioning and those sensitive to counters should approach this shoe with some caution. I have only tried sockless running once and got some mild abrasion on the medial side of my big toe. The inner aspect of the liner is a little rough at the toes, so I would encourage users to at least consider thin socks unless they have tough skin.


The Hoka Mach X is a performance trainer with a stiff and mildly firm ride that takes some time to break in. Those expecting a super shoe version of the Mach 5 will be disappointed as this is a completely different shoe. The midsole features a top layer of Peba foam, a bottom layer of CMEVA and a Pebax plate sandwiched between them. The plate and midsole foam start off stiff/firm and took almost 25 miles to break in. After that point, the ride is still on the stiffer/snappier side but has a tiny bit of firmer bounce to it. The firmer ride makes the 9.4 oz weight (men's size 9) noticeable as a performance trainer rather instead of a racing shoe. The combination of stiffness and the firmer ride make the Mach X far better for uptempo runs and workouts than easy runs. There is a solid heel bevel that is slightly lateral that makes for decent transitions at the heel. The midfoot and forefoot transition is stiff thanks to the rigid Pebax plate although the early-stage meta-rocker (forefoot rocker) does ease the transition at the front.

The midsole feel again makes this shoe a better option for faster efforts. The Mach X feels clunky and stiff at easy and slower paces. This has improved a little with break in and the rockered ride. However, it really shines when picking up the pace at least a little. I have used this shoe for fartlek workouts and some uptempo runs and found the stiffness to be just ride. The weight is too much for me to use as a racing shoe, but those who want a stiffer ride that isn't as bouncy and aggressive as a super shoe may find this will work as a longer-distance racing shoe.

While the midsole has taken some time to break in, the outsole has been holding up extremely well. I have 40 miles on my pair and have barely any wear on the outsole. The traction is great for road and mild dirt. I would not use this on trail given the smoother outsole and central groove that has already picked up a rock or two when I ventured onto softer surfaces. So those interested in a stiffer/slightly firmer performance trainer that will last but needs time to break in may want to look at the Mach X.



The Hoka Mach X is a neutral shoe. There are no traditional elements of stability outside of the surprisingly stiff pebax plate. The plate does provide a high level of torsional rigidity. This initially provides mild resistance to forward motion as mentioned but then breaks in. This makes the ride feel a little more centered. There are small sidewalls on the medial and lateral sides of the heel. The lateral sidewall is higher and made of firmer EVA material while the medial side is softer Pebax. This creates a mild medial bias at the heel. The sole is a little bit wider with a filled-in medial midfoot. The forefoot is stiff with small sidewalls of Pebax. These all combine to create a mildly medially biased heel, a mildly centered midfoot and a somewhat centered forefoot (offset by narrow fit up front).

Thoughts as a DPT: Resurgence of the Performance Trainer
By Matthew Klein

With the surge in super shoes in the last several years, the category of performance trainers began to shrink and stall. I suspect that the hype around super shoes may have contributed to that as more people are purchasing racing shoes than ever before. While many people will do just fine in these shoes, we do know from early evidence that slower runners do not get as much benefit out of these shoes as faster runners do (Joubert et al., 2023). That does not mean that if someone likes that shoe type the should not use it. However, many of the super shoes are incredibly aggressive. While we do not have the research to support this yet, clinically (anecdotally) some runners have a higher injury risk in some of these shoes and certainly may get less out of them. We know they tend to be less stable, more aggressive and do have some inherent risks (Hoenig et al., 2023)

These new performance trainers may be a better option as they bring the best of both worlds together. They have stiffening agents that are not as aggressive as carbon plates. Part of the midsole is a super foam, the geometries are less aggressive and are meant for a greater variety of paces and they tend to be a bit more inherently stable. Although this has not been confirmed yet, a few companies have reported that these shoes also improve economy at slower paces, which may make them better options for slower runners looking for a performance shoe unique to them.

Prior to super shoes, many runners from higher level to recreational used performance trainers for marathon and distance racing. Racing shoes used to be extremely minimal, many runners could not handle them and would use performance trainers as alternatives. The Boston series was a great example of this as many elite runners used it for marathon racing when they found the Adios to not be enough for that distance. Though super shoes have plenty of foam underfoot now, what remains similar is that they are stiff and aggressive. Like the old days, the emergence of these "partial-super shoes" / new-age performance trainers may be able to fill the same space that they did previously. For those having repeated troubles, issues or injuries, these new performance trainers may serve as appropriate alternatives for those seeking performance at a variety of paces. 


Hoenig, T., Saxena, A., Rice, H. M., Hollander, K., & Tenforde, A. S. (2023). Navigating the challenges and opportunities with ‘super shoes’: balancing performance gains with injury risk. British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Joubert, D. P., Dominy, T. A., & Burns, G. T. (2023). Effects of Highly Cushioned and Resilient Racing Shoes on Running Economy at Slower Running Speeds. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance18(2), 164-170.


If Hoka's goal was to create a unique performance trainer different from the others on the market, this goal was achieved. If the goal was to create a performance shoe that will work with a wide variety of runners, especially those that are slower and may not be able to handle something as aggressive as the Rocket X 2, then some work may need to be done. The ride is extremely stiff and on the firmer side, which may take away from the comfort that many may be looking for. I understand this is a performance-oriented shoe but if it is to be that halfway point between a super shoe and a trainer, it may need to relax just a little.

My other major suggestion is to even out the bias at the heel. The smaller sidewall on the medial side is made of PEBA, which is softer, while the larger sidewall is made of firmer EVA. The midfoot and forefoot are set up well, however, the heel ends up medially biased. If this was fixed, preferably by raising the EVA in the medial heel, this would make this a stable neutral shoe. The goal is NOT to make this a stability shoe, but a stable neutral ride may add to the population this shoe may work for. 


The Hoka Mach X is for those who want a stiffer, slightly firmer ride with a performance fit for uptempo efforts and workouts. The shoe sits between the Rocket X 2 and a training shoe but is different altogether from the Mach 5. It fits more snugly and rides firmer than the easy riding, comfortably fitting Mach 5. With the higher relative weight, it is a shoe that may be an alternative to the Mach 5 rather than a replacement. Those who want a firm and stiff ride may do better with the Mach X whereas those who want a softer more flexible ride may do better with the Mach 5.

Compared to the other partial super-trainers out there, the Mach X is the firmest and stiffest of the group. The Kinvara Pro works far better at easier and long run paces, whereas the Mach X excels far more at faster efforts. The Boston 12 has far more bounce and speed but has more medial bias than the Mach X. The Mach X also fits the most snug of the group. While theses shoes may sit in the same category, they all have unique characteristics that will make one or two work better for certain people compared to others.


Fit: B+ (Performance fit, lower volume in forefoot. Secure, a little tapered in the forefoot)
B+ (A little clunky at slower paces, shines at uptempo and workout paces)
Stability: B/B+ [Neutral] (Mild medial bias at heel with centered ride at midfoot and forefoot)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Platform stiffer and firmer than may be necessary for a performance trainer. Surprisingly stiff for a PEBAX plate, requires time for break-in)
Personal: B (Solid workout/performance trainer. A little too stiff and firm for my tastes)
Overall: B/B+ 


Hoka Mach X
Price: $179.95 at Running Warehouse

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Adidas Adizero Boston 12 - Lightstrike 2.0 lightens this trainer a great deal
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Saucony Kinvara Pro - Saucony throws in a new plated trainer that aims to help a variety of runners
Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 - A huge upgrade lends PEBAX to this nonplated performance trainer

Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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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 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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