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Hoka Cielo X1 Review
By David Salas, Andrea Myers and Matthew Klein

The Hoka Rocket X2 was a welcome release from the brand signaling they finally understood what a super racing shoe actually was. It was one of our favorites for 2023 and is one of the more stable racers due to large sidewalls and a wider base in typical Hoka fashion. In line with other companies, while a super shoe is the norm, having another racing shoe a step up has become more common plate (the Saucony Endorphin Elite to the Endorphin Pro, the Alphafly to the Vaporfly and so on). Rumors have circled for quite some time as to whether this shoe would actually come into existence and to everyone's excitement, it finally has. The Hoka Cielo X1 doubles down on everything from the Rocket X2 featuring a duel-layer PEBA midsole, a highly rockered geometry, and an aggressive rocker that constantly keeps you forward. A sight to behold, the Cielo X1 may turn some heads with its unique look. 



Hoka Cielo X1
Price: $275 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 9.3 oz, 264 g (men's size 10), 7.4 oz, 210 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: M: 39mm / 32mm; W: 37mm / 30mm
Drop: 7 mm
Shoe Purpose: Super Distance Racing Shoe

Pros: Very responsive, heavy rocker for those that enjoy that
Cons: Lateral cutout does have potential for quick inversion moments, on the heavy side for a racing shoe



RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The HOKA Cielo X1 is a new super shoe racing model for HOKA. The shoe features a maximum legal stack height design with an aggressive rocker profile. The shoe is designed to race from 10k-marathon distances on the road. This also has a tight lockdown, wider plate, and wider base for some mild guidance measures. 

SIMILAR SHOES
: Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2, Saucony Endorphin Elite, New Balance SC Elite v3
PAST MODEL: None




FIT

Matt: The HOKA Cielo X1 is a lower volume, but true-to-size fit in my normal US men's size 10. A thick knit upper sits low, especially across the toes. This initially made me concerned for blisters, but even on longer efforts up to 13 miles I have not had issues. The upper does seem to warm up to you, albeit slowly. There is quite a bit of pressure on the top of my first toe and along the top of my fifth toe. For this reason, I would suggest those who have normal to narrow feet may do best in this upper unless you want a snug fit. The midfoot fits snug with a thin gusseted tongue. I had to be careful to make sure the tongue didn't crinkle and the stiffer laces took some time to adjust every time I put the shoe on. Once I got everything locked in, I had no security issues or slippage. However, just know it takes a little longer to optimize the fit every time you put the shoe on.

The heel fits snug with a small portion of padding and a small moderately flexible heel counter. The lack of padding at the rearmost portion of the counter did put some pressure on my calcaneus. This did not bother me during runs and only while putting them on initially. Those who are sensitive should still approach with some caution but only those who have problems at the rear most portion of the heel (sides are fine). While the toe guard is minor, I would highly suggest wearing socks with this shoe. The inner aspect of the liner is scratchy and I have not been able to run sockless in these. However, with socks this has been fine. Overall, the upper is lower volume puts this solidly as a race-ready upper for those wanting a secure fit for going faster. 

David: The HOKA Cielo X1 fits true-to-size in my Men's 9.5. The upper is of a knit construction in one piece. The material is quite comfortable for a racing shoe and still is breathable. It does run a tad on the warmer side. The lacing system uses an asymmetrical lockdown design with a gusseted internal tongue. The laces have some texture to them and does a really good job of locking the shoe down. The fit has a track spike feel with the lockdown, but the volume still feels high enough for swelling accommodation in the forefoot. There is a heel counter with mild padding, though this is geared towards a more race ready streamlined design. The heel is normal width to slightly snug, midfoot normal width, and the forefoot normal to slightly wide. The knit material does have a small amount of stretch to it, but does a surprisingly good job of holding its structure. The upper does integrate with the platform and midsole sidewalls really well. I think I would like the see the upper a tad more breathable and less warm, but that does come from a warmer climate bias. I would be curious to see how this upper is received in colder environments, especially given most road races do have early morning starts. 

Andrea: The HOKA Cielo X1 fits true-to-size in my usual women's 9.5. My feet normally do not agree with the fit of HOKA shoes due to the sidewalls that are typically present in the midfoot and forefoot. I can say without hesitation that this is the most comfortable, best fitting HOKA I have tried. I had zero irritation at my 1st MTP, which is where I have previously experienced friction in other HOKA models. The shoe provides sufficient width for the ball of my foot, but is not so wide that it allowed foot translation in the shoe. The knit upper has a high amount of structure, which keeps the upper away from the dorsum of the foot. The partially gusseted tongue integrates well with the upper thanks to the lace loop located near the ankle. It is slightly difficult to tighten the laces because the laces are wider than the eyelets, which makes it difficult to just pull on the laces to lock them down. This is not a dealbreaker, just a weird feature of the upper. The laces are flat and smooth and do require double knotting to keep them from coming untied.

The heel counter has a rigid inferior half and a semi-rigid superior half. There is firm internal padding that wraps around the heel medially and laterally. When donning the shoe, I found it a little difficult to actually get my foot past this firm heel collar. Once my foot was in the shoe, the firm padding did a good job of keeping my foot secure in the shoe, and prevented any heel slippage. The upper material is on the warmer side, which I appreciated during my 30-40F runs. I also did a couple of treadmill runs in the shoe and did not find the upper too warm indoors. 

Doctors of Running Checklist

Is This a Good Shoe for Walking: No
Is This a Good Shoe for Standing: No
Is the Forefoot Flexible: No
How Flexible is the Shoe: Not flexible, carbon plated with dramatic rocker
Is This a Good Heel Bevel: Yes
Recommended for Haglunds: No
Recommended for Sockless: No
Durability Expectation: Above Average (for a super shoe)





PERFORMANCE

Matt: The Hoka Cielo X1 is a highly rockered super distance racing shoe. The two layers of PEBA foam are extremely responsive and bouncy. The Cielo X1 also has one of the most dramatic rockers I have seen and experienced in a racing shoe. It is noticeable the second you put it on, creating both a rolling and bouncy ride. There is a well-positioned posterior-lateral bevel and a somewhat early forefoot rocker. This provides smooth transitions no matter where you land thanks also to the highly resilient and cushioned foam underfoot. The foam does compress a solid amount when you land, which if you land in the rearfoot makes it feel slightly lower than the 7mm drop listed. My calves are not as sore as they are in the Rocket X2, so those who found that shoe too low may do better here as the dramatic rocker does offset this.

As David mentions below, there is an optimal place to land in this in the heel or posterior midfoot. This creates the most bounce, which works great for me since I usually land there. There is still plenty of bounce up front as I found when I tried to take this shoe into 5k/mile pace. It certainly can do that but the weight holds it back from being the best shoe for those efforts. Instead, it excels at longer steady efforts from 10k to marathon pace. It is one of the heaviest super shoes out there but still has the speed and durability to hold up for those longer efforts. I have used this shoe for a longer tempo run, a short tempo run, several fartleks ranging from short to long segments and hill repeats. The longer the effort, the better this shoe seemed to do. It is not great for easy efforts as the aggressive geometry is not optimal for that, although warming up and cooling down felt fine.

The durability is quite good, which is a trade off for the higher weight. I have 40 miles on my pair and while I had some concerns about initial wear, the outsole looks fine. I have chewed away a little of the exposed PEBA at the posterior lateral midfoot, but outside the outsole looks fine and the midsole feels exactly the same (if not a little more responsive) than when I first ran in them. So those looking for a more sturdy racing shoe or a shoe optimized for longer workouts and faster long runs may enjoy the Cielo X1.

David: I did not know what to expect with the Cielo X1, but it did a good job of impressing me. The shoe immediately has a responsive nature to it with the dual layer peba midsole. The shoe does have a very dramatic rocker to it, and this is also noticeable. The shoe does have a specific strike pattern that I have found works well with the shoe. The shoe seems to like a relatively hard crash through the midfoot and forefoot, which really bounces back through the forefoot. Traction underfoot is very good for a super shoe. The shoe has a surprising amount of connectivity to the ground for how much foam there is. From a pace standpoint I agree with the 10k to marathon evaluation, but I do think the foam is responsive enough to take it to 5k as well. The shoe is a little heavier than some of the other super shoes out there, but I do feel the responsiveness makes you forget that rather quickly. Turning is alright in the is model, though not amazing.

The one thing I notice is it struggles when the foot leans into the lateral cutout. On a cambered road the shoe does have a tendency to roll laterally quicker than I'd like it to. This is also evident with turning into that lateral side. Sweeping turns seem to be okay, though the sharper turns, especially if the road is cambered, can make you tip toe a little bit. This shoe does feel comparable with other super shoes and I do think this is a worthy competitor with what is out there. 

Andrea: The HOKA Cielo X1 surprised me with its performance and versatility. I am currently training for the Osaka Marathon in February, so I have had plenty of workouts and long runs to test the shoe at various paces. I was initially concerned about the lateral midfoot cutout because it is positioned almost exactly where I land, and because I have some lateral stability issues due to multiple previous ankle sprains. I was happy to find that I did not notice the lateral cutout when running at marathon pace or faster. At slower paces, I did have a mild sinking in feeling at initial contact, but the shoe did not feel unstable or like I was going to roll my ankle. That being said, this shoe is not particularly comfortable at slower paces (nor is it designed for slower paces) due to its high stack height and moderately soft PEBA midsole. This shoe feels a little lower than its stated 7mm drop and I found it well suited to midfoot landings. The platform is very stiff thanks to the carbon plate and the sharp forefoot rocker provides a propulsive ride that is more noticeable at faster paces. 

I tested the shoe in intervals ranging from marathon pace to mile pace, including an 8 mile marathon pace interval at the end of a 20 mile run. The shoe feels best at 10k to marathon pace, although it feels highly responsive at 5k and even mile pace. I would not use the shoe for a shorter race due to its weight, but this is a performance shoe that can handle a variety of faster paces. For my midfoot landing pattern, the shoe feels like it provides the right amount of cushion at initial contact and then immediately launches into push off, thanks to the sharp forefoot rocker and responsive midsole. The shoe strikes a nice balance between compliance, resilience, and underfoot protection. I had absolutely no foot soreness after running in the shoe, even after my 20 miler. The near full coverage rubber outsole provides good traction, even on wet roads. I would expect greater than average durability from the outsole.



STABILITY

Matt: The Hoka Cielo X1 is a neutral racing shoe with some mild guidance elements and lateral bias at the midfoot. The heel has an excellent posterior lateral bevel that guides transitions well for those who need a bit of lateral guidance. This lateral push is noticeable due to the central groove at the rearfoot that allows the lateral midsole bit of foam to collapse separately from the medial side. The lateral cut-out at the midfoot also provides noticeable lateral guidance. There are also small sidewalls in the posterior midfoot on the lateral and medial sides, but these are quite small by Hoka standards and not super noticeable. There is a large lateral sidewall at the forefoot that provides medial guidance and makes for a centered toe off for those who go too lateral. There are small plate projections that also come up into the top layer of PEBA, although I am not sure how much these contribute to stability. The plate overall is quite stiff with a large amount of torsional rigidity. This combined with the massive rocker keeps motion moving forward quickly. While the shoe is not a stability shoe, there is a large amount of lateral guidance through most of the heel and midfoot. Those who need that will feel centered, but those who lateral instabilities (repeated ankle sprains) may find this pushes them too lateral. For someone like me who tends to collapse too medial, these methods offset the tall and soft midsole well. 

David: The HOKA Cielo X1 is definitely not a stability shoe. The Peba midsole and and stack height give it challenges. I do feel the plate design is quite good and the winged design is evident. The stiffness works really well with the rocker design and wider plate. The one thing I noticed quickly is that the lateral cutout in the midsole has more give to it than I'd like when there is movement bias in that direction. That is most noticeable on cambered roads and in sharper turns into that lateral cutout. I had a few instances where I had a quick inversion moment, similar to an ankle sprain, but without moving quite that far. It happened more than I'd like it too and I would like to see them fill that in to some degree. Upper security is pretty good throughout and I did not have issues with translation or slippage.  

Andrea:
The HOKA Cielo X1 is a neutral racing shoe. The lateral midfoot cutout may provide mild stability issues for those with a history of ankle sprains, particularly at slower paces. The high stack PEBA midsole is on the softer side, and could be too unstable for some runners. Otherwise, I think HOKA did a nice job with their use of sole flaring in the rearfoot and forefoot to help center the foot and guide forward motion. The carbon plate and aggressive forefoot rocker also help encourage forward motion in an otherwise moderately compliant shoe. While I did not experience the lateral stability issues that David did on cambered roads, I would caution those with lateral stability needs to tread lightly in this shoe until you know how it will perform for you.

VIDEO REVIEW





Thoughts as a DPT: The Path of Least Resistance 
By David Salas

This DPT section will be more conceptual that research driven. Normally when someone uses a cutout or groove, the goal is to have more "give" in that region for either flexibility or to give some guidance. This is why we see them down the midline a lot of times. As you crash down onto your shoe, the foam will compress underneath you and "give" into that open direction. The heel and midfoot crash pad feel pretty good in the Cielo X1, but there is a large lateral cutout that digs into that midfoot crash pad. Especially since many people tend to land laterally through the heel or midfoot, this could have the foam compressing into that direction.

This is most noticeable when running on surfaces that bias that direction. That would be noticeable most on cambered roads or angled turns. In those situations the shoe will give in quickly to the lateral direction and cause a movement similar to an ankle sprain. It wasn't enough to make me actually sprain my ankle but there were some quick moments that occurred that would make me think differently when running on the same road or turn afterwards. Cutouts can be great for cutting weight, but there has to be some consideration with their placement and how it effects the loading and running experience. 


RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: While my body likes the lateral guidance at the midfoot, others may not. The forefoot is done extremely well from a guidance and transition standpoint. The heel is also done well with the well-placed posterior lateral bevel. If it is possible to widen the midfoot, I would encourage that. This may be done best by filling in the lateral section and making a larger central cutout. The upper could use a little more volume over the toes. Particularly over longer efforts, excessive pressure in this area could cause issues. Taking the upper pressure out of the forefoot and adding it to the midfoot would help also with security, although I personally have not had any issues. 

David: My main recommendation for the HOKA Cielo X1 is to work on lateral stability. The forefoot base, traction, and rocker profile are all done really well. The shoe does have a tendency to dip laterally when loaded that way. The other thing would be to make the upper a tad more breathable, but that might be a me thing. 

Andrea: I agree with David that the primary improvement needed in this shoe is more lateral stability. I would recommend that HOKA fill in the lateral midfoot cutout and find another way to save weight (perhaps with a larger central cutout instead). I also think the upper could be refined a little by making the material a little more breathable and widening the eyelets so it is easier to tighten the laces. 

WOULD I RECOMMEND THE SHOE?

Matt: For the right runner, I would highly recommend the Hoka Cielo X1. Those who want a super responsive ride with a large rockered sole and some lateral bias in the midfoot and heel will do best in this shoe. I have been continually surprised by how much I like it. The foam responds extremely well at a variety of speeds but is best for 10k to marathon efforts. I am excited to see Hoka put out a truly "Hoka-esque" supershoe and think it does a ton of stuff well despite a bit of a steep price tag. This shoe goes beyond just being a racing shoe and is an experience, which explains some of the $275 price point. 

David: I would. This is a shoe that has a very responsive ride coupled with a very dramatic rocker. Those that like having that rolling sensation will find this to be quite a fun shoe to use. 

Andrea: I would recommend the HOKA Cielo X1. I have really enjoyed running in the shoe and will definitely continue to use it for workouts. Its weight would keep it from being a top choice for a racing shoe, however. This shoe reminds me a lot of the New Balance SC Elite v3, except with a little more compliance and a greater feeling of underfoot protection. This could be a great 10k-marathon shoe for some or a versatile performance trainer for others, although $275 is pretty steep for a performance trainer. 




GRADES

Matt
Fit: B+/A- (Lower volume fit. Secure and seems to warm up to you. A little low across the toes)
Performance: 
A (Fast efficient ride for 10k to full marathon efforts. Extremely rockered)
Stability: B/B+ [Neutral] (Lateral bias at midfoot/heel with medial bias at forefoot. Works great for someone like me but not for those with lateral instabilities)
Value: B/B+ (A true super shoe, although a bit more expensive than the others despite being one of the heaviest)
Personal: A- (This shoe keeps surprising me. More durable, rockered, fast and fun than I expected. Upper sits a little lower across the toes than I would like but this never bothers me. Will definitely use this for a race to experience it at those paces, but may still pick other options due to weight)
Overall Design: B+/A- 

David
Fit: A- (Good fit throughout, no slippage or translation, solid lockdown, upper runs a bit warm)
Performance: 
A- (Fun responsive ride with a dramatic rocker, good traction, fits the bill for a racing shoe)
Stability: B (Good plate design, outsole, sole flare and sidewalls, lateral cutout does have give to it though and can make some moments more dicey than I'd like)
Value: B+ (Difficult to evaluate right now, but seems comparable to other super shoes in that price range with even more outsole coverage)
Personal: A- (Very fun shoe that does work well with my mechanics, lateral cutout has more inversion moments than I'd like)
Overall Design: A- (A very good shoe in my eyes, but it just misses that home run with some of the lateral instability)

Andrea
Fit: (the first HOKA that has not given me blisters at my 1st toe thanks to a lack of sidewalls. Comfortable fit and well integrated upper.)
Performance: 
A- (Best at 10k-marathon pace, although can handle faster training paces. It is a little heavy for a racing shoe.)
Stability: B [Neutral]: (Lateral cutout may cause stability issues for some, but otherwise a well done neutral shoe that provides a centered, highly rockered ride.)
Value: B+ (Price is similar to other super shoes, but this shoe is heavier than most super shoes. As a performance trainer, it is a little overpriced. Outsole durability will likely be higher than most super shoes due to extensive rubber coverage.)
Personal: A- (Great fit and a nice balance between compliance and resilience for a cushioned, responsive ride.)
Overall Design: A- (A great super shoe offering from HOKA that could be better with improved lateral stability and some weight loss.)


SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Hoka Cielo X1
Price: $275 at Running Warehouse

Shop Men | Shop Women

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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, Santa Barbara, Danbury and Stevens Point areas, we 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 pairs.  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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Under Armour Velociti Elite 2

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