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Hoka Rocket X vs. Carbon X – Which Is Right For You?

 

If you’re a Hoka fan looking for a new racing shoe, you might be comparing the Hoka Rocket X vs. Carbon X. Both are excellent shoes, but how do you know which one is really right for you?

Both shoes are good-looking, although you can immediately see a difference in style just by looking at them. But how will they perform on the road?

We’ve compared the two in detail so you can analyze them and decide which one works best for you!

Main Differences

The Rocket X and Carbon X3 are fairly similar shoes, but they do have noticeable differences when you put them on and run in them.

Most visually noticeable is the shape of the Carbon X3’s heel, which has a swallow-tail geometry. The Rocket is missing this.

This design increases the aggressiveness of the meta-rocker in the Carbon X3. On the other hand, the Rocket X has a much more subtle meta-rocker.

Another big difference between the two shoes is the outsole coverage underfoot. A thick layer of rubberized EVA covers the full length of the outsole on the Carbon X3, whereas the Rocket has very minimal coverage. This could make a difference in terms of durability.

Upper

Rocket X

The Rocket X has an open mesh upper that doesn’t feature any overlays but still provides a comfortable and secure foot lockdown. Although the mesh is slightly stiff, which helps to give the upper structure, it molds really nicely to the shape of your foot.

There’s plenty of space in the toe box to accommodate a bit of swelling over long runs and provide a good fit for runners with wide feet.

Even though the tongue is thin, there’s ample padding for you to cinch down tight if necessary. That said, the gusseted tongue is a bit short, but it won’t affect your performance. It still offers a comfortable and secure midfoot lockdown.

The laces have a nice stretch to them and are slightly longer. So once you’ve laced your shoes, they’ll stay laced for the entire run.

The semi-rigid heel counter doesn’t run very high up your Achilles and provides ample support without rubbing or putting pressure on the heel. That being said, if you experience heel slippage, you’ll find that lace locking the shoe will resolve it.

Carbon X

Featuring a new, seamless knit upper with an integrated tongue, the Carbon X 3 provides a sock-like fit throughout the length of the upper. The upper is structured, but the material has ample stretch to accommodate wide feet and foot swelling without feeling restrictive.

However, if you have a narrow foot, the upper may feel baggy, and you may not be able to get a proper locked-in fit. It may be worth going down a half size for a more secure foot lockdown.

The lacing system has staggered eyelets, but this shoe has no last eyelets. Unfortunately, this means that lace locking is not possible. You may have to try a few different lacing combinations to get a secure fit.

The elf ear heel is lightly padded with a thin, flexible counter that remains comfortable on each run.

Midsole

Rocket X

The Rocket X has soft, full-length CMEVA—compression-molded EVA—foam that’s paired with a carbon-fiber plate. The early-stage meta-rocker is subtle, but the combination of these three features provides a great balance of protectiveness, bounce, and responsiveness.

Although the carbon-fiber plate is stiff, runners will be happy to know that it’s not intrusive and it offers a more forgiving ride. The heel on this shoe has a slight bevel, which compresses well to create smooth landings that heel strikers will love.

This shoe shines when you load the forefoot, and you’ll find a nice rebound generated as you flex through the toes, propelling you forward. This allows you to pick up the pace with a relatively low perceived effort, and you’ll find the ride smooth, stable, and energetic.

Carbon X

The midsole of the Carbon X 3 now features Hoka’s Profly X+ supercritical foam and a full-length carbon-fiber plate.

The plate is sandwiched between the new top layer of Profly X supercritical and rubberized EVA on the bottom. With slightly softer foam, the shoe remains very well cushioned while creating a smoother, more resilient ride.

But combine this with the fairly aggressive meta-rocker geometry, and you’ll find the ride to be energetic and responsive. This makes the shoe a great option for tempo runs or long runs.

The heel features a wide, Swallow Tail design that helps reinforce the plate’s stiffness, which results in good stability.

Outsole

Rocket X

The outsole on the Rocket is mostly exposed foam with strategically placed, textured rubber in the forefoot and heel.

Despite the minimal amount of rubber, the outsole provides good traction on pavements and wet roads. However, be careful when running on sand paths or wet mud, as it can be easier to slip.

The minimalist outsole reduces the shoe’s overall weight, which is great for racing. However, it’s hard to estimate how durable the shoe is and how many miles you can get out of it.

That being said, the outsole shows little signs of wear after running 20 to 30 miles, so you should get at least 200 miles out of them.

Carbon X

The outsole of the Carbon X 3 uses the same rubberized EVA as the previous version.

Not only does the rubberized EVA outsole help reduce the weight of the shoe, but it also gives the shoe a more grounded feel. It provides a good grip on the pavement, roads, and some light sand paths.

The shoe was designed for long distances. While you can expect to see some wear after 40 to 60 miles, the shoes hold up exceptionally well. You can expect to get at least 350 miles out of them.

Other Features

Stiffness/Flex

Rocket X

The Rocket X features a carbon-fiber plate with a fair amount of forefoot stiffness, enhancing a responsive toe-off. Although there’s slightly less cushioning than the Carbon X 3, it’s still protective, and the carbon-fiber plate is unobtrusive.

The carbon-fiber plate placement in the midsole gives the shoe a bit more ground feel.

Carbon X

The Carbon X3 is a responsive shoe that’s very forgiving but with a lively ride. The pronounced meta-rocker works well with the new midsole foam and carbon fiber plate.

You’ll find that heel-to-toe transitions are quicker, and your foot will roll through the toe-off phase of your stride with great energy return.

However, the fairly aggressive meta-rocker geometry may take some getting used to, but you should still be able to enjoy a long run without any calf soreness.

Fit

Rocket X

The Rocket X fits true to size, with the upper and lacing system providing a comfortable, secure lockdown. The breathable mesh upper does stretch a little, and this helps to accommodate a wider foot and swelling on those long runs.

Some runners may find the midfoot to forefoot slightly more snug, especially if you compare this shoe to the Bondi, Clifton, or Rincon. The semi-rigid heel counter is nicely padded, but you may still experience some heel slippage if you don’t lace the shoe a bit more tightly.

Carbon X

The Carbon X3 has a slightly longer fit. You’ll find that the upper stretches nicely to accommodate your foot shape if you have wide feet. If you do have narrow feet, get the shoe a half size smaller, and the forefoot will provide a snug fit.

You may have to experiment with different lacing combinations, as the heel counter is slightly flexible, leading to some slippage. That said, if you’re running at a moderate pace, with no tight turns, you probably won’t notice any slippage.

Drop

Both the Rocket X and Carbon X3 feature Hoka’s signature drop of 5 mm.

Weight

Rocket X

The Rocket X is a lightweight racer. It weighs around 7.4 ounces—210 grams—for a unisex US size 9. Comparatively, it’s slightly lighter than the Carbon X3.

Carbon X

The Carbon X3 has seen a notable drop in weight, with a men’s size 9 weighing 7.8 oz—222 grams—a women’s size 8 weighing 6.6 oz—188 grams.

Price

At the time of writing, both the Rocket X and Carbon X3 retail for $200 on the Hoka website.

Summary

Both of these shoes are great releases from Hoka, and we can expect both to gain a loyal fandom as more people start using them over time.

They’re both lightweight, weighing around the same, and both retail for the same price, so budget doesn’t come into play when choosing between them.

The Rocket X may be the better choice for runners with more narrow feet, as it has a slightly more snug fit.

It’s also the ideal choice for runners who aren’t used to—or don’t like—an aggressive meta-rocker, as the rocker on this shoe is subtle and unobtrusive. If you want a more grounded feel, this shoe is for you.

The Carbon X3 is recommended for runners with wider feet, as the upper can feel slightly sloppy on those with narrow feet. It’s perfect for those who enjoy the feel of a meta-rocker, propelling them forward as they run due to the aggressive rocker.

It’s also likely to be the better choice for those who are hard on shoes, as the thick layer of rubberized EVA underneath could make it more durable than the Rocket.

Ultimately, deciding between the Hoka Rocket X vs. Carbon X is truly up to you.

Ben Drew

Ben Drew

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.

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