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Hoka Carbon X 3 Review Analysis (2022)

Hoka Carbon X 3 review

Last update: December 2022

The Hoka Carbon X 3 is a “super shoe” with a carbon-fiber plate. It’s versatile and responsive, but its foot lockdown is disappointing.

The Consensus

8.8Overall score
Good carbon plate shoes for long runs that offers a versatile and responsive configuration but with an imprecise lockdown
Don’t have time to read the full review? Here’s what you need to know.

The Hoka Carbon X 3 is a carbon-plated shoe explicitly designed for ultrarunning race distances. If that’s not your thing, it’s still a great shoe for a marathon, although officially, that’s the role of its sibling, the Rocket X!

This new edition features a supercritical midsole foam to offer a light and bouncy cushioning alongside the carbon fiber plate. The underfoot feel is firm but allows an efficient and comfortable ride. The result is not as impressive as the direct competitors of the CX3 but is more versatile. Thus, it’s a good shoe well suited for daily runs.

However, runners who tested the shoe were disappointed by the imprecise lockdown of its performance knit upper. It is too loose and floats around the foot instead of providing targeted support when speed and narrow turns demand it. It’s not catastrophic either, and not everyone is impacted in the same way, but it’s still a shame for a Hoka model.

In summary, Hoka Carbon X 3 fails to impress despite some interesting highlights like its versatility. Let’s hope that the fourth iteration will be the right one!

Please read our full review of the Hoka Carbon X 3 for more information.
Comfort
9
Responsiveness
9.5
Foot lockdown
7.5
Stability
9
Durability
9
Value for money
8.5
Design
9
PROS
  • Firm, responsive, and comfortable cushioning
  • Smooth and stable ride
  • Good versatility
  • Efficient traction on the road
  • Fairly durable shoe
CONS
  • Imprecise lockdown

Hoka Carbon X 3 Complete Review Analysis

Introduction

Hoka Carbon X 3 review

Hoka hasn’t said its last word in the great battle of super shoes. The Carbon X 3, released in 2022, is the latest attempt by the brand to establish itself as THE leader of the category, the ace card that will make runners all over the world perform better.

However, it differs from the competition (e.g., Nike Vaporfly) by offering a configuration that focuses on very long distances. Beyond the marathon distance then, which remains the chosen field of the Hoka Rocket X. For example, with the first Carbon X, Jim Walmsley had established an unofficial ultrarunning record at the 50 miles as part of Hoka One One’s Project Carbon X.

The first two versions of the series were a bit lackluster – is the Carbon X 3 comfortable and performing enough to correct that? That’s what we’ll find out in this review.

Cushioning

Hoka Carbon X 3 midsole cushioning with carbon plates

The Carbon X 3 has the same stack height as the previous version: 32 mm in the heel and 27 mm in the toes (the shoe is low drop with 5 mm).

After years of using a standard EVA foam, Hoka has taken things up a notch by concocting a new supercritical foam (1) to stay in the race. The advantage of this type of material is to combine lightness and bounce. The result is PROFY X+, a new generation foam with a reasonably firm but very comfortable underfoot feel.

 Hoka Carbon X 3 unboxing

It complements the rigid carbon plate that equips the shoe on its entire length. The result is a responsive ride even if testers didn’t notice any stunning trampoline effect like on other carbon shoes like the Asics MetaSpeed Sky.

Finally, there’s also the unique Hoka heel design: Swallow Tail. This wide, tapered shape gives the platform good stability, reinforced by the stiffness of the plate and the foam.

Foot lockdown (upper)

Hoka Carbon X 3 mesh upper

If runners found the midsole very convincing, it’s another story with the upper.

Sure, the design is sleek and audacious, with a nice orange color on most of the shoe, and a discreet pink strip on the medial side. The well-ventilated non-stretch engineered knit wraps comfortably around the foot.

However, while knit uppers offer greater comfort in general, the downside is that this type of material tends to weigh the shoe more than necessary.

At 8.5 oz/242 g for the men’s version and 7.55 oz/214 g for the women’s model, the CX 3 is clearly in the upper weight category for a carbon plate shoe (the Takumi Sen 8 is 2.1 oz/60 g lighter for comparison).

Hoka Carbon X 3 logo upper

Second, the knit upper provides a good structure to prevent the foot from roaming completely free while running, but runners note that it’s rather loose. Thus, the shoe fits large, both in length and width. This isn’t a significant issue at low to moderate speeds, but some testers didn’t feel secure when going at a fast pace. None of them experienced significant heel slippage but they felt that something was off.

Unfortunately, it’s a notable drawback that tarnishes the ensemble, especially for runners with narrow feet. Indeed, why risk investing in a carbon shoe if the foot lockdown is not on point?

Luckily, the Hoka Carbon X 3 does have some highlights to forget about this negative point, as we’ll see further down in the section on the ride.

Grip and durability

Hoka Carbon X 3 rubber outsole

The outsole changes little from last year’s version. The Hoka Carbon X 3 has a layer of rubberized EVA foam to protect the shoe from contact with the road.

The result is reasonably durable and provides adequate traction on wet and dry roads. Of course, this configuration can be a bit slippery in winter on frozen roads, but Nike’s Vaporfly or Adidas’ Adios Pro 2 will have the same problem.

The Ride

Carbon X 3 road running shoe

Let’s recap: firm cushioning, good bounce, good stability, and a stiff plate with moderate spring. But how does it translate in the ride?

First of all, testers all praised the Hoka Carbon X 3 for its versatility. Indeed, while many carbon plated racers are only intended for competition and require a fast pace for the rocker and bounce to kick in, the Carbon X 3 stands out for its efficiency at any speed. The moderately aggressive Meta-Rocker Geometry and carbon plate ensure a smooth transition at all times. According to runners, it’s a shoe whose energy return is more about running economy than propelling the body forward like a trampoline.

Hoka Carbon X 3 Unpacking

Even if it’s less impressive in competition because of its less responsive configuration, it has the merit of being suitable for a broader range of running sessions. For example, in addition to fast runs and official races, it can be very well suited for daily training.

In terms of distance, the Carbon X 3 delivers on its promise to go the (ultra) distance. However, you’ll have to enjoy firm cushioning, which may not be comfortable for everyone.

Conclusion

Hoka Carbon Shoe

Let’s face it: the Hoka Carbon X 3 is a good shoe overall, but its upper doesn’t live up to its ambitions.

The quiet strength of its cushioning is admirable, but the foot lockdown is insufficient for a shoe that dreams of helping athletes break records.

Still, it may be a good fit if you’re a Hoka One One fan looking for a versatile carbon competition shoe with a firm underfoot feel that can moonlight as a long distance trainer.

Reference:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercritical_fluid

Facts

Technical Specs

TerrainRoad
Pronation typeNeutral
Drop5 mm
Heel stack height32 mm
Forefoot stack height27 mm
Weight (men)242 g/8.5 oz
Weight (women)214 g/7.55 oz
FeaturesRocker, Carbon plate
AthletesJim Walmsley
Release year2022

Cushioning

Softness (1-5)2 – Firm
Bounce (1-5)4 – Bouncy

Technologies

OutsoleRubberized foam
MidsoleEarly Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry, PROFLY X
UpperEngineered mesh

Use

SpeedAll
DistanceMid, long, 10k, half marathon, marathon
WorkoutCompetition, daily runs

Comparisons – Hoka Carbon X 3 vs.:

Hoka Rocket X

The Rocket X doesn’t feature supercritical foam as it’s an older shoe so it’s less responsive overall. Check out our detailed comparison.

Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%

The Alphafly offers a more responsive but less stable ride. It’s also lighter but more fragile. Which one should you choose? Read our comparison.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does the Hoka Carbon X 3 fit true to size?

Runners report that this running shoe fits large. Therefore, it may be wise to wear a half-size smaller (e.g., 9 if you usually wear size 9.5).

Kevin Le Gall

Kevin Le Gall

Kevin is the founder and editor of Runner's Lab. He started running in 2015 and completed his first marathon in Rotterdam in 2016. He's also worked for Under Armour from 2016 to 2018 and helped launch their running collection in Europe (in particular the HOVR shoes). In addition, Kevin is a 300-hour certified yoga teacher (Sivananda) and uses this experience to run more mindfully with a focus on well-being over performance.

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