Portland Running Company owner Dave Harkin and Thirsty Thursday run leader Brendan Eng have both put the new, totally redesigned HOKA ONE ONE Rocket X 2 super shoe through its paces. Both were inspired to write about it. Here are their two takes.
Dave bought a pair of Rocket X 2s while in Japan for the Tokyo marathon.
Lately, it seems like "Super Shoes" are all mixed up with "complicated" elements like lacing systems, tongues, heel counters, and hyper-rocked plates, and too much midsole geometry.
HOKA Rocket X 2 has a nice wide platform that lends itself well to "out-the-door" type workouts whereby you wouldn't change shoes (trainers to racing flats).
The heel to toe offset, while lower than many competitor super shoes, can feel a little "low" in the heel, but it feels great once you get going.
The foam is resilient and responsive. I ran road and track in these shoes, and on the track in particular Rocket X 2 feels stable and very fast.
Though it seems to run a little short (I did buy mine in Japan), the upper is simple enough to just slip on, with premium materials to hug and be snug in all the right places.
It was wet when I took my Rocket X 2s for their first run, so I also evaluated the overall "grip" of the outsole: A+ especially when compared to some of the recent super shoe releases.
I think many runner/racers could use this as an everyday "fun" shoe. It feels fast without feeling awkward, geometric, extraterrestrial, or otherwise wacky (see Nike AlphaFly).
Overall, I have direct comparisons in my closet to Saucony Endorphin Elite, Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, Nike Vapor Fly, Nike Alpha Fly v1, Nike Alpha Fly v2.
For Pure Speed: Nike VaporFly still feels the most responsive without feeling firm. Likely great for more experienced runners racing less than half marathon.
For Cushioned Speed: Nike AlphaFly v1 (races up to marathon).
For Combined Speed and Cushion: HOKA Rocket X 2 wins hands (or feet) down. It's smooth right out of the box and doesn't require a whole lot of explaining when it comes to the geometry, foam, plate, or fit.
Notable that Endorphin Elite, which we don't carry, was my Tokyo Marathon choice, but I seriously considered Rocket X 2 even though I bought it the day before the race.
In the Super Shoe category, for off the shelf usability and overall fit (accessibility), I give the edge to Rocket X 2.
- PRC Owner Dave Harkin
Thirsty Thursday run leader & PRC Race Team Captain Brendan Eng wore the Rocket X 2 for last weekend's Shamrock 15K in Portland (above). He was given his pair by HOKA.
As a big HOKA fan, I really wanted the Hoka Rocket X racing shoes to work out. The original Hoka Rocket X was super stiff and lacked the propulsion of other carbon-plated racing shoes like the Nike Vaporfly.
I was so excited to hear that HOKA was fully re-designing the Rocket X 2 to fix all these issues. After using these shoes for a couple of weeks and even doing a race in them, here are my thoughts.
The PEBA foam in Rocket X 2 is insanely soft and bouncy. Even doing my warmup miles for a workout, I felt the incredible propulsion and comfort that I didn’t feel in the original Hoka Rocket X.
The new foam is a lot denser than that in any other shoe I’ve run in, and the shoe has felt comfortable on all runs that I’ve taken it on so far. I would say for sure it’s a great shoe to use for 10K and the half marathon, and depending on how the foam reacts at even longer distances, it could be a great marathon shoe. During the Shamrock 15K, I was shocked to see how easy going fast felt both on the uphill and downhill. I really attribute that feeling to this foam.
The feel of the HOKA Rocket X 2 is different than other racing shoes. I think the synthetic upper is nice and snug on the foot while running, but the snugness comes at the cost of some difficulty of putting the shoe on. The 5 mm drop is lower than the typical 8 mm you see for other racing shoes, so Rocket X 2 can feel a little awkward at first when running in them. But they eventually feel super comfortable.
The scooped carbon plate in Rocket X 2 provides that extra propulsion that is key to running fast. The plate felt a little unusual initially, but it becomes very comfortable after running a bit.
The shoe is super comfortable once you get used to it. The form factor of the shoe really hugs your feet which feels more natural in the later parts of races in comparison to other shoes like the Nike Vaporfly and Alphafly. This PEBA foam is truly something else: It really does give you maximum comfort when racing while still giving you great bounce.
As a runner in rainy Portland, I was also pleasantly surprised by how good the traction of the shoe was on wet surfaces. I’ve used the Rocket X 2 for a workout in a torrential downpour in addition to the Shamrock 15K which was really wet in the latter half of the race. The traction is definitely pretty good, and I would have no qualms recommending this shoe for wet conditions!
Overall, if you’re looking for a fast yet super comfortable racing shoe, the HOKA Rocket X 2 is the shoe for you. The form factor and materials of the shoe are different than anything I’ve run in before, but I think it’s easy to adapt to it.
I can attest to how fast the shoe is: I initially took the Rocket X 2s out for a tempo workout, but I decided to race Shamrock in them since the shoes were just so darned responsive and cushioned. Even after that hilly race, my body felt great. I believe the PEBA foam and carbon plate really helped my body deal well not only with performing but recovery as well.
If you’re looking for a shoe that has top-end speed with great comfort, the HOKA Rocket X 2 is the winner. I think if you’re really comparing comfort and feel, the shoe narrowly beats out the Nike Vaporfly which, although more responsive, doesn’t feel as cushioned/soft. Even as someone who has been a diehard Nike Vaporfly racer for the marathon, I’m so excited to try out the Rocket X 2s for future marathons. Go check them out!