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Hoka Carbon X 3 Review: A Step Backward in the Evolution of Racing Shoes

CEO Tinh Phung
Introduction The evolution of the Hoka Carbon X series has been an intriguing journey to witness. Hoka was among the first brands to introduce a lightweight, high-stack, carbon-plated racing shoe after Nike's groundbreaking Vaporfly. However,...

Introduction

The evolution of the Hoka Carbon X series has been an intriguing journey to witness. Hoka was among the first brands to introduce a lightweight, high-stack, carbon-plated racing shoe after Nike's groundbreaking Vaporfly. However, the question lingered: Was the Carbon X a racing shoe or a long-distance trainer? With the release of the Hoka Carbon X 3, we were hoping to see a refinement of the shoe that addressed some of the previous versions' shortcomings.

The Good

The midsole of the Hoka Carbon X 3 remains largely unchanged, which is great news for fans of the previous versions. The thick layer of EVA-based foam provides a cushioned and responsive underfoot feel, complemented by the carbon plate that guides your foot into a preferred toe-off position. The shoe's rocker shape ensures a smooth transition with each stride. In terms of durability, the exposed EVA outsole holds up exceptionally well, even after logging over 50 miles in the shoe.

From a visual standpoint, the Hoka Carbon X 3 is a stunner. The vibrant mango orange and sherbet pink color combination is eye-catching, ensuring you'll stand out in a crowd. Additionally, the shoe's generous fit, especially in the toebox and midfoot area, accommodates a wide range of foot sizes.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the Hoka Carbon X 3 falls short in some areas, particularly with its new knit upper. Unlike well-executed knit uppers that mold and stretch to the foot, the Carbon X 3's upper feels rigid and loose, lacking the flexibility and secure fit of its counterparts. The material's bagginess causes folding and buckling when the shoe is laced up, leading to an uncomfortable fit, especially when paired with the inflexible midsole.

Furthermore, the Hoka Carbon X 3 seems to be caught in an identity crisis. While it may not deliver the same race-day experience as other carbon-plated shoes, it excels as a training shoe. The firm midsole, pronounced meta rocker, and low drop provide a smooth and consistent ride at a variety of paces. However, when it comes to top-speed performance, the shoe lacks the pop and responsiveness of its competitors.

Hoka Carbon X 3 Conclusion

Overall, the Hoka Carbon X 3 feels like a step backward in the evolution of racing shoes. The ill-fitting knit upper hampers the shoe's performance, and the midsole foam could benefit from a slightly softer feel. Hoka should continue to experiment with different foam compositions to reclaim their status as the gold standard for lightweight, high-stack cushioning. As of now, other brands like New Balance and Asics offer better lightweight options in terms of underfoot cushioning.

In the rapidly expanding market of carbon-plated shoes, it's challenging to find the right scenario where the Hoka Carbon X 3 shines. It may not possess the race-day prowess or training versatility to justify its $200 price tag. Hopefully, Hoka will learn from this iteration's missteps and deliver a much-improved product in the fourth generation of the Carbon X series.

Hoka Carbon X 3 Upper Caption: The distinctive split/two-tone upper of the Hoka Carbon X 3.

You can find the Hoka Carbon X 3 for $200 at Running Warehouse, which offers free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns.

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