What You Need To Know
- Our takeaways from The Running Event 2022 in Austin, Texas
- Highlights from Hoka include the Rocket X 2, Tecton X 2, and Mach X
- No word on Rincon 4 (we tried) and we did have some photos of the Mach X, but it’s under embargo until summer 2023
- Not fully inclusive of all 2023 shoes (some FW shoes may still be under embargo)
Rearrange the letters in the Hoka name for a short summation of their recent lineup of running shoes: “OK, ha.” Such was the extent of our excitement of Hoka in 2022.
Call it a mixed bag, but the past 12 months of Hoka have seen an underwhelming string of releases (Kawana, Mach Supersonic), punctuated by some real bangers (Tecton X, Mach 5). But that’s okay, everyone has a down year, and we’re always willing to let bygones be bygones (except in the case of the Brooks Hyperion Elite 1… no forgiveness for that one). Anyway, let’s look forward to 2023.
On the first morning of The Running Event, we met with Rebekah Broe, Director of Product for Performance Footwear (formerly of New Balance and also our second-ever guest on The Drop podcast) to talk about what’s coming next year.
First, and certainly most exciting, was the elephant in the room, the big ol’ block of racing foam we’ve seen on athletes like Camille Herron and Stephanie Bruce over the past few months: the Hoka Rocket X 2.
While the original Hoka Carbon Rocket may have been memory-holed thanks to its status as a junk shoe (essentially the dial-up internet of carbon-plated shoes), they were at least second to the market behind the Nike Vaporfly in the carbon racing game. That was three years ago. One year later, Hoka tried again with the first Rocket X. It was… fine. That’s it. Essentially, it was a lighter and faster Carbon X. If you haven’t noticed yet, every Hoka shoe with an X in the name is a carbon-plated shoe.
And then we waited. Like Rose recalling her star-crossed tale of Jack aboard the Titanic, it had been 84 years since Hoka had a racing shoe, or something like that. Monarchies turned into democracies, Ice Ages came and went. Literally every shoe company, including Skechers and Atreyu (basically a bunch of kids working in a back boiler room), has come out with a carbon-plated race day shoe, and most are better than Hoka.
Which begs the question: is a Hoka race shoe even exciting at this point? Well, yes, it’s a new carbon-plated racing shoe with a Peba midsole. You put all those words together, and how can we not have a shoegasm?
So what’s exciting about the Hoka Rocket X 2? We’re happy to report that Hoka has finally cheated on its decade-long relationship with EVA and is now canoodling with a new side-piece in the form of Peba. Much like PeDa (that’s Pete Davidson’s nickname, right?), Peba steals all the celebrity girlfriends (and boyfriends) that EVA was dating over the last ten years. The Rocket X 2 now has a full Peba midsole, with a softer layer on top for more bounce and a firmer layer on the bottom for more resiliency. A full-length carbon plate is there for the desired stabilization and propulsion. Combine it all with Hoka’s Meta Rocker technology, and you got us all hot and bothered for some fast miles. The design is on point as well.
As far as the weight, it does come in at 8.3 ounces for a US M10 (note that many brands use a US M9 or even an M8 for weight measurements). Either way, it isn’t the most featherweight of racers, but it’s still lighter than the Nike Alphafly Next% 2. Oddly enough, we didn’t get the exact stack height measurements on this one, but we can pretty much assure you it’s 40mm in the heel. If you do want to race in the shoe at Boston, as Steph Bruce did last year, then you can pick it up in March for $250 (the featured colorway in this review is a fall/winter release, btw).
So what else excited us? Well, there’s the Clifton 9, which at this point is the Honda Accord of max cushion shoes. Exciting? Maybe not. Promising? For sure. The stack height has been increased for more cushion (now 35mm in the heel) and is apparently softer. Narrow fit has always been an issue with the Clifton, so we’re happy to report the midfoot is slightly wider, and the outsole has increased medial coverage. Yes, the midsole is still Hoka’s EVA, but supposedly the durometer has been tweaked to make it a bit softer. That one comes on February 15 for $145.
On the trail side, the most exciting thing was, no doubt, the Tecton X 2. Considering how long the wait was between carbon-plated road shoes, we can’t lie when we say we were a bit shocked at seeing an update to the Tecton X less than a year after the first version came out. Hoka athlete Jim Walmsley worked directly on this one with Hoka, and good news— they didn’t change much to the shoe that won Best Trail Racing Shoe of 2022 here at Believe in the Run. The midsole composition is the same as the original, which was a perfect balance of comfort, light weight, and responsiveness. It should’ve been used in a road shoe.
However, the Tecton X loses some weight in the upper and uses a super durable Matryx upper. From holding it, it appears they fixed the issues with the original version, which is the only problem we had with that shoe. It was a bit too baggy, too unstructured, kind of an afterthought. That seems to have changed with the Tecton X 2. If they indeed shored up the upper, then this may be close to the perfect trail racing shoe. Also, the price tag got a big bump in this one— what used to be a $200 shoe will now run you $225.
Before we leave, we should mention that we saw the Mach X, but… we know nothing about it. Our interview had commenced and only afterward did we realize it was even on the floor. The fact that it wasn’t brought out and discussed most likely means it’s coming in FW2023, and since we know it’ll have a carbon-fiber plate, we expect it to employ the same type of thing we saw in the Bondi X. That is, a more-rockered, carbon-plated version of the Mach. Is that even a thing that’s necessary? Who knows, but the people want their carbon, so give them what they want.
Also, we had photos and posted but were then told it’s under embargo. They’ve probably been copied and shared a thousand times by now so you can probably track it down if you really want to. Happy hunting.
Other than that, we saw a few other shoes, which we’ll touch on below, but nothing as exciting as the Rocket X 2 and Tecton X 2. The good news? We have one shoe without an EVA midsole. Whether that’s your race day shoe or not, we’re happy to see Hoka catching back up to other brands.
HOKA ROCKET X 2
WEIGHT: 8.3 oz (235 g) for a US M10
RELEASE DATE: March 2023
NOTABLE FEATURES: Used by Steph Bruce in Boston, currently on the feet of top Hoka athletes. Peba top and bottom layer with a softer layer on top. Full-length carbon fiber plate.
HOKA CLIFTON 9
STACK/DROP: 35mm heel, 4mm drop
WEIGHT: Just under 9 oz (250 g)
RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2023
NOTABLE FEATURES: Top and bottom update. Increased softness and resiliency. Midsole is still EVA based. Increased outsole medial coverage. Slightly wider in the midfoot. Jacquard upper. Reflective details in forefoot and heel.
HOKA CHALLENGER ATR 7
STACK/DROP: 31mm / 26mm
RELEASE DATE: December 2022; Gore-Tex version in February 23
PRICE: $145 / Gore-Tex $160
NOTABLE FEATURES: Top-to-bottom update. New outsole update features slightly refined lug placement to ensure smooth ride on the road but adequate transition to trail. Solid rubber outsole (not Vibram, though).
HOKA TECTON X 2
RELEASE DATE: April 2023
NOTABLE FEATURES: Jim Walmsley worked on this one with HOKA. Midsole is the same as version one. Two layers of Profly foam, parallel carbon-fiber plate setup (think independent suspension). Lighter Matryx upper material offers better strength-to-weight ratio. Vibram Megagrip Litebase on outsole.
Watch the full rundown and interview with Rebekah Broe on YouTube!