MEAGHAN: The HOKA Bondi has always been a favorite of mine. It’s the cushiest of cushy HOKAs and is the best recovery day shoe. Let’s start out by saying the original Bondi line isn’t going anywhere, Consider the Bondi X an elevated offshoot of the original line. Like other shoes in HOKA’s lineup (Carbon X, Rocket X), the ‘X’ in the name designates the use of a carbon plate in the midsole. A carbon plate in a beach cruiser? That’s like dropping a nitrous oxide booster into a Cadillac. Is this something we needed? Maybe, maybe not.
But the folks over at HOKA specifically said that this shoe was targeted towards runners who love the high stack comfort shoes but were scared away from the racers that typically employ the carbon tech. So why not make one for the people? Commence the Bondi X – carbon for the rest of us.
THOMAS: Unlike Meaghan, the Bondi hasn’t always been a favorite for me. In the past, I’ve found the line to be overly soft and on the heavier side of the scale. I was curious to see if adding a plate to the Bondi would change my mind.
ROBBE: Unlike Thomas and Meaghan, I’ve never run in a Bondi, so I’m coming into this thing naked and afraid. Or something. And before I start my review, I’d like to point out the strange times in which we live – I mean look at this behemoth of a shoe. It looks good, maybe even great (how, nobody is sure), despite the fact that 10 years ago you would’ve got your ass kicked if you laced this thing up for anything other than a space mission. Humans are weird, fads/trends are weirder.
MEAGHAN: I have to start with the aesthetics because I freakin’ love the look of this shoe. The nearly all-white upper and midsole with a pop of yellow is the summer colorway we need right now (though it comes out in October, so… maybe you’ll need it then as well?).
The upper is an engineered mesh that’s fairly breathable and lightweight; it’s simple in design with minimal overlays. The padding is substantial through the heel and collar which gives you that plush feel the Bondi is known for. The tongue has been slimmed down a bit, but I don’t miss the padding there. HOKA kept the flat, stretchy laces which do a nice job of securing the foot down. Overall, it’s super comfortable.
Now onto the good stuff. The thick midsole and carbon fiber plate combo is quite the treat. You’ve got 31 mm of cush in the heel and 26 mm in the forefoot for a 4 mm drop (the stack looks significantly higher on the sides, but it’s purely aesthetic). The midsole foam is a full-length compression-molded EVA, the same stuff in the previous Bondi model. It’s dense, but has a nice bounce to it – paired with the carbon fiber plate you get an extra responsive ride that feels smooth and bouncy, and can even pick up the pace.
I know what you’re thinking: a fast Bondi? It happened. They added an electric bike conversion kit to this beach cruiser and I love it. The best part? It still feels great on recovery runs. The extended crash pad provides a nice soft landing and the rocker geometry keeps the momentum in your legs going and feeling fresh.
My W7.5 came in at 9.2oz, not the lightest shoe out there, but worth every ounce.
THOMAS: The Bondi is still the king of underfoot comfort, and the Bondi X feels as soft and plush as the Bondi, even with a carbon plate. There is no mystery as to why the Bondi is a favorite among walkers and professionals that spend all day on their feet. It feels good.
The upper of the Bondi X is light and breathable with padding around the ankle and heel counter. The tongue is thin and gusseted to serve up protection from the laces and help lock your foot in over the midsole. Overall the fit of the upper is so good you don’t think about it.
To keep the comfort theme rolling, HOKA threw in an Ortholite footbed on top of the thick 33 mm X 28 mm midsole (for men). That’s a 4 mm drop. The Bondi X midsole doesn’t feel like a big departure from the non-plated Bondi. It has the soft bouncy feel that the Bondi faithful love, but the carbon plate provides some rigidity that helps with stability.
The carbon plate also helps give the Bondi X a smooth roll through the stride phases. That said, if you are looking for the Bondi to become a racing shoe because of the mere presence of a carbon plate, you will be disappointed. Could it work as a first-time marathon shoe? Sure. But a faster, cushioned racer it is not, with my US size 10 weighing 11.25 oz./319 grams.
ROBBE: Having never run in the Bondi before (I’m really not a fan of most max cushion shoes), I was totally prepared to hate the Bondi X. But then I put it on, grabbed some miles in it, and was pleasantly surprised at what I got in return.
Does it look good? I guess that’s subjective. I think it looks as good as it can for what it is. I still like a shoe that looks more like a shoe and less like a life raft, but that’s just me. I’ll say it looks interesting and leave it at that. Sometimes that’s good enough.
The construction is well done throughout. The upper locks down and fits perfectly. I really loved the lockdown and design of the Clifton Edge from last year, and that gave me some of the same feelings. No issues with breathability here.
Moving onto the ride – I mean, it’s fun. Tons of comfort with that generous stack of midsole, but the carbon fiber stabilizes and firms it up a touch so that you feel sure-footed. The metarocker geometry combined with the levered carbon plate propels you through each step with an almost effortless ease. It just rolls right along, cushioned footfall to cushioned footfall. I land more in the midfoot so I don’t think the swallowtail heel design really affects my stride, but the purpose of the cutout heel is to provide that rolling transition to heel strikers.
The whole enterprise is surprisingly stable thanks in part to that aforementioned plate right in the middle (the blue outline on the midsole denotes its location and form), as well as the wide platform of the shoe.
Once this shoe gets going it really just keeps going, though I do feel that getting it up to speed can be a little bit of a chore.Shop HOKA BONDI – Men Shop HOKA BONDI – Women
MEAGHAN: The only complaint I have is that I had some heel slippage. It didn’t create any hot spots or blisters, but I did notice a squishing sound out on the run. I stopped a couple times to tighten up the laces which helped. I’m sure the copious amounts of sweat rolling into the shoes also contributed, but you may want to go down a half size if you prefer a snug fit.
The real downside to the HOKA Bondi X might be the price tag. You’ll have to shell out $200. The redeeming quality is that you will get tons of miles out of this shoe… and they will definitely be enjoyable.
THOMAS: My first couple of runs, I did experience some heel slip, but after the shoe broke in, the slip went away. A bigger issue was the hotspot behind my big toe on my left foot. The first time that I noticed it, the hotspot seemed to fade. I then wore the Rincon 3 before going back to the Bondi X. I had no hotspot in the Rincon 3, but when I put the Bondi X back on… hotspot.
My only other gripe is that I wish the tongue was a centimeter taller. The top of the tongue barely provides coverage for the spot where you tie the laces together. It didn’t create any issues, but it would help me sleep better if it was a smidge taller. Finally, $200 seems high, I’d probably stick to the $150 non plated version, unless, like Meaghan, you really love the Bondi and want that extra performance boost from the plate.
ROBBE: The price is stupid and is tied for the most expensive HOKA road shoe to date. I was a bit shocked when I first saw the price, especially when you consider the shoe is directed towards Bondi diehards, who will now be paying a 33% premium over the $150 regular Bondi. A carbon plate is not worth an extra $50. Change my mind.
I’m not sure how Thomas and meg didn’t mention this, but by literal design alone, this shoe is clunky as f***. It’s not overly heavy (though it sure isn’t light), but it’s just … boxy? I guess this is what happens when you put a Bondi on a non-Bondi boi, so buyer beware if you haven’t been initiated into this big box universe.
Also, as Thomas mentioned, the tongue could be a little longer. It’s dangerously close to laces-on-the-skin territory.Shop HOKA BONDI – Men Shop HOKA BONDI – Women
MEAGHAN: I’ve been wearing this shoe nearly non-stop since I received it, having put in close to 75 miles at this point. As I’m upping my miles for marathon training, I’ve been craving a super plush, cushy shoe for recovery days, and this one fits the bill. Not only have I enjoyed the recovery days, but I used this shoe for a long run with some marathon pace effort and it felt great. From 9-minute miles to 6-minute miles, the HOKA Bondi X is a delight. This one will be staying in my rotation without question.
THOMAS: When I first got the Bondi X, I thought “why?” We have the Carbon X2 for plated comfort miles. The two shoes feel similar enough. However, if you want that ultra-plush feel of the Bondi, you might disagree. I love the comfort of the Bondi, but I have never been able to use the shoes for anything but easy mileage. A $200 recovery shoe might be a little extravagant, but since we have them, I will be using these for easy luxurious miles until they break down. Be a dear and pass the caviar, the saltiness cuts the sweetness of my Maurten gels. Pinkies up.
ROBBE: If you love the Bondi, or any other max cushion shoe for that matter, you’re probably going to love this shoe, price point withstanding. I may or may not lace this up for recovery runs, but as someone who loves a firmer and faster shoe, I’ll probably keep this on the sidelines except in the case of peak marathon training emergencies.
Speaking of peaks, have we reached peak carbon plate madness? With the plated Bondi X, it seems we have. Until you realize we have a whole territory of trail running to explore…
You can pick up the HOKA Bondi X on October 1 for $200 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop HOKA BONDI – Men Shop HOKA BONDI – Women