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Road Running Shoes • July 14, 2023

Hoka Mach X Review: A Feast For The Eyes

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What You Need To Know


9.4 oz. (266 g) for a US M10,

8.0 oz. (226 g) for a US W8

Stack Height / Drop

Men: 39 mm in heel, 34 mm in forefoot (5 mm drop)

Women: 37 mm in heel, 32 mm in forefoot (5 mm drop)

Best For

Longer, easy efforts

Key Features

Jacquard mesh upper, Durabrasion rubber outsole, dual-layer PEBA midsole, Pebax plate

On The Run
Absolutely gorgeous Smooth meta rocker


MEAGHAN: Before we dive into the Hoka Mach X, I think we all need to remember a few Summers ago when Hoka released the Bondi X. I was the only one from the team who thought it was a true gem, and now, here we are, in the era of “super trainers.” Max cushioned, plated shoes are everywhere, and they’re no longer just for race day.

The Hoka Mach X comes with some of our favorite qualities from the Mach 5, adds a layer of Peba foam underfoot and a Pebax plate, placing it smack dab in the middle of our Super Trainer category. It’s designed with a creel jacquard upper, thin gusseted tongue and comes with 42 mm of stack in the heel (37 mm in the forefoot, for a 5 mm drop). Whether we want to call this a slimmed-down Bondi X or a kitted-out Mach 5, I think you probably know where this one is going…

SAM: Have you ever had such a bad experience with a food that even the thought of eating it again sends shivers down your spine and makes your stomach queasy? I have a friend who ate too many oysters and is now straight-up allergic to them. Cannot stand the sight of cocktail sauce. I personally hate hard-boiled eggs. Getting yolked at Thanksgiving as a child was a fowl experience; I’ve never been able to enjoy them again.

What does any of this have to do with the Mach X? Well, Hoka is the hard-boiled egg of running for me. After running exclusively in Hokas for a few months in 2020, along with some aggressive overtraining, I was left with multiple stress fractures. Since then, I’ve been wary of trying any Hoka shoe, regardless of their popularity. But when the Mach X came around, I was intrigued. Surely a high stack, plated, super trainer with a nice slab of Hoka’s new PEBA foam could change my opinion. Let’s find out if it did.

CARYN: I’ll start by saying that from where I sit (my couch, currently), the Mach 4 was the shoe that turned the Hoka tide. I was always a bit skeptical of the Hoka bandwagon, probably because it included elite road runners, world-class trail athletes, my coworkers, my coworkers’ Dads, the stylish high school senior down the street, my UPS man, and everyone in between. How could these shoes work for so many different people?

To be honest, I’m somewhat surprised I haven’t seen Hoka enter the dog footwear market, but, I digress. Separately, I may be the only person in the world that doesn’t want a huge slab of marshmallowy cushion underfoot on every run, so investing in a pair of Hokas seemed like a gamble. However, thanks to some Mach 4’s bequeathed to me by a friend, my tune started to change a little.

The Mach certainly wasn’t a max cushion shoe, at least by Hoka standards, and much like my beloved Endorphin Speeds it felt great at a variety of paces. I was so pleasantly surprised by the Mach 4 so much that I purchased the update, enjoying it just as much, if not more.

The way the running shoe industry is moving these days, I feel like someone needs to make a “Put a plate on it!” shirt (shout-out to Portlandia). Every shoe these days seems to have some kind of plated sibling, so I really shouldn’t have been shocked to hear about the Mach X. (For anyone new to the Hoka scene, Hoka gives an ‘X’ designation to any shoe with a plate.) I wondered how Hoka would really improve what was, in my opinion, its most versatile shoe, but I was excited to get the chance to check it out. With a new Pebax plate and some PEBA midsole foam, how could this shoe be anything but stellar?

What we like about the Hoka Mach X

MEAGHAN: I tend to start with aesthetics, I mean, we eat with our eyes first, right? And the Mach X didn’t disappoint. The jacquard upper not only looks great, but it’s also really soft and comfortable. The shoes feel true to size and accommodate my wider foot just fine; there is ample room in the toe box. The somewhat stretchy laces do a nice job of locking the foot down over the very thin, but functional tongue.

Beneath the foot is what I really love about the shoe, though. The Peba foam that sits just below the foot provides a really soft, bouncy feeling out on the roads. The Pebax plate adds some rigidity, and the meta rocker keeps your legs turning over. Once you start running, you just want to keep running. The shoes felt great on easy days, recovery days, longer runs and even those post-run strides. My US W7.5 came in just under 8 ounces, but I think it actually felt lighter out on the roads.

SAM: The Mach X is straight-up gorgeous. I had the white and blue glass colorway and it took all of my strength to put them on and run in them because I did not want to ruin their beautiful exterior. They remind me of a cross between the Nike Air Max 97 and an OBX beach house interior. I am a sucker for white running shoes and the Mach X did not disappoint… on that front, anyway.

After putting them on, I found the step-in comfort to be amazing. The Mach X has a gusseted tongue that is just long enough to provide a snug fit while not getting in the way. The laces are recycled and have a stretch to them that supports lock down. The upper is a “Creel Jacquard upper” which is just a polyester based material. It is simple and comfortable, though I did have some hot spots on the tip of my big toes. I do have to say that I appreciate the wide base in all Hoka shoes, and found it supportive and stable while standing and walking around in the Mach X.

Sadly, this is where the positives end for me. Everything I liked about this shoe is mainly superficial. I will get into it more in the cons, but I loved this shoe up until the moment I started running in it.

CARYN: My first run in this shoe was a toasty 18 miler. Was that a wise choice? No. Did it end up being an issue in this shoe? Also, no. Any shoe that can successfully be taken box-to-18-miler is impressive, no matter how you slice it (diagonally is my preference, if you were curious).

I had no hot spots, no heel slippage, and no new grumpy body parts during or after the run. I love the upper’s jacquard (read: nice, soft knit) material, which somehow remains relatively breathable while offering some structure. I’m a big fan of the many initiatives shoe companies are taking to reduce waste, and Hoka notes that this upper is made from at least partially recycled content.

It’s an odd thing to call out here, but I also loved the laces on this shoe. They have a slight elasticity to them but retain their lockdown throughout the run. Most obviously, the shoe is fantastic looking. I received a light green and white colorway with an iridescent Hoka logo that was giving speedy mermaid vibes… if that’s a thing. I slipped the shoe on briefly the night before my long run, and the plush, springy feel got me pretty excited to try it out despite the swampy Baltimore forecast.

Shop Hoka Mach X - Men Shop Hoka Mach X - Women

What we don’t like about the Hoka Mach X

MEAGHAN: I really don’t have anything negative to say about this shoe. But, if I’m nitpicking, I found that the upper did hang on to some sweat. It’s hot and humid in Baltimore so it’s to be expected, but noting it here.

SAM: Hoka claims that the Mach X is “comfortable enough for daily training but fast enough for race day.” But after 40-50 miles, I found this shoe uncomfortable for daily training and not fast enough for speed work, let alone a race.

To try and figure out why, let’s get into some specs. The Mach X for a Men’s size 9 weighs in around 9.4 oz. Compared to other Hoka shoes, this becomes an issue. On Running Warehouse, the Mach 5 and the Rocket X are listed around 7.5 oz. Meant to be a cross between the Rocket X and the Mach 5, this shoe is nearly 2 oz heavier than both shoes. Weight-wise, it is more comparable to the Bondi or the Arahi, the Bondi being a massive easy day shoe and the Arahi being a firm stability trainer.

The heavy weight of the Mach X was an issue for me because it limited the Mach X’s ability to go fast. I felt that I had to use extra energy to get this shoe moving at faster paces, and that lack of efficiency is something I was not a fan of.

This shoe is also billed as having a “low profile design” to keep the shoe responsive. That’s not true in practice because the Mach X in men’s sizing has a 39 mm stack in the heel and a 34 mm stack in the forefoot. This makes the stack height almost exactly the same as the Clifton 9, moving the Mach X even further away from the lightweight, responsive, and nimble Mach 5 with which it shares a name. It’s very similar in this sense to the Kinvara Pro, which was a far cry from its lightweight and responsive namesake.

This high stack is made up of two midsole foams, the exciting PEBA foam that is featured in the Rocket X and an unspecified EVA foam underneath (could be the Profly+ in the Mach or the standard EVA in the Clifton), as well as a Pebax plate sandwiched in the middle. As wth the Kinvara Pro, there is too much unharmonious tech shoved into this shoe for it to have a specific identity.

The presence of the firm EVA layer adds stability to the shoe, but takes away from the bounce of the PEBA foam. Instead, I found my foot sinking into the PEBA layer with the start of each step and then felt zero response from the rest of the shoe at the end of my stride. Even though you can see the Pebax plate when looking at the bottom of the shoe, it felt M.I.A. on the run.

Running in this shoe for me was comparable to running in deep sand or snow, where it felt like each step was sapping my energy and making keeping pace a challenge. For a shoe billed as a supercharged Mach 5, I found it more to be a supersized Mach 5. A shoe that was once light and nimble filled to the brim with cushion and unable to move.

CARYN: Unfortunately for me, the step-in feel was where the mermaid magic ended. Like I said, the fit of the shoe is fantastic, and mimics that of the Mach 5. The ride however, left me feeling confused and needing more data.

After that first run, I couldn’t stop coming back to how flat the shoe felt. I thought to myself how much more I preferred the Mach 5, which felt so much more versatile compared to this plated version (and $40 cheaper, at that). Picking up the pace felt borderline impossible, and boy did I try. I initially attributed it to the terrible weather or lack of sleep, so I vowed to give it a fair shake on my upcoming vacation.

After 50 more miles in the Mach X, I can’t say much has changed. After digging more into the tech, it seems that Hoka’s intent was to offer a responsive, do-it-all kind of shoe that could be used for “every day speed.” The shoe includes a Pebax plate along with PEBA and EVA midsole foams, which sounds like a match made in heaven.

My deep dive only provided further confusion, however, because this shoe was not even remotely responsive, even with my easy day paces. The shoe almost deadens on impact, dampening the energy of your stride and making turnover challenging. Hoka indicates the shoe is designed with an early-stage meta rocker, which I couldn’t even detect. To me, there was absolutely no roll or pop to be found anywhere in this shoe, unlike one of my recent favorites, the Rocket X 2.

Shop Hoka Mach X - Men Shop Hoka Mach X - Women

Hoka Mach X Conclusion

MEAGHAN: The Hoka Mach X was kind of exactly what I expected, a plated daily trainer that’s super versatile. Whether you’re heading out for a recovery slog or some tempo miles, this is one of those shoes that can handle all of it, really well. I’ll definitely keep this one in the rotation after this review. That’s always a good sign.

SAM: I want to wrap up with a slight disclaimer. Obviously you should take my thoughts with a grain of salt because I came into this review with a bias towards Hoka’s running shoes. It could be that the unique geometry of Hoka’s shoes do not work with my foot. Maybe the meta-rocker does not match my stride. Or it could be that high stack daily trainers are something I need to give up on.

Regardless, I came into this review excited for the Hoka shoe that might change my mind but was let down. The Mach X is now on the Mount Rushmore of disappointment next to the Nike Peg Turbo Next Nature. I found the Mach X neither fast nor comfortable. It was like a hard-boiled egg. Rubbery and bland.

The Mach X weighs too much to be a race day shoe, and the high stack and midsole drained my energy faster than the July heat here in Baltimore. If you want a shoe that looks incredible and might be the fastest walking shoe of all time, go for it. But if you want a shoe that is resilient enough for daily training but fast enough to pick up the pace, the Mach 5 already exists and is $40 cheaper. Or if the high stack super trainer is what you want, the Asics Superblast is the same price and much more exciting. The choice is ultimately yours.

CARYN: In the many places my brain has gone over the course of testing this shoe, I’ve gone so far as to consider that I received a pair of shoes with defective foam. That’s how badly I wanted to love the Mach X. Then again, that’s how we also felt about the Mach Supersonic, so maybe it’s just a trend.

I wonder if perhaps using some of the super critical midsole found in the classic Mach might actually soften the ride a bit and provide a more responsive quality to the shoe, which would make it friendlier for uptempo running (and just generally more enjoyable). Repositioning the metarocker could also help runners with a little more roll, allowing for a smoother overall ride. Unfortunately, this one just missed the mark (Mach?), and I’ll be sticking with the OG Mach from here on out.

You can pick up the Hoka Mach X for $180 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.

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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Oliver says:

    I tried the Mach X on in store along with the New Balance SC Trainer 2. Neither of these super trainers felt close to super underfoot for me. Not enough cush, not enough bounce, not enough snap. As much as I love the idea of them, I’m starting to think this category is aiming for the best of everything, but lands somewhere in the meh of everything. I’ll grant a carve-out for the Endorphin Speed 3, which is the shoe that the category should be trying to emulate but isn’t. Verdict: I’m saving the plate for race day, and feeling good about my current rotation – Nimbus 25, Novablast 3, and Vaporfly 3.

  2. T H says:

    Just tried the shoe for a 3-mile shakeout run sponsored by Hoka. I mostly agree with Caryn’s thoughts for this one. I think it’s fine at longer, slower efforts because of how soft and protective it is, but I tried it at MP and strides at the end of the run, and it just felt like I had to work harder to move it – I can totally feel the “energy sap” that was stated. That being said, $180 for an easy day shoe seems to be a bit much – and goes against what Hoka (and their reps at this event!) keeps stating for this shoe. It is absolutely not a speed day shoe!

  3. Seems more like a BONDI X2 than a Mach. Stiffer and not as cushy as I had hoped.

    After 20 miles and altering my foot strike to be more midfoot- it started to soften.

    But what is making me return these is the tongue. It’s too short and slides down below the laces- bunches up because it has a padding but no lace loop. It’s a shame.

    Please make a lace loop in version 2 and a longer tongue and I’ll try again.

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Meaghan Murray
Boss Lady
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Meaghan signed up for her first marathon three weeks before the race, because it was $10 more than the half she planned to run. She learned everything in running the hard way. Now a USATF & UESCA certified run coach, she loves encouraging friends to go for big goals as she continues to chase faster times. She enjoys a hot cup of coffee, a cold martini, and making bagels for friends and family.

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Caryn Just
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Caryn is a recovering ball sports athlete and native Baltimorean who used to cry before the timed mile in gym class. Discovered running somewhat reluctantly when her pants stopped fitting in college, now a big fan of the marathon– go figure! Pediatric ICU nurse and avid UVA sports fan. Can usually be found with her chocolate lab, Gus, looking for a good cup of coffee.

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Sam Sheldon
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Sam tried every other sport before settling on running as a senior in high school. He’s never looked back. He can be found doing workouts in Patterson Park, talking shop with the Faster Bastards, or hitting long runs on the NCR trail. When not running, Sam is a teacher in the Baltimore City Public School District. His other loves are cooking, coffee, breweries, books, basketball, and alliteration. 

All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Endorphin Speed 2, Nike Vaporfly Next%, Asics Novablast 3

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