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Road Running Shoes • February 21, 2019

HOKA ONE ONE Carbon Rocket Performance Review

When I received the Carbon Rocket I opened the box like a fat kid opens a candy wrapper. Which is to say, fast. Cause like, that kid loves candy. Especially the marshmallowy kind. The same kind that makes up a Hoka midsole. Anyway.

While my favorite race day candy is the Vaporfly 4%, I couldn’t wait to see if I was holding another gravity-defying foot missile. I whipped out the bright banana colored trainer and immediately slipped it on my foot. Unable to control myself, I jogged across our living room. Exhausted after my little .005k workout, I neatly placed the Carbon Rockets at the top of the stairs and went to bed, eager to legitimately test the shoes in the morning. Would these be a contender to the Vaporfly throne?

hoka one one Carbon rocket

The Good

The recently departed Karl Lagerfeld once said, “Black-and-white always looks modern, whatever that word means.” And I admit I love my black running shoes, but my collection is starting to look too monochromatic. So when I gazed down on my bright yellow and sky blue Carbon Rockets, it put a smile on my face.

The material over the toe box is breathable with a light mesh over a honeycomb. The thin tongue is attached on both sides by light elastic spandex, probably the same stuff Lululemon used for that “sheer pants disaster.” With the spandex and flat, stretchy laces, the fit over the arch is money. Some reviewers have suggested going down a half size; however, mine fit just right with a thumbnail between my big toe and the tip of the shoe. I recommend going with your regular size.

Inside the Hoka Carbon Rocket, you will find an Ortholite footbed. I always appreciate the upgraded footbed. You can feel the carbon plate in the Rocket; the shoe is rigid. This is the first shoe that I have worn in a while that requires break-in time. Both the midsole and the carbon plate took time to soften up. More about that in a minute.

The carbon plate does provide pop right out of the gate. On the ball of my foot is where I noticed the plate the most, there seems to be a flex point there. The outsole is exposed EVA with some rubber under the big toe and ball of the foot on the medial side, along with a little on the heel. As expected after 20+ miles (including a 5k), there is no noticeable wear. The Hoka One One Carbon Rocket has a 1mm drop (why) and weighs 241 grams/8.45 ounces for a size 10.5.

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Hoka one one Carbon rocket

The Bad

I can only guess Hoka made the Carbon Rocket 1mm drop to get the most out of their carbon plate. Maybe a midfoot strike loads the plate for a more efficient toe-off. Whatever it is, as a runner that has sensitive Achilles and calves, I had to limit my mileage in the Carbon Rocket. Most of the shoes I am currently reviewing are 10mm drop, so after a few miles in with the Carbon Rocket, I could start to feel my calves getting sore.

For the record, I can usually go down to 4mm drop without any calf/Achilles issues. To be fair, this more of a “me” problem, not a flaw with the shoe. I would caution any runner that has had issues with calf strains or Achilles to be careful with this shoe. Between the 1mm drop and the carbon plate load put on your lower leg, it could be a bad mix. If you run in Altra, then these might be an amazing race day shoe for you.

In the good, I mentioned that the shoes need to be broken in. The midsole and plate are so rigid in the beginning, I had heel lift from the bottom of the shoe because it is so inflexible. The heel lift was less noticeable after 10-miles in the shoe, but it still lifts with thinner socks after 20+ miles.

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hoka one one carbon rocket

Hoka One One Carbon Rocket Conclusion

Despite the 1mm drop issues, I enjoyed running the 5k in the Carbon Rocket. The race was part of a challenge called the Booby Trap (no comments from the peanut gallery, it was part of the Donna Marathon, providing assistance and support to those living with breast cancer). The two parts of the challenge were a 5k followed by a half marathon or marathon the next day. I was instructed by my coach to run the 5k “easy, use it as a shakeout run.” I followed his instructions. Oddly, the easy run in the Carbon Rocket was faster than my normal pace with similar easy effort feel. I ended up with a 24:27 (7:52 pace) jogging the 5k.

When we posted pics of the shoe on Instagram, everyone wanted to know if the Carbon Rocket would be the first competition for the Vaporfly. While the Carbon Rocket is no substitute for the Vaporfly, it is a better shoe than the Nike Zoom Fly FK with React and a carbon plate. The Carbon Rocket is about the same weight as the Nike Epic React and a full ounce heavier than the Vaporfly 4% FK. Unlike the Vaporfly’s $250 price tag the Carbon Rocket retails for $160 and can be used for more than just racing IMO.

Shoes to compare:

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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Jon Blair says:

    I recently bought a pair of carbon rockets and found them to be slower than my Brooks Hyperion(not elite). I’m a neutral mid sole striker that likes the lower drop so they should suit me as I run an easy 18.30ish 5k and 37/38 10k.. Right now they are somewhere between my daily rocket saucony ISO ride 2 and Brooks Hyperion. Interesting shoe though.

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