Hoka Tecton X Review: A Seismic Trail Running Shift?
9.5 oz. (269 g) for a US M10.5,
8.1 oz. (229 g) for a US W8.5
33 mm in heel, 29 mm in forefoot (4 mm drop)
Supercritical, nitrogen-infused midsole. Responsive and bouncy without being unstable.
Dual and parallel carbon-fiber plates (think independent suspension)
Responsive and fast, winner of our 2022 award for Best Trail Racing Shoe
TAYLOR: I have no shame in saying that I’ve been catching myself humming T-Swizzie’s ’22’ more often this year. Haven’t we all? ’22 has already been a stellar year for the running shoe industry. Last year’s addition of carbon-plated shoes to the trail game was just the tip of the iceberg.
I want to think that it’s only going to get better throughout the year, but I can’t confidently say that because one of the most anticipated trail shoes has already shown up! Hoka Tecton X, baby! It’s new and sporting some never-before-seen stuff (both trails and roads). At the same time, the Tecton X holds onto some key detailing that makes it uniquely Hoka.
Hoka is making a bold move in rethinking the carbon-plated racer for the trail scene. This shouldn’t be all the surprising since their whole concept was based on a far-out idea for the time! And can anybody say TenNine? Being bold is kind of in their wheelhouse.
Our current carbon plate landscape uses a singular plate as a glorified support system. Yes, the plates tended to add a little extra pop, but it wasn’t nearly what the road realm experienced. I want to take a moment to appreciate the pioneers of carbon in the trail scene like the North Face Flight Vectiv, Speedland SL:PDX, and Adidas Terrex Agravic Ultra.
Let’s face it, though — there’s a lot more to be done in this realm. Shoes like this Hoka Tecton X are taking the next significant steps in innovation and performance. This one is shaking things up a little bit (Yes, that was an earthquake pun).
ALEX: The Tecton X is the first carbon fiber plated trail shoe from Hoka. Designed with racing in mind, this shoe has a need for speed. Two unconnected carbon fiber plates run parallel to the length of the shoe to provide a smooth, propulsive ride over a variety of terrain. Think of a dual-suspension system within your shoe. Or, you know, think of the actual floating tectonic plates on the earth’s mantle. This is cool science, but we’ll have to see how it translates to shoe design.
Until recently, my experience with carbon things was limited to ski boots, bike frames, and a small chunk of pencil lead that got stuck in my hand in 7th grade that’s still there. Oh, and that one time when I was prescribed a walking boot for eight weeks and substituted the Hoka Carbon X to go for a walk during week four. The experience that made me fully appreciate what a plate can do arrived as the Speedland SL:PDX. The removable Carbitex carbon plate enabled me to experience the transformation in a single shoe.
MATT: We’re barely into February as I write this review, but I think we may be seeing trail shoes reach their peak with the arrival of the Hoka Tecton X. Unlike that one guy we all knew that peaked in high school, accomplishing this with the Tecton X is far from a bad thing.
Last year we saw the carbon plate technology start to spill onto the trails, but except for the Speedland SL:PDX, the offerings left much to be desired. At least, they didn’t reach the expectations of what we saw on the roads.
Enter the Tecton X. Hoka is stepping up its innovation and introducing a slew of new features, highlighted by a dual carbon plate system that could have the shoe flying off the shelves in 2022.
TAYLOR: From a Hoka fan’s perspective, this is essentially a race formulated amalgamation of many of their trail shoes combined and then some! There are hints of the Evo Mafate, tastes of the Speedgoat, notes of the Zinal, some flavor of the Challenger, and zing from the Carbon X. At the same time, this feels like a new shoe. There’s a lot to love here!
The Tecton X has X factors! Hoka notes that ProflyX is a package deal with a couple of layers of foam, carbon plates, and a rockered midsole. This combo makes me giddy! The North Face Flight Vectiv had a similar package, but the underfoot feel in the Tecton X takes the experience up three-fold. This package has top-notch marks in cushion, responsiveness, transition, the whole kit-and-kaboodle. From a long-distance racing perspective (with some limitations), it has everything.
Not just one, but two carbon plates run parallel to each other. Better than any other carbon-plated trail shoe, they provide quite a bit of pop. They feel reasonably rigid, but they have much more play over proper trail terrain than any other plated shoe (except for the Speedland SL:PDX with Carbitex plate). The reactive plates were well-noted when running uphill, smoother downhill, and flat less-technical terrain. Runners will find some smooth running with extra zip on most terrain.
Plates alone won’t give you all the perks. Two brand-spankin’ new foams sandwich the plates. The foam closer to the foot is softer, while the underlying foam is highly responsive. Naturally, the mix creates a medium to medium/soft density. Add in the rockered profile, and, personally, it feels like the land of milk and honey — such a delicious combo! Typically, cushion and responsiveness wrestle for position, but here you get both.
Even though the Tecton X is a neutral shoe, it’s a stable package without necessarily feeling the part. A broader footprint helps with natural-feeling stability. However, it’s not so wide as to feel like you’re being bumped or shoved back to the center. It’s a much more natural feeling than that. For races spanning beyond a few hours, this natural “stability” will reduce fatigue. It’s not a new or surprising thing for Hoka shoes, but it is important to note as this is slated to be that ultra racer.
Vibram Megagrip Litebase has been making appearances on many shoes over the past year. It gives all the benefits of Megagrip’s tackiness throughout all conditions but in a lighter, more race-ready package. Litebase leaves most of the midfoot exposed and concentrates shallow grippy lugs on the forefoot and heel. I found that this worked great on various surfaces except for the obvious muddy segments or unpacked snow.
Going along with the versatile theme, I appreciated the jacquard mesh upper. This single layer of mesh feels delightful surrounding the foot, is breathable, and provides a great stretch to resistance ratio for a huggy type fit. It reminds me of both the TenNine and Merrell’s Moab Flight. Both ranked high in comfort and performance, and the Tecton does too.
The toebox feels a lot more like the Mafate series that has a little more volume in terms of shape. The midfoot and heel are closer to what you’d expect from the Speedgoat or Challenger with a more fitted feel. It is, dare I say it, a nearly perfect fitting upper all the way around. The lacing is also unique as it runs almost clear to the toes. Mountaineering, climbing, and approach shoes may use a similar lacing strategy. There’s another inch or so to play with dialing in the fit. As one who holds foot security in high order, this addition is subtle but much appreciated.
As if all that wasn’t enough, the Tecton X is a lightweight package. 9.5 ounces for a men’s size 10.5 is very light for a trail shoe. That weight for a max-cushioned trail runner is straight-up bonkers! By comparison, the sleek minimally cushioned Zinal weighed 9.1 ounces in the same size, Flight Vectiv was 10.7 ounces, SL:PDX hits 11.7 ounces, and the Agravic Ultra lands at 12.5 ounces.
ALEX: It looks good and feels SO good. The colorway of this one makes me want to run fast. Who knew all I needed was a fiery jacquard mesh upper to break out of my winter plod?! Fingers crossed that the 2022 colorways will directly impact my UltraSignup score this year.
The lightweight jacquard engineered mesh is highly breathable and will drain well — it’s minimal, and there are no overlays apart from a protective toe bumper. The upper is similar to that of the Hoka Mach series. The fit is excellent, and I was able to get a comfortable lockdown right away. The upper combined with the partially gusseted tongue that runs nearly to the toe of the shoe comes together to provide a secure fit with some Hoka Evo Speedgoat-esque stretch in the forefoot.
Hoka nailed the tongue and heel collar on this one. The heel collar is lightly padded and flexible, unlike some heel collars I know (see recent heel cup and collar rant in Saucony Peregrine 12 review), and the tongue is soft and curves perfectly to fit the front of the ankle. I appreciate not having to take a pair of scissors to my new shoes to make them comfortable. Win.
The ProFlyX midsole construction combines an ultra-soft foam layer that sits just under the foot to maximize comfort and a responsive foam base bottom layer that provides a springy, energetic feel. It’s a great combination, and that soft foam layer makes the shoe feel cushier than other carbon-plated options out there.
The Vibram Megagrip outsole construction is equipped with Litebase, a sticky rubber technology that maximizes ground contact and traction. Hoka shaved weight in the outsole with 4mm lugs and minimal construction and coverage.
The whole package weighs in at just slightly over 8 oz for a women’s 8.5.
MATT: There is a lot to discuss here, so I’ll try and break things down.
Let’s first talk about the overall construction of the Tecton X. In my opinion, this shoe will win over all the Ultra runners who have been grieving the death of the Speedgoat EVO (bold words, I know).
The Tecton X mirrors the dimensions of the newest Speedgoat with stack measurements of 33mm/29mm and a 4mm drop. However, despite the ample cushion, it’s more than 20 grams lighter, coming in just above 9 oz for my size 10s. This is pretty amazing, retaining the sought-after midsole plush but shaving things down to the weight of a proper competition-worthy shoe.
The upper is pretty dreamy, too. It’s a jacquard mesh, which is breathable and drains quickly, and it’s engineered from recycled and vegan material, so bonus points to Hoka. The fit is secure yet comfortable, and I was able to get a dialed-in fit right away. Even the tongue accentuates the fit by providing a thin feel, with subtle padding where the laces rest.
There’s a lot of magic happening through the midsole, which works in synergy to provide a lively, yet cushioned ride. It’s one of the best I’ve tested in the past few years. The midsole is constructed of ProFlyX, essentially a combination of two different foams, dual carbon plates, and a rocker. The foam combo works well together — just the right mix of spring, comfort, and ground feel. Hoka states that the second layer is comprised of the same new supercritical foam featured in the new Carbon X3, but I’m skeptical because these two shoes feel entirely different.
The carbon plates are another example of some cutting-edge design. The two plates run parallel from heel out to the toes, and you can really feel the added propulsion. If the shoe was a chassis, the plates serve as struts that generate spring and provide lateral movement. This seems to be where they’ve addressed one of the downfalls in previous attempts to migrate carbon-plated road tech to the trails.
While there is an expected amount of rigidity, you get the sway and give needed while cutting and weaving on the trails.
Finally, the outsole. Up to this point, we’ve talked about all of the new design elements that Hoka brought to the Tecton X. I always say that the best shoes are the ones that carefully straddle the line between changing what’s broken but not changing for the sake of change. Hoka’s trail shoes have always offered a rock-solid bed of Vibram Megagrip rubber and strategically placed lugs that don’t need to be overly aggressive to work. That combination holds true with the Tecton X, with 4mm lugs attached to the before-mentioned Vibram outsole. This combination just works. It can handle various conditions and surfaces, is sticky and secure enough for technical routes, and won’t make you hate yourself if you encounter a few miles of blacktop.
Hoka used a zonal rubber construction that effectively sheds some weight with a thinner profile, but any detriment to the ride’s comfort wasn’t noticeable in my testing.Shop HOKA Trail – Men Shop HOKA Trail – Women
TAYLOR: As much as it seems that the Tecton X is ultra racing gold, all gold needs refining. The biggest issue that I experienced was that it can get pretty shifty. The segmented plates make for a much more versatile ride comparatively. However, it doesn’t roll with changing ground as easily as some more technically suited shoes like the Adidas Terrex Speed Ultra, Asics Fuji Lite 2, SL:PDX, or Zinal. On a few different occasions where I stepped on a sharply uneven surface (edge of a rock or over a root), I noticed the plates react sharply themselves. This has been the whole hesitation of bringing highly reactive plates to the trail world in the first place. This would only happen with some unique steps. In general, over moderately technical terrain (or less), the Hoka Tecton X ran dang near flawlessly.
Along the same vein, this shoe is not for off-trail or running fast on technical terrain. Leave that to something like the Torrent or Zinal. It is lighter and handles well when responding quickly, but consistently uneven technical terrain will be too much for this shoe to handle. In the short sections where I took this off-trail through the forest, it was more worth it to hike than run because of the shifty nature of the plates.
ALEX: That dual suspension, two carbon plate technology rolls comfortably over smooth terrain, and while I appreciate the experiment in technology, the concept of shifting tectonic plates underfoot didn’t feel great to me. It took away from what I generally see as the benefits of a carbon-plated shoe.
$200 is a lot to spend on shoes. However, for those in the market for a carbon fiber plate or plates in their shoe, this price tag is comparable to its road and trail racing competitors.
MATT: I don’t have much negative to say about the Tecton X. I think maybe if the terrain you expect to encounter is super technical (where consistent running is often compromised), these likely aren’t the shoe for you. Like any shoe with carbon plates, they’re rigid and can be highly reactive. When that power is harnessed for propulsion, it’s great, but the downside is that it could lead to awkward steps based on underfoot conditions.
Also, while I had zero incidents, it isn’t exactly an armored tank for protection. The carbon plates provide protection similar to a rock plate, and the toe is reinforced just enough to handle the occasional root or rock kick, but if you’re rough and reckless in your running style, you could be down a few toenails in the near future.Shop HOKA Trail – Men Shop HOKA Trail – Women
TAYLOR: Looking back at the excitement I had around the North Face Vectiv, it was a good shoe in many respects. For the first carbon-plated shoe in the trail game, it did achieve a lot of hopes I had — but then the Tecton X shows up.
It’s that next-gen, next-level shoe that has the best of a lot of worlds, really. Check the list! It’s light, protective, comfortable, and snappy all day long. All things considered, the Tecton X is a premium experience that will allow you to go far, fast, or both at the same time! This is a highly versatile racer. Keep your eyes peeled at races like Western States or mostly runnable 50K to 100-milers. I would bet that more than 80% of elite Hoka athletes who toe the line will be sporting a pair by choice. There is a very good reason for that.
A price tag of $200 seems pretty reasonable for a package like this. So, save that birthday money! Hopefully, these can get on the general public’s feet in early May.
ALEX: This is a fun, fast shoe from Hoka. The thoughtful design and attention to detail in the upper comes together to provide an attractive look and a secure, comfortable fit. I would not change a thing about the upper.
I also really appreciate how comfortable the top layer of that ProFlyX midsole is. That being said, I will be reaching for my Hoka Speedgoat 5’s for my training and racing this year. My races are 50-plus miles on technical and varied terrain, and for that, I want more midsole and a little less shiftiness.
MATT: Hoka has won me over with this shoe. Between the Tecton X and the Speedland SL:PDX, the seats at the table are filling up fast for the trail competition. It comes as close as possible to meshing comfort, energy return, and stability into a shoe light enough to be mistaken on the scales as a road shoe.
I think if you have goals of racing 50k, 100k, 100m this year, you will be delighted with the Tecton X as your shoe of choice.
You can pick up the Hoka Tecton X for $200 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.
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Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.
All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Tecton X, Speedland SL:PDX, Merrell MTL Long Sky 2.More from Taylor
Alex is a trail and ultra runner from the upper midwest who loves Minnesota’s long winters and logging miles on the rooty, rocky, steep trails of Lake Superior’s North Shore. She was the first female to set a supported FKT on the 310 mile Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) and enjoys multi-day events and races, especially if they involve snow and -20 degree temps.
All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Speedgoat Evo, Hoka Tecton X, Altra Timp.More from Alex
Matt is a recovering triathlete who fell in love with running and left the dark side behind. Trail and ultra running are where he is most in his element, but he can still be found routinely running the streets in and around Baltimore with the Faster Bastards. Aside from running, he is a lover of coffee, mezcal, beer, and 90s country music.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Atreyu The Artist, Speedland SL:PDXMore from Matt