Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Hoka One One EVO Carbon Rocket Multi-Tester Review: a split decision for sure!

Article by Dave Ames, Michael Ellenberger, Hope Wilkes, and Sam Winebaum

Hoka One One EVO Carbon Rocket ($160)

Introduction
Hope: Put away the graham crackers -- these aren’t the marshmallowy Hokas you expect. Hoka One One has created a go-fast shoe with what feels like a huge carbon fiber plate. As an entrant into the elite distance racer arms race (is the Breaking 58:18 Project real or just a rumor?), the Evo Carbon Rocket takes few cues from Nike, opting instead for a stiff platform that relies on a rockered sole for propulsion. It might not be ready to smash the half marathon world record, but this shoe takes an interesting approach to whittling seconds off of runners’ speediest efforts.
Sam: The Carbon Rocket is real simple. Take a race focused dual density midsole with a 1mm drop from a 26mm heel and very substantial 25mm forefoot stack, add a moderate rocker and finally embed a flat carbon plate, shaped like a tuning fork, 8mm above the mostly rubberized foam outsole. What you get is a firm, stiff yet at the same time highly cushioned racer/trainer.

Pros
Hope: upper has good hold and breathability, weight
Dave:  great upper, molds well.  Good weight.
Sam: flawless upper, stable, fast and consistent mile after mile ride, energetic in a level way
Michael: Upper is terrific; Carbon fiber plate is stiff and responsive; looks the part.


Cons
Hope: much too stiff, sole shredded quickly for me
Dave:  carbon plate is far too stiff (beat my feet up) - - I’m working much harder in the shoe and am actually slower in it, compared to other shoes of this racer/trainer category.   1mm drop beat me up (I have plenty of 0-4 experience from Newton to Altra, Skechers, Saucony, etc)
Sam: low drop and quite firm in "feel "despite its substantial stack height.
Michael: 1mm drop is “useless”; Fairly consistent heel-slippage; no Vaporfly- “pop.”

Stats
Sample US 9 - 7.5oz / 213g with liner - - 7.4oz / 210g without liner
Sample US 8.5- 7.55 oz 214 g US men's 8.5 so about 7.7 oz /  218 g for a US men's 9
Stack: 26mm heel /25 mm forefoot (not including the substantial removable sock liner), 1 mm drop
Available now, unisex sizing. $160

Tester Profiles
Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 50-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 61 with a recent 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR.  
These days he runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces in the 9 minute range. He is 5'10" and weighs about 165 lbs.
Dave is 37 and keeps in sub 3 shape in Southern California while transitioning to Ultras. He is a professional running coach and trains a mix of at least one quality workout, one long run and aerobic miles on both roads and trails.

Hope is in her 20’s and after several ultras is now more on the road. She has a marathon PR of 3:47. She trains about 50 miles per week with many of her runs in the (broad) 8:00-10:00/mile range. She is happy to hit 7:30 miles on tempo days.

First Impressions and Fit
Hope: Looks-wise, the Evo Carbon Rocket has a lot in common with Hokas of the past, but the decorative pattern is a bit more subtle and restricted to the heel only. In hand, it’s obvious that they’re a different breed of Hoka -- they’re light and not squishy soft. I received a unisex 8.5. I’m unsure if Hoka is using a sizing scheme outside of the norm. I’m usually comfortable in a M8 or W9.5 and found these to be basically right on the money, maybe a hair too long. If you plan to pick these up, you’d do well to try them on in-store just to be sure.


Dave:  I’ll be frank from the get go, I have never liked a Hoka road shoe.  Maximalism works me far too hard and I leave every single run from the Mach to the Clifton, feeling beat the crap up.  Now the Hoka trail line? Amazing!! Maybe because it is much firmer, which I like. Anywho...Hoka finally came with a shoe that is somewhat decent to put on my foot.  It finally looks like a shoe that doesn’t come from outer space, and honestly the annoying highlighter yellow colorway? I dig it! If it’s supposed to be a fast shoe, people need to see it on your foot!  Fit wise, my size 9 is solid and width is perfect for my narrow foot. I do feel however that runners with a wider foot may struggle with the narrowness of this shoe.

Sam: Colorful and bright is what I will say. I like the fast and fresh look. Fit is true to size for a performance trainer racing type upper with plentiful mid foot volume and a narrower toe with plenty of height. No sense of my foot being crammed into the shoe. I can wear medium socks with no issue, thin socks left a little play. For a marathon I would go thin socks, for shorter races medium. Zero irritation issues so far during runs up to 15 miles.


Michael: Count me in as a fan of the aesthetics here, too. The blue and yellow are bright and striking, without being obnoxious. You’ll notice it - and you’ll know it’s a Hoka - but I think it works well. My first impression was that the 8.5 was too big, but after a few runs, I don’t know that an 8.0 would fit better - I think it’s just the heel that needs to be reworked somehow. The ratoebox fits about right, and there’s good space up front (still, like Hope said, best to try them on). My first run out of the box had a variety of paces - from 5:15 to 8:15 - and the Carbon Rocket felt comfortable and responsive across the board.


Upper
Sam: The upper is a thin mesh backed by a liner with large holes. While my runs have been in cold conditions at or around freezing I am certain it will be a great warm weather shoe. It has proven extremely comfortable with zero issues for runs up to 16 miles as well as a hilly 10 mile race. Hoka's new uppers for both road and trail are among the best if not the best across an entire line. Huge progress over the last couple years over their older awkward, and in many ways poorly fitting uppers.

Michael: The upper is certainly one of the strong points on the Carbon Rocket - visually, the neon yellow and blue are striking, the material comprising the forefoot is comfortable and breathable, and the laces provide enough snugness to feel comfortable with faster turnover. I was impressed with the technical elements of the mesh - it’s light, but not insubstantial, and ‘testing’ it with some intentional odd foot-strikes or cuts doesn’t seem to cause any issues. Obviously, upper durability is hard to predict without taking a shoe through a full life-cycle, but I’m optimistic about this one.
Hope: I agree with Michael. I like the bright colors of the upper. Happily, I found it to be as breathable as it looks. This is the kind of upper I’d love to see on late spring/summer releases since it really allows air to circulate, but it was adequately warm for frigid winter temperatures. Regardless of what is going on with the sizing scheme, I found the lockdown to be solid. I never noticed my foot sliding around in the shoe. I’d been concerned about the slippery bootie that extends to the back of the tongue. I shouldn’t have worried as the smoothness of this fabric makes it very comfortable and allows it to hug the foot well.
Dave:  This is a well constructed upper.  It’s the type of upper I wish run companies would continue to use rather than following each other in the knit upper popularity contest.  It’s mesh with a honeycomb underlayer, which I have always loved in a shoe. It works with my foot extremely well and immediately upon sliding it on, it feels like a racer should.  Locked and loaded and ready to rip! Unfortunately, as you will see in a bit about the rip part, I’m not so sure about that. I got this shoe wet multiple times as we have been getting a good amount of rain here in LA and it performed well mixed in with a merino wool sock of medium thickness.  I did not get overly soaked as it is a thin upper and it drained well.


Midsole
Sam: The Carbon Rocket’s midsole "sandwich" is comprised of a dual density ProFly below the foot. The rear (white) is somewhat softer for protection while the forefoot (blue) is firmer for propulsion.
Below the ProFly we have a tuning fork shaped 1mm thick carbon plate, shaped approximately as in my drawing below.

Carbon Plate
Sam: The 1mm thick carbon plate is full length and is visible through three windows: two at mid foot and one towards the heel. It is located 8mm above the yellow rubberized EVA outsole. According to Hoka, the plate is in the shape of a "fork"at the forefoot which gives it a bit of flexibility under the metatarsals where the foot is flexed and needs to produce a large amount of energy. The fork is also biased so that there is less of it, a bigger opening on the forefoot lateral side, to help supination at the end of stance. I sketched what I thought it might look like and Hoka said I was pretty close.
Astute readers will recognize that unlike the VaporFly 4%'s carbon plate here the plate is not continuous at the front and is placed flat just 8mm above the RMAT outsole so it does not curve down at mid foot as Vaporfly's does. The plate's run feel and energy, when combined with the 1mm drop is more concentrated at mid foot than in the VaporFly where the curvature of the plate gives more of a sense of falling forward to toe off. The upcoming Skechers SpeedElite (RTR first run impressions) has an H shaped plate concentrated at the front of the shoe.


Below the carbon we have an 8mm thick layer of yellow rubberized RMAT foam which acts as rebound layer as well as serves as most of the outsole.

The result is both a very stiff and very well cushioned shoe whose feel can be interpreted as overly firm as experienced by some of my fellow reviewers. I have found the system not only easy on the legs in terms of fatigue or soreness during all runs but after. Firmness can sometimes be seen as tiring or harsh when in fact it is overly soft midsoles which can actually over miles fatigue more as our leg "springs" work harder. I will agree this is a "firm" midsole and the flat stiffness of the plate, unlike the more drop in curved geometry of the Vaporfly, favors marathon to half type paces of around  8:20-7:30 min miles for me although slower paces were just fine. That is unless, and as with most Hoka due to their substantial forefoot stacks and thus are stiff and rely on rockers, the runner has solid powerful knee lift and drive. 

Michael: Hoka promises an “an innovative carbon fiber sandwich,” with “soft foam for a comfortable ride” sitting atop “durable, responsive rubberized foam outsole,” bisected by a carbon fiber plate. We’ve seen similar technologies before, of course, but it’s nice to see Hoka bring a carbon plate to their mainstream racer. As others have said, there’s a cost here of stiffness. Whereas other shoes (Zoom Fly Flyknit, i.e.) “cut” the stiffness with fancy foam technologies (the React foam midsole), the foam here doesn’t really displace the stiffness of the carbon, at least in my experience. While I am a fan of the Zoom Fly, I don’t have a problem with Hoka’s approach, either - a stiff trainer works well for me, and I never felt the Rocket was uncomfortable or overly rigid.


Hope: It feels like there’s enough carbon fiber in the Evo Carbon Rocket to stop a bullet! I was scared to lean my full body weight on it in an attempt to flex it lest I snap the carbon fiber plate. As best I can tell, the plate extends from the midfoot (probably from just in front of the heel, maybe the medial plantar fascia? Not an expert!) to just behind the toes. When stacked against the $250 Nike VaporFly 4% Flyknit, the $160 Evo Carbon Rocket represents a good value in terms of premium materials served up for the price. But beware: this midsole is stiff! With no flex point to speak of, the rockered shape of the midsole determines how the feet roll through the gait cycle.


Dave:  Carbon.  It’s the new jam.  Well, I guess let’s get right to it.  Man, is it stiff! That, combined with too much excess stack in the forefoot and a 1mm drop, which loads from the midfoot, not the rear, allows this shoe to never really open up for me (more to come in RIDE section) - - I find that the shoe does transition ok, and especially at slower speeds, but it struggles to keep you fresh at 1mm.  Then once I begin to crank up the pace, I find myself working much harder than I should be, and my paces are well slower in the same types of workouts I am doing it other racer/trainers in my arsenal.


I have about 65 miles on my pair as of the time in writing this and I had some issues on a medium long run of 15 miles.  UPDATE: Went for16 on 2/23 and made it 5 miles before turning around with shin pain like a 7th grade track athlete. For me, when this shoe gets about 5 miles in the carbon plate really began to take a pounding to my feet.  It was almost as if I was developing some deep bruising or a small stress fracture (I’m completely healthy...knock on wood) - - in my right foot along the lateral outside of my foot. The issue is coming from the right shoe in the lateral outsole.  As Hope mentions above, the rockered shape, combined with the plate doesn’t necessarily allow your stride to be natural. For me I found it to dictate it, which is never a good sign in a shoe for me. Again, it is hard to notice this on general aerobic cruiser days, but when cranked up, where you need to be the most biomechanically efficient, the shoe got sloppy.  I became sloppy having to work much harder to find a snappy toe off and transition to that point smoothly.
Outsole
Hope: Hoka is no rookie when it comes to creating ground contact midsole compounds going all the way back to the Huaka. The Evo Carbon Rocket features minimal rubber, all of which is restricted to high-wear areas in the heel and medial forefoot. I found the rubber to be less durable than the exposed midsole. The rubber wore down almost completely in the heel after 30 miles. I know that sometimes I’m hard on shoes, but that performance is worse than the purported “$1 per mile” lifespan of the VaporFly 4% Flyknit. Three cutouts in the Evo Carbon Rocket’s sole allow the carbon fiber plate to cheekily peek through. I had no issues with collecting rocks in these holes, but those who regularly run on gravel might have a different experience.


Dave: 65 miles in I see no sign of wear on my pair.  Strike patterns are normal, even with me supinating harder in the right shoe and experiencing some pain via the right lateral outsole being far too stiff from the full length plate. I ran in a lot of rain these past few weeks in the CR and had no issues on the filthy greasy sidewalks of SoCal. Should you put 350+ on the Carbon Rocket, it is too early in testing for me to really tell if it will wear down or not.  We will update you the reader on this as we progress along in our training in this shoe. I think it will handle the training load well.


Michael: If other Hoka racers are any indication, I’m confident the Rocket will last a solid 300+ miles for even a medium-efficiency runner. In my testing, I had no issues. The grip was fine (often times not noticing the grip is the best outcome, especially in the winter time) and over a variety of terrain, often icy or wet, the Rocket handled well. The exposed holes to the midsole do allow water and air to permeate into the footbed, so wearing warmer socks may be a good idea if your runs take you over cold or wet terrain.

Sam:
I am at just over 50 miles in my pair, all on winter conditions pavement so often wet and with road grit.
I am seeing fairly accelerated black heel rubber wear (right above). I also see wear at toe off (photo below) but am less concerned about that as that kind of wear is to be expected and tends to "settle in" for me. Note also the stones stuck in the outsole. The stone in the window to the carbon plate stayed put for a solid 10 miles. The softish yellow RMAT outsole tends to "envelop" and hold stones.
Ride
Hope: My mixed experience in the Evo Carbon Rocket left me “shaken, but not stirred.” As in, my bones got rattled around a bit and I wasn’t much inspired by the ride. Out of the box, I enjoyed a few easy miles in the Evo Carbon Rocket. After probably two miles, the midsole and plate combination seemed to soften up a bit and I felt that the shoe had good cruiser manners, especially for a racer. My impression of the model improved further when I put them to the test with 400s. They felt smooth, snappy, and comfortable throughout, even during recovery jogs. 

Thinking that I’d have a really cool insight to share by strapping on the Evo Carbon Rocket for a full marathon-distance training run (it’s cool, Dave is my coach and he’d assigned it as ultra prep), I thought “what’s the worst that could happen?” Don’t do what I did. Don’t think things like that into existence. The already stiff midsole firmed up a lot more for me in the bitter cold, making for a horribly bone-jarring ride. I noticed that my ankles were taking a beating because as the shoe was unable to flex, they had to flex far more than usual to make up the difference, especially going uphill. The result was 16 slow, painful miles which weren’t representative of my fitness level, after which I called it quits. I felt so much pain in my hips, knees, ankles, and heels that I took an unplanned zero day the next day to recover. 

Suffice to say that the design does not lend itself to excelling in all conditions or for all runners. The shoe has good pop and comfort as a cruiser over short distances and at speed over flat terrain.


Dave: #1, I take no responsibility for Hope taking a brand spanking new shoe out of the box for 24 miles!  Just kidding. Us geeks do that stuff all the time. It’s the new cool. The ride is a mystery to me 65 miles in. One mile it feels ok, the next I literally am ready to donate it to another runner who may enjoy it. I’ve run easy, run medium long (15 with 7 fast finish, and attempted a 16 turning around at 5), done a Fartlek and done a Tempo.  It just doesn’t want to wake up when going faster. And anything longer than 5 miles, as mentioned above, the plate was so firm, it began to rip my foot apart.  

My guess is there is too much stack in the forefoot, combined with the rockered geometry and a full length plate on a 1mm drop, there is far too much going on underfoot.  This is causing the shoe to dictate where I am going, rather than me doing what I do naturally, biomechanically. It’s weird, because one would think the CR would be far smoother when going faster. Honestly, I’m just not sure anymore that it is smooth at all. Because CR is listed as a racer or fast paced trainer, I have plenty of other speedsters in my arsenal that I would rather pull (Adios 4, Razor 3, Speed 6 Hyper, Reebok Fast) - - Long story short, just never found it enjoyable.


Michael: I like the Carbon Rocket a lot, but I’m unsure as to where it fits in a lineup. I had the opportunity to take it out for the recent Austin Marathon, and I chose the Vaporfly 4% instead. Partially, that was due to newness, certainly - I had only tested it over 8 miles, and was unsure how it would perform over considerable elevation changes - but partially that’s because the Rocket doesn’t quite provide that same racing oomph! that you can get in Nike’s carbon-laced alternative. And looking at Hope’s experience, it seems I made the right choice. But why? It’s hard to pin down exactly what holds the Rocket back from racing greatness. 

It’s a very good shoe - probably better than the Hoka Evo Rehi, which I called one of my favorites of the year. It’s smooth, it’s snappy, and darn comfortable. But somehow, despite a stiff, racing-oriented plate and a terrific upper, it’s not quite there for me. Would I race a marathon in it? Absolutely. But would I race a marathon in it over the Vaporfly? Maybe not. Count me in as a huge fan, who can’t wait for Version 2, because I love what Hoka is doing. And for long runs or tempos? I think the Carbon Rocket is a slam dunk, rivaling the best from Nike or Adidas.

Sam: The Rocket ride is all serious business. Yes it's firm and probably firmer than it will be in warmer conditions as virtually all my runs in them have been around freezing or below. This said it is very well cushioned especially at the forefoot and for me easy on the legs with every run which included a 10 mile race, a 13 miler and two 15-16 milers all easily having faster finishes than mid miles. And no soreness the next day. I had no issues picking up the pace in them but indeed the ride is quite different, flatter more level in feel given the 1mm drop and level plate with a distinct sense of propulsion off the mid foot as Dave notes which is OK by me. 
While the on ground platform is narrower than other Hoka, the Rocket is stable and consistent mile after mile for me. I found them most effective on longer stretches of flat terrain as I could, much as with Vaporfly, find and maintain their groove Is it fun and bouncy like a Skechers Razor 3 Hyper? No. Or softly dynamic like a VaporFly or Zoom Fly Flyknit? Not that either. This said at similar distances and tempo paces it easily outlasted the Zoom Fly and Skechers Razor 3 as I was able to more easily maintain pace and form right to the end of each run, unlike the others two. Vaporfly is still the long race king for me, maybe, but struggles at slower paces and is for sure less stable at all paces. So the maybe part is if things go south later in a long race, and particularly a hilly race. I would much rather bring it home in the stable consistent Rocket than try to tame the Vapor Fly if I lose its distinct groove and end up back on the heels or unsteady,


Conclusions
Hope: I won’t go so far as to call the Evo Carbon Rocket a bad shoe because I had one (really) bad day in it, but I think potential buyers need to think carefully before plunking down $160 to add this shoe to their collection. How do you do in other rocker-shaped soles like those found in some other Hokas and some Skechers models? Do you notice that kind of sole geometry affecting your gait or speed? Are you happy in a firm shoe? What about a very, very firm shoe? Are you willing to spend this much on a shoe that might only be durable enough for racing and occasional speed training? 

Go into the purchase with realistic expectations and a good understanding of how you’ll use the shoe and I think you can do well in it. I imagine that there are runners out there who will love the Evo Carbon Rocket. Lightweight, efficient runners who naturally have a rolling gait might fall into that group. Given all of the options out there for shoes that perform on the spectrum from good to great as cruisers and speedsters, I can’t picture myself reaching for the Evo Carbon Rocket all that often.
Hope’s Score: 8.0 out of 10
-1.5 for brutally stiff midsole
-0.5 for fast-wearing outsole rubber
Dave:  Plain and simple, it’s not going to be a race day shoe for me, or even a fast paced trainer in my rotation.  Hoka heads may find this as a great Half Mary or Full Mary racer, or long run shoe that boasts some MRP work in it. But for me, I’m going to keep it in the arsenal for general easy days and recovery runs if it wants to finally break itself in.  It’s just basically where it possibly (after more miles) may work for me. I have plenty of other monster fast shoes I would rather run in on workout days, races or pace work in a long run, etc. 

I would make Hoka fans very aware, before shelling $160, that if you are looking for that marshmallow soft Hoka, you won’t find it here.  Also be very careful with the 1mm drop. Anyone who didn’t like Clifton going firmer will most likely struggle in this shoe. It was built to apparently be snappy and quick, while allowing very minimal sinking (the sinking, which is what destroys me in other Hoka road shoes and is incorrect bio-mechanically speaking IMHO) - - Long story short, good shoe fit wise, but not veryrunnable for me.  For others, and everything depends on runner biomechanics and the paces they train at daily (I think we forget that sometimes) it may be just fine. I’m hoping after 100 miles or so it is going to “wake up” for me. It’s definitely not going in the donation bin, but it’s not going to be grabbed much either. It has some great characteristics, but still needs some fine tuning. Hopefuly Hoka will look at these reviews (it’s not just me) and makes the changes to what has the potential to be an outstanding fast shoe.
Dave’s Score - 7.5/10
-1.5 for way too stiff carbon plate
-.5 It’s not that fast compared to my other trainer/racers (Razor 3, Adios 4, Reebok Fast/Pro, etc)
-.5 for ability to not run anything longer than 5 miles in it.

Michael: I’m a big fan of the Carbon Rocket. A huge fan, even. It looks great, it feels great (besides that pesky heel-slippage), and any shoe that’s willing to jump into Nike’s ring and take a chance has my attention. Yes, $160 is great (even if it feels like that ‘baseline’ price creeps up every year). But while I come out perhaps more favorably on the Rocket than some my fellow reviewers, I’m not in love. It has stiffness, but not quite that responsive toe-off sensation created by the Nike competitors. It’s also a pretty heavy shoe - Hoka’s website says it can be used for anything down to a 1600m race, but choosing this over the Reebok Run Fast Pro would cost you almost 4 ounces! It’s almost a non-starter there. So ultimately, the Evo Carbon Rocket feels a but like a shoe without a home. For me, it’ll fit into longer training session and likely some everyday miles - something you don’t need carbon fiber to do. The Carbon Rocket is good, but it’s not quite the Vaporfly-killer some had hoped… yet.
Michael: 8.8/10
-.5 for heel-slippage, regardless of sizing.
-.5 for overly-stiff carbon without that ‘pop’
-.2 for a 7 ounce “racing flat”

Sam:  Wow! A wide range of opinions about this shoe, probably the least consensus around a shoe we have reviewed in recent years. We all have different bio mechanics and preferences which this shoe seems to amplify in positives and negatives as seen above. I also think memory is short and shoes have come very far in the last few years in the performance categories from the very firm, harsh and thin forefoot, often plated and stiff shoes such as the Zoom Streak GOMeb Speed and many others which were all the rage to now softer, very light well cushioned yet still dynamic models such as VaporFly, Beacon, Floatride Fast, and GORun Razor 3. 

For me the Carbon Rocket bridges the gap between today's newer softer bouncy often unstable racer trainers and those shoes of old. Unlike the old timers it is maximally cushioned at the forefoot which is a key difference and further it is completely carbon stiff and much lower drop. Clearly, Rocket is a very different ride from the new and the old. I find that while the mid foot oriented more level and firm feel and power off the plate at mid foot is not the usual or even the new. The approach I think is highly effective. if you can tolerate it as some here couldn't, and understandably so, as we all have different bio mechanics.
This is one heck of a forgiving shoe for me while at the same time firm in "feel" and stiff. I have powered through the last miles of every long run with ease and with faster final miles pace, even when tired. Not the usual for me as even if I pick up the pace towards the end of these runs I tend to stumble and bumble more than in Rocket. It kept my form more consistent than just about any shoe in recent memory. At the right paces somewhere between half and marathon pace it is efficient, forgiving, powerful, and stable if not exactly as much bouncy fun as some of the other contenders. As the miles pile on and form starts to suffer I want to be consistent and stable and so far the Carbon Rocket has delivered on every run, if not with as many smiles as some competitors as this is a shoe which is all business, super bright colorful upper aside.  I certainly is in contention, but not in the lead yet, with the original ice blue Vaporfly as my Boston shoe, having eliminated the Zoom Fly Flyknit due to its less than dynamic and hard to tame ride when tired. In the meantime it will continue to be my long faster run shoe.
Sam's Score 9.4/10
-0.2  for 1mm drop. More drop would help move the foot forward to toe off, widening utility for me to shorter races and also assist those who can't tolerate very low drops. 
-0.2 for "firm" ride. I wonder what a slightly thicker RMAT layer for some bounce and slightly softer ProFly midsole upfront could do.
-0.2 for stones easily lodging and staying in the cavities and outsole and for early heel wear
Recommended Changes
Hope and Dave:  I’d like to see a lower stack height. Less midsole could mean a more flexible, forgiving midsole. The upper is fantastic, so I hope that doesn’t change much.  


Dave:  Less stack off of the forefoot and let the power load from the heel through the midsole to a powerful toe off….not load from the midsole immediately.  It’s confusing your gait cycle and not letting you run through the entire process. 1mm drop is hindering the shoe big time. 5mm would be perfect, while also shaving down the stacks a bit.

Sam: I cut a 2" piece of sock liner and inserted below the stock liner for my 16 mile last run. The additional few millimeters of rear stack gave me a touch more easy getting forward to toe off. I would also agree with Dave that taking some stack off the forefoot might help get the runner forward. However, with the plate I might worry things would get overly firm. I would combine a few millimeters off the forefoot with a few more at the heel to make the Rocket a 5mm drop shoe while softening the front ProFly a touch a bit to let the foot sink down further into the midsole up front prior to toe off.


Comparisons
Hoka Evo Rehi (RTR review)
Michael: I loved the Evo Rehi for its simplicity. While the upper has some fancy new MATRYX technology, the Rehi stood out to me for what it didn’t have: carbon fiber, blown rubber, or TPU. It’s almost lighter than the Carbon Rocket, but the ride is a little less forgiving. For marathon racing or long-distance training, I’d take the Carbon Rocket every day. But for those looking for a short-workout or 10K/half-marathon racer, the Rehi is a compelling choice.


Hoka Mach (RTR review)
Hope: The Mach 1 is my second-favorite Hoka since the OG Clifton (behind the very fine Hupana which doesn’t have the typical Hoka fat sole styling). The stack height is a bit high for my tastes (although it does feel secure and stable), but I prefer it over the Evo Carbon Rocket since it’s a much more forgiving shoe that still gives good feedback with each footstrike. It’s heavier and designed for training rather than racing, so it’s hard to make a good comparison.
Sam: With a wider on the ground platform and now in Mach 2 a full rubberized foam ProFly midsole and no other outsole rubber, the 0.5 oz heavier Mach is quite stiff but more flexible than v1 and for sure bouncier than Rocket but lacks its snappy energy and response. Mach does have a roomier upper and is more training than race focused than the Rocket. The two would make a good Hoka pairing.


Hoka Tracer (RTR review)
Hope: As a pure short distance racer, I probably prefer the Evo Carbon Rocket over the Tracer 1. The Tracer 1 had an okay, but not terribly inspiring ride. While it has limited applications for me, the Evo Carbon Rocket has noticeable giddyup in the right conditions.
Sam: I agree with Hope. While 0.5 oz lighter the Tracer was firm, stiff and uninspiring.


Hoka Clifton (RTR review)
Hope: The OG Clifton was recently reintroduced for a limited time, so I feel empowered to use it for comparison here. In terms of “how did they do that?” weight, comfort, durability, versatility, and being the vanguard that pushed other shoe companies to produce models with a higher cushioning-to-weight ratio, the Clifton 1 is the clear winner. But if I’m running a 5k, I’d choose the Evo Carbon Rocket.


Dave:  5 models though Clifton and I cannot run in any of them.  Hoping the 6 changes my mind!
Sam: Cliftons are great for bouncy shorter fast runs but end up unstable and tiring for me as the miles pile up. While super fun, I found Cliton 1 unstable, soft, and overly beveled at the heel with an effective drop feel lower than the Rocket. They were only good run fast and off the heels. Later version are slightly firmer and more stable but are not as much fun and heavier. Would pick Rocket any day for anything other than a fast 5 miler.


Vaporfly 4% (RTR review)
Hope: Both the OG VaporFly 4% and the VaporFly 4% Flyknit are more comfortable for me over the long haul. I also run faster in those models. The significant price difference bears mentioning, but Nike easily takes the cake here.
Sam: OG Vaporfly 4% is still in the lead over the Rocket for racing all distances but it gets closer, much closer with Flyknit given its firmer ride and not particularly comfortable upper. I am still on the fence for Boston between OG Vaporfly and Rocket.
Michael: If the $90 difference is prohibitive, I don’t think the Rocket is a poor “low-cost” alternative to the Vaporfly, especially if the durability promises to be on par, but if you can spare the expense, the Vaporfly 4% is a better marathon shoe.


Nike Zoom Streak 6 (RTR review)
Hope: I prefer the responsiveness and groundfeel of the ZS6. That’s the pair I reach for when I want to race 10 miles or less. If for some reason I want to do a few cruiser miles in a racer, I’d choose the Evo Carbon Rocket over the ZS6.
Michael: I’ve only worn the (now-discontinued) Flyknit version of the Streak 6, but the Streak and Carbon Rocket are fairly distinct shoes. The Streak is much firmer and harder than the Rocket, and while it does have some “plate” technology to the midfoot, I think the Rocket has a slightly better toe-off that the Streak. That said, at the prices you can find the Streak at in 2019, it’s a terrific choice for anyone seeking a performance racer.
Sam: Never could run further than a 10K race in the Zoom Streak, an old school racer.. The heel was very firm and transmitted far more shock than the Rocket's.

adidas adizero adios 4 (RTR review)
Sam: The adios has a classic race shoe geometry of  a relatively well cushioned heel and thin more flexible and agile forefoot. I would pick it over the Rocket for shorter races and workouts before I would the Rocket but for long faster runs no question it'sthe Rocket due to its forefoot cushion.


Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit (RTR review)
Michael: Somehow, the Zoom Fly Flyknit ended up my favorite shoe of 2018. It’s versatile - I raced a road mile and hammered a 2-hour run in the same shoe - but the comfort of the Flyknit and the ‘pop’ of the plate set it over the top. While the Carbon Rocket does match up well to the new Fly, I’d take the Nike for almost all scenarios. The Rocket may work for those who found the Flyknit and narrow toebox of the Zoom Fly too constricting.
Sam: The Zoom Fly Flyknit starts out more fun and softer cushioned but when tired I end up struggling considerably more with its stability at the rear.


Reebok Floatride Fast (RTR review)
Dave:  Reebok all day.  It’s just plain faster, more efficient and via less stack, more powerful!  Just a lot funner (is that still a word?) to run in!
Sam: Close. I prefer the more secure upper hold of the Rocket to the Fast and the easier going more flexible higher drop ride of the Fast although its forefoot cushion is thinner. If you asked me to pick one shoe and only one shoe for both all training and all racing I would select the Fast.


Skechers Performance Razor 3 Hyper (RTR review)
Hope: No question about it, the Razor 3 is the superior shoe. Lighter, softer, more flexible, and more comfortable over the long haul, the Razor 3 beats out many of the shoes in my arsenal and easily outclasses the pricier and techier Evo Carbon Rocket.
Dave:  You heard it here first.  Razor 3 has the ability to be the 2019 lightweight performance shoe of the year!  Hyper Burst is the best midsole compound on the market right now and Razor 3 can just freaking haul!
Sam: Simple, elegant, and pleasing to run, Hyper Burst is indeed a superior midsole material for its light weight and zingy resilient ride. This said the Razor 3 has for me a very low effective drop, lower than Rocket due to its softness and minimal rubber thickness. A great shoe to run faster stuff off the heels in and better than the Rocket for that but not the long distance steady and stable performer the Rocket is.


Skechers Performance GO Meb Speed (RTR review)
Hope: This is a bit closer. The GO Meb Speed 5 isn’t exactly confidence-inspiring in terms of materials. In hand, it looks cheap. It’s in the featherweight category at about 5 oz, so there’s just not much to it. Unlike the Evo Carbon Rocket (which includes a carbon fiber plate as the name suggests), the GO Meb Speed 5 features a resin plate. This contributes to its somewhat budget-friendlier retail price: $130 (I got mine for a steal price this past fall and you may still be able to scoop it up on sale). It’s firm and has a midfoot rocker design, but because it has a thinner midsole, the GO Meb Speed 5 is more flexible and complements my stride instead of rigidly controlling it. I’ll give the GO Meb Speed 5 the nod.


NB Zante Pursuit (RTR review)
Hope: The NB Zante Pursuit is far lighter and more durable. While its lockdown can’t compete with the superior upper of the Evo Carbon Rocket, I’ll still give the edge to the NB Zante Pursuit since it’s more comfortable and more of a multi-purpose shoe.
Michael: For most, the Zante will be more a very everyday shoe than the Rocket. The Zante is (surprisingly, given its billing) a lighter trainer and has a rigid enough outsole to get you on your toes for faster runs. Still, I prefer the slightly softer ride of the Rocket overall (even if it’s disappointing for a racing flat to be undercut by an everyday trainer).

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The product reviewed in this article provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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1 comment:

Pele said...

Nice review and comparisons
It is nice to have other options for us big feet people given the Vaporfly is only made to a Uk 12, all the adidas fast shoes stop at 12.5 and a lot of other racers limit upper sizing