Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Hoka ONE ONE Bondi X Multi Tester Review: Soft & Mellow Max Cushion and a Carbon Plate. 20 Comparisons!

Article by Jeff Beck and Sam Winebaum

Hoka One One Bondi X ($200)

Introduction

Sam: The original Bondi was the first max cushion road trainer. I reviewed and actually ran the Boston Marathon in the original Bondi B in 2012. 

They were remarkably light at 8.8 oz in my US8.5. Soft and deeply cushioned they were a pioneering shoe in the max game. I had not run a Bondi since.


The Bondi X is Hoka’s entry into the max cushion, carbon plated “cruise liner deluxe” run shoe category. Other shoes in the category can be said to include the Brooks Aurora-BL, New Balance FuelCell Lerato, Craft CTM Carbon Ultra, Nike Zoom X Invincible, and adidas Prime X. I have tested all of these (except Prime X)  as well as others that are comparable at less lofty pricing than the $200 here. See the  comparisons section at the end of the review..

The basics for the Bondi X are a weight of 10.6 oz / 300g with a 33mm heel /29mm forefoot stack height so relatively modest (despite looks) compared to several such as CTM Ultra and Prime X that are  pushing or exceeding a 40mm heel height. The cushioning is said by  Hoka to be the  “softest foam in our arsenal to date” and is a  compression molded EVA, so not a new fangled supercritical foam as some comparative shoes such as Brooks Aurora-BL and Puma Magnify Nitor have on board.

The big change from a regular Bondi is that to go with all that soft cushioning we have a carbon plate and a dramatically styled rear extended crash pad and swallow tail, something we have seen in most 2021 Hoka for both road and trail.  That heel isn’t as high as it looks as the foot sits deeply into the midsole side walls, for landing stability. The spec sheet calls out the rear crash pad in combination with the softest midsole as “acting like a veritable marshmallow” That statement gave me pause because as a heel striker at slower paces I like some pop off the heel. The upper is a simple mesh with 3D hot melt yarn for support. The outsole is zonal rubber.  


I was very unsure what to expect. Would adding a carbon plate to the giant softer midsole give the Bondi pep? Would the equally giant swallowtail bog the ride down?


Pros:

Sam/Jeff: Very deep, soft, somewhat bouncy cushion. No road shock here.

Sam/Jeff: Soft, forgiving and very stable landings finished off with a lively carbon impulse transition toe off

Sam: Roomy, secure and light upper

Sam/Jeff: Ultimate long, easy run soft comfort cruiser.

Jeff: Toebox might be the roomiest Hoka has ever made.

Cons:

Sam/Jeff: Heel is too soft and broad (medial side) and feels a touch back weighted.

Sam/Jeff: At the price point, a lighter, more energetic “supercritical” type foam is in order.

Sam/Jeff: Due to the softness at the heel, foam, and weight not quite in the versatile daily trainer class of shoe limiting utility for me. 

Jeff: Hard to get a good fit for me, midfoot forward feels a bit ponderous.

Jeff: Really difficult to find ideal use, shoe screams 10:00/mile pace, but plate feels best at sub-7:00 pace.



Tester Profiles


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying to many fine New England IPA.


Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 30 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR's are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.


Stats

Official Weight: men's 10.6 oz / 300g (US9)  /  women's 9.1 / 257g     

  Samples: men’s  10.28 oz  / 291g (US8.5) | 11.75 oz / 333g (US11) 

Official Stack Height: 33mm heel / 28mm forefoot

Measured heel height (IAAF method): 31mm

Pre-Sales Sept. 15, 2021. Release Oct. 1, 2021. $200


First Impressions, Fit, and Upper


Sam: Massive in stature in light and bright colors the Bondi X is for sure a cheery looking giant, as the original Bondi B was.

The fit is for sure true to size for me. Both my medium narrow left foot and considerably wider right are well and comfortably held back to front.


As with all the 2021 Hoka uppers this seemingly simple no overlay upper just works. Light, breathable, foot conforming it should work well for a variety of foot shapes and volumes. 

The main upper material is called out as mesh with “3D hot melt yarn” on the Hoka spec sheet. I looked very closely bending the upper to see if any of the yellow highlight yarn, below the white outer was somewhat stiffer, maybe.. 

This yellow yarn may provide a touch of support but it is very subtle if it does, and for me effective as the upper has wonderful easy on the foot total support that is entirely seamless in feel. It is not a performance snug fit by any stretch but more a comfortable long miles one..

The tongue is a mesh grid with padding in the X designs. The top of the tongue has an outer suede like material that is smooth. The upper tongue is entirely reflective in a nice touch. While short, the top of the tongue sits perfectly. 

The soft fairly thin laces and thin stretch gusset provide and excellent non binding lockdown,

The heel counter is amply padded but not over stuffed with the foot opening relatively narrow in appearance but stretching a touch. The foot goes in with a resounding and pleasing “thunk”. The heel counter is rigid but not totally so with some bend higher up.

Of course the upper security relies as much or maybe more so on the fact the foot sits deeply into the rear bucket seat of high foam sidewalls which taper down as they go forward. Zero sensation of the dreaded Clayton and other Hoka arch bite here at all so far. The relatively thin Ortholite sockliner plays well with the tongue gusset and those foam sidewalls so as above a seamless smooth and comfortable fit under foot. 

Jeff: I’m not going to beat around the bush here - this is the most accommodating Hoka toebox I’ve ever tried. And while I haven’t run in every single Hoka model, I have dabbled in virtually all of them that get the rep of “Really good toebox!” and found most of them wanting. Not so here. 


This toebox is big. Granted, they did send me a half-size up 11 from my normal 10.5, but I’ve sized up in Hokas before to get a bigger toebox, and that rarely changed much - more of a rounding error level of change. I’ve even gone a full size up before in Hoka, and the 11.5 in the Stinson 5 didn’t have this much room for my foot.


Unfortunately, I found the midfoot almost equally massive. It took a while to get the lacing dialed in, and even then I found a lot of shoe movement during my runs in the Bondi X. I am curious if my standard size 10.5 would have made that much of a difference, but considering my past history of sizing up in Hoka, I’m not sure it would. That said, considering Sam’s feet are more narrow than mine, I would defer to his experience, and definitely implore runners to stick with their true sizing in the BondiX.

There are a number of boxes this upper checks. The upper breathes really well. I took it out on several warm afternoon runs and never found my feet even remotely hot. And while the overall fit felt much looser than I’d like, I experienced really no heel slip. The heel counter does a really good job keeping the shoe from riding up in any measurable way, which is really nice. And while the overall shoe is pretty heavy, I don’t get the sense that the upper is the culprit. There isn’t an overabundance of overlays, which is always nice in a road shoe.


Midsole

Sam: The compression molded EVA is Hoka’s “softest foam in our arsenal to date” and it sure is!  When the zonal outsole and giant swallowtail heel crash pad are considered together we get a very soft, very forgiving ride with a tremendous amount of cushion and for all intents and purposes zero shock. So much softness and cushion at the rear that I wished for some pop.


Wait, what about the carbon plate? It for sure is present but not “noticed” in the sense of sharpness or harshness up front.  It provides a mellow carbon impulse on toe off adding both a mild rocker sensation and some spring in contrast to the softness and light bounce of the foam. Without it the front softness might be mushy and ponderous. The Bondi X is a rigid profile shoe but doesn’t run that way having an easy going any pace flow to toe off.

I have been talking about the toe off, now to the landings. The midsole at the heel is at the same time very soft, very shock absorbing, and very stable due to the breadth of the platform.


It has only a moderate sense of energy return having a softer, sinking bounce rather than a more taut spring or pop with softness as supercritical foams do such as Puma Nitro, Nike Zoom X, Brooks DNA Loftv3  and Skechers Hyperburst have.  It feels as massive as it looks although the foot sits deep into the raised side walls at the heel. I think the midsole  is somewhat overdone in “scale” and softness for more general varied training paces for me. 

Yes it has a marshmallow feel at the heel as Hoka says in the spec sheet  while the carbon powered forefoot is lively and light feeling while equally well cushioned. I wonder if reducing the volume of foam used for those very high rear midsole side walls and moving it under foot for more drop might do to the ride flow off the heel? Or does as Brooks did in their equally giant Aurora-BL decouple front and back to move the foot off the heel quicker?


Sort of a tale of two cities. I think the visual design language of conveying massive landing cushion got ahead of functional design a touch here as the heel feels overly soft and broad and gets in the way of the lever action of the swallowtail more than it might, and I know from testing the Mach 4 and trail Zinal that the swallowtail can be highly effective.  The heel mass while composed of light foam and zonal coverage outsole rubber  leads to somewhat of a sensation of backweighting at moderate and strangely also fast paces but not very slow paces. 

While heel striking here is super pleasant and forgiving it doesn’t move you along forward very fast or with much pop or return, a gentle lever action forward from the swallowtail is what you sense with lots of compression of the midsole on the way forward.  I bet substituting a supercritical lighter foam would solve both the weight and the soft and slow to return energy issues for heel strikers such as me.


And speaking of geometry, curious what the numbering scheme on newer Hoka sidewalls means?

 What do the marking on the sidewall stand for? "S" Spring Measurements / "V" Volume of Midsole / CF Plate #. Other Hoka have weight in grams as the last measure.

Jeff: There’s no doubt Hoka is spot on when they say this is the softest foam they’ve used, it very much feels like it. Like Sam, I started out in the Bondi B nearly a decade ago (though I didn’t run the Boston Marathon or any other in that shoe - it’s cramped toebox gave me blisters anytime I crossed the 5-6 mile threshold) and this shoe reminds me a lot of that one. I’m not sure if the Bondi B was as soft as the Bondi X, but at the time nobody else was doing massive stacks of foam, so it felt just incredibly soft in an A/B test against anything - and the Bondi X keeps that tradition alive.


I agree with Sam, the carbon plate is very subtle. It mostly announces its presence when you are trying to bend the shoe with your hands, or running quickly. For smooth easy miles it is hard to tell that a plate is buried in all that super soft foam - except that might keep you from sinking in too deep. That said, I definitely got the constant sinking in feeling with almost every step. Yes, there is a rebound that bounces back, but it isn’t as active or dynamic as what we’ve seen in a number of other super shoes (and shoes that might be considered “adjacent” to super shoes like the Puma Deviate Nitro). It’s still just really, really soft. 

And yes, this shoe feels every bit as big as it looks. Not just the midsole, every element of it feels like it’s at 110%. I found that it helped focus me a little bit, massive shoes are usually great for super easy miles, which is lucky for me as I’m still limiting my efforts and mileage as I’m returning from an Achilles injury. But the softness also has a legitimate downside for me, and I’ll get deeper into that in the Ride section.

 

Outsole

Sam:  Zonal rubber typical of nearly all Hoka here. It appears to be of all the same firmness front and back. It is “adequately” thick yet on pressing deflects due to the softness of the midsole. I would very much like to see thicker heel rubber to give the rear of the shoe more pop.

Jeff: The CF plate prevents much flex in the shoe, so the rubber was never going to get in the way of that. I could see the exposed midsole being the early failure point, however, there is so much of it that I don’t think even runners who scuff their shoes quite a bit will still wear them out faster than 300 miles. 

I did find a small issue with the X-shaped slits in the midsole to show off the carbon fiber plate - it can collect and hold onto small rocks. Not a deal-breaker, but can lead to mid-run clicks on every step until you stop and dig them out.


Ride

Sam: Notably soft and broad at the heel, carbon lively and well cushioned at the forefoot the Bondi X ride is “luxury cruise liner” and is more sofa like than mesh desk chair overall. Bondi X has a super comfortable forgiving ride with a pleasant and distinct carbon powered transition and toe off. 

The level of cushioning and its softness in combination with the shoe’s admirable rear stability make it a good option for easy miles, heel strikers (as most of us are), and long slow runs. The softness at the heel, weighting there (and overall weight), had me struggling at faster paces as I wished for more pop off the heel (firmer or supercritical foam, more outsole, less swallowtail back weighting, more decoupling) while up front the plate foam combination worked better, rolling me to toe off with plenty of soft cushion plus the plate impulse and with no harshness but again as with the rear of the shoe more mellow than dynamic but for sure carbon powered.


Jeff: I largely agree with Sam (though I think he notices and enjoys the plate’s performance more than I do), this shoe is incredibly soft and squishy. It has a far more dynamic ride than any of the recent Bondis, which seem to go with a firmer/higher stack to cushion the foot. But my big gripe with the shoe’s ride is something that goes all the way back to the Bondi B.


I constantly feel like I’m sliding off the platform laterally. I already supinate (my physical therapist has me doing lots of daily adductor exercises) so I’m at the outside edge of each shoe, but the Bondi X makes me feel like I’m running on the sidewall of the shoe rather than the outer edge. Even standing still I can feel the lateral side of my foot lower than the medial side, which is really unpleasant. I was curious if Sam had noticed anything similar, so maybe it’s just supinators that need to keep an eye out - but it is noticeable to the eye as well. My wife kept asking me if I was standing funny anytime I’d wear the Bondi X around her. 

Sam: I did feel the edge softness up front to pressing and on the runbut really didn’t have the issues Jeff did. I tend to moderately heel strike then lay the foot flat rather than landing on the lateral side further forward as he does. I do think more extensive rubber coverage up front and shallower grooves  might help stabilize the foot. 


Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: Hoka joins the max cushion super premium game with a pleasing, easy going giant that combines lots of soft foam, a swallow tail broad heel design and a carbon plate. The result is a luxury cruise liner rather than a speed boat. 


My test runs, all at moderate paces between 9:30 mile and 10 min mile (my easier day training paces) were road shock free and in a word  “all good and all comfortable” but not easily blazing fast or even moderately fast and snappy due to the softness and weight at the rear of the shoe. 


The carbon plate clearly makes a difference in propulsion with such a soft midsole as toe offs at all paces were quick but not with that much pop contributed by the soft midsole and outsole, the plate doing the heavy lifting of propulsion. I will continue to run it as a recovery, no run agenda type shoe.  While I have not been in a Bondi since the B, Bondi fans should be pleased by the extra carbon pep here as well as the upper. 


I think those who midfoot strike at all paces will be able to better utilize the front of the shoe than I could, making it for me the  good option for the slower side of daily training, recovery, to long run shoe with the Mach 4 (RTR Review) the daily miles training compliment (also with swallow tail and rubberized foam main main midsole),  the Rincon 3 (RTR Review soon), the non plated uptempo and race shoe in the line up with Carbon X 2 (RTR Review)  the longer faster run and for some daily training option.  The upper is superb in its fit and simplicity.


Value for me is tough here as while I appreciated the luxurious soft ride, carbon, and upper, I missed some pop and would also gladly miss some of the weight here that a supercritical type foam or even a firmer flavor of the current foam might provide. 


A bold and modern midsole geometry design from Hoka that brings carbon, soft, stable and easy flowing together. That combination is a near first (Aurora-BL)  in my experience in the emerging super premium, carbon powered trainer category. Those seeking such a smooth, soft and mellow max cushioned run experience should give them a try.  

Sam’s Score: 8.79 /10

Ride: 8.5 (50%) Fit: 9.3 (30%) Value: 8.5 (15%) Style: 9.5 (5%)


Jeff: In some ways this is my favorite shoe Hoka has ever made (look at that toebox!) and it changes the pattern of recent mainline Bondi shoes that have a big pile of unresponsive foam under the foot. But I really struggled to get a solid fit that inspired confidence, and the entire platform felt like it was sloping inside out, which is a worst-case scenario for a runner who supinates. The carbon plate is subtle, which isn’t a bad thing, but really only made itself easily known at fast paces - and this is not a fast paced shoe. The value proposition is rough, $200 for a shoe that is best used the day after your big run is a pretty steep ask. However, if you are looking for arguably the softest shoe around then this could very well be the answer you’ve been looking for. And hey, it’s a Hoka with a proper toebox, that alone is the answer to a number of runners’ prayers.

Jeff’s Score 7.5/10

Ride: 7 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 6 (15%) Style: 8 (5%)


20 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Hoka One One Bondi 7 (RTR Review)

Jeff: They took the biggest softest shoe and made it even softer. While the Bondi X brings a price point hit to it, it also has a more dynamic ride. The B7 could be called sluggish, but the BX’s plate keeps it from getting there - even though you do sink into it more. The BX also has a better toebox, so runners with wider feet/toes don’t have to worry. Is it worth the extra $50? Absolutely, maybe. They both set out to do the same thing, super easy miles with extreme ground protection, while the BX has a wider toebox and softer ride the B7 has a more stable platform.


Hoka One One Carbon X (RTR Review)

Sam: Somewhat less cushioned, firmer, flatter feeling and faster. A great long run at faster paces option.


Jeff: Great example of two kinds of carbon plated Hokas - the CX has a nice rocker and a firmer ride that is definitely performance focused, while the BX is much softer and wider and focused clearly on a soft and cushioned experience. I would think these shoes would be much better as a tandem - use the Carbon X for your long run on Saturday and the Bondi X the following morning to take a little bit more of the thud of the ground out of your run.


Puma Magnify Ntro (RTR Review)

Sam: Not quite as soft or quite massively cushioned the Magnify has a lively supercritical foam, with a slightly firmer heel insert lower layer below and a full coverage outsole. The result is a more conventional riding max cushion with some forward flex as there is no plate. At $140 vs $200 for the Bondi X the pricing is for sure to be considered. Upper fit and materials are similar with the Bondi X having a slightly higher volume and height toe box. Nitro is more practical and versatile. 


Puma Deviate Nitro (RTR Review)

Jeff: Puma’s high stacked/plated shoe has a much firmer and springier ride than the Bondi X, which makes it much more versatile. It’s lighter and costs less, but its toebox is more restricted than the Hoka (possibly the first time that sentence has been written, ever) and the upper can be problematic. Ultimately, I’d favor the Puma for being able to be used for virtually all runs, while the Hoka is purely an easy day cruiser.


Craft CTM Ultra (RTR Review)

Sam: A very close comparison.. The Ultra is more than an ounce lighter with not quite as soft a feel as it has a combination of firmer EVA as the outer carrier for a softer and very energetic central PEBA insert, no plate in the mix. Clearly less back weighted yet equally as rear stable with almost double the drop it moves along.  Much more minimal upper. A faster take than Bondi X on a max cushion trainer and far more versatile in range of paces and uses but may not be for everyone.


Jeff: Surprising how close these line up to each other. The Craft feels crazy soft (until you put it on opposite the Bondi X), and it’s much lighter with a very pared down upper and much more substantial outsole. It also has much more versatility than the Hoka, as it is great for easy runs, super easy runs, and even slightly spirited runs. Sam is right, the Craft isn’t for everyone, but I think it is an easier (and $40 cheaper) recommendation than the Hoka.


Craft CTM Carbon Ultra (RTR Review)

Sam: Adding the carbon plate to the CTM Ultra makes the Carbon firmer than the Bondi X with its higher drop leading a more aggressive toe off with less forefoot cushion feel. As with the CTM Ultra, the rear of the Carbon is less back weighted in feel with a quicker transition of the heel if with not quite as cushioned soft landings as Bondi . 


Nike Tempo Next % (RTR Review)

Jeff: I had issues with the shape of the outsole around the midfoot of the Tempo Next% (my natural landing position is where the shoe cuts away making for a very awkward landing) but when forcing a heel strike they feel like opposite sides of the same coin. The TN% has an incredibly soft heel, and the airpods underneath the forefoot can be felt compressing and then rebounding, giving a little more pop in your step. The Bondi X shines at easy paces, while the TN% is much more at home when the pace speeds up.


Sam: I have to disagree with Jeff about the heel of the Tempo Next. For me the X is far softer and its narrower  on the ground rear profile is quicker to transition. A study in contrasts in the max cushion game in feel and purpose. The Tempo is all about very mechanical highly aggressive (yet plenty forgiving)  propulsion from its dense rebounding front air pod and plate. Firmer, much more dynamic if not as pleasant in feel the Tempo Next is a far faster shoe focused on..tempo and faster daily training while the X is all about a soft, mellow easy going moderate paces ride.


Brooks Aurora-BL (RTR Review)

Sam: Considerably lighter, bouncier but with less of a final toe off impulse at faster paces as no carbon in the mix. It’s supercritical lively, much more energy returning,  light yet soft enough foam is the key differentiator. It’s weight is also more evenly balanced. The giant midfoot flex groove (essentially the Brooks alternative to a carbon plate in a big stack)  makes it a bit less stable but it is still adequately so. If you seek a max max cushion shoe with some excitement then Aurora.


Jeff: Yup. Sam is absolutely right here, if you want max cushioning with some excitement, there’s no better shoe than the Aurora. It’s rebound is much more prominent, and while it doesn’t have quite the same soft/sink-in feeling the Hoka has, its rebound is so much better. And even though the Aurora is a very large shoe, it feels actually svelte in comparison to the Bondi X. Both are expensive, but the Brooks is worth it.


New Balance FuelCell Lerato (RTR Review)

Sam: Both with state of the art foams and carbon plates in more mellow pace trainers and priced $200 or more ($225 Lerato). The more “conservative” looking and more conservative riding Lerato is heavier, has copious and far more durable rubber, and has a smooth more traditional ride flow whereas the Bondi X is softer (the foam characteristics and less rubber mainly). Both have a more mellow vibe with Lerato more conventional in ride feel with its heel feel and front carbon impulse more smoothly integrated with the foam and its big outsole providing more response. I would also say the Lerato with its big heel counter and fuller outsole coverage is more stable especially at ahead of the heel.


Jeff: When I read about the rumors of the Bondi X a few months ago, this is immediately where my mind went. Big stacks, heavy weights, high costs, and CF plates? Checkmarks on both sides. The Fuelcell midsole is the difference for me, providing less cushion and more rebound, but fans of either should try both on.


Nike Invincible Run (RTR Review)

Sam: Clearly Hoka aiming for the Invincible delivering a more stable, better fitting for most, not quite as exciting option. The Invincible is super fun and bouncy with far more energy return but is not as versatile day to day as the Bondi X especially if you need some stability at the heel while seeking a soft, slower paces shoe.


Jeff: Both incredibly soft shoes, with the big bounce of Nike’s ZoomX being very clearly the difference. The Bondi X is more stable than the Invincible, but I’d disagree with the Invincible being less versatile - I’ve enjoyed it as a daily trainer as well as a super easy recovery shoe, the latter of which the only place I’d run the Bondi X. Definitely worth a look at both if you are interested in either.


Mizuno Wave Sky Neo (RTR Review)

Jeff: Mizuno’s big trainer is slightly lower stacked, with a more premium upper, and similar feel of soft cushioning to dull the road. It isn’t as soft as the Hoka, but Mizuno’s Enerzy midsole does have better rebound. Ultimately the Mizuno feels like a big daily trainer, while the Hoka is just massive in every dimension. I’d favor the Mizuno for its versatility, but if you want a super easy cruiser the Hoka is the better choice.


New Balance Fresh Foam More v3 (RTR Review)

Jeff: The FFMv3 lines up very cleanly against the Bondi X (minus the CF plate of course) as they are both very big, very soft, and very clearly designed for easy runs. The Bondi X is a little softer, which is really saying something, but I think the FFMv3 is more stable. Toeboxes are similar, so ultimately I’d favor the New Balance, for the extra stability and $35 lower price tag.


Sam: Jeff describes the differences well. I would add I found the More v3 not quite as easy to run very slow as the Bondi X with its sweet spot at faster paces more up on the midfoot. While it has no plate up front, I found it more dynamic up front there due to its firmer foam.


Adidas Boston 10 (RTR Review)

Sam: Clearly firmer, less stable at the heel and faster. More uptempo in feel than Bondi X. A real study in max cushion contrasts with Boston 10 clearly the performance faster paces to daily training option and Bondi X the easy easy days choice. Priced way below the Bondi X with one could argue yet more new and innovative modern tech if not quite the easy going comfort it is pure performance trainer.


Jeff: Definitely firmer and faster, the Boston 10 thumbs its nose at previous versions “racing flat with a little bit extra” ethos and grew in stack height and sprouting energy rods to act as a plate. Boston 10 comes in $60 less, and much more versatile, the adidas is a very easy choice.


Skechers Max Road 5 (RTR Review)

Jeff: One of the best shoes of 2021, the Max Road 5 included a plate that gives the shoe just a little bit of stability, and it’s a huge step up from previous versions. Compared to the Bondi X it’s much lighter/cheaper/bouncier/fun/stable, and that makes it hard to consider the Hoka. Hyperburst with a plate is a Deandre Ayton alley-oop with 0.9 seconds left to win a playoff game by a point - incredibly good.


Sam: Agree with Jeff. A full and felt 2 ounces lighter, the only place the Bondi X out performs the Max Road is easy slow paces as the Skechers rear geometry plus equally as soft midsole has me back on the heels more than I would like.


Saucony Endorphin Shift (RTR Review)

Sam: Considerably firmer, yet equally if not more stable and cushioned with a more distinct final roll to toe off the Endorphin Shift is while not as pleasant and soft a far more versatile many paces and distances “trainer”. 


Jeff: 100% agree with Sam, the Endorphin Shift and Endorphin Shift 2 are both massive stacks of Saucony’s PWRRUN midsole, which is pretty firm, but with this much stack height there’s lots of cushioning to be found. The rocker geometry gives a great toe off, making this shoe excel on easy days as well as medium efforts as well.


New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)

Jeff: The TC might have been my first plated shoe that billed as more of a trainer than a racer, and I’ve really enjoyed it. Much like the Lerato, the Fuel Cell midsole is so soft and bouncy it makes the compressed EVA in the Bondi X feel like a relic. The Bondi X heel and midfoot are much wider creating a more stable platform, especially for heel strikers. But the TC brings much more versatility to the table, giving it the nod in this case.


Sam: I would add don’t expect the soft heel and more distinct sharper forefoot and its carbon plate to be as smooth an experience as the Bondi X if your need is for a slower easy going paces shoe. 


New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff: This one is a bit unfair - the RC Elite 2 is one of the best long distance racing shoes on the market, NB took a great shoe in the v1 and reworked it to make it even better. The Bondi X is softer and wider, the RCE2 is every else with more of a bounce/spring, better fitting upper, and likely more durable with a more comprehensive outsole. But ultimately I wouldn’t take the New Balance out for a super easy recovery run, which is where the Hoka shines, so this is more of a tandem pairing than a direct comparison. That said, if you are going to spend $200 on the Hoka and you don’t already have the RC2 or something in that, I’d strongly recommend spending an extra $25 and get one of the best shoes on the market right now.


Sam: Clearly a super shoe racer and a very light and incredibly well cushioned and friendly one. For all but super easy runs, as Jeff says,  the RC Elite 2 in a direct pairing is superior. And for many but not all most runs are not super easy.


Saucony Triumph 19 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Saucony’s T19 is an upper revision from the 18 (but it’s a big upgrade losing more than an ounce and creating a more versatile shoe) and still has a decent sized stack of their more premium midsole material PWRRUN+. While the Saucony midsole feels much denser, that means it isn’t nearly as pillowy soft as the Hoka. If you want a decently soft shoe that can do everything shy of speedwork, then the T19 holds the edge, but if you only want a recovery day shoe, the Bondi X is waiting for you.


ASICS Glideride  (RTR Review)

Jeff: Very comparable to the Saucony Endorphin Shift, the Glideride has a very high stack and a heavily emphasized geometry/rocker for a fast turnover. The Bondi X is softer and wider, but the Glideride is surprisingly stable for its build (I’ve spent some time in the dirt with the Glideride and had no complaints). I favor the Glideride for being nearly as good at the easy stuff and much better as a daily trainer.


adidas Ultraboost 21 (RTR Review)

Jeff: adidas brought out a pretty big overhaul for their biggest Boost shoe, and gave it a plate under the forefoot. While the two shoes share their love for lots of weight and an emphasized heel, the Bondi X midsole is much softer than the aging Boost material, and the plate in the adidas is much lower in the shoe, right above the outsole, which made for an awkward running geometry for me. The UB21 has plenty of material underneath the foot, but it just doesn’t have the same super soft quality the Hoka has. Make mine the Bondi X.

Sam: I bet this is where Hoka is going with Bondi X, a competitor to the very popular, yet considerably heavier near lifestyle trainer the UB21. And here they succeed in delivering a far more forgiving and pleasant experience. The UB 21 is heavy, strangely harsh and mechanical from all its plastic underfoot and has an awkward, more complicated upper. The Bondi X is softer and bouncier, more comfortable and for me smoother running. 

Watch the Bondi X Video Review (16:32)


Available for Pre-Sales Sept 15, Releases Oct 1st, 2021

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial contentThe opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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1 comment:

Miki said...

Thank you for your detailed and informative review. How would you rate the Bondi's softness compared to the Hoka Stinson ATR 6?