Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Hoka Carbon X 3 Multi Tester Review

Article by Renee Krusemark, Adam Glueck and Sam Winebaum

Hoka Carbon X 3 ($180)


Sam: The 3d generation of Hoka’s max cushion trainer/racer gets a new supercritical foam midsole and a performance knit upper. It loses about 0.21 oz / 6g  over the X2 while retaining the same overall geometry, stack height, and rubberized foam outsole as the X 2. 

The Carbon X was originally developed as an elite road ultra marathon shoe with the Rocket X the marathon distance and below racer in the Hoka line.

I tested the original Carbon X (RTR Review) racing a 20 miler and the Boston Marathon in them and found the stable ride very decently cushioned if flat riding due to the 5mm drop, rigid carbon plate and overall geometry compared to what was soon to come from Nike and others. I did not test the Carbon X 2 (RTR Review).

With a new lighter, super critical foam in the Carbon X 3 as well as the trail Tecton X I was eager to see if the Carbon X 3 had more pep.


Plenty of cushion and comfort for long runs - Renee/Adam/Sam

Meta-Rocker provides smooth strides - Renee/Adam

Stable on dirt and gravel paths - Renee

Energetic new foam a big improvement over v1’s: Sam

Firmly responsive but not harsh foam - Adam/Sam

Stable midsole comfortable for a variety of foot strikes -Adam/Sam

Good grip on wet and dry pavement -Adam

Feels good at a variety of paces, including much slower than other super shoes feel comfortable going -Adam/Sam

Always run faster than expected despite geometry (see Cons): Sam

Secure fit for a knit upper: Sam


Knit upper too voluminous for a secure fit - Renee/Adam

Weight and upper security not ideal for marathon/sub marathon racing distances - Renee/Adam

Poor grip in snow/slush -Adam

Less bounce and propulsion than some other super shoes -Adam/Renee

Flat riding, dullish geometry: overly rigid plate, low 5mm drop, the energetic foam on the firmer side: Sam



Approx. weight: men's 8.54 oz / 242gg (US9)  /  women's 7.57oz/214g (US8) 

  Samples:  men’s  8.29 oz/ 234g US8.5

        women’s 7.57oz/214g (US8) 

Prior versions weights (US men’s 8.5):X2: 8.5 oz / 241g, X1 8.45 / 240g

Stack Height: men’s heel 32mm / 27 mm forefoot 

Expected release April 2022. $180 

First Impressions, Fit, and Upper

Renee: A long distance super shoe! I was excited to try another carbon-plated super shoe suited for long distances. My first impression of the ride was positive, and I thought the Meta-Rocker provided a comfortable roll forward. On the somewhat negative side, the shoes look huge. Initially, I thought Hoka sent a men’s size 8 instead of a women’s size 8. For sizing, Hoka runners might be able to wear their usual Hoka size, which could be one half size smaller than other brands. For comparison, the Carbon X3 is visibly longer and fits longer than my women’s size 8 in other carbon-plated distance shoes, including the Next% and Metaspeed Sky. The upper fit of the Carbon X3 is much more voluminous as compared to both of those shoes.

Adam: Since their inception Hoka has been one of the pioneers of both light max cushion shoes and carbon plated racer/trainers with the original Carbon X.  The Carbon X3 has a beautifully complex knit upper, but I found the fit loose.  It’s comfortable, but has more volume than the Metaspeed Sky, Vaporfly Next%2, NB RC Elite 2 etc.  I might prefer a tighter and more precise upper for a racer or a trail shoe, but I feel like this fits into a more training/racing niche.  Initial impressions of the midsole/outsole is an extremely pronounced rocker, and smoothly responsive though not particularly soft or bouncy foam.  I love the orange color, and am excited about the direction Hoka is taking with their new foam.  

Renee: While I like the idea of the upper, it simply does not work the best for me. I think a women’s size 7.5 instead of a women’s size 8 would help, but even then the height and overall volume of the upper did not provide good security across the heel or midfoot. I do appreciate the stretch within the width of the toebox, and I think runners who typically consider Hoka’s toe boxes constricting will like the stretch of the knit. For moderate to steady paces, the security of the upper was not an issue, but it is one of the reasons I did not wear the shoes for speed work. I had to tighten the lacing so much that the upper material folded over itself.

Adam:  The upper is beautiful to look at, but doesn’t fit particularly precisely.  Compared to other knit uppers I’ve tried, it clearly has different zones for support and ventilation, and the breathability is excellent. However I found that the overall volume was high enough that even with cinching the laces down, 

I wasn't able to make the fit as precise as most other racing shoes.  Because the midsole is more stable, I wouldn’t be as concerned about this loose of an upper as I would in a softer and higher stack shoe like a Next% or RC Elite 2, but this feels like an exceptionally light and ventilated “trainer” upper rather than a precise yet minimal “racer” upper.  

Sam: Flashy and bright the Carbon X 3 for sure makes a statement. The all white midsole accentuates the big stack height while the knit upper with its lengthwise two tone colors and elaborate knit pattern is visually striking. 

Clearly Hoka is looking at the Carbon X 3 as not only a high performance trainer / racer but a “deluxe” looking and feeling one too. 

The knit upper has two types of fibers: somewhat stretchy polyester and a non stretch white mono mesh which provides structure and ventilation areas. 

One can clearly see the differences in the midfoot knit of the lateral side as compared to the medial side which has more extensive mono mesh for support between the vertical ribs of polyester.

I am generally not a fan of knit uppers as they tend to be heavier, can be overly stretchy in the front and sloppy at mid foot unless “caged” and often have  problematic rear hold. Not so here.

While I would prefer a lighter engineered mesh upper which likely could have brought the weight down below 8 oz instead of the current 8.54 oz in a US 9 this is a pretty darn good knit upper.  

I fit the Carbon X 3 true to size and have had none of the fit issues of my colleagues.  I even ran them a while unaware that I had one lace untied and didn’t even notice it. This said this upper is designed for straight ahead running and as with all knits given the stretch not ideal when surfaces are less even.


Renee: I’m not a fan of the shoe’s upper, but the midsole works great. The low drop, Meta-Rocker, firm feel, and overall cushion are comfortable and provide a healthy roll forward for smooth, consistent strides. I was running in single digits temperatures, but even then the midsole was not uncomfortably harsh or firm. The benefit of the carbon plate for me is for the reduction of fatigue. I do not get a spring forward with the plate as much as I feel with other carbon-plated marathon racers (i.e. Next% or Metaspeed Sky). The shoes are a bit heavy in comparison to other racing shoes, which is why I would choose the Carbon X3 for long training runs or races greater than the 26.2 distances. The feel of the midsole will appeal to runners who like firmness rather than softness. 

Adam:  I like what Hoka is doing with this midsole.  After using only regular EVA for years, Hoka’s Profly X+ supercritical foam is smoother and more responsive, reminding me of a firmer HyperBurst or the Scott Speed Carbon RC.   Most other super shoes feature a low density, bouncy foam, that while extremely fun to run with, doesn’t necessarily feel smooth and stable.  There’s less of a pop or explosive rebound as in in the Metaspeed Sky and Next % 2 and more of a dynamic rocker.  The carbon plate is close to the base of the shoe and the pronounced/extended heel works well with midfoot to heel striking.  The foam is relatively firm, but there’s enough of it that it is in no way harsh.  If you don’t like your shoes to feel squishy, but still want more lightness and response than a standard EVA, this is a great midsole.  

Sam: The new super critical midsole foam is clearly more responsive than the Carbon X 1’s. I did not run the Carbon X 2 where the rubberized foam outsole got thinner as it is in the X 3. The foam is on the firmer side with a rebound reminiscent somewhat of Skechers Hyperburst in models such as the Razor, so the firmer flavor of Hyperburst. It is for sure not as soft and bouncy as New Balance’s FuelCell in the Rebel v2 and RC Elite.

Hoka continues with its original “C001” carbon plate and with the same 32/27 stack height and the swallow tail of the X 2.  32mm at the heel is nowadays on the lower side of heel stacks while 27mm is even now relatively stout. The combination translates to a 5mm drop and a very rigid shoe with a flatter feel than some of the newer contenders but one considerably liviler in feel due to the new foam than prior Carbon X or other Hoka. Due to my poor knee lift I often struggle in more rigid Hoka with a sense I need to drive up and away vertically. Yet, I must say despite a moderate sensation of “struggle” my runs in the X 3 have all easily ended up faster than expected or planned and with my legs fresh the next day.

I am also testng the Tecton X trail shoe which has the same new supercritical foam and a dual parallel carbon plate. With its low profile Vibram trail outsole the Tecton is actually higher stack,  more flexible and is  smoother if broader feeling on the road telling me that the dull flat ride I feel in the Carbon X 3 is due to its rigid carbon plate more than anything else. Not sure why Hoka did not incorporate this new “C003” plate of the Tecton in the trainer focused Carbon X 3. Timing? World Athletics certification? Pandemic production issues?


Renee: The rubberized EVA has some give to it but it provides a stable landing on pavement, dirt, gravel, and crushed rock. I ran a 10K on gravel roads and a 10-miler on crushed rock and the outsole has no wear to it.

Adam: While testing the Carbon X3, I’ve been running in snow, slush, and cold gravel and pavement.  These are most certainly not the ideal conditions for this shoe.  On pavement, and even wet pavement, it’s gripped fine, but I’ve taken a few spills any time I go through snow or slush.  I’m not saying that it would necessarily be better for other road shoes, especially racing ones, but having some rubber rather than just the rubberized EVA would be helpful in the winter.

Sam: I have run the X 3 on dry and wet roads as well as very wet storm blown sand and seaweed after a big storm with no traction issues.  


Renee: The ride is comfortable and best suited for me as a trainer or racer for beyond the 26.2 distance. The low drop, Meta-Rocker, and firm midsole help provide a consistent pace. I do not get the spring or bounce forward I would like from the shoes to use it for speed work or a 26.2 (or shorter) race. The weight is a factor too, but all of that equates to why the shoes would make a good racing choice for me past 26.2, on pavement or crushed rock. I’m simply not fast enough to maintain a solid pace past 26.2 with the Next%, so for me the Carbon X3 is a better suited shoe for ultra distances. 

Marathon runners looking to finish the race rather than place or PR might benefit from the subdued ride of the Carbon X3. I enjoyed the ride up and down rolling hills and found that the fatigue on my legs was much less than normal. For long training runs, around 20 miles, the ride is fine at slow paces for a couple hours. After that point, the firm midsole might become uncomfortable for some runners. Overall, the ride works best at a moderate pace for me, with some marathon or faster paces mixed in. 

Adam:  I’m impressed with the versatility of this shoe’s ride.  Although the upper is a bit sloppy, the stable midsole, firm but not harsh foam, and pronounced rocker work at a variety of paces and foot strikes.  The rocker works well at a variety of paces and I’ve found it most pleasant between 10 minute and 7 minute mile pace.  For racing, I’m inclined to stick with lighter shoes with more dynamic energy return like the Metaspeed Sky and Next%2, but I think for long training days and faster runs where I’d like a more stable and responsive platform, the Carbon X3 is a great option.  

I’ve noticed that the rocker and cushioning reduce fatigue in my legs, even in extremely cold conditions (~5º F) where traditional foams firms firm up.  I agree with Renee on the use case of this shoe for long/medium-fast training and ultra distance running where I’d struggle with a softer and less stable super shoe. 

Sam: As I have said above, the ride is a bit flat and rigid feeling but lively and protective with the new foam providing some welcome response and rebound of the firmer variety.  The X 3 felt fine at all paces but came to life at moderate tempo to marathon pace for me.  In the current Hoka line up, despite being somewhat heavier than competition, it would slot in as the marathon race choice for me due to its super stable well cushioned ride. I prefer a somewhat firmer more stable racer/long trainer and the X 3 fits that  bill very well. I would only wish for a somewhat more flexible overall platform with an easier going carbon impulse and toe off  as the Tecton X provides.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Renee: I enjoyed the ride of the Carbon X3. For me, they work best as a long distance trainer (20+ milers) or a possible race shoe past the 26.2 distance. The firm midsole, drop, Meta-Rocker, and carbon plate help provide smooth strides while reducing fatigue on the legs. For racing distances where pace and speed are important, I would choose another carbon-plated shoe. The Carbon X3 weight is not comparable to other racing options and the upper was too voluminous for me to get a good security for speed work. Because of the firm midsole, the ride works best with some fast paces mixed in during long training runs. 

Renee’s score: 8.8/10 (-1 upper fit, -.10 weight for usage, -.10 firm ride)

Adam:  I agree with Renee here, when I want a firmer stable shoe that still keeps my legs feeling fresh, the Carbon X3 is a great choice.  I wouldn’t consider it a direct competitor to most other carbon plated racers due to its weight, responsiveness and upper precisions, but rather as a long distance trainer that feels better at a variety of paces and foot strikes.  

Adam’s Score:7.70 (Ride:8, Fit:7, Value: 8, Style:  8)

Sam: Hoka updates the Carbon X with a great new foam and an elaborate knit upper. I personally would have preferred a lighter mesh upper despite the fine fit and comfort of this upper. The new supercritical foam is for sure excellent in its response and not what we have seen from Hoka but the rocker, carbon plate and low drop are not as in tune and dynamic as I prefer in a plated shoe. I would like to see an easier, more flexible drive forward. That said the shoe is fast, very well cushioned and notably stable and legs friendly making it a fine long fast trainer and for Hoka fans marathon racer . Given its capabilities, quality construction, elaborate knit upper, and carbon plate it is a decent value. I would like to see a future version incorporate the friendlier smoother running plate of the Tecton X and a lighter upper.

Sam’s Score: 8.9 /10

Ride:8.9 (50%) Fit: 8.8 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style: 9.5 (5%)


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Hoka Mach Supersonic (RTR Review)

Sam: Hoka’s other up-tempo offering, the March releasing Supersonic is slightly lower stack, has a combination top responsive foam with below a thicker (than X 3) slab of rubberized foam serving as both outsole and part of the midsole. Supersonic is for sure more flexible with a very effective plateless rocker. I find Mach easier to run a variety of paces in if not quite as explosive and directed (if you can get that knee drive required by the X 3).  Topped with a superb engineered mesh upper with minimal stretch its fit is more secure.

Nike Vaporfly Next % (RTR Review)

Renee: For sizing comparisons, I can wear a 7.5 or 8 in the Next%. For long distance racing, I prefer the size 8 but I can use a 7.5 for speed/training workouts. The size 8 in the Next % is noticeably shorter than the Carbon X3 size 8. Runners might want to half size down in the Carbon X3. For racing at any distance at or below 26.2, the Next% is a clear winner. For training runs or ultra distances, the Carbon X3 might be a more controlled option, especially for slower runners (me included).

Adam:  The Vaporfly Next % (version 2 for me) fits much closer, but is still very comfortable.  For racing, I’d pick the Next%, but the Carbon X3 is more stable and predictable.  I think that for slower training, or extreme distance racing where I’d rather not have an extremely soft and narrow midsole, the Carbon X3 could be advantageous.  

Salomon S/Lab Phantasm CF (RTR Review)

Sam: The 3 mm higher heel stack 9mm drop  slightly lighter Phantasm has a distinctly different ride and cushion feel. It’s plate is flexible fiberglass and its foam is more energetic and softer . While the Hoka will guide you on a fixed path with a more isolating cushion, the Salomon has more of a rocker, more road feel and more agility while being equally as stable. The Salomon upper is far more minimal and breathable while adequately supportive as is X 3’s for me..

Scott Speed Carbon RC (RTR Review)

Sam: The Scott has a similar firmer yet responsive midsole with the Hoka a touch livelier and springier. It incorporates a dynamically flexing carbon plate which adapts better to slower paces and leads to a smoother flow than the Carbon X’s more rigid and prescriptive approach. Slightly heavier, the Scott makes up for this with 3mm more stack and the same 5mm drop. In terms of upper and fit the Hoka’s heel area is more secure while the lighter thinner Scott’s saves weight and is more comfortable further forward. Both are good choices for more moderate pace marathoners seeking a stable ride from mile 1 to 26.

ASICS Metaspeed Sky (RTR Review)

Renee: For sizing, my size 8 in the Metaracer Sky feels a half to full size shorter. I suggest half to full sizing down from the Metaracer Sky to the Carbon X3. Both shoes have a healthy roll forward, although the Metaracer Sky works best for me with a strike at the forefoot, whereas the Carbon X3 works better with a heel or midfoot strike. For racing and faster paces, the Metaracer Sky is the better option. 

Adam:  For sizing, the Metaspeed Sky fits about a size smaller.  I’d size down ½ in the Carbon X3, and up ½ size or TTS in the Metaspeed Sky.  The Metaspeed Sky is softer than the Carbon X3 but firmer than the Next% and RC Elite 2.  The Metaspeed Sky is my favorite racer at the moment. It is much more speed focused and lighter weight than X 3.  At paces faster than 7:30/mile, I’d pick the Metaspeed Sky, for long  training runs or runs slower than 7:30/mile I’d pick the Carbon X3.  

New Balance RC Elite v2 (RTR Review)

Adam:  The RC Elite 2 is my current favorite long distance/training super shoe, and it takes a completely different approach to foam firmness.  I find the upper on the RC Elite 2 superior in terms of precision and foothold, and the foam much softer.  While I find both shoes very stable, the primary reason I’d pick the Carbon X3 over the NB RC Elite 2 is if you’d prefer a firmer and more controlled foam.  

Tester Profiles

Renee is a former U. S. Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.

Adam is a cross country ski racer from New Hampshire.  Along with skiing, he’s a big fan of endurance sports in general and does a lot of running.  He’s much faster at skiing, participating in the  Covid curtailed NCAA’s skiing for Dartmouth College, but can run a 4:43 mile (in trail shoes), 16:59 5k and has won a few small trail races you’ve never heard of.  His mileage varies depending on how much snow is on the ground, but he trains about 700 hours a year including 1200 miles of running and 4000 miles of skiing and roller skiing.  You can follow him at his IG: @real_nordic_skier, his blog: https://adamglueck.wordpress.com, & on Strava https://www.strava.com/athletes/9267222

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 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 too many fine New England IPA.

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

RTR's Top Road & Trail Run Shoe Introductions for 2022 from The Running Event 
34 Run Shoes for Road & Trail HERE
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and currently preferred shoes

RoadTrailRun receives a commission on purchases at the stores below.
Your purchases help support RoadTrailRun. Thanks!

USA  Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's and Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products
FREE Shipping on orders over 99, 30 days return policy, no questions asked.

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE


Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by Following RoadTrailRun News Feed

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook: RoadTrailRun.com  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun


Unknown said...

I would be interested in a comparison with the good old adizero Pro. I have the Carbon X2 which is really good for longer distances over 26.2. Nevertheless, the older adizero Pro is the better choice for me - despite or perhaps because of the combination of Boost and Lightstrike midsole. For me somehow the perfect street ultra shoe, although it was never advertised as such...

Anonymous said...

Hello RTR. Is Salomon going to release any of its new running shoe line in February or March of 2022? Also have you heard anything about ASICS and a trabuco max 2 ?

Lee said...

How does it compare with the Homs Rocket X? The current shoe worn by home athletes

GailT said...

Thanks for the review! It seems like it might be a good option for a 9 minute mile pace marathon. How would you compare it to the original Saucony Endorphin Pro (currently on sale) in terms of ride and cushioning?

Sam Winebaum said...

@unknown one key difference is that the Carbon X 3 has a 5mm drop vs the higher drop of Adios Pro
@Lee for me Rocket X is firmer and more aggressive while having a similar rocker profile. Much prefer the new more energetic foam in the Carbon X 3.
@GailT It would be good choice for a 9min mile marathon pace if the 5mm drop and rigid rocker profile agrees with you. Endo Pro is I feel firmer and yet more aggressive with a very distinct final toe off roll. I marathon somewhat faster than you last 8:30 or so pace and I would reach for X 3 over Endo Pro but Endo Speed before the other two as a flexible plate agrees with my stride.
Sam, Editor

Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our index page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews.
Shopping through links on articles and our pages including at Running Warehouse help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Chad Payne said...

How does it compare to the Puma Deviate Nitro?

MBB said...

I tried on the x2 at my local running store and found it too narrow in the arch area for me. You mention the upper being more spacious, is that just with the updated upper material, or does the midsole last seem slightly wider too?