Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Hoka 2023 Previews: Rocket X2, Clifton 9, Challenger 7, Tecton X2, Transport

Article by RTR Team

Hoka unveiled early 2023 models at The Running Event in Austin, Texas. We were not shown all 2023 shoes that is for sure with Hoka focusing on the updates to 2 stalwarts the Clifton 9, the road and door to trail Challenger 7 and a new plated trail racer Tecton X2.

And it was high time for a true Hoka super grade marathon shoe from the brand that literally invented max cushion in the middle of the barefoot  or near barefoot run era as they unveiled the Rocket X2 marathon racer. 

Finally, they surprised us with a wonderful looking and we expect versatile performing more casual shoe the Transport with a strong sustainability focus top to bottom.

Rocket X2 ($250)

Coming March 2023, the Rocket X2 is Hoka’s first true marathon super shoe with a 40mm heel and 35mm forefoot full stack height, supercticial foam PEBA midsole and weight well below 8 oz for a US9 as the sample US10 we weighed came in at 8.18 oz / 231g. 

The X2 has a new geometry with forked carbon fiber plate sandwiched between 2 layers of a compression molded (non beaded) PEBA supercritical foam in what Hoka is called a Profly X construction.  

The X2 has a wide platform underfoot and appropriately located  zonal rubber coverage. 

If we recall correctly, following the construction of other Hoka ProFly shoes such as the Mach 4 and Tecton X, the lower layer is slightly firmer than the upper layer with the foot upfront plunging down into the softer foam towards the plate. This softer over firmer is a now a pretty much standard approach in super shoe construction.

Significantly higher stacked (10mm more at the heel and forefoot) than the firm and stiff riding conventional foam Rocket X1 (RTR Review) dating to 2020, yet only about 0.20 oz heavier , the X2 will give Hoka fans a state of the art racing super shoe. Its comparatively simple geometric design and broad platform point to a stable and friendly ride for a wide range of paces with wild card likely the plate design and how multi pace friendly it actually is.

Clifton 9 ($145)

Ah, the Clifton the OG  max cushion lighter trainer hits 9. The Clifton has gone through many “slight” variations while retaining its same stack height over time. The Clifton 1 was very light, highly energetic and soft and for me and a very heel unstable yet very fast shoe. Other versions were firmer and more stable but somehow most didn’t reproduce the magic (and wild ride) of the first Clifton.

The Clifton 9 checks in at 8.7 oz / 246g in the US9 sample we weighed at The Running Event and by spec is a few grams lighter than version 8. 

Its new softer compression molded EVA is now also lighter allowing Hoka to add 2mm of stack height to 31mm heel / 26mm forefoot with the women’s going to 29/24 while also reducing its weight by a few grams. The increase in stack height is a big change as all prior Clifton have been 29mm/24mm.  The midsole geometry is also all new. While softer for me than v, 7 the Clifton 8 was fine but not that exciting. The new foam here is shared across other Hoka and is more energetic and less classic“EVA like” in feel so we are looking forward to testing this new ride.

The upper is also new. It is a Creel Jacquard mesh with a combination of soft polyester for comfort and non stretch mono mesh for hold. It remains to be seen how well this combination holds the foot but it sure feels soft to the touch and I am optimistic the mono mesh will do its job in the mix. Overall, between the softer more energetic midsole and more of it the Clifton 9 could at long last potentially bring back the magic of the OG.

Available February 2023 and also in wide. $145

Challenger 7 ($145)

Update: Challenger 7 Multi Tester Review

The Challenger is Hoka’s door to trail model and a close cousin to the Clifton. As with the Clifton,  it increases 2mm in stack height to 31mm / 26mm with the women’s also increasing to 29/24  over the Challenger 6 (RTR Review).  

It gets the same new softer, lighter,  more energetic compression molded EVA foam as in the Clifton. It loses about 1 oz / 28 g in weight due to the new foam and a lighter new engineered mesh upper with a double sided gusset and recycled content. Very interestingly, it weighs 0.3 oz more than the Clifton even with its more aggressive outsole. 

Hoka highlighted changes to the outsole design with the 4mm lugs and somewhat flatter, more extensive, more road friendly coverage down the center with more aggressive lug shapes along the edges for trail traction than before.  Shown below the Challenger 6 outsole for comparison.

Hoka made interesting choices here: more cushion, a less trail focused more door to trail focused upper from what I can tell, and a combination of both more aggressive trail traction and more road friendly smoother flowing road outsole manners. 

I expect the Challenger to be a very versatile shoe and if given the choice as I often go door to trail I think I would pick it over the Clifton 9 as there is no real weight penalty and the same cushion stack and midsole foam. Available now for $145 and also in wide.

Challenger 7 at Running Warehouse US HERE

Tecton X2 ($225)

The Tecton X (RTR Review) is Hoka’s pinnacle long trail racer and was RTR’s ultra runners’ shoe of choice for 2022 with Mike Postaski winning two 100 milers in them and Dom Layfield running to 4th at Angeles Crest 100 and a fine 10th in his age group finish at UTMB in them.

The underfoot ProFly + platform with its combination of lower supercritical foam and above slightly softer EVA blend, dual parallel carbon plates, and Vibram LiteBase with 4mm lug outsole remains unchanged.

Tecton 2 gets a new Matryx upper with aramid fibers and a new toe box design with a stretch front insert (similar to Speedgoat) instead of the prior extended lacing. 

We expect this new design might have a more accommodating toe box ( although the Matryx mesh is not as stretchy)  and should have less water absorption but this should remain a precision race fit upper, as intended for an elite racing shoe. We weighed the sample US9 here at 8.8 oz / 249g with the Tecton X1 essentially at the same weight. Coming April 2023. $225

Transport ($140)

We were all struck by the looks and story around the Transport, a sustainability focused commuter, hiking, biking, travel, and walking all arounder that can also handle some running. It has 360 degrees of reflectivity. 

It features a 30% sugarcane EVA midsole, Vibram N-Oil outsole that uses 90% petrol free components, and a 100% Cordura rPet mesh upper. Transport will be available in February 2023. $140.

Note: Not all 2023 models were presented. More to come later this year.

Hoka Presents 2023 Run Shoes at The Running Event (5:49)

Check out our other 2023 Run Previews 


15 Brands, Dozens of New Models

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

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Yanni said...

Hi Sam. Any news of a torrent update? Was expecting to see a torrent 3. Has the line been discontinued as it’s been over 2 years since an update. Thanks.

TReilly56 said...

In regard to the Hoka Rocket..."supercticial foam PEBA midsole?" What in the world is "supercticial?"

Sam Winebaum said...

HI TReiley,
Supercritical foaming is a process wherein a gas (CO2 or Nitrogen) is injected into the mold during processing to make the midsole done to get the material to a stage between a gas and a liquid. the process reduceing the density and weight of the midsole material while creating bubbles with fairly rigid walls within the material. So lighter weight more resilience and rebound than typical molding. Or at least I think this is how to describe it. Sam, Editor

Krischen said...

Those of us with low arches or flatfeet experience fit issues with HOKA's bucket style midsole designs. It appears that HOKA has aligned themselves with the podiatric community and their physiologically questionable views on arch support. A shoe should present the wearer with a neutral footbed geometry, not attempt to force the foot into contortions that it doesn't naturally want to be in. A shoe should have an inconspicuous arch curvature that simply allows the foot to gently rest a top it. The arch is not meant to bear body weight.