Friday, February 24, 2023

Hoka Rocket X 2 Review: A Simply Elegant & Effective Super Race Shoe

 Article by Sam Winebaum

Hoka Rocket X 2 ($250)

I have now had initial runs in what I am calling Hoka’s 2023 do every run duo: The Rocket X2 racer and Clifton 9 daily trainer (RTR Review). Both are significantly updated and improved for me over their predecessors. 

The Rocket X 2 is for sure now a super shoe class, any distance racer with a 6mm higher stack of cushion, broader platform, smoother softer race ride and lighter weight than the rigid, stiff and firm Rocket X 1  (RTR Review)

The Clifton 9 gets 3mm more stack height and a new more easily flowing geometry while gaining very little weight. Our review of the Clifton 9 will be coming very soon.

Given the massive snows here in Park City, my initial testing has been on a firm indoor track with 7 laps to the mile and sharp corners, always a good test of stability and upper hold. I have tested many super shoes and trainers on this track so my context for this initial review is solid. With the weather clearing and warming I also was able to test on the roads.


Sample Weight: 7.18 oz  / 203 g US8.5
Stack Height 36mm heel (measured & spec) 31mm forefoot (5mm drop spec)
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First Impressions, Fit and Upper

The Rocket X 2 has an engineered mono mesh upper with a skeletal array of overlays (blue) and underlays (green) which essentially wrap the whole foot including around the heel. 

The mesh is see through, pliable and thin with not much if any stretch. 

There is no rigid heel counter with the rear using bolsters of foam. All very well held with no looseness anywhere.

The thin sockliner is glued in.

The tongue is thin and has an dual band gusset on both sides.The tongue extends forward a la Speedgoat to create a bit of an expandable gusset. 

We have a very pliable, quite extensive rounded toe bumper with good height.

They are hard to pull on! That is a real good sign for foot hold. In a racing shoe, ease of pulling on is often an indicator of insufficient hold on the run. Here, once on, the fit is totally secure and totally locked to the platform and that pays off as underfoot the foam is soft and the platform is for its 36mm heel / 31mm forefoot stack height relatively narrow (say compared to Alphafly 2) with the heel measuring 70mm at rubber contact and about 85mm overall with the midfoot interesting not much narrower in width. 

I was amazed how stable and well held my foot was around the sharp corners at faster paces. I have tested many “super shoes” and trainers on this track and the Rocket X is about as secure and stable as any, if not the best.

The fit is true to size in length with a relatively narrow toe box towards its rear although not narrow enough to feel my bunions, just snug and secure there. Not that it is super narrow as the front is nicely rounded with the non stretch if pliable mesh and toe bumper delivering a snug comfortable fit. 

It tapers quite sharply in the area of the first lace with the yellow gusset opening things up a bit. Wide to very wide feet may struggle a bit but here we are about lock down and speed not slipper like comfort. 


The midsole is Hoka’s ProFly X construction with their “C004” carbon plate. If memory serves, the Rocket X 1 had a C001 plate. While we are on the Rocket X 1 midsole, it was a rigid, firm hard to roll shoe for me that I maxed out at 10KM distances; here we have a whole new experience! 

We have 6mm more stack height of a softer higher rebounding foam with a full stack height of 36mm heel / 31 mm forefoot and a highly competitive weight of 7.18 oz  / 203 g in my US8.5 sample. It should be noted that Hoka did not “max out” the stack height to the legal limit of 40mm at the heel. The result (along with the rest of the foam, plate, geometry design) is a more agile feeling shoe than many competitors such as Alphafly 2 or Endorphin Elite with plenty of cushion but less than the maximum.

The new foam, obviously a supercritical non expanded bead type foam and likely PEBA, appears to be in two slightly different densities with the top layer, above the plate, maybe  slightly softer than the lower layer. The plate is located about mid height in the midsole at the heel and is towards the outsole, bottom loaded as in say the Vaporfly but sitting above some foam, and that is key when we get to the ride.

The foam itself is for sure soft. Softer than say FlightFoam Turbo from ASICS or Lightstrike Pro from adidas. It is firmer and less bouncy soft than FuelCell from New Balance or Nitro from Puma in their Elite. It approaches the newest PWRRUN Pb at Saucony in softness but is more taut and quicker rebounding and it is softer than the latest PWRRUN Hg in the Endorphin Elite. And ZoomX? A bit softer here, a bit more bouncy and less springy.

Foam feel is one thing but how the plate (and upper) integrates is another and here I find Hoka has done a masterful job. I was worried the softness plus 5mm drop (I tend to prefer 8-9 mm drop in supershoes) plus rigid carbon would have me struggling as somewhat of a heel striker to get past the heel through to midfoot and toe off as I tend to in the Endorphin Pro 3, adizero Pro 3, Metaspeeds, Alphafly 1 and Puma Fast-R and Nitro Elite, or to a lesser extent Alphafly  but not Vaporfly. 

Zero such issues for me here and not only at faster paces approaching 7 minute miles but also at 10:00 miles if not slower although the Rocket X 2 really comes alive at faster paces when you can really drive the plate forward and down with the sensation of roll increasing, so for me at 8:20 or so per mile and faster, somewhat faster than my marathon pace and slower than my half pace for my usual about 1:40-1:42.  

The foam and plate combination is forgiving and very high rebounding and so far I don’t lack any additional cushion or stability. 

I particularly note the plate while towards the sole "bottom loaded" is cushioned by about 5mm of foam plus the 1mm outsole so appears to sit higher above the ground than say the Nike Vaporfly Next. This difference felt in testing as a slightly more forgiving ground feel with a touch less firm pop of the ground and less slapping noise than the VF. 

As seen in the Hoka schematic below, I note the front "spoon" shape is not as acute as some and front of the plate is forked both likely contributing to what I describe as an easier flow to toe off which combines spring vertically with roll forward

My sense is that the plate design and foam below along with the outsole design increases in "flexibility" and spring as forces are applied at faster paces but this is no way a flexible carbon or plate to bending in hand. At the heel there is none of the hard top plate feel of the Adios Pro.

Hoka concentrated the weight reducing and strike type dictating carve outs to the centerline of the shoe with no lateral or medial notches or gaps. 

This for sure helps track the shoe forward notably easily even with the 5mm drop and reduces early pronation. It also for sure doesn’t over prescribe a strike type.

I think this pace versatility is also due to the solid upper hold, more than adequate rear outsole coverage, and interesting lateral midsole side walls which rise higher on that side than medially while on the medial side the lower walls are more vertical and flatter. 

In the photo above of the lateral side and below medial side, you can see how high the walls rise to wrap the foot. At the heel the foot sits pretty much level with the midsole as shown below.

While the shoe remains super stable medially the walls and geometry I think guide the foot towards the big toe and toe off by forcing a touch of late pronation in that direction which was a key key advantage of the very first baby blue Vaporfly 4% but without resorting to a bit of sloppy medial fit of the OG Vaporfly.

As you pick up the pace the midsole remains consistent in flow feel, very smooth and easy with the rebound progressively more explosive off the front. It is also more agile, sort of more natural feeling than many (Metaspeeds, adios Pro, and Alphafly). I found not much if any need to “adapt” to the geometry as with those shoes.


Plenty of rubber coverage here. The deep decoupling groove plus continuous midfoot foam has me easily getting off the heels at all paces and I think the greater than usual front segmentation is a big assist to the easy highly dynamic toe off.

Ride and Conclusions

So far for me the Rocket X 2 may be the most versatile, natural feeling supershoe ride to date. Finally, a shoe better than the OG OG Vaporfly which also was at a similar heel stack height but higher drop?  Maybe at long last. While sentimental about the OG, in comparison times do move on and here the ride is similar but more energetic and more forgiving up front.

I would also note comparing to the Next % 1 that the heel platform width is 10mm broader in the Hoka with the midfoot a very significant 20 mm broader which for sure contributes to the feeling of stability from heel to midfoot. The forefoot widths are about identical. While about 1 oz heavier and slightly lower stacked this broader platform is for sure appreciated and the weight difference forgotten.

I was amazed at how seamlessly it handled my slower warm down/up paces at 10:00 miles and above as well as faster paces getting close to 7:00 min pace. I can’t recall a super shoe with so little awkwardness to run slow or the need to maintain a very prescriptive forward landing groove ( Alphafly 1, Metaspeeds, Endorphin Pro and Elite, adios Pro) to make the shoe work for any strike type even heel striking. And on top of that I never felt the 5mm heel was low or hard to get past at any pace. This tells me that the Rocket X 2 should be a great choice for the “rest of us” as well as elites

I easily rolled forward and then was able to take full advantage of the foam and plate up front to toe off and at all paces. The front plate location, towards the outsole, but with adequate soft cushion above and the outsole below led to zero harshness, added rebound and not that much of the “noisy” plate slapping the ground effect.

With the weather clearing and warming I took them for a 10K run at 2000 plus meters altitude in wet cold conditions in Park City averaging out in a progression to about my (hopefully) marathon pace on bumpy roads. I even set a few Strava segment PR's or near PR's.

I could clearly feel the ride smoothing out and rolling more easily as pace increased with the mild sensation of a plate hump diminishing. I felt a combination of spring and final roll from the toe spring that for me was smoother and more flowing than in shoes such as Endorphin Elite, Adios Pro or Metaspeed 1 and Metaspeed Edge+ with a somewhat less sharp quick at the ground rebound than the Next% with its lower plate location. Clearly they were softer than the preceding but less mushy soft in foam feel than the Endorphin Pro 3 or SC Elite 3.

All of the above put together I will not only for sure race all distances in them and will not hesitate to train in them as well. 

We had to wait a while but Hoka did their homework has delivered a very light, very versatile super shoe that should be accessible, fast and comfortable for more than just elites and early versions have done just fine for them. I see no compromises so far made to achieve this difficult balance. I see no awkward prescriptive limited grooves or foot strikes to “learn”, no pace limitations while all the while the ride remains super well cushioned, stable, and explosive. 

These are early impressions but I was so excited I had to share. A full multi tester review will follow soon with detailed comparisons.

Hoka Rocket X 2 is available now including at our partners




Also Please Watch my Hoka Rocket X 2 Video Review (9:02)

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was 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 if he gets lucky,, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run or nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

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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Anonymous said...

Great initial write-up! I've raced multiple marathons (7:00-7:15 / mi)and below on the Rocket X 1, because I was willing to take a less 'super' shoe in favor of keeping some stability. The price point of the X1 was nice too. Glad to hear the Rocket X2 seems to maintain the stability but moves into more super territory, albeit with a higher price. I've raced on the Endorphin Pro2 a bit also and have had fewer good days in them.

Andrew Knox said...

I love the Endorphin Pro 3 because of how stable it is, as well as feeling lovely through all the paces - it’s a shoe where I don’t feel I need to be hitting the high notes to get something out of it. Sounds like this is similar? Can’t wait for the full review!

Mike said...

Thanks for the great review. Can you compare fit to the Mach 5? I find the Mach 5 to be quite long in my normal size and wonder whether I should also go down a half size when ordering the rocket x2.

Anonymous said...

Hi great review. I am looking for a carbon race shoe with does this compare to the stability of the Saucony endorphin Shift 2/3 and Adidas Boston 10/11? I currently use those but looking at either the Hoka, New Balance SC Elite or Endorphin Pro 3 for half marathon. What order would you place for stability for those three....or should I just stick with the Boston 10/11. Thanks, inaigith would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

No real comparison to Shift 3. Boston some similarities. It’s very decently stable for such a light shoe. For more stability Hyperion Elite but dull ride. I also like any Xtep for stability. Has rear carbon wings.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a mill. Good to have an idea how it compares. I've never heard of the step...will definitely look it up.

Unknown said...

Thanks for another great initial review by RoadTrailRun!
I have only tried one super-shoe in the past (Saucony Endorphin v1) and it was not an enjoyable experience especially due the high heel-to-toe drop. I am a low-drop shoe runner.
I was wondering if you could please write up a head-to-head review of the low-drop super shoes such as the Hoka Rocket x2 vs Asics Metaspeed Sky+ and the NB FuelCell SuperComp Elite v3.
Based on all of their individual reviews these seem like they might work for me, but hoping for your views and recommendation. With my current training I am aiming for a 7:40-7:20 pace per mile for my next marathon which will easily get me a BQ. For reference, my current shoe rotation are the Skechers Razor 4 (which have been amazing for long runs, tempo and speed intervals) and the Razor+ for my daily miles.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Unknown,
Thanks for your kind words.
I hear you on Endorphin Pro 1 but I think it was its firmness (plus stiffly aggressive plate and plate location plate) more than drop that had me struggling in them. Is there a reason you think drop is a key factor for you? I personally struggle in lower drop max super shoes, those with a big forefoot stack and/or rigid front which requires consistent elite level front striking. Pro 1, the adidas adizero Pros and Metaspeed Sky 1 all had that characteristic for me.
I have not run Metaspeed Sky + but did Edge+. Both have comparatively firm foam to Rocket X2 and certainly SuperComp Elite 3 which is the softest of the super shoes, really more a trainer feel. Another to consider for your BQ Endorphin Pro 3, certainly softer more friendly than its v1 and v2. I for sure would also look at Vaporfly 3 or VF 2. Much easier to roll than most of the others including Alpahfly. Another along with Rocket X in the rolling vs super aggressive high knee lift drive to look at the Puma Deviate Elite 2. My last BQ a few years ago was in the original VF 4% and everything went smoothly. The newer ones more cushioned same easier to find roll
Best of luck with your training and BQ.
Sam, Editor

Unknown said...

Thank you for your input and recommendations.
I am definitely the opposite when it comes to higher drop shoes. They have never worked for my stride and foot strike. They do not feel natural at all. They feel like high-heel shoes to me..haha! I am naturally a mid-foot to forefoot striker and have a more aggressive toe-off the faster I go. The higher drop shoes just screw with my foot landing/takeoff. 4-5mm drops work the best for me.
In terms of the Endorphins, I loved the peba foam, but the shoe felt like it was forcing my foot to land in an unnatural way. I am not a fan of Nike shoes. They have never fit right. It sounds like the Rocket X might be the best candidate for me. I will stop by a Hoka store to try them out.
Thank you for all of your input. Greatly appreciated! :)