Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Hoka Cielo X 1 Multi Tester Review: Bold! 8 Comparisons

Article by Ben David, Peter Stuart and Renee Krusemark

Hoka Cielo X 1 ($275)


Highly responsive, bold and bouncy: Ben/Renee/Peter

Surprisingly comfortable at a variety of paces: Renee/Peter


Clunky, overly mechanical, heavy: Ben

Heavy for a racer: Renee/Peter

Awkward upper and laces: Renee

The laces are bad, don't stay tied  Peter

Please find the testers full run bios at the end of the article after Comparisons.


Official Weight: 9.3oz - 264g (M10) / 7.4oz - 210g (W8) /

7.33 oz / 208g (US7.5 women’s/6.5 men’s)

Stack Height:: 37/30mm (W8) / 39/32mm (M10)

Platform Width: heel 90 mm / 76 mm accounting for plate, 32mm without / forefoot 114 mm 

$275  Available now.


First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Ben: Hoka still lags behind in the super shoe game, unfortunately. While the Rocket X2 was a giant leap forward for the brand, it was still a definite tier beneath the Vaporfly’s of the world. That said, I was quite hopeful the Cielo X1 would at least vie for a spot next to its competitors’ premium marathon racers, i.e., AlphaFly 3, Adios Pro 3, ASICS Meta Speed Sky +. It’s a bright, bold shoe with a bright, bold ride. 

I fear that its weight, excessive rigidity, lack of breathability and highly prescriptive ride put it still just beneath the major players when it comes to race day shoes. It’s a significantly rockered, fast shoe for sure and certainly a fun shoe. For longtime Hoka users, like myself, it feels vaguely familiar and is certainly a step in the right direction for Hoka. 

The laces make good lockdown challenging and the tongue is thicker than it needs to be. Fit is comfortable, not infringing. I was true to size in my men’s 9. In the end, with a long list of pro’s and con’s, runners will need to decide if this energetic, uptempo shoe works for them. 

Peter: Shazam!. A beautiful carbon fiber plated high stack racer just arrived out of nowhere and landed on my doorstep. The Cielo X1 is a very good looking shoe with a knit upper and aggressive looking design. The forefoot is partially separated from the heel (but not fully like the Puma) and the stack is nice and high. Fit is true-to-size and it’s a very comfortable shoe. I’d love the Cielo to have a pull tab on the back to make the step-in a little easier. Some good news and bad news on my first run…the bad news is that the laces keep coming untied. I finally double knotted them and then things were fine. 

The good news is that the Cielo X1 was ridiculously fun to run in on the first outing. I planned on a nice, easy run but the Cielo had other plans. My run turned into a progressive run and the quicker I went the more fun it was. The ride had plenty of bounce, but felt remarkably stable at the same time. Given its weight and feel I’d say that the Cielo feels like more of a marathon racer than a 10k racer. 

Renee: In the past few months, I’ve reviewed a few of the new plated “super” shoes including the New Balance SC Elite v4 and the Saucony Endorphin Pro v4 . I don’t generally enjoy an aggressive rocker, so I was confusingly surprised at how much I enjoyed the Cielo X1, even at slower paces on dirt and gravel. More on that in the midsole and ride sections of the review (or scroll down if you’re anxious). The upper is easily the least fantastic aspect of the shoe. The shoe is not easy to get on because the laces don’t budge, and the laces must be double-tied with tightly pulled knots to stay tied. The upper material is a bit stiff and the material bunched above my midfoot. I tried a few different lacing methods, which didn’t really change the upper security.

I didn’t have any issues with comfort, however. For review, I have 60 miles in the shoe (18-miler, 20-miler, and two mid distance speed workouts). 

The toe is semi-gusseted and the heel has a good amount of padding on the sides.

The heel cup itself is rigid. Hoka states the upper is breathable, but it’s one of thicker uppers of the plated super shoe options. Testing during the winter, I could feel the cold air through the toebox, but the shoe will feel hotter as compared to other options. The sizing is unisex and I wore a women’s 7.5/men’s 6.5. I’m between half sizes and wear a women’s size 8 in the other comparable shoes. If between half sizes in a women’s shoe, I recommend the half size down. I have plenty of length in 6.5/7.5 size. 

Midsole & Platform

Ben: While the upper feels highly rigid, the cushion underfoot is undeniable. That’s apparent upon step-in. The rocker feels almost exaggerated and cannot be ignored. 

Source: Hoka

The foam is so generous that it almost feels strange when standing still in the shoe, topsy-turvy like. The width is significant as far as carbon plated shoes go as your feet sit on a rather expansive platform. The US 9 sample (my usual size) fits beautifully.  

Renee: The midsole is bouncy and responsive. While the shoe looks aggressive and rigid, I didn’t think it felt that way while running, and I don’t typically like rockers. The midsole is bounciest when striking right at the midfoot. When striking more from the forefoot, the plate and speed are apparent, but the rocker does not feel as aggressive. For me, this means the ride isn’t as fast or fun for short speed workouts (mile repeats were fine, .25 mile repeats were just okay). I was able to slowly shuffle (10 min/mile and slower going uphill) many miles with these shoes during two long runs (18 and 20 miles) without discomfort when striking right at the midfoot. 

Peter: There’s a bit of alchemy going on here. The apparent rigidity and aggressive rocker would lead you to believe that this might be a stiff ride. 

The midsole manages to mitigate all of that stiffness and helps lead to a very bouncy and energetic ride that feels uber-efficient because of the rigidity. This seems like it would be a very tricky thing to get right, and Hoka gets it right here. Super fun and efficient due to the combination of soft (ish) midsole and rigid plate and rocker.


Ben: The outsole has large cutouts ostensibly to minimize weight. That said the shoe grips the road very well and I felt comfortable taking tight turns. It’s interesting to me that the cutouts are on the lateral side, unlike other recent super shoes with cutouts underfoot (Adios Pro, i.e.). The result is that it forced my foot to a more even, stable place; it would be hard to pronate in this shoe I feel.

Renee: The outsole coverage is generous, great for durability but adding to the overall weight. I ran on soft (somewhat muddy) dirt and gravel, so the coverage was appreciated. The cutouts help with weight reduction and the shoe felt stable to me (the weight does help that aspect most likely).

Peter: The ride is more stable than you would think by looking at the Cielo X1. Cornering (which has been a problem for me on some other super shoes) was no problem at all. I found grip to be excellent on wet roads and didn’t feel that the huge cutout had any negative impact on the ride. 

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Ben: Hoka has created its best super shoe yet. This is a fun, responsive marathon shoe. It is built for long distances with ample cushioning and a rocker that propels you forward without being overly aggressive or intrusive. The shoe is best at tempo to race pace and wants to go long. All of that said, I believe the NEXT iteration of the Cielo will almost definitely (hopefully??) have an airier upper, better laces and some weight reduction underfoot and thus will be able to compete with the Alpha’s of the running world.

Ben’s score: 9.1/10 (subtractions for weight, price and laces)


Renee: The ride is unique. During two long runs (18 and 20 milers), I tried various paces and foot strikes, and the shoe felt different depending on those aspects . Striking at the midfoot, the bounce is strong. 

With a high cadence, the shoe eats up easy miles without feeling rigid or uncomfortable. While the ride looks aggressive, it never felt like it to me. For a 10 mile tempo run (warm up and then 7:30 minute/miles  working down to 6:50 minute/mile pace), the ride was smooth. The shoe felt best when trying to maintain a midfoot strike. For 1 mile repeats, the shoe makes the pace effortless similar to most plated shoes, although the weight does matter. Anything shorter than 1 mile repeat, the shoe doesn’t feel as magical and the weight is a factor (as compared to other plated shoes). 

The upper could use some refining, and if the shoe weighed 0.5 ounce less, I think it would be a comparable race option for the half or full distance. At $275, it's a pricey shoe to buy just for training, but if you have the money, it’s a fun shoe. I don’t discount it as a racer though, especially for someone who likes a midfoot rocker and who strikes consistently at the midfoot. 

Renee’s score: 9.2/10 (-.40 weight, .-20 price/use, -.20 upper/laces)


Peter: There’s some magic here for sure. I’d say that long distance racing is the sweet spot for the Cielo X1. I’d do a half marathon and up in them, but I think they’d be best suited for the full marathon. Weight keeps the turnover from being lightning fast, so I’m not sure I’d do a 10k in them, but I might. Overall it has a great, fun, energetic, bouncy and stable ride . My favorite super shoe of the current crop for sure. 

Peter’s Score 9.6 / 10

Lose a little weight and please, please, please different laces. 


8 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE Roadtrailrun 

Nike Alphafly 3 (RTR Review)

Ben: AlphaFly 3 is lighter, faster-feeling and far more race-ready. At the same price, I’d take the Alpha any day. 

Peter: I’m the opposite. The AlphaFly feels harsh and rigid to me, whereas the CIelo feels like it’s propelling me forward. Far more fun in the Hoka for me. 

New Balance FuelCell SC Elite 4 (RTR Review)

Renee: The ride of SC Elite 4 is more traditional and without the apparent rocker. Neither are the lightest plated racing shoe option although the Elite v4 is lighter even at a half size longer. I wore a women’s 8 in the Elite v4 and a unisex 6.5/7.5 in the Cielo X1. The length was comparable, although the toebox shape of the Elite is wider. 

Peter: The SC Elite is a great shoe, but feels a little less exciting and a little less like a race shoe. It’s a great long run shoe , and I’d race in it for sure, but I prefer the more aggressive ride of the Hoka. 

Puma Fast-R Nitro Elite 2 (RTR Review)

Renee: Both shoes have a fun ride and both are a bit heavier in terms of a racing shoe. The Cielo X1 is lighter, although I wear a half size down as compared to the Fast-R. The Fast-R is best when striking strong and fast from the forefoot, while the Cielo X1 highly favors a midfoot strike. The Puma upper is much more refined and the PumaGrip outsole is one of the best. 

adidas Adizero Adios Pro 2 or 3 (RTR Review)

Ben: I’ve only run in the Adios Pro 2. It's not a bad comparison. The geometry of both shoes are similar. The winged plate is reminiscent of the adidas forked plate. I’d go with Adidas because it’s less expensive, lighter and less mechanical. 

Renee: The Adios Pro v3 rides a bit more traditional; there is a slight rocker from the forefoot, but it’s not as apparent as the midfoot rocker of the Cielo X1. Neither have the best upper. Both are unisex sizing; I have the Pro v3 in a men’s 7/women’s 8, and had more length than I needed. For Cielo X1, a wore a 6.5/7.5. The Pro v3 is a lighter shoe. 

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Ben: This is another fair comparison. To me both shoes feel rather aggressive and give you no choice but to run fast. Not a bad thing! I’d give Saucony the edge due to breathability and weight. 

Saucony Endorphin Pro 4 (RTR Review)

Renee: The Pro 4 has a more comfortable, softer, and breathable upper. The shoe is lighter and overall a better choice for racing. The ride worked best for me with a strong forefoot strike/landing. The Cielo X1 favors a midfoot landing. I wore a women’s 8 in the Pro v4 and a 6.5/7.5 in the Cielo X1.

Saucony Endorphin Elite  (RTR Review)

Renee: Battle of the rockers. The Elite has an aggressive rocker from the forefoot, almost too aggressive for my paces although the shoe does soften some around 50 miles. In contrast, the Cielo X1 has a strong (not aggressive in my opinion) midfoot rocker, and works better at slower paces. I wore a women’s 8 in the Elite and a unisex 6.5/7.5 in the Cielo X1. 

Hoka Mach X (RTR Review)

Renee: The Mach X is listed as a trainer and does not have the apparent rocker of the Cielo X1. The shoe rides more traditional and is a good “cruising” shoe as compared to the more performance/race oriented Cielo X1. The Mach X ride can feel “blocky,” and even though I don’t always like a strong rocker, the Cielo X1 is by far more fun. 

Peter: Cielo X1 all day long. 

The Hoka Cielo X 1 is available now at our partners

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Tester Profiles

Ben is the Senior Rabbi of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, PA. A cancer survivor, he has run 21 marathons. He holds PRs of 3:15 for the marathon and 1:30 for the half. At 46, he still enjoys pushing himself and combining his running with supporting a variety of causes. Follow him on Instagram: @RabbiBPD or Twitter: @BDinPA 

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.

Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:21 half marathoner in recent years.

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'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below! Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Anonymous said...

Any feedback as to a slight tendency to “roll out” to the lateral side? As a under-pronator, I’ve struggled with this in the Prime X Strung at lower speeds (it’s plenty stable up tempo), and it’s led to a couple rolled ankles. Interested in the Cielo X as a road ultra shoe, but only if it’s stable.

Anonymous said...

The Cielo X1 is stable in terms of plated shoes. It’s heavier than other comparative shoes, which aids in stability. I find it much more comfortable at slower paces than the shoes listed in the comparison list. That said, I’m a neutral runner. It’s best at a roll forward from the midfoot than a fast takeoff from the forefoot, which might also help you with a stable landing depending on your foot strike.

Anonymous said...

Comparison with Rocket X2 please?

Anonymous said...

I’d also love a comparison to the Rocket x2!