Hoka Carbon X 3 review: why I would not use it as a racing shoe
The Hoka Carbon X 3 is the successor of Hoka’s long distance racing carbon plated shoes. Hoka did not go with some superfoams for this shoe, yet they upgraded their Profly foam and this shoe gets the new Profly X compound. Let’s discover how it works with this new upper in this review.
At 268g (9.45oz) in my size US 11, the Hoka Carbon X 3 is one of the heaviest shoe of the “supershoes” segment. But weight is not necessarily a decisive factor (two heavier shoes than the Carbon X3 are the Adidas Prime X and Nike Alphafly , which are both praised for their efficient and performant ride).
The platform is wide especially in the midfoot – compared to others carbon plated shoes the Hoka Carbon X 3 is in the ballpark of the Alphafly or the recently reviewed Altra Vanish Carbon. For specific values, please check the Shoe Comparator in which you can compare the width for the forefoot, midfoot and heel against other shoes.
Upper: a fine piece of knit – if you enjoy these
The Carbon X 3 upper is brand new It is a one-piece knitted upper, new to Hoka’s long distance racer. I must confess right off the bat that I’ve never been a fan of knitted uppers and this one is no different for me. If you are enjoying them, it will likely make you happy though. The fit is quite voluminous and not necessarily super secure at faster paces. Trying to get a better lockdown leads quickly to an unpleasant lacing experience. More voluminous feet should enjoy this fit, but if like me you prefer something more snug and/or have smaller feet then I wouldn’t recommend the Carbon X3 at least for the upper. Bear in mind though that this shoe was initially developed for longer distances on the road and a more voluminous fit can be useful in these scenarios. The very flared heel wraps nicely my ankle and Achilles but this is more a question of preference.
Midsole & geometry
The midsole of the Hoka Carbon X 3 is Hoka’s new ProflyX cmEVA (compression molded EVA) foam. It comes in two layers (the white one on top being actually ProflyX) of which the lower one is regular rubberized EVA fulfilling the outsole function of the shoe (see durability section below!). I measured the top layer at about 37 on the durometer scale (ranging from 0 to 100). It’s a pretty high value for supershoes, which tend to be around 30 on average – but that have more modern midsole compounds for most.
The geometry of the Carbon X 3 remains largely unchanged compared to the two first iterations. The bevelled and tailed heel allows for a very smooth landing and transition while the 5mm drop is smartly combined with a “long” rather gentle rocker.
Carbon X 3 ride: nothing wrong but nothing stunning either
The title of this section says it all but let me go in more details here. First there is nothing wrong with the ride of the Hoka Carbon X 3. If you enjoyed the two first iterations, this one will not only feel familiar but also more welcoming and smooth thanks to the slightly softer and bouncier ProflyX midsole. The plate is not very present in the ride of the shoe and I would even argue that the ride would not be drastically different without it. Even at 400m rep pace I couldn’t really feel it being activated despite the heavy load I was putting on the shoe. Heel strikers are likely going to be the happiest with this ride and I would see it working very well for longer uptempo runs. The upper would be the limiting factor for me to take this shoe at faster training paces. And when it comes to racing, the Carbon X 3 is – for me – just not in the same class as the best racing shoes out there.
Durability: my biggest concern with the Carbon X 3
This is probably my biggest concern with this shoe. The rubberized outsole of the Carbon X 3 shows a lot of wear after less than 50 kilometers in the shoe. The marks are not only visible but also quite “deep” into the outsole, which already starts to crumble apart in some places. Yes, it’s gentle but that’s what I see on most shoes after 200/300kms. Here it came way too early and I don’t see this shoe going past 400kms. Note that I’m running on smooth surfaces and this deterioration will be even faster for people mixing roads and packed trails.
Who will the Hoka Carbon X 3 work best for?
The Hoka Carbon X 3 offers a smooth heel to toe transition and the new ProflyX midsole will offer enough cushion for longer runs. The initial positioning of this shoe (long distance racing on the roads – above the marathon distance that is) seems to be met with this iteration. I would recommend this shoe to heel strikers (despite the lower drop) and heavier runners looking for a neutral yet stable running shoe. It’s more training oriented as I see it, but some runners will love racing in it too.
This is a tricky assessment. There is no flaw to the Carbon X 3. Of course knitted uppers can be a deal breaker for some people like myself but that’s purely a matter of preference. The main question you need to ask yourself before pulling the trigger on the Hoka Carbon X 3 is what you will use it for? If you’re looking for a long distance training shoe (long runs, long tempos, ultra distance racing) then maybe it is what you are looking for. However if you are in the market for top end carbon plated racing shoes, you will most likely find something more performance oriented elsewhere.
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