The Hoka Rocket Running Sneaker Propels You Forward While Offering Other-Worldly Stability and Cushioning
Serious runners know the importance of the phrase, "If the shoe fits, wear it." Stability, propulsion, cushioning, balance, heel-to-toe drop; the makings of a serious running sneaker are just that: serious. Because if it doesn't fit right or is flat-out uncomfortable, you're not going to make it to Mile 13, let along past Mile 1.
So to my marathon-runners, race-day warriors, and devoted after-work urban joggers, meet the Hoka Rocket X 2 ($250), the "highest performing road racing product in the Hoka line." (Which is a fancy way of saying that it allows you to go super fast when you’re running on concrete.) After trying them for myself, they go fast alright, and look and feel good doing it. As a runner, they're like nothing I’ve ever worn before—and I mean that in the best way possible. Plus, a podiatrist agrees.
- 02first impressions
- 03full review
- 04Final thoughts
A bit about the Hoka Rocket X 2
An all-gender shoe, the Hoka Rocket X 2 is designed for the passionate, competitive runners who want footwear that'll keep up with them, mile after mile.. “This is a serious running shoe. It’s meant to make you want to go fast,” says Doug Tumen, board-certified podiatrist and author of the book, Ask the Foot Doctor. True to its name, the Rocket X 2 is crafted to make you blast-off, propelling you forward to get a more efficient push-off. Other features, like a symmetrical footbed and responsive cushioning, are designed for unyielding stability, balance, and comfort over both short and long distances.
Available sizes: M/5-W/6-M/14-W/15, in half sizes.
Heel-to-toe drop: 5mm
Stack height: 40mm
- Propels you forward for greater speed
- Amazing stability
- Super shock absorbing
- Designed especially for running
- Difficult to put on for the first time
- Not great for cold, rainy weather
- Too technical for casual runs/other exercise
That said, if you're more of a casual runner or, say, someone who likes a brisk jog once in a blue moon, Dr. Tumen suggests skipping these shoes; the only folks who should get them are people who regularly hit the pavement and are looking to increase their speed. (The Hoka Solimars are a good option for more casual wear).
"This shoe falls more in that category of 'race day', or for your days when you're going to do your speed workouts," says Dr. Tumen. “You can feel the difference in the midsole, where they put the extra shock absorption with new foam, the dual density, and the carbon plate. Just walking in them, I felt like my feet wanted to run." Lastly, Dr. Tumen adds you'll want to steer clear from this shoe if you’re an over-pronator, if you wear orthotics, or if you know you want a shoe with more side-to-side support.
Remember how I said this road-racing shoe is like nothing I’d ever worn before? It's also like nothing I've ever seen before, and stands out in a sea of plain white sneaks. The see-through teal material engulfs your foot from toe to heel in a lightweight, barely there mesh. It also has a gorgeous neon green on the midsole, tongue, and laces, as well as tangerine accents and soles.
I squeezed the midsole and smiled when I saw how responsive it was, which Dr. Tumen credits to the highly-resilient PEBA foam. PEBA foam, in case you were wondering, is “a thermoplastic elastomer [a rubber-like material] that offers a unique combination of low density, flexibility, small hysteresis, and excellent flex-fatigue resistance.”
3, 2, 1, blast-off: My full review
For an entire month, I ran, jogged, and walked in the Hoka Rocket X 2. While I typically take my sneakers hiking for a fuller experience, I could tell that the grip on them wouldn’t make for a pleasurable trek up a mountain. For that reason, I skipped testing the kicks on the trail.
My favorite thing to do in these sneakers is, as Dr. Tumen predicted, running fast—like actually sprinting—especially when I’m running outside. In fact, I actually logged more outside runs with the Rocket X 2s than pretty much any other sneaker ever.
I found that they provided superior balance and stability. There were a couple of times when I felt my ankle wanting to go to the side after a wrong step, but the geometry of the shoe brought my foot back to its natural landing every time (saving me from a very embarrassing fall).
Per Dr. Tumen, this otherworldly balance also comes from the fact that the shoe is “a little bit wider on the base of the shoe, which gives you a more stable base of support and is great because the Rocket X 2 is so light, but yet it has this nice wide platform to land on.” Can confirm: it is a nice, wide platform to land on and provides some of the best shock absorption I’ve ever encountered in footwear. The midsole is huge (a whopping 40mm of stack height!) and my feet, knees, hips, and back thanked every single millimeter on runs.
While the Hoka Rocket X 2 definitely propelled me on my outdoor runs, they were also great on the treadmill. I logged a few miles on a Stairmaster just for testing, which honestly wasn't that fun. (The high-rise tongue of the shoe was uncomfortable on the front of my ankle.) If you get them, heed Dr. Tumen's advice: “[They're] not for standing on a Stairmaster or elliptical machine as much because of the way they constructed the shoe,” says Dr. Tumen. “The way Hoka designed the carbon-fiber plates between the two layers of foam propels you forward.”
If I’m being fully honest, I’m still reaching for my Hoka Clifton 9s, which are a bit more casual, if I’m hitting a recovery or base run (aka easy runs) on the treadmill. If, however, I’m running outside and feel like sprinting or playing with my speed, I am blasting off in the Hoka Rocket X 2, No questions asked.
That said, if you live in a very rainy area, they may not be the best purchase because they don’t have great grip and “because the mesh is so thin. I mean, you can see your socks through the shoe," Dr. Tumen says. From my experience, you can certainly feel the wind breezing in it.
And, per Dr. Tumen, I won’t be the only one sporting these kicks on the pavement: “I think you’re going to see a lot of these on the starting lines at marathons in the fall."
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