After reconstructive knee surgery, Hoka One One’s supremely comfortable shoes gave me the support I needed to start running again

Hoka One One Carbon X

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Yumi Matsuo Studio

  • These lightweight Hoka One One Carbon X shoes have a cushioned, curved midsole that provides extra padding for smooth, supportive runs.
  • They helped me get back into pain-free running after going through ACL reconstruction surgery and a long road to recovery.
  • Though my experience with them was largely positive, I did find the laces came untied easily and that they shouldn’t be used for strength training exercises.

Running shoes have seemingly morphed from purely utilitarian kicks to trend-setting fashion statements over the past several years. We’ve witnessed the rise of brands like Nike, Athletic Propulsion Labs, Yeezy Supply, and others that appear to be much more focused on style than function.

Hoka One One, a French brand acquired by Deckers in 2013, has effectively bucked that trend. A noticeably clunky shoe, Hokas feature a signature style of cushioning that adds an extra inch or so of padding. However, the odd design appears to be working as revenue for the brand has grown 40% over the past three years, according to CNBC.

With that extra padding comes added comfort, too. That’s why I decided to try the Carbon X after I was cleared to run following ACL reconstruction surgery. The shoe is one of Hoka’s latest models and is designed with a first-of-its-kind technology that hasn’t appeared in other styles.

During my eight-month recovery from ACL surgery, I missed running dearly. But I also wanted to make sure I treated my new knee gently as I got back to pounding the pavement – no minimalist running shoes for me, please. Plus, I’ve enjoyed one of Hoka’s trail running shoes in the past, so I was curious to try this road-friendly style.

A unique design

Hoka One One Carbon X 2

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Yumi Matsuo Studio

The Carbon X is designed for competitions. In other words, it’s built for both speed and comfort. Hoka’s proprietary curved sole is called the Meta-Rocker, which essentially acts as wheels for your feet.

The rocking motion is supposed to help propel you as you run, as well as reduce the impact of the start-stop motion that running puts on your body. Made of lightweight foam materials, the base provides added stability and a sense of responsiveness, in addition to the feeling of propulsion.

The rest of the shoe is incredibly lightweight, with single-layer mesh allowing for breathability. There’s plenty of room in the wide toe-box area, which also features carbon-fiber plates under the toe section to ensure a smooth stride.

Overall, these Carbon X shoes aren’t as bulky as other styles Hoka offers. I’d even go so far to say they’re sleek, especially if you choose the black-and-white version. Additionally, I’m not going to complain about the extra inch of height it gives me.

The perks

If you’ve ever recovered from an injury, then you know that joyous feeling of being cleared to run again. With the Carbon X on my feet, my first runs post-surgery not only felt good but more importantly, they felt painless.

Overall, I’m a big fan of the rocking motion this shoe provided. It powered me through my first few runs, both indoors and outdoors, and I felt like it helped me have a smoother stride and softer footfalls. Although the heels look like they’re built up, the overall drop is minimal. This allows for a natural footstrike and a fluid transition through the stride.

Hoka One One Carbon X 3

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Yumi Matsuo Studio

You don’t have to only believe my glowing review, either. I asked Rob Watson, Lululemon Global Run Ambassador, and Canadian long-distance runner, for his thoughts on the Carbon X. He, like so many people, quickly became a Hoka fan the moment he laced on a pair.

“I am indeed a recent Hoka convert to these weird-looking, yet effective shoes,” Watson told Business Insider. “They are soft and supremely cushioned, as you can assume by the look of them, but they also provide a really smooth ride.”

While Watson said he’s considering using the Carbon X as his racing shoes for a marathon, I don’t have my sights set on any big races in the near future. Thankfully, they also double as my everyday shoes. They work well for wearing around town while running errands and are perfect for travel. On a trip to New York City, I wore them while walking up to 6 miles a day, and my feet never felt sore.

The caveats

The biggest issue I’ve had with the Carbon X shoes is its laces – they come untied far too easily. I’ve even double-tied them, yet they still come loose. Anything short of an actual knot and they’re likely to come undone.

Then there’s the price. At $180, they are on the pricier end of the running shoe spectrum, though I do believe they’re worth the extra investment. I’ve used them almost daily for roughly five months and they seem to be holding up quite well.

The final drawback is that the Carbon X isn’t a suitable shoe for strength training. Unfortunately, I found this out the hard way while attending my favorite functional training class at the gym. During a lunge, my coach shook her head at my feet, which immediately made me think I was doing something wrong.

“You’re not doing anything wrong,” she explained. “I just hate those cushioned shoes for strength training.”

Though the curved sole provides stability while running, it also causes instability during strength moves. Think about doing a lunge or squat. You’re supposed to ground the sole of your foot into the floor but the padding prevents that from happening.

My trainer explained that this causes the moves to be far less effective overall. Plus, it prevents you from strengthening the whole foot during these lower-body moves since your feet and toes aren’t involved.

The bottom line

Whether you’re a beginner, recovering from an injury, or a professional long-distance runner, I’d highly recommend adding the Carbon X to your running shoe arsenal. It’s a lightweight and functional shoe that lets you feel like you’re flying. While there are some slight drawbacks, the overall advantages of comfort and speed that the Meta-Rocker design delivers are well worth the price tag.

  • Should you buy it? Yes. These shoes are great for long-distance runners, as well as anyone recovering from an injury. They’re not just for training, either, as they work well as an everyday shoe and provide comfort all day long.
  • What are your alternatives? The running shoe market is full of variety, though the closest competitor in terms of design might be Nike’s newest running shoes. Featuring a similar amount of bulky padding in the heel, as well as a sort of pointed end, the shoes are designed for long-distance runners who want more responsiveness.

Pros: Foam padding provides plenty of comfort, especially if you’re recovering from an injury, Meta-Rocker design delivers noticeable propulsion while running, offers a smooth stride and soft footfalls

Cons: Pricey at $180 and the laces come undone easily, even when double-knotted