HOKA Skyward X Review

The HOKA Skyward X.

All shoes are reviewed by the Fleet Feet tester team, which represents a wide variety of goals, foot shapes, running locations and terrains. Reviewers pound the pavement, climb the hills, tackle the trails, then come together to compare notes. Debates ensue over the feel of the cushioning, the purpose of the shoe, and how it compares to last year’s model. While each reviewer has their own individual preferences, we hope that capturing our debates will help you make an informed decision.

Running shoes on the market now are a bit like Jack and the Beanstalk–they just keep growing taller and taller. Add in a peppy carbon plate, and you have yourself a daily trainer on steroids. Enter the supertrainer category–a maximally cushioned, ultra-responsive shoe that can be worn for races, workouts, or daily runs. These shoes typically feel similar to racing shoes, albeit heavier due to the added durability needed for everyday training.

The HOKA Skyward X, available April 25, promises to deliver the supertrainer experience with a carbon plate, PEBA midsole foam and a whopping stack height that will rival any beanstalk.

Will the Skyward X enchant us like those magic beans? Or will our hopes and dreams be cut down like Jack’s beanstalk? Read on to find out.

Tech Specs

HOKA Skyward X

Weight 9.2 oz (W), 11.3 oz (M)
Stack height (heel/forefoot) 46 mm/41 mm (W), 48 mm/43 mm (M)
Heel-to-toe drop 5 mm
Category Neutral
Surface Road
Price $225
Comparable to… New Balance SC Trainer v1, ASICS Superblast

Ride

Cushioning

Energy

HOKA Skyward X offers smoothness but lacks speed

The sole of the HOKA Skyward X.

With a massive heel stack height of 46 millimeters for women and 48 for men, the Skyward X could easily feel clunky and cumbersome. But the combination of technologies used work together to create a smooth, easy ride.

There are three layers to the Skyward X’s midsole. First, a PEBA foam sits right underfoot, providing a bit of pep and bounce. Underneath that is a convex-shaped carbon-fiber plate that compresses as you land and springs back as you take off. Lastly, an EVA foam at the bottom works in conjunction with HOKA’s signature rocker shape to make heel-to-toe transitions as smooth and efficient as possible.

“Each time I ran in the Skyward X, the word that kept coming to mind was smooth,” says Mandy, who’s starting to train for the Pilot Mountain to Hanging Rock Ultra. “I felt as if I was rolling through my runs and could run forever. This included both weekend long runs and shorter after-work runs. I liked running hillier sections in these shoes more than flatter sections because the combination of the carbon plate, cushioning and rocker shape allowed me to really let ‘er rip when going downhill.”

I also noticed that, because the cushioning isn’t overly soft, my feet weren’t sinking into the enormous stack of cushioning. Moreover, my feet were actually sitting inside the cushioning rather than on top of it (HOKA calls this their Active Foot Frame), adding some inherent stability.

While the Skyward X offers a smooth ride, we all agreed that it wouldn’t be our first choice for speedwork due to its weight.

“Between the rocker shape, the midsole foam, and the carbon plate, the ride of the Skyward X feels pretty smooth,” says Travis, an elite marathoner who typically prefers lightweight shoes. “However, I would not say that this shoe is particularly fast or snappy. It feels pretty heavy overall. For just cruising and getting time on my feet, the Skyward X is fantastic to absorb the impact of all the miles. However, once I tried to pick up the pace in this, it felt like too much shoe overall.”

Even though I’m nowhere near as fast as Travis, I have to agree. I wore the Skyward X on an easy-paced recovery run and a moderate-paced long run and, while they felt great at those paces, I could tell I wouldn’t want to wear them for anything faster. I’m going to add these to my rotation once marathon training starts and I’m logging plenty of long runs on tired legs.

Breathable upper offers foot-hugging feel

The HOKA Skyward X upper.

The HOKA Skyward X is topped off with a flat-knit upper offering zones of perforated material to increase breathability. The knit material is pretty thick, and I had my reservations about how breathable the shoe would be—but after a 12-mile run in extremely humid weather, my doubts were quelled.

With plush padding on the tongue and heel collar, it feels like everything you’d expect from a luxury trainer. A tapered heel collar reduces chafing and irritation on your achilles, and extra eyelets allow you to tie the marathon loop to lock down the fit.

“The Skyward X feels incredibly secure on my feet,” says Heather, an ultra runner and mother of two kids. “I have a slightly wider forefoot and appreciated the space up front–there was no rubbing along the problem spots on my feet at all. I also have a high instep and felt great about the depth of the shoe. The materials look good and give enough of a premium feel that, in my opinion, justify the price point.”

While we all enjoyed the materials, some of us had issues with the fit. I noticed that, during my first test run, the left shoe felt like it was squeezing my pinky toe. My left foot is slightly wider than my right, and once I switched to a thinner pair of socks the issue went away…but Ashley wasn’t so lucky.

“While I’m normally a huge HOKA fan, the fit of the Skyward X just felt off to me,” she says, as she plans to wear HOKAs for her upcoming 100K race. “The midfoot fit feels too loose unless I really cinch them down. And the toebox feels too narrow if the midfoot is cinched the way I want them.”

If you have slightly wider feet (I measure a C in my left foot according to my fit id® scan, which is in between medium and wide for women), I recommend trying these shoes on at your local Fleet Feet. Fleet Feet outfitters use 3D fit id® foot scanning technology to gather information about your feet and the support they need by taking precise measurements of your foot length, width and arch height.

HOKA Skyward X vs HOKA Bondi X

Tech Specs

HOKA Skyward X

HOKA Bondi X

Weight

9.2 oz (W), 11.3 oz (M)

9.1 oz (W), 10.6 oz (M)

Heel-to-toe drop

5 mm

5 mm

Foam

PEBA and Supercritical EVA

Compression-molded EVA

Plate

Carbon-fiber

Carbon-fiber

Price

$225

$215

The HOKA Skyward X is a completely new model from HOKA, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of the HOKA Bondi X, which released in 2021. Both shoes paired ultra-high stack heights with carbon-fiber plates, and I spent the majority of my long training runs for the Flying Pig Marathon in the Bondi X.

For runners who fell in love with the Bondi X, only to be disappointed when it never updated, the Skyward X should more than make up for it. The Skyward X offers more cushioning and more innovative technology than the Bondi X.

Rather than a full compression-molded EVA midsole like what’s used in the Bondi X, the Skyward X ups the ante with a dual layer midsole composed of both PEBA foam and supercritical EVA foam. Supercritical foams are made up of multiple tiny cells and they offer more responsiveness at a lighter weight than traditional midsole compounds.

While the Skyward X is 10 dollars more than the Bondi X, the price difference makes sense for two reasons–the Bondi X came out three years ago and the price of shoes has unfortunately gone up since then, and, most importantly, I believe it’s a better shoe.

“Compared to the Bondi X, the Skyward X feels softer and more runnable thanks to the PEBA and EVA blended foam,” Travis agrees.

Some of our Instagram followers have asked us about how the Skyward X compares to the Mach X. The shoes serve two different purposes. The Mach X is over an ounce lighter than the Skyward X, and it serves as a firmer, faster shoe for speedwork and even race day.

The HOKA Skyward X.

How does the HOKA Skyward X compare?

We took a look at some comparable models to see how they stack up against the HOKA Skyward X. Here’s what we found.

Tech Specs

HOKA Skyward X

ASICS Superblast

New Balance SC Trainer v1

Weight

9.2 oz (W),

11.3 oz (M)

9 oz (unisex)

9.3 oz (W), 11.3 oz (M)

Stack height

46 mm/41 mm (W), 48 mm/43 mm (M)

45.5 mm/37.5 mm

47 mm/39 mm

Heel-to-toe drop

5 mm

8 mm

8 mm

Price

$225

$200

$180

The HOKA Skyward X falls into the same supertrainer category as the ASICS Superblast and the New Balance SC Trainer v1. While the SC Trainer has been updated and is now on version 2, I think the version 1 is a more accurate comparison to the Skyward X because the stack heights are more similar.

Both the Skyward X and the SC Trainer v1 have carbon plates embedded inside their bouncy, energetic midsoles, helping the shoes feel smooth and snappy despite their thick stacks of cushioning. The Superblast doesn’t have a plate, but it uses a combination of FF Turbo foam (ASICS lightest foam ever) and FF Blast Plus foam (ASICS bounciest foam) for a responsive ride.

If I had to rank all three shoes in order of most energetic to least, I’d rank the SC Trainer v1 at the top, the Skyward X in the middle range and the Superblast on the lower end.

The heel of the HOKA Skyward X.

Who is the HOKA Skyward X best for?

If you have a fear of heights, don’t try the Skyward X! Okay, kidding, but all jokes aside the Skyward X does have a massive stack height. However, the type of foams used, the carbon plate and the rocker shape help make the shoe feel smooth and natural on the run.

“I really loved the cushioning in the Skyward X because it feels super soft without leaving my feet sinking into the shoe,” Mandy says. “It felt as if the cushion and the plate were helping propel me forward.”

It also has a pretty wide base, so if you generally steer away from tall stack heights due to fear of instability you might actually like the Skyward X.

If you were around for the OG HOKA era, you may remember that their shoes were specifically designed for downhill running. Our reviewers think the Skyward X may be bringing back those same design philosophies, due to the way they were able to race downhill faster than a runner heading towards that free post-race beer.

“I would recommend the Skyward X for someone training for a long race who likes a lot of cushioning and is training on a lot of ups and downs,” Ashley says. “It shines on steep, paved surfaces.”

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