Shoe Review: HOKA Mach X
As runners and humans, we’re programmed to want the best of both worlds. We want to have our birthday cake-flavored Gu and eat it too. When that comes to running shoes, it usually means wanting a cushioned, comfortable experience that feels equally as great during easy recovery runs as it does during tough tempo sessions. But, like any great balancing act, finding the elusive combination of everyday comfort and responsive, race-ready performance is easier said than done. Enter the HOKA Mach X.
Fleet Feet reviewers tested the HOKA Mach 5 last summer and were impressed with the dreamy cushioning that seemed to soak up the pavement with each stride. We also enjoyed testing the springy, responsive HOKA Carbon X 3. We never stopped to imagine what a hybrid of those two shoes would feel like, and now, with the Mach X, we don’t have to.
Fleet Feet reviewers put the versatile HOKA Mach X to the test to see how it fits, feels and performs. Here’s everything you need to know about HOKA’s latest creation.
HOKA Mach X
|Weight||8 oz (W), 9.4 oz (M)|
|Heel-to-toe drop||5 mm|
|Stack height (heel/forefoot)||37 mm/32 mm (W), 42 mm/37 mm (M)|
|Comparable to...||Brooks Hyperion Max, Saucony Endorphin Speed 3|
Pebax® plate propels you forward
One of our favorite things about the HOKA Mach 5 was the soft, dreamy cushioning. We could all agree that it felt deliciously smooth during easy and recovery runs. But what we couldn’t agree on was how the shoe held up to pace increases. Many runners prefer a stiffer midsole for speedwork that acts as a lever during toe-offs, and that’s just what the Mach X offers thanks to a rigid Pebax® plate.
“As much as I loved the Mach 5, I never did speedwork in it because it seemed too soft for fast running,” Kate says. “The Mach X takes care of that with its firm, rocker-shaped plate in the middle of that soft cushioning, giving you all the tools you need to propel you forward. I’ve just started doing speedwork again after taking almost a year off due to pregnancy, so I wanted a little help from my shoes. The Mach X totally delivered!”
The Mach X uses a PEBA-based midsole foam, which is the same foam HOKA designers used to create their lightning-fast, racing super shoe, the Rocket X 2. That, combined with the peppy plastic plate and rocker shape combine to create a smooth ride that comes to life during uptempo runs.
“While the Mach X is definitely not a soft shoe and may feel almost hard when you’re walking around, that firmness translates into propulsion while running,” says Ashley. “Everything about the design creates efficiency for me. I feel smooth and strong during workouts and the plastic plate helps to propel me forward with each step.”
Performance fit offers foot-hugging feel
The HOKA Mach X is topped off with a smooth, engineered jacquard mesh upper that feels just as soft as it does supportive. A thin, gusseted tongue sits atop your foot while thin, textured laces tie everything together. A plush and flexible heel collar offers just enough padding without feeling bulky.
“Usually, uppers can be one of two things—incredibly soft or incredibly breathable,” says Caroline. “The more breathable material usually seems to have a harder feel to it, but not so with the Mach X. As I laced them up, the tongue and the lacing cage seemed to effortlessly stretch against my foot, providing a firm yet gentle hug. I’ll be honest, the laces threw me off at first because they felt pretty stiff and rigid. I realized that, as I was finished with my run and trying to unlace them, this was likely done to prevent any slippage or untying because they did not easily come untied. Not in a bad way, but just enough to make me assured that they won't accidentally come unlaced while I’m running.”
While Caroline found her perfect fit in the Mach X, other reviewers noticed it felt quite a bit narrower than most other HOKA shoes.
“As I slipped the Mach X on for their maiden voyage, they felt a bit narrow,” Max says. “It makes sense since they’re made for faster paces, but I would have appreciated some wiggle room.”
The Mach X isn’t available in wide sizing yet, so keep this in mind if you like a bit of extra toe space.
HOKA Mach X versus HOKA Mach 5
HOKA Mach X
HOKA Mach 5
8 oz (W), 9.4 oz (M)
6.8 oz (W), 8.2 oz (M)
Stack height (heel/forefoot)
42 mm/37 mm
29 mm/24 mm
The Mach X is essentially a firmer, snappier version of the HOKA Mach 5. It features more cushioning underfoot (42 millimeters in the heel versus 29 in the Mach 5) and, of course, the plate we’ve been raving about. This adds an edge to the otherwise soft, pillowy feel offered by the Mach 5.
“If you like a firmer, bouncier shoe with an edge for performance, the Mach X should be high on your list,” Nate says.
The Mach X is slightly heavier than the Mach 5, likely due to the increased stack height, but reviewers didn’t notice it on the run.
How does the HOKA Mach X compare?
We took a look at some comparable shoes to see how they stack up against the HOKA Mach X. Here’s what we found.
HOKA Mach X
Brooks Hyperion Max
Saucony Endorphin Speed 3
8 oz (W), 9.4 oz (M)
6.7 oz (W), 7.8 oz (M)
7.2 oz (W), 8.1 oz (M)
Stack height (heel/forefoot)
42 mm/37 mm (M)
26 mm/18 mm
36 mm/28 mm
The HOKA Mach X, Brooks Hyperion Max and Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 all offer an energetic and peppy ride that’s more responsive than your average daily trainer but not quite as propulsive as a carbon-plated super shoe. With that said, it’s not the price of a carbon-plated super shoe either, so runners can feel more comfortable loading them up with training miles prior to race day.
While all three shoes use different materials—The Mach X uses a rigid Pebax® plate, the Endorphin Speed 3 uses a curved nylon plate and the Hyperion Max relies on an aggressive rocker shape paired with a springy DNA Flash midsole—they all deliver a similar energetic ride.
“My gosh, is the HOKA Mach X bouncy underfoot,” Alex says. “They’re like foot-shaped trampolines padded with velvet.”
Who is the HOKA Mach X best for?
While reviewers noticed the Mach X doesn’t pack the same punch as the Rocket X 2, likely because it uses a plastic plate rather than a carbon one, it’s a great choice for runners who want more pep than a traditional daily trainer, runners who are new to the world of super shoes or runners who want one shoe that can hold up to easy miles, long runs, workouts and all the way up to race day.
“The Mach X is an excellent speedwork and fast long run shoe,” Ashley says. “I’ve run about 80 miles in them so far and they seem durable enough to withstand a full training cycle of speedwork. I would recommend them as a speed trainer and racer for distances from 5K and longer. In fact, I’ll probably wear them for the Missoula Marathon at the end of June.”
Because it has a narrower fit than some other HOKA shoes, it’s best suited for narrow-footed runners or those who enjoy a snug fit. If you’re not sure about the width of your feet, be sure to head into your local Fleet Feet for an expert one-on-one outfitting. 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.
“I’d recommend the Mach X to runners who like a firm ride and a lower heel-to-toe drop,” Caroline says. “It’s perfect for runners who want to venture into HOKA, but are put off by the pillowy soft midsoles of their other models.”