There’s no question: The HOKA ONE ONE Rocket X is engineered for fast races.
HOKA took its carbon-fiber-plate technology to the next level by pairing it with an extremely lightweight foam midsole and barely there mesh upper so nothing holds you back. Other speed-focused details, like a slim rubber outsole and low-profile fit, make the Rocket X an ideal race-day weapon.
Fleet Feet reviewers logged their miles in the Rocket X to get a feel for how it fits and how it feels on those up-tempo paces. Here’s what they thought.
*The HOKA ONE ONE Rocket X is a unisex shoe. Men’s sizes are listed; women should subtract 1 from the listed sizes to find the right fit.
HOKA ONE ONE Rocket X
Keeping weight down was integral to creating the fastest experience, and the Rocket X delivers.
HOKA kept the weight to a scant 7.4 oz. They did that by cutting back on any unnecessary parts, reducing the number of seams and using the lightest materials yet.
Designers draped the Rocket X in a thin mesh. The honeycomb-like structure allows plenty of air into the shoe without feeling flimsy. The mesh is so thin you can see the color of your socks through it.
The mesh doesn’t offer much stretch, but testers found the Rocket X doesn’t need it. One tester says the fit is more democratic than he first thought.
“I have a slightly wider foot, so the width of a shoe is typically the first thing I notice,” he says. “The Rocket X looked narrow when I pulled it out of the box, but I didn’t have any problems with my midfoot or forefoot fitting in the shoe.”
Other testers had differing experiences with the fit. One runner says she felt more space that she was used to in a HOKA shoe, while another says she thought it was about right. Once they laced up the shoes, though, neither had any trouble with finding a comfortable fit.
The one-piece mesh upper doesn’t have any seams around the midfoot or forefoot, and there’s no extra padding there, either. A very slim tongue covers the top of your foot without adding any unnecessary ounces, and designers anchored it in place with stretchy straps on either side.
The only extra cushioning is a lightweight pad that runs around the heel cup, where an internal heel counter helps create a snug fit. Testers didn’t have any trouble with their heels slipping in the Rocket X. (HOKA included an empty seventh lace hole at the top of the shoe to let you use other lacing techniques to find a better fit.)
Another big benefit of the Rocket X is its removable insole. Testers liked the ability to take out the stock insole and swap in an aftermarket option or custom orthotic.
Overall, testers say the Rocket X feels comfortable, which is important for long races or training runs.
Like other running shoes with carbon-fiber plates, the HOKA Rocket X gets an efficiency boost from the technology.
HOKA’s first plate technology showed up in the HOKA Carbon X, which debuted in 2019. While the shoes use similar tech, the Carbon X features a much more distinct rocker shape than the Rocket X—you can see the difference at a glance—which gives the shoes very different rides.
"HOKA did a magical job of incorporating the carbon plate while maintaining its geometry," says a reviewer. "I didn't feel the prominence of the carbon plate right away until I started running."
Despite the different shapes, the Rocket X is also very stiff, which helps create a snappy ride.
“The whole shoe feels quite stiff and firm, which helps make them feel propulsive and fast,” according to one reviewer. “If you try and flex it in your hands, it has very little give.”
But the carbon-fiber plate doesn’t work in isolation. HOKA gave the Rocket X its lightest-ever EVA foam. Unlike other HOKA running shoes that have big, super-soft midsoles, the Rocket X has a shorter stack height and firmer feel; testers say it feels more like a traditional racing flat.
“The Rocket X feels firm, steady and stable, much like a traditional racing shoe,” one reviewer says. “It doesn’t have the sensation of being rocked or bounced forward and you get more of that sensation of ground contact.”
Beneath the foam, HOKA added on a few pieces of rubber for improved traction and durability. A thin layer of rubber covers most of the forefoot, while two smaller rubber pieces add grip to the heel.
Even with the additional rubber, the Rocket X isn’t especially grippy, and it isn’t meant to be. The Rocket X is a fast-day shoe, best used for race paces on dry, clear pavement—and that’s where it excels.
“The Rocket X feels perfect for races and speed work,” one tester says. “I love how much I can feel the ground. It makes me feel more aware of my form, which keeps me focused.”
The HOKA ONE ONE Rocket X made waves when it debuted at the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in February 2020. Aliphine Tuliamuk wore the carbon-fiber-plated racer when she ran 2:27:23 to take the top spot.
But it’s not just for elite athletes. HOKA engineered the Rocket X to bring that race-day speed to anyone chasing faster times.
“Overall, it felt great to run in,” one reviewer says. “This is a great tool for speedy efforts on a middle-to-long distance run for people who want to feel more grounded or prefer a lower stack height.”
Still not convinced? Don’t sweat it. Fleet Feet's return policy means you can test drive your shoes and gear without risk. If you’re not happy with the way your gear performs, looks or fits, we’ll take it back within 60 days. Plus, you’ll get free shipping on orders over $99 and free return shipping on all fleetfeet.com orders. That's our Happy Fit Guarantee.
By Evan Matsumoto. Evan played many sports growing up but didn’t go pro in any of them. Now, he’s the digital copywriter for fleetfeet.com and editor for the Fleet Feet blog where he writes about different foam densities and engineered mesh uppers.