Since our immediate futures are one big question mark with the COVID-19 pandemic right now, many of us are clinging onto small moments of joy. The meticulous, meditative quality of chopping vegetables. The oddly scientific methodology of making pour-over coffee and sourdough starter. And for the active set: running.
That sense of community has been thwarted, no doubt, but we urge you to embrace the oddities of running in the age of COVID-19. Charge through the streets at night. Make the once-crowded hot spots your playground. Take advantage of the downpours and eerily quiet dawn hours to minimize contact with people. Getting out once a day doesn’t just ease the doldrums of self-isolation, it’s a godsend for your mental and physical health—the salve for an ever-growing itch you can’t seem to scratch. If you’re someone who likes to get miles on your legs, a personal best on your watch, and could use a new pair of kicks on your feet, we’ve got a strong recommendation from Hoka One One: the Carbon X.
What It Is
The Hoka One One Carbon X sits pretty squarely between a racing shoe and trainer. The aggressive, springy carbon plate extends through the length of the shoe, wrapping under the outermost toes to make your gait feel more fluid and effortless. That’s the whole appeal of carbon-plated running shoes: They make running feel less taxing by reducing energy lost during toe-off—or so the theory goes. Coupled with the fluid nature of the Meta-Rocker, a rounded sole shape with a low heel-to-toe drop, this shoe is seriously fun to run in.
Unlike the Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% and New Balance FuelCell 5280, which require lightning-fast mile times to reap the benefits, the Carbon X is a more forgiving option. The forefoot platform is wider and more merciful because it lends greater stability—a major plus if your running mechanics aren’t elite-level perfect and you get a little sloppy at the end.
At just 8.8 ounces (lighter than Nike’s comparable 9.6-ounce Zoom X), it strikes that perfect balance between light and supportive. The upper is an airy engineered mesh, not a knit, so it won’t get soaked or bogged down in rainy conditions. While there’s a medley of foams running along the mid and forefoot, there’s not a substantial amount in the heel to dampen and smooth out the rocker’s rolling momentum. Because of this, the Carbon X is best suited to midfoot strikers than heel strikers, who might find the experience a little jarring.
Why We Like It
I have sprinter tendencies from my track & field days, so I’m afflicted by what I like to call dog-off-leash syndrome—a feeling of unbridled joy when I start a run accompanied by an inability to pace or taper speed. And the Carbon X really lets me fly. The feel underfoot is bouncy and propulsive, with an exaggerated rocking sensation. I’m not a fan of minimalist running shoes, because my body takes a beating with endurance work, but these feel well-cushioned and don’t leave my legs feeling trashed after a hard effort. It’s not an everyday trainer, but it’s absolutely the shoe I gravitate toward when I want to do speed work or bump up the intensity and do some threshold training.
I have narrow feet and don’t often have an issue with irritation, but do experience rubbing along my pinky toes after a couple of miles. If you have wide feet, beware; there’s no wide option available… yet. The laces are also particularly slippery and tend to come undone mid-run. I’d suggest swapping them out, because once you take off, there’s nothing more soul-sucking than stopping your joyride to re-tie your shoes.
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