Hoka Carbon X3 Review: A Lightweight Long Distance Racer

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The HOKA Carbon X3 is a super cushiony long distance runner as well as a racer. I am coming off a rather heavy two to three months of trail running, and I am ready to cruise back to some smooth road miles. That said, these X3’s are finding a perfect niche in my training regiment as I head into the “off-season”. After snowshoe racing, Alpine skiing, an Ironman, 3 ultras, a half ironman, and a Grand Canyon double crossing, I am ready for the “off-season”. That’s a funny term, because I really don’t slow down much, but do start to focus more on skiing while maintaining a running and cycling fitness base.

On a side note, my dog doesn’t know anything about an off-season, and rather enjoys the cooler runs and frolicking in the snow. Therefore, I am looking forward to finding a good rhythm and running schedule while really taking advantage of the soft and smooth ride that the Hoka Carbon X3 will provide.

Technical Specifications

  • Weight:                          7.8 oz / 22g
  • Heel-to-Toe-Drop:         5.00mm
  • Volume:                         728 cubic cm
  • Spring Measurement:    41 x 36

Hoka Carbon X3 Features

  • Breathable Engineered knit
  • Integrated knit unit
  • Silicone gloss print logo
  • Extended heel pull
  • CMEVA Midsole with PROFLY construction
  • Carbon Fiber plate
  • Molded EVA sockliner
  • Early stage meta-rocker
  • Rubberised EVA


The X3 has a knitted upper which is a change from the mesh upper on the X2. I am aware of the feedback in running circles that these have the tendency to slide more, especially on varied terrain. I hear that comment, and give it some validity. However, this is not going to be a trail shoe for me. I have other good options for the dirt, and will solely focus on the road for the Hoka Carbon X3. My foot is on the mid to wide side, and this shoe fits fairly well. I have not experienced a lot of that slide. At this point, I’ve taken these on longer runs of 10-14 miles, so the truly longer distances will be explored in the coming months.

I did want to point out the collar and “rear lip”. There is not a lot of material there, so fit will be critical to wrap the lower ankle properly. Also, they way it slopes up in the back does provide more contact area on the Achilles tendon. I make mention of this to make sure that proper fit is taken into consideration as well as the lacing and tightness.


The technical features and shoe engineer jargon are usually shelved away while I am running. I need to know that it fits well, performs, and is able to support my running endeavors. However, the full-length carbon-fiber plate that is sandwiched into the two-layer midsole is a golden feature. The “Carbon” X3, so very aptly named is actually something I take note of while I am out running. In that sense, I feel that it is giving me a mental edge as I get pushed and catapulted along.

The midsole of the Carbon X3 has a thick layer of EVA foam that provides that cushioning you’ve come to expect from Hoka. Then the full-length Carbon-fiber propulsion plate comes into play, and organically guides the foot towards the preferred toe push-off position.

Technology has come so far in so many fields. In running, I try to keep up with the tech lingo, but in the end those legs, lungs, and athletic abilities will still dominate an individual performance. The technology does help, and I know Hoka (and others) spend some serious R & D time to perfect their shoes. That said, I feel that my chances of injury are less with these shoes, while my performance gets a boost which for me is a game changer.


The good thing about the Carbon X3’s outsole is that it has a softer rubberized EVA which makes it so light. The bad thing is that it has a softer rubberized EVA which causes it to wear down a little faster than if it were a hard rubber. In this case, I take the good with the bad. A softer ride for longer distances is ideal, but I’ll have to simply pick and choose on which runs to take these Hoka Carbon X3. The fit is good for me, so I’ll will sport these for my last few longer race prep runs, and definitely a go-to for race day.

The sole is super simple with not a lot of depth which makes it great for the road. I don’t encounter to many rainy runs, but I’ve not had any slipping or sliding issues.

The Look Of The HOKA Carbon X3

Asymmetrical color scheme is catchy and fun. I enjoy a simple design and look. This is certainly pushing me past that a little, but since I am a fan of orange these kicks are getting me noticed. I receive compliments every time I head out with my local running crew. It’s great, because it gets me chatting about the features which many can identify with. I was a slow adapter to the super cushiony sole movement. Obviously, I am now a believer, and the appearance of the sole is quite accepted and this one looks the part for a more speedy long distance runner.

The Hoka Carbon X3 In Action

I don’t rush into breaking a shoe in. I’ll wear it around the house, take it for a few walks, before finally going for an easy jog. Early on in the testing process, I was running in the 4-6 mile range, and have slowly ramped up to 10+ miles. I am now about 75 miles in with my longest run being just shy of 14.

The shoe is responsive, soft and easy on my joints, and allows me to go longer distances. Many of the virtues and technical specifications are mentioned above where I break down all the major components. In summary of that, I have enjoyed testing these. The ride feels really smooth, and the cushioning is enough for me to go longer distances. For reference, I am about 6′-1″ and weigh in the 165 – 170 range. That’s certainly not in the Clydesdale division, but I’m also not as lean and nimble as some of my really fast running friends. I think this shoe hits the spot for me to provide enough support while still feeling fast.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned, I’ve been a slow adapter when it comes to the thick bottom soles. I got into the Hoka game with some trail Speedgoats a few years ago, and am certainly a fan now. At the age of 52, I have battle scars, and the wear and tear of an active life style does rear its ugly head on occasion. Hence, the supportive ride while still providing the freedom to fly fast gives this “masters” runner a nice boost.

The numerous features of the X3 are well documented above, and I feel this is a really nice addition for those looking to stay speedy while going the distance. The width is just right for me, and the fit is spot on. The midsole is where this Hoka Carbon X3 earns its merits. Obviously with the cushioning, but the carbon fiber propulsion plate is a feature that provides me that extra lift or boost on each and every step. Running shoes have seen quite an increase in price over the years, so a $200 price tag is not anything new. From a value standpoint, I would have liked to see this slightly lower, but with this one, you do pay for what you get. I will keep buying this shoe, because it works for me. Try it for yourself, and see how it goes. For more info on the Carbon X3 and other Hoka footwear, please visit www.hoka.com.

Niels Oomkes: I am a multi-sport endurance athlete, and love to get out into the great outdoors to push the body to its limit. Most of my weekend expeditions, adventures, trips, or vacations are planned around running, biking, snowshoeing, camping, or anything else that will allow me to enjoy nature's exquisite beauty.
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