With its latest creation, Hoka believes it has set a new standard for road racing shoes.
The newest running shoe release from the Deckers Brands-owned company is the Rocket X 2, a model that was designed with elite and long distance runners in mind. Hoka has described the shoe as its most pinnacle performance road racing model yet, and Rebekah Broe, the brand’s director of product for performance footwear, told FN that she thinks it is a “game-changer.”
The Rocket X 2 — which Broe said was in the works when she joined the brand in October 2021 — was designed with insights provided by its elite road runners and triathlete roster, and was executed with new geometries and compounds.
In terms of tech, Hoka added dual-density, responsive PEBA midsole foam to the Rocket X 2, which is paired with a remastered spoon-shaped offset carbon fiber plate with the brand’s early stage MetaRocker. This was done, Hoka said, to enhance propulsion.
Hoka also utilized its ProFlyX two-part midsole construction on the Rocket X 2, which pairs a soft top layer of foam with a responsive bottom layer. This was employed to create an energetic and stable ride.
With the ultracompetitive running market overrun with tech-loaded road racing shoes, Broe said the most daunting challenge Hoka faced was creating a sensation for runners that felt distinctly its own.
“It took a while for us to figure out the right way to implement the more advanced compounds, like the PEBA midsole foam, in a way that felt unique to Hoka. We didn’t want to do a copy-and-paste formula,” Broe explained. “The biggest challenge was figuring out how to leverage the advanced foam compounds and the carbon fiber plate into the rocker geometry to build an experience that feels fast.”
As for the upper, Hoka opted to use a technical synthetic mesh, which was not only designed to be both lightweight and breathable, but it also hugs the wearer’s foot. The upper also features a dual-sided tongue gusset and an internal midfoot cage for lockdown. Underfoot, Hoka placed rubber on areas of the outsole where higher traction is needed, allowing for maximum durability while saving weight.
In terms of weight, the Hoka Rocket X 2 weighs 6.7 oz. in a women’s size 8 and 8.3 oz. in a men’s size 10. The stack height is 40 mm and there is a 5 mm drop, making the shoe World Athletics approved.
Broe said Hoka created more samples to perfect the Rocket X 2 than it typically does with other shoes, and the brand went through seven or so rounds before landing on the pair that would come to retail. During the sampling process, Broe said she knew Hoka was getting close to perfection when the texts she would receive from the brand’s athletes who were wear testing the shoe were a bit more colorful than their prior messages.
“When we had our probably fourth prototype, we started hearing back from athletes. We started getting messages back that had some expletives in them — in a positive way,” Broe said with a laugh. “We knew we’re onto something. We had athletes like Jan Frodeno texting some really fun messages after testing the first proto, and that moment also came from [distance runner] Steph [Bruce] after wearing a sample in Boston [Marathon in 2022].”
Leading up to its release, Hoka said its Rocket X 2 has been central in several noteworthy race results with its elite athletes in a number of distances. For instance, Futsum Zienasellassie won the USATF Marathon Championships — his debut for the distance — with a time of 2:11:01 and Aliphine Tuliamuk finished the 2022 New York City Marathon with a time of 2:26:18.
The Hoka Rocket X 2 is available now via Hoka.com and at select retailers. The shoe retails for $250.
Looking ahead, Broe said Hoka will use the learnings it discovered creating the Rocket X 2 and apply them to other shoes in the line. One of those shoes influenced by this design process will arrive this year.
“Instead of figuring what we can change and fix versus the predecessor, sometimes it’s good to come back and say, ‘What’s the problem we’re trying to solve? And who are we trying to solve that problem for?’ It’s that kind of curiosity that keeps us on our toes,” Broe said. “One learning coming out of the Rocket X 2 is that we can push things even more — we can push with geometries, with plate designs. We’re already tinkering with some fin things for the future. We also discovered we can leverage some of those learnings for daily training.”
She continued, “For those of us who only use the Rocket X 2 every once in a while for a race, there’s something to that experience that we could bring into a shoe that you could use for 70% of your miles. In the fall, we have the Mach X coming out, which is a new extension of our Mach franchise. We took some of the Rocket X 2 learnings and applied them to a daily training shoe. It’s an example of how we’re trying to extrapolate some of those awesome insights and bring them to life across the line.”