Some of you know that I wasn’t a super fan of the Hoka Carbon X and I was so, so on the Rocket X2. Which lead me to wonder exactly how I’d feel about the new Hoka Cielo X1. This racing shoe is designed to move fast and you’ll reap the most benefits the faster you are because it’s designed for their top tier athletes.
Since I am not a sub 3 marathon runner, I used this for mostly mile repeat workouts at that pace and some longer tempo style efforts to see how it felt.
Admittedly, I was insanely excited to test this shoe having talked to the team in Orlando prior to the US marathon trials where Hoka athletes were racing in the Hoka Cielo X1! If this is the shoe that they picked, I wanted to stack it against the Rocket X2, Carbon X and all the other carbon plated running shoes I’ve been testing.
As you know I’m always honest in my running shoe reviews with what I like, dislike and what might work for you that wasn’t a fit for me!
There isn’t a single ideal running shoe that suits every runner, so I’d like to share my discoveries. However, I strongly recommend visiting a running store and trying them on yourself! Take a run around the shop and gauge your thoughts.
Hoka Cielo X1 Overview
I guess the first thing I should say, is wow. This shoe underfoot feels really speedy and the energy savings were apparent to me in the first mile repeat. I would say this is definitely a marathon distance shoe, less of a 5K race shoe, but again that depends on the runner.
Not to be confused with the Cielo road shoe, this is their fastest carbon plate racing shoe. And they have made some very specific design decisions to make this shoe different from others in their line up.
Slipping it on the first thing you will immediately notice is the rocker. There’s a pronounced feeling that there must be less under your forefoot because you can so easily roll forward with just a slight shift in your weight.
The PEBA midsole is the same light, bouncy cushion from the rocket, BUT with a slightly higher stack height and more cushion thanks to trimming down other areas. So this is an even more cushioned and lighter race day shoe.
Another new design in the Cielo X1 is the winged carbon fiber plate. The goal of this design is to provide a little bit more stability to the shoe and further assist with that forward propulsion.
The carbon fiber plate is actually nestled between two layers of PEBA foam – a more cushioned softer foam positioned above the plate and a sturdier variant below.
This PEBA foam shares similarities with high-performance foams such as Nike’s ZoomX cushion (used in the Vaporfly, etc), as it is derived from polyether, a less dense and consequently lighter material compared to traditional EVA. This unique composition allows for a superior energy return.
Some folks will compare the weight on this to the Alphafly or other racers and not love it. But I think if you’re not running a sub 3 hour, then you’re going to love the rocker effect enough that you may not care.
Hoka Cielo X1 Specifications
- Heel toe drop: 7mm
- Stack: 39 mm
- Weight: 9.3 oz Men’s 10, 7.4 oz women’s 8 (unisex shoe)
- Style: Max cushioned, carbon plate neutral shoe
- Usage: Racing Shoe
- Available in one color right now (which I call mermaid)
- Available at Hoka.com for $275
One of the ways they trimmed weight was through cutouts in the sole where it wouldn’t impact the stability of the shoe and through the knit upper. I’d say they also saved on the laces, but that might be a fail.
Chatting with Valerie on the product design team she mentioned that you absolutely must double knot these laces and within finishing the first few reps of my workout I could see why. The shoes were almost fully untied.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only issue with the laces. They are hard to adjust to get the right tension and there’s no upper lacing hole, so the opportunity for a heel lock doesn’t exist.
Hoka Cielo X1 Fit
Hoka is leaning in to the Unisex sizing and I don’t know how I feel about that just yet. I have pretty good luck with brands that truly do a last for the female foot with a little different heel fit.
As with most Hoka shoes I found that the toebox was plenty roomy and the shoe overall felt stable. In fact, I’d say a slightly wider fit than the Rocket X2.
Much like the Hoka Rocket X2, I don’t fully love the heel cup. Without any padding, there is a very real possibility of some major blisters, especially because you can’t do the heel lock lacing as noted. I couldn’t wear the Rocket for that specific reason, but so far haven’t had an issue in the short runs with the Cielo X1.
While it does have knit upper, it’s much, much easier to put on than the Nike Alphafly. Though, as noted, the laces then making getting the fit just right a little more difficult.
I do like the attached tongue because it simply removes one more thing from moving around on the shoe, but I didn’t love the big Hoka tag. That has the possiblity to hit on the ankle and rub.
I could also feel some light arch support here compared to other models, but nothing close to the intensity of the Alphafly 3 which bothers so many.
Hoka Cielo X1 vs Hoka Rocket X2
One of the issues I have with many brands right now is their shoes are getting so similar, that it’s hard to know if there’s really a difference that’s going to matter to you. In this case, I’d say there are a number of specific differences.
The Cielo X1 just feels like a slightly more cushioned shoe and has more rocker too it.
- Rocket X2 is about .9 oz heavier
- Cielo X1 has a 7mm heel to toe drop the Rocket X2 is 5mm
- Stack height is a few mm higher on the Cielo X1
- Rocker is far more noticeable in the Cielo X1
- Cielo X1 upper is going to feel a little thicker and firmer
- Rocket X2 slightly more narrow
Hoka Cielo X1 vs Carbon X3?
Honestly, I didn’t love the Carbon X3 so I’m probably biased, but the Cielo X1 is a much better shoe. If you’re up to splurging on a pair of carbon fiber shoes for race day then this is where I’d put my money.
It’s a better fit, better cushion and overall better design for speed.
If you just really love a carbon plate to help with foot issues or something else, then stick to the CarbonX3.
And for all of my BondiX lovers, good news there are some updates coming. Again it won’t be as fast as this shoe…but I kinda still love it so much.
Who Will Like the Hoka Cielo X1?
If you’ve not tried any other carbon shoes, then this feels like a decent place to start. The shoe is a wider fit than many, it’s stable and with the rocker effect is going to give you that nice roll to have a smooth stride.
It’s definitely pushing the limits on stack height, and you are aware this shoe is a lot underfoot, but not in a bad way.
- You already know Hoka works well for your foot and stride
- Racing half and marathon (some studies say biggest benefit is sub 8 min pace, but I’ve seen runners at all paces find benefits in the foam and shape of carbon shoes)
- Enough stability to also keep you feeling good on long runs
- Not ideal if you want a lighter weight mile to 5K speed shoe
- Not ideal for track work with the cut outs reducing that side to side stability
All right there you have it! Our review of the Hoka Cielo X1!
Looking for other running shoes??
- Best Treadmill Running Shoes
- Best Marathon Training Shoes
- Should You Forefoot Strike?
- Best HOKA Running Shoes
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish