Health & Fitness

Hoka Cielo X1 Review: Hoka’s Top Marathon Racer Is A Winner

  • Mar 7, 2024
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Hoka Cielo X1 Review: Hoka’s Top Marathon Racer Is A Winner

best carbon plate running shoes, with the Cielo X1 offering more bounce and protection for longer events than the Rocket X2, which is lighter and nimbler.

The Cielo X1’s weight will put off some runners, but I was blown away with its performance. It’s springy, fun and fast, and doesn’t feel like a heavy shoe when running. It’s one of the best marathon running shoes too, competing with top options like the Nike Alphafly 3.

Hoka Cielo X1: Price And Availability

Hoka’s most expensive carbon shoe, with the Rocket X 2 priced at $250/£220. The price is on par for top super-shoes though, and still shy of the $285/£285 the Alphafly 3 costs.

How I Tested This Running Shoe

I’ve run 37 miles in the Cielo X1, including a long track workout running 15 x 1km reps and a 24-mile long run as part of my marathon training. I have also tested the Hoka Rocket X 2, plus all the Carbon X line of shoes, and most of the best carbon plate running shoes.

Design And Fit

The Cielo X1 certainly looks the part of a super-shoe, with its decoupled midsole and aggressive rocker showing off the fact it’s built for speed. The midsole is made from two layers of a bouncy Peba-based foam, with a winged carbon plate sandwiched between them. The shoe has a drop of 7mm and stack height of 39mm at the heel and 32mm at the forefoot for the men’s shoe, and 37mm at the heel and 30mm at the forefoot in the women’s.

There are several cut-outs in the midsole to reduce weight, but the Cielo X1 is still heavy for a super-shoe, weighing 8.9oz/253g in my UK size 9. That’s around the same as the Puma Fast-R 2 Nitro Elite, but heavier than the other new super-shoes I’ve tested this year like the Nike Alphafly 3 and New Balance FuelCell SC Elite v4, while the Rocket X 2 is 7.9oz/225g.

The Cielo X1 has a knit upper with a partially gusseted tongue, and I found it fitted in my usual running shoe size, with a secure but comfortable hold around the heel and midfoot for fast running. This is despite the laces, which are made from a strange and stiff material that makes them hard to tie. The odd material made me concerned the laces would come undone during runs, but it hasn’t happened yet—after they were triple-knotted.

Aside from the cut-outs that show off the carbon plate, the bottom of the shoe is covered with a rubber outsole that has gripped well on my runs, including on a wet track and an all-weather path with muddy patches.

Running Performance

My first run in the Cielo X1 was the hardest workout of my London Marathon training block so far: three sets of 5 x 1km reps with a 100m jog recovery. The first set was done at 3min 30sec/km, my marathon pace, the second at 3min 20sec/km, and the third at 3min 10sec/km.

It was a great chance to judge the Cielo X1 at different speeds, and at marathon pace it felt amazing, with a bouncy ride that helped me cruise through the reps with a lower perceived effort than most shoes. That’s what I expected given the shoe’s marathon focus, but it also felt good for the faster reps, including the all-out reps in the final set of five. I thought the Cielo X1 would be cumbersome for those, but it felt nimbler on the foot than anticipated. It wouldn’t be my first pick for a 5K or 10K race—it’s not as agile and light as others—but it’s still fast over short distances thanks to its propulsive ride.

Where it really shone was on a progressive 24-mile training run, moving from easy pace to around 5min 45sec/mile for the final three miles. Even at easy paces the shoe felt comfortable and natural thanks to the rocker, and it only feels better as you speed up, with extra bounce and a faster transition onto your forefoot.

It also protects the legs well, and I felt reasonably fresh at the end of the 24-miler and bounced back to run the next day with minimal soreness. It’s better on this front than the Rocket X 2, which is still a great carbon shoe but less protective and bouncy by the end of long runs.

Is The Hoka Cielo X1 Worth It?

I didn’t expect to love the Cielo X1 as much as I did. I rate it as one of the best marathon running shoes, providing stiff competition to the Nike Alphafly 3, which I currently have as the best carbon racer overall. The Hoka is bouncy and protects the legs brilliantly while still providing a fast ride.

The weight does stick in the mind, though, and I don’t think it’s as well-rounded a racer as the Alphafly for shorter events. However, once you start running in the Cielo X1 it doesn’t feel heavy, and I wouldn’t be deterred from picking it for longer events.

I think it’s Hoka’s best carbon shoe yet, though those who prefer a lighter and more grounded shoe—and who mainly stick to shorter events—will probably prefer the Rocket X 2, which is cheaper and still a good long-distance option.


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