Review: HOKA Skyward X

This new "super trainer" absolutely shines in two particular use cases

Review: HOKA Skyward X 1

This calendar year is one of reinvention for HOKA, the wildly-popular running brand whose cushioned sneakers have won the hearts of people around the world. Their latest invention is their biggest one to date: the gigantic Skyward X.

This behemoth of a supertrainer is the latest product to come out of HOKA’s year of reinvention. Instead of releasing new versions of their old shoes like every other brand this year (Alphafly 2 to 3/ Endorphin ¾, Brooks Hyperion 3 to 4) HOKA is going off the map to create new stuff. Earlier this year there was the Cielo X1 (video); and now there is this: the tallest, plushest training shoe they’ve ever created. HOKA has taken what makes them HOKA, and just cranked up the dial. 

It’s not that HOKA has never created a massively-stacked, carbon-laden training shoe (see: the Bondi X) it’s just that they’ve never made one of this size. At a whopping 48mm, the Skyward X dwarfs most shoes in the game, save for the Adidas Prime X (which measures 50mm). A shoe this big comes with problems: it’s heavy and illegal in World Athletics-sanctioned races.

But there are also benefits to wearing this small-child sized shoe. We break it down below, to help you decide whether or not the Skyward X is worth your money.

The TL;DR – What You Need To Know:



Hoka, known for their stack and cushion, somehow made an even…stackier shoe.

  • These shoes appeared to defy the laws of physics, as does an airplane: there was no way for such a heavy object to be THAT airborne.
  • I would not recommend it as a racing shoe even in non-World Athletics sanctioned events (like your local Turkey Trot, for example) because there are much lighter options.
  • They have more muscle than any other shoe I’ve seen and are a versatile super trainer.
Shop HOKA Skyward X on HOKA
  • Review: HOKA Skyward X 2
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  • Review: HOKA Skyward X 4
  • Review: HOKA Skyward X 5
  • Review: HOKA Skyward X 6
  • Review: HOKA Skyward X 7
  • Review: HOKA Skyward X 8
  • All of our shoe testers are died-in-the-wool, experienced runners with a broad experience of the sport. They’re typically running 30+ miles per week.
  • We put each pair of shoes through a battery of tests: a typical review will involve several test runs on a variety of distances and terrains, designed to identify any snags or issues.
  • We talk to experts in the shoe industry and gather advice and insights from other runners, to best understand the shoe and how it suits the end user: you, the runner.

The Deets: Tech Specs For The HOKA Skyward X

  • MSRP: $225 USD
  • Release date: April 25
  • Stack height: 48mm 
  • Weight: 11.3 oz (men’s size 10)
  • Heel-to-toe drop: 5mm 
Shop HOKA Skyward X on HOKA

The Pros:

Ultra-Cushioned: The two inches of foam underfoot allow for an unbelievably plush ride. Even the woman from The Princess and The Pea could not feel a pebble under these tires-for-feet. 

Powerful spring mechanism: Two layers of foam, a convex carbon plate and a rock-forward profile make these big boys bounce.

Encourages midfoot strike: The shoes are so heavy that I expected them to rock me back onto my heels, but instead, they enabled a breezy midfoot to forward strike.

Review: HOKA Skyward X 9

The Cons:

Heavy: You can’t really get around the fact that they measure a colossal 11.3 ounces, which makes them an absolute heavyweight in the shoe world.

Illegal: I wouldn’t recommend racing in a World Athletics-sanctioned race in such heavy shoes, but even if you wanted to, you can’t! 

Expensive: Yes, the Skyward X is more than a simple training shoe, but at $225, it enters the super-shoe price range despite just being a super-trainer (more on this below).  

Shop HOKA Skyward X on HOKA
Review: HOKA Skyward X 10

HOKA Skyward X: First Impressions

When I see an unusual-looking sneaker like the Skyward X, I first have to figure out what it is. In the shoe landscape of today, there are trainers (classic sneakers for everyday easy runs), super-shoes (ultra-light and bouncy kicks for races) and then the supertrainer: a hybrid of the two that typically has a carbon plate and special foam, but a bit more weight to it than a pure racing shoe.

There is no doubt that the Skyward X is a supertrainer, but one so huge that it still had me confused. Could a sneaker the size of a small child actually be suitable for fast workouts? And gambling on the Skyward X is no small investment: $225 puts it in the pricey end of super-trainers, along with the ASICS Superblast ($225) and the New Balance SC Trainer ($180). Though, they are all a bargain compared to the aforementioned Adidas Prime X ($300 USD).

Had I not received a pair to test, I would have probably left the Skyward X on the shelf because I was not a huge fan of HOKA’s most recent creation, the Cielo X1. I am happy I didn’t; more on that later.

Here are the HOKA Skyward X’s Key Specs:

Convex carbon fiber plate: The Skyward X is the first HOKA shoe to include this type of tech; and I have not heard of it replicated anywhere else. The plate, instead of curling upwards, curls down in a suspension system that compresses and coils back with each stride.

Massive foam network: Directly underfoot is a chunk of superlight, energy-returning PEBA foam. 

Super critical EVA rocker frame: Under the PEBA foam and the carbon plate is a wide base of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam, made for a plush and responsive landing. The foam is molded into a shape that rocks you forward, which encourages a springy stride despite the shoe’s weight. 

Flat knit upper with zonal engineering: The knit upper could be more breathable and light; but it is snug and chafe-free.

Deep Active Foot Frame: The foam is also shaped to cradle the heel and prevent side-to-side rolling, which is good because the shoe trends a bit wide.Fit: True to length, but tall. The laces, however, are infinitely better than those on the Cielo X1, and enable a tight fit.

Shop HOKA Skyward X on HOKA
Review: HOKA Skyward X 11

Road Testing The HOKA Skyward X

The first time I put these on were in Boston, at the HOKA pop-up on marathon weekend. I was there to test out a Wahoo treadmill that was apparently fast enough to support a four minute mile (more on that in a later video). The biomechanist gave me a pair of Skyward Xs to test out the treadmill, and I felt like I was being punked: how on earth was I: a non four-minute miler, going to run faster than race pace in these monstrous shoes? In front of nearly one hundred shoppers?

I wish I could take full credit for what happened next, but some of it I owe to the Skyward X. I kept pace with the treadmill for a breezy minute. These shoes appeared to defy the laws of physics as does an airplane: there was no way for such a heavy object to be that airborne.

What I realized was that, also like an airplane, the Skyward X deploys a whole lot of upward force every time it hits the ground. My knock on HOKA, in the pre-Skyward days, was that they lacked that upward spring: they controlled and protected your landing, but offered little spring back. These are different: they have more muscle than most shoes I have ever worn.

Shop HOKA Skyward X on HOKA

Review: HOKA Skyward X 12

HOKA Skyward X Review Takeaways

With all that said, is the Skyward X worth your time and money? It depends.

I would not recommend it as a racing shoe even in non-World Athletics sanctioned events (like your local Turkey Trot, for example) because there is much lighter out there. I also think it’s overkill as a daily trainer: you are better off buying something more basic and save yourself $100.

That being said, the Skyward X absolutely shines in two particular use cases. The first is for the buyer who wants just one pair of shoes for every single run; they may find this HOKA sneaker to do everything (from slow running to racing) pretty well.

The second is for someone who has decided to invest a chunk of money into a super trainer for workouts. If you’re OK with shelling out the cash and adding a presumably third pair of shoes to your roster (along with trainers and racing shoes), the Skyward X is tough to beat. Of course, that’s if you don’t mind the extra heft.

Shop HOKA Skyward X on HOKA
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Alex is a Toronto-based journalist who writes mostly about health, sports, culture and people.

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