By Kieran Alger
The HOKA Mach X is the latest running shoe to get HOKA’s X treatment, taking a popular shoe, tweaking it slightly, sticking a plate in the midsole and marking it with an X. This punchier, plated sibling to the HOKA Mach 5 packs a Pebax rather than a carbon plate and it aims to combine the comfort and support of the Mach 5 with the propulsion and energy of a plated shoe.
HOKA says it’s built for daily speed but is it any good and how does it compare to the Mach 5? We put it to the test to find out in our HOKA Mach X review.
Stack Height, Drop, Weight and Price
Let’s kick off with some important details. The Hoka Mach X comes with the same 5mm drop as the Mach 5, though the stack height across the shoe is considerably higher – 10mm in fact.
In the women’s shoe, the Mach X stack height packs 37mm in the heel and 32mm in the forefoot. While in the men’s, that jumps to 39mm in the heel and 34mm in the forefoot.
37mm heel / 32mm forefoot
9.1oz / 258g
Suggested Retail Price
True to size
When it comes to weight, in our UK men’s size 8.5 test shoe they tip the scales at just over 9 ounces – 9.1oz to be precise – or 258g. That’s slightly heavier than the Mach 5 (8.4oz / 238g) and plated rivals like the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 (7.7oz / 217g).
Pricewise, you’ll pay $180 in the US, $40 more than the HOKA Mach 5. That’s right up there with the more expensive daily trainers but not quite tipping into the $200+ carbon race shoe bracket.
While the Mach 5 packs a Profly+ midsole, the turbo-charged Mach X features a ProflyX midsole that sandwiches a Pebax plate between a layer of highly-resilient PEBA foam and a layer of EVA foam.
According to HOKA, that PEBA foam layer is apparently 34% more resilient than the foam you find in its carbon racer, the HOKA Carbon X3. In terms of geometry, there’s also an early stage metarocker to add smoothness to transitions.
Up top you’ve got a creel jacquard upper with quite a pleasant soft lining on the inside and some added structure on the outside layer.
As uppers go, these are pretty light and breathable. There’s also a half gusseted, race-style flat lay tongue that’s minimal but has a nice little padding detail to prevent lace pinch.
The heel collars pack medium padding that holds well, with comfort and there’s a heel counter for added security and support.
Flip them over and the outsole carries a fairly extensive covering of durabrasion rubber that takes care of all the main impact zones, aiming to boost durability and provide that all-important traction you need when you’re cornering in a fast-effort shoe.
I ran in my regular UK 8.5 and though, like many HOKA running shoes, these come up a bit narrow, across the top of the midfoot and into the toe box.
It’s definitely a dialed-in racy fit that might come up a bit narrow around the big toe knuckle. That may be problematic on longer duration runs, so just be cautious on that. But unless you’ve got particularly wide feet or want a roomier fit, I’d recommend going true to size.
I’ve run north of 50 miles in the HOKA Mach X across my usual test mix of paces and terrain. That includes easy miles right up to all-out intervals. I’ve also raced half marathons and done 3-hour long runs in the shoes. All of that on a mix of asphalt with some light river path off-roading thrown in for good measure.
HOKA describes the Mach X as “an adaptable trainer comfortable enough for endurance efforts that responds equally well to pace increases.” And I think they’ve nailed that.
I fell in love with this shoe straight out of the box. This is my kind of running shoe. It feels instantly great on the foot, comfortable and dialed in and nicely unfussy.
Initially I ran in this one without looking at the spec sheet or reading the marketing blurb on what it was designed to do and I immediately sensed this had the versatility to handle pretty much anything.
Despite being heavier than the Mach 5, it feels more nimble. That extra midsole stack adds weight but somehow the Mach X still feels more compact and agile.
There’s a good balance underfoot with a snappiness and an easy roll through off that rocker that creates a cushioned, springy ride that’s not too firm, not too soft.
The foam/plate combination returns just at the right time, so you get some ground feel but there’s a kick from the midsole when you need it.
Some other runners I’ve spoken to have raised concerns about the hugging fit and that potentially limits how far you’d want to race in the Mach X.
It’ll probably suit distances up to the half marathon, anything up to 2 hours on feet before you might need more room and more protection from the road.
The difference between this and the Mach 5 is subtle but there is more energy here and though you might not feel the plate – that’s probably a good thing. Because what you get is quite a natural effortless run where the shoe disappears and lets you get on with business.
HOKA Mach X or HOKA Mach 5
The HOKA Mach X is a lively, racy daily trainer that lands firmly in the pile of shoes marked “Can handle anything”. It’s light, fast, agile, feels punchy but still protective.
It offers good comfort and versatility, probably at the mid-to-faster end of the spectrum but this shoe does the Mach lineage justice while also offering something new. For me, this is one the best running shoes I’ve run in so far this year.
Yes, it’s more expensive than the Mach 5 and if budget comes into it, the latter offers marginally better versatility and value. But it’s a close call.
If you’re looking for a fun, lively shoe that’s a bit more capable at those faster paces and you’re not bothered by the extra $40, I don’t think you’d regret giving the Mach X a go. Oh, and HOKA absolutely nailed the color too.