Tried And Tested: Hoka Cielo X1

Tried and tested: Hoka Cielo X1

Hoka’s new super shoe is a stunning combination of flair and function that’s uniquely built to run fast in

THERE’S NO MISSING the Hoka Cielo X1’s. I picked up a pair at the recent Hoka FlyWave activation in Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall. The sneakers came in a silver and white suitcase that could have doubled as astronaut’s luggage and when I opened the box my eyes lit up, though this might have been my lenses reflecting the orange ‘Solar Flare’ colour way. If anyone were watching, they might have thought I was opening the suitcase in Pulp Fiction, with a futuristic, hi-tech fitness McGuffin inside.

So yes, the Cielo X1s are garish, which is fine by me. I like my runners to catch the eye, to shout, ‘This guy is a runner’. Am I though? Well, I do one 5k hit-out a week, just to keep my cardio capacity at a respectable level, upping that to 3-4 sessions in the event that I’m training for a half-marathon, or ahem, something a little longer.

The thing is, that solitary weekly session has become so grooved into routine, that it’s practically fossilised. On each occasion, I run almost the same time (26 mins, including pesky traffic-light stops). Afterwards my legs carry a dull ache that accompanies me through the day, a subtle reminder that I went for a run in the morning. It’s a pleasant enough state of affairs but one that could certainly use a shake-up. I had a feeling the Cielo X1s might prove something of a disruptor. I just didn’t appreciate how seismic their impact would be.


The look

Okay, we’ve covered this already but it’s worth repeating. In the orange, red and yellow Solar Flare colour way, the X1 has the kind of visually arresting impact that draws the eyes of passing motorists, attracts comments from passersby (“Not gonna miss you in those runners, hey mate”) and generally scorches retinas. The performance-shoe-as-performance-art dynamic continues with a two-layer PEBA midsole and dynamic cut-outs, which reduce weight. This plush foam bed clashes mightily with the knitted upper, further reinforcing the shoe’s visual impact.

The specs

The X1 weighs just 263 grams, with what I would say is a rather sheer 7mm heel-to-toe drop. The aforementioned two-layer PEBA midsole offers pogo-stick-like levels of energy return, while the winged carbon fibre plate delivers both propulsion and stability, a tricky balance to achieve. You can attribute that to HOKA’s J-Frame technology, which prevents inner roll and over pronation.

The end result is a shoe that is built for speed – cielo is the Spanish word for ‘sky’, which derives from Hoka’s track spikes. The X, meanwhile, refers to the shoe’s carbon fibre plate.

A minimal rubber outsole also contributes to the X1’s featherweight status, as does the knitted upper and collar.

The test

I’m so excited to take the X1s out for a spin that I break my one-run-a-week habit, something I usually pay for with sore, chalky calves for days afterward. Fast forward a week and I‘ve now run four times in seven days and my calves are still in robust health.

I put this down to the X1’s stupendous PEBA mid sole, though I must admit, when I initially climb into the shoes, I feel like I’m walking on stilts, or at least, foam high heels. There is a distinct rocking motion, as if you’re being canted forward into a running stance. It seriously might be easier to run in these shoes than walk.

Once you run, though, something truly enlivening occurs, as hard concrete seems to take on the molecular properties of puffy clouds, so responsive is the combination of the carbon fibre plate and PEBA mid sole. It’s difficult to overstate how pleasant this sensation is – it feels like the colossal, often bone-rattling weight transfer that I normally associate with running on concrete or bitumen has been swallowed up by the X1’s majestic sole. I find myself rocketing around my 5k inner west running circuit, lopping a good two minutes off my normal time.

The best part though comes afterwards, when I take the shoes off. My calves feel unbothered, the soles of my feet barely troubled. Later in the day, I even forget I took my spindly pins out for a session in the morning. It’s for that reason that I manage to lace up for a third and then fourth session that week, each time my legs remaining limber and supple.

The verdict

The Cielo X1 offers a new threshold in comfort, cushioning, control and, while I hate to abandon the alliterative adjectives: speed. With a retail price of $419, it’s a significant outlay, but one that equips the dedicated runner with the means to run more frequently and to chase down and blast through previous PBs. There’s basically no excuse not to level up.

You can find more information on the HOKA Cielo X 1 here.

By Ben Jhoty

Ben Jhoty, Men’s Health’s Head of Content, attempts to honour the brand’s health-conscious, aspirational ethos on weekdays while living marginally larger on weekends. A new father, when he’s not rocking an infant to sleep, he tries to get to the gym, shoot hoops and binge on streaming shows.

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