Hoka Carbon X2 vs Carbon X3: An In-Depth Comparison

If I think of a marathon, I can’t imagine a shoe without Hoka. And this brand recently released the successor to its popular Carbon X2, keeping the long-distance marathon in mind. Once I’ve worn the latest version, Carbon x3, I feel like it improves my running posture with increasing cadence. 

But is it a good replacement for Carbon X2? To know this, I’ll review this new shoe and compare it to its predecessor. So, let’s dive in and take a closer look at the key features of these two shoes.

FeatureCarbon X2Carbon X3
DesignSimilar to Carbon X3Similar to Carbon X2
Carbon PlateFull-length carbon plateFull-length carbon plate
VersatilityMore versatile for faster paces due to firmer midsoleLess versatile at faster paces due to softer ride
Intended UseBuilt for endurance runners
Upper MaterialMesh upper with tongueEngineered knit upper, no tongue, more breathable and lighter
WeightHeavier than Carbon X3188g for women’s version, 222g for men’s version, around 20g less than Carbon X2
MidsoleProfly midsole, firmerProflyX midsole, is softer and more responsive
SensationLess explosive propulsion compared to other super shoes
FitSnug fitMore relaxed fit and lower level of foot lockdown due to the new knit upper
SizingMay need to size down half a size

The Carbon X2 and X3 are the flagship marathon racing shoes for the Hoka One One brand. So, I need to put them to the test to analyze the similarities and differences. That’s why I had to use them for several months and observe them closely. Here’s what I came to know by using them. 

Sole Unit

In my perception, the Carbon X2 and X3 have almost similar designs. They come with a full-length carbon plate that runs from the heel to the toe. The carbon plate act as a spring to help propel me forward and reduce the energy lost upon impact with the ground. 

However, there’s one key difference that subtly alters the experience of running in them. I found the X3 has a slightly softer and more flexible forefoot section of the carbon plate. This small change allows me to smoother toe-offs during the push-off phase. 

Aside from that, both shoes feature Hoka’s trademark EVA foam midsole in midsole. To me, it provides a good balance of cushioning and responsiveness. The rocker shape also helps to create a more efficient and natural gait cycle during runs.

Overall, there’s not much I see that separates the sole unit of the Carbon X2 from the X3. The minor updates made to the X3’s carbon plate could be a game-changer for some runners, but the difference will be barely noticeable for most people. 

Upper Unit

Here I can say the upper units of the Carbon X2 and X3 have undergone considerable changes compared to their sole units. At first glance, I noticed the Carbon X3 had a completely new and refreshingly distinctive look that immediately let me know it was a different shoe. 

The X2 features a standard engineered mesh upper with decent breathability but less structural support. On the other hand, the X3 gets an update with a breathable, single-layer mesh upper reinforced with a thin layer of TPU yarns.

This material results in a sturdier and more secure fit but isn’t as breathable as the X2’s mesh upper. Even the X3 feels more comfortable to me, thanks to its padding around the ankle collar. 

In the lacing system, the carbon X2 has a more traditional layer with a customizable fit. Yet, the X3 comes with a new QuickLace™ system which allows for easy and speedy on/off, and the Cord Lock™ system allows me to secure my laces quickly without affecting the pace. 

In general, the Carbon X3 upgrades the Carbon X2’s upper unit to create a more supportive and secure fit but sacrifices some breathability in the process.


In my opinion, both these shoes are racing shoes unable to withstand the daily abuse of training activities. I only take them to race; thus, they last long with me. 

The outsole on both shoes is made from a durable compound and is protected by a thin layer of rubber. The Carbon X2’s sole unit has shown no signs of wear though I’ve used it for around two years. Since the  Carbon X3 is updated, I believe it’ll be even more durable. 


When it comes to performance, both shoes excel. They’re both incredibly lightweight, and the carbon plate and rocker shape make for an efficient and smooth ride. The Carbon X2 has been an excellent shoe for racing and fast training sessions of mine, so I expect no less from the Carbon X3.

However, the X3 feels more responsive and flexible than the X2. It allows me for a smoother and faster ride and propels me forward, not in a way that I feel overly aggressive. Also, the shoe creates a subtle, slightly softer sensation, making it more comfortable for longer periods. 

Overall Opinion

The Carbon X2 and the Carbon X3 are high-performance racing shoes with exceptional cushioning, superb fit, and a smooth ride. However, the upgrades in the X3 look superior to me. 

The X3’s updates, such as the breathable upper layer with TPU yarns, innovative lacing system, and a slightly softer forefoot section of the carbon plate, make it stand out from the X2. Additionally, I feel it’s more responsive and comfortable over longer distances.

However, the Carbon X2 is still an excellent shoe, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with it. The differences between the X2 and X3 are minor in many ways, and many of you can be happy like me with the older version.

But, only if you’re looking for the latest and greatest high-performance racing shoes, keeping comfort in mind, the Carbon X3 is probably the way to go.  

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