While Hoka’s Skyward X promises that holy grail of running shoes – speed and comfort – run tester Mike Sawh says it shines over moderate-paced miles.

Hoka proclaims that the Skyward X is one of the best running shoes that delivers the plushest ride on the road. That’s big talk for a big shoe that joins the growing army of what have now been dubbed ‘max cushion super trainers’.

What exactly is a max cushion super trainer? Well, it’s a shoe that goes big on protective cushioning and also embraces some of the traits associated with racing shoes. So while this is something you’ll want to lace up for a long Sunday run, it will also give you the scope to mix up the paces a little.

The Skyward X packs in two different foams and a carbon plate but does that all equal a great running shoe?

Men’s Fitness verdict

A hulking shoe that prioritises comfort particularly over long distances and lets you cruise at easy to moderate paces in a very smooth and stable fashion.
  • Accommodating fit and very comfortable
  • Surprisingly snappy feel for a big shoe
  • Runs lighter than it looks
  • Not made for all-out speed
  • Heavier than other max cushion super trainers
  • It’s not cheap

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Pair of Hoka running shoes on tarmac
The Hoka Skyward X in its blanc de blanc / virtual blue colorway

Hoka Skyward X features and fit

The Skyward X is a whole lot of shoe, putting a big stack of foam between the road and your feet with the goal to protect your legs, particularly when you’re going long. There’s two different foams in play, with a PEBA-based one similar to the type that typically crops up in more low-profile racing shoes to provide big bounce and high rebound. That’s balanced out by Hoka’s EVA-based supercritical foam, which frames the bouncier PEBA to bring a more responsive and stable feel. On paper that should make this a shoe you can also run a quicker in. Sandwiched in between those foams is a carbon plate to help you roll swiftly through your running stride in a more efficient manner to keep those legs feeling fresher.

Above that is an upper that isn’t typically Hoka, and by that I mean it’s not a super narrow one. In my UK size 8, there’s surprisingly ample room up front for the toes to spread out. And the flat knit mesh, while not exactly sock-like in fit as Hoka promises, certainly fits snugly. There’s a good amount of padding in the tongue and heel collar to offer comfort in key areas. I’d love it if it was a touch thinner in general. But it managed to find the balance between snug and supportive.

Close-up of outsole on a Hoka shoe
Outsole durability looked impressive during my test of the Hoka Skyward X

At the outsole, there’s nothing groundbreaking to report. Hoka focuses on bolstering areas at the heel and forefoot with more rubber-free zones in the middle of the shoe. It’s not an overly thick amount of rubber. But after over 50 miles of running in it, I’m only seeing minimal signs of wear on the exposed areas of the outsole. I’m pretty satisfied that the durability here is going to be strong.

Hoka Skyward X performance

The Skyward X arrived at the tail end of my training for the London Marathon. So that meant being able to wear it for my final 20-mile run and a shorter 12 mile run to see how it holds up over longer distances. I also used it for some shorter, more up-tempo 5km and 10km training runs. Plus I took it on holiday to do some sightseeing runs as well.

Weighing in at 300g, my biggest concern was that this might be a heavy shoe to run in. But the Skyward X actually handles that weight better than other shoes that sit in this max cushion super trainer category. So I’m talking about shoes like the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp V2, the Saucony Kinvara Pro and the clunky On Cloudmonster Hyper.

It’s a shoe that screams long, easy runs though the combination of the two foams, the carbon plate and the presence of Hoka’s signature Metarocker. The latter did make it feel capable of running more up-tempo and it’s got a surprisingly snappy feel to it when you pick things up. It’s not going to be one you use for intervals or track sessions. But I found its sweet spot was running at a more moderate pace and it felt smooth, stable and pretty enjoyable to do that.

The Skyward X would be an ideal option if you were looking to do a marathon and wanted to cruise over that distance in something that offers plush, but not overly-plush cushioning. So something that offers a strong level of comfort and protection. It’ll be a satisfying ride from start line to finish line, that’s for sure. It doesn’t quite knock the Asics Superblast off its perch as being the complete max cushion super trainer, but with a few tweaks and a few grams shaved off, it’s not that far away from matching it.

Close-up of material used in the uppers of a Hoka running shoe
Hoka’s flat knit mesh upper is snug without being sock-like

Hoka Skyward X Technical Specs

MaterialsFlat knit mesh upper; dual-density PEBA and EVA midsole foams; carbon fibre plate
Weight300g / 7.01oz (UK men’s size 8)
ColorsLemonade and sunlight / Blanc de blanc and virtual blue
Sizes6.5 – 14.5

How we test the best running shoes

Our testers put each shoe through their paces over a mixture of distances and paces to see where they excel, and clocked up significant distances in each one to examine how they wear over time. Each reviewer focused on speed, stability and comfort during test runs, while also assessing the effectiveness of any high-tech features on offer. Their detailed reviews are sure to help you choose the right running shoe for you.

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