The RW Takeaway: Hoka launched its softest trainer with a carbon-fiber plate. The result is the Bondi X, a shoe that’s equal parts marshmallowy comfort and snappy turnover.
- Carbon-fiber plate in midsole adds some propulsion
- Early-stage rocker sole for smooth heel-to-toe transitions
- Its beefy structure doesn’t make it our first-choice for speed sessions
Weight: 10.6 oz (M), 9.1 oz (W)
Drop: 5 mm
The Bondi is the shoe generally associated with Hoka: extra thick and extra soft. While that usually means the shoe is comfortable, those characteristics can also make it feel slow. Surprisingly, not in this X version. Hoka has tinkered with its signature model to make it, dare we say, have the kind of propulsive edge we’ve found on the company’s more performance-driven kicks.
Carbon-Fiber Plate in Cloud-Like Foam
It’s the latest paradox in running shoes: extremely soft, yet speedy—if pricey. Hoka revved up the Bondi by embedding a carbon-fiber plate in the compression-molded EVA midsole, which is similar to the foam used in the Carbon X and Rocket X (shoes for the PR-minded). Like the OG Bondi, it has a rockered sole for a smooth heel-to-toe roll, but the carbon-fiber plate promotes a more aggressive toe-off. And while the sole still looks chunky, every part has a purpose. For example, the thick slab of heel foam absorbs impact as the “swallowtail” grooves on the sides smooth out landings for an energetic ride.
We attribute “bouncy ride” to many of the plush shoes we review, and the X delivers that jaunty, springy experience even though it’s not really meant for channeling your inner speed demon; the shoe presses you swiftly onward like a locomotive on cloud-like foam. That was the common feedback from our testers when describing what it’s like running in the Bondi X. “Wearing this shoe gives you a bouncy, running-on-clouds ride—but one that pushes you forward and propels your cadence,” said one tester. “It felt comfortable and fast, especially on flat surfaces.”
Soft and Supportive
Larger runners who prefer soft cushioning might opt to race in this shoe, but it’s quite a lot of foam to push hard during speed sessions. For a smaller runner like myself, the shoes are behemoths on my 5-foot frame, though I appreciated their performance on long runs. In fact, I looked forward to how comfortable my feet felt in their foamy beds and liked that my battered knees weren’t aching by the time I got to the turnaround point of my out-and-back runs. Other testers had similar experiences. “I feel like Hoka struck a nice balance between soft and supportive,” said one. “I would not grab these shoes for speedwork, but their cushioning sure makes them attractive for long runs.” If you’re recovering from an injury (that thick sole is also easy on the arches) or just want a soft yet energetic daily run, reach for the Bondi X. It’ll be your hype man in shoe form when you want to tack on extra miles.
Lauren H. | Tester since: 2021
Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Midfoot
“I give this shoe a very high rating across every category. It’s the kind of shoe that you want to tell your runner friends about and encourage them to try! This is the first time that I have run in a carbon-plated shoe of any brand. These shoes literally made me smile while running on my first outdoor run with them (a six-mile route that I run often). They were bouncy and light, and honestly felt like these shoes were helping me to bump along at a steady cadence. Tempo runs brought out the best in the Bondi X, as I found the shoe encouraged high cadence, rapid turnover, and forward propulsion. My second noteworthy set of runs in the Bondi Xs was treadmill sprints and intervals; the shoes just seemed to help my legs to fly a little faster (about 1.0 mph faster than my usual sprint interval pace on the ’mill). My stride and turnover seemed more effortless and my cadence was quicker.”