Thanks to their pillowy soft cushion, distinct shape, and fun colors, Hokas have become an increasingly popular shoe with celebrities, health care providers, and aging millennials who want to look stylish but also take care of their knees.

But let’s not forget that they’re more than just cool and comfy: The brand’s carbon-plated race shoes have been on the feet of winning athletes in events like the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials and the USATF 10K Road Championships. Still, with all the talk about Hokas as the next wear-anywhere shoe, their performance chops seem to get lost in the chatter. So when the flexible-plated Hoka Mach X was released earlier this month, I was intrigued: Might there be a shoe that checks both boxes? Hoka sent a sample my way so I could find out for myself.

Who it’s for

The Mach X is a training shoe for runners—specifically for those looking for a shoe that provides more pop, bounce, and propulsion forward than everyday trainers, but perhaps not as much extra oomph as a more rigid carbon-plated super shoe that you’d bring out on race day.

Out of the box

Though aesthetics aren’t the most important quality when it comes to running sneakers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it: The Mach X is a really pretty shoe, and that’s the first thing I noticed when unboxing it. The pair I sampled was light seafoam green and white with lime accents, and the understated look was a welcome change from the in-your-face neons a lot of other shoes use.

Christa Sgobba

Fit and feel

I tried the Mach X in my normal running shoe size, which is a half size up from my regular street shoes. (Usually going up a half or full size is helpful, since your feet move around so much and swell a bit with activity.) At first, I thought it fit kind of big. I had a little more room than the recommended half inch at the top of the shoe, and I had to really tighten up the (nicely elastic-y!) laces to get a secure fit. I loved the shoe’s padded tongue, though, which prevented them from feeling too tight or digging in along the top of my foot.

When I stood up in the pair for the first time, I immediately noticed the Hoka famous cushioning. Thanks to that flexible plate for propulsion, though, it wasn’t as cloudlike or squishy as some of their everyday shoes—it had a firmer feel, to help with push-off on the road. Still, it felt nice, which made me feel excited to take them out for a ride.

Hoka Mach X

Sizes: 5–11 (including half sizes); Widths: one; Weight: 8 ounces; Heel-to-toe drop: 5 millimeters; Stability: neutral; Cushion: responsive; Colorways: lime glow/sunlit ocean; white/blue glass

On the run

The Mach X is marketed as a “pace-pushing trainer,” so I decided to go on a run with some speed challenges: a 40-minute session, with half of that at a tempo slightly quicker than my 10K pace.