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HomeRunningHOKA Cielo X1 Review | Running Shoes Guru

HOKA Cielo X1 Review | Running Shoes Guru

Hoka One One Cielo X1 Introduction

Hoka is a brand that’s been built on big cushioning. The Clifton and Bondi, their two most popular trainers are bestsellers because their thick, rockered midsoles provide deep cushioning and good comfort for both walking and running. On a recent trip to the States, I was surprised by the sheer number of people wearing Hokas for casual wear.

The Cielo X1 is another Hoka running shoe which follows the Hoka template of a mega-thick sole with a rocker. It is however one of the few Hokas to use PEBA foam- most of them use EVA.

The Cielo X1 does not replace the Rocket X series. It’s another long-distance racing option in the Hoka range. The Rocket X 2 was one of my favourite top-tier racers of the past 2 years so I have high hopes for the Cielo X1.

The Cielo X1 looks like the kind of running shoe I would have designed if I had carte blanche. It has the maxed-out stack height midsole, the aggressive forefoot rocker, and the outsole coverage to make it durable enough for training.

It’s on the heavy side for a racer at 9.3 oz (264 g) for a men’s US9. The Rocket X2 is only 8.3 oz (236 g). It has a drop of 7 mm, which is higher than most Hokas- the standard for Hoka is 5 mm. It also comes in at a sky high price of $275, the same price as the Endorphin Elite.

Hoka One One Cielo X1 First Impressions

My first run was 23 kilometres at my steady pace. This was at the tail end of a 141 kilometre week so my legs were dead tired. That run was still really enjoyable.

I liked how much cushioning it had and how soft it felt. I also enjoyed the high level of energy return and the forward rolling transitions.

The things I didn’t like were the thick, warm upper and the lack of aggression during transitions. The ride felt very relaxed- more like a cruiser than a racer.

It reminded me of the Wave Rebellion Pro 2 which has an aggressive heel bevel.

It also reminded me of the Prime X because of its thick massive midsole but the Prime X rocker felt a lot more aggressive.

Hoka One One Cielo X1 Upper

The Cielo X1’s relaxed upper feels more like a training upper than a racing one. The material that the upper is made from feels like a thick knit. During my long run, my feet felt really warm and they started sweating profusely so breathability is not good.

There are double first row eyelets to use a runner’s knot and an extra row of eyelets to customise the fit. I had to use a runner’s knot and cinch the laces really tight to get a good lockdown. I also used the second row of eyelets (the outer rows) to get a better fit because my feet are narrow.

The laces are reminiscent of thick ribbons that you use to wrap a present. I didn’t have any issues with them and they never came undone during any of my runs. They are a little unorthodox but at least they don’t fray after a couple runs like some racing laces.

There are large reflective panels on the heel for safety and there’s also a tongue pull tab to make it easier to put the shoe on.

It has a really accommodating fit with a roomy forefoot. Runners who prefer a snug racing fit can go down a half size but I got it true to size and it fits well with medium or thick socks. It’s suitable for wide feet.

Hoka One One Cielo X1 Sole Unit

The Cielo X1 is Hoka’s most cushioned running shoe to date. The double layer of dual-density PEBA in its midsole provides the most cushioning I’ve experienced in a racer to date and it mutes all ground feel.

The heel stack height feels more than 40 mm and the listed stack height on Running Warehouse is 46 mm but somehow Hoka managed to get it World Athletics approved for competing in.

Bouncy is the best word to describe the type of cushioning in the Cielo X1. The formulation of PEBA that Hoka uses is softer than other brands, even Nike’s ZoomX.

Hoka’s PEBA has a slower rebound than ZoomX or Lightstrike Pro so it feels more bouncy rather than explosive. It has a softer, more compressive layer of foam on the top with a firmer foam at the bottom for stability. This is the opposite of the Alphafly and it creates a plusher step-in feel.

The Cielo X1 doesn’t feel as fast as the top-tier racers. The 2 main reasons are its carbon fibre plate and its hefty weight.

The winged plate in the Cielo X1 is more flexible than the plates in other racers. For example, the Saucony Endorphin Elite– it also has a high toe-spring but its forefoot rocker feels a lot more aggressive due to its stiffer plate. This translates to punchier toe-offs and a faster ride.

To me, the Cielo X1 feels more like a long-distance cruiser than a racer. I did a 32 kilometre training run in the X1: 20 kilometres steady, 12 kilometres tempo. The steady section felt comfortable but in the last 12 kilometres I had to put a lot of effort into increasing my pace. It feels the most comfortable doing easy runs, steady runs, and long, relaxed runs exceeding 25 kilometres.

For tempo and threshold runs, it feels too bulky and boat-like. For runners targeting 3 hours 30 or slower for a full marathon, the Cielo X1 will be a great choice. For anything faster, a firmer, lighter racer is required.

As a heel striker, the Cielo X1’s geometry works really well for me. The full-length, heel-to-toe rocker makes transitions feel super smooth and it makes it easy to get into a rhythm. This is what makes it such a great long run shoe.

Stability is decent considering how tall the midsole is and how many cutouts there are in it. The lateral midsole cutout of the Cielo X1 works a lot better for me than the medial cutout like in the Prime X Strung version 1. I tend to roll inwards, so it’s better that there’s more support on the medial side. It feels more stable than the Prime X version 1 and the Wave Rebellion Pro 2.

Cielo X1 is average for a racer when it comes to durability. The soft outsole rubber is thick and it covers all the high wear areas however it does wear down quite fast and there’s a lot of smooth rubber on the lateral heel of my pair after 80 kilometres. This shoe is still durable enough for training and racing though. I didn’t test it in wet conditions but I don’t think traction will be an issue because the outsole rubber has a ribbed pattern on it.

Hoka One One Cielo X1 Conclusions

At the 2024 US Olympic Trials for the marathon, 6 Hoka NAZ Elite athletes participated. 5 of them wore the Rocket X2, and only 1 chose to wear the Cielo X1. I would also pick the Rocket X2 over the Cielo to race a marathon in.

I’m a bit disappointed with the Cielo X1 because on paper, it has the potential to be an outstanding racer. It’s just too heavy and too soft for racing. Some of the cushioning can be removed to make it lighter; this much cushioning feels overkill for the marathon distance.

You can clearly see that the Adidas Prime X inspired the Cielo X1. The Adidas super shoe feels faster though due to its firmer ride, its super stiff forefoot and its aggressive rocker. The Cielo X1 is over an ounce lighter than the Prime X 2 but it doesn’t feel as “special”.

I will continue using the Cielo X1 for long training runs so it will stay in my rotation. It has a design that keeps my legs feeling fresh during long runs and helps me recover much faster afterwards. I won’t be racing in it because I prefer firmer, lighter and stiffer shoes for racing.

Then there’s the price. $275 is way too much for a shoe that suits long-distance training runs more than races so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re aiming for a 3:30 marathon time or slower and you like uber-soft cushioning.



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