HOKA Cielo X1 Review: OMG, These Are Next Level FAST

Find out why this race day shoe is probably the best super shoe you can buy right now, even at $275!


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The key specifications

  • Price: $275 from hoka.com
  • Sizing and fit: True to size with a medium width fit.
  • Weight: 8.9oz (252g) for a size US(M)9 (my pair).
  • Drop: 7mm
  • Toe box width: Medium.
  • Support: Neutral, so there’s no additional support added but they do have a stable platform, more on that in a moment.
  • Cushioning: Responsive but there’s also plenty of cushioning.
  • Best for: race day, and speedwork like intervals

Hey everyone, Alastair here from Trail & Kale, bringing you my HOKA Cielo X1 review. If you’re new around here, let me give you a quick introduction in what our mission is here at Trail & Kale.

HOKA Cielo X1 review | By Alastair from Trail & Kale
HOKA Cielo X1 review | By Alastair from Trail & Kale

We are all about elevating your running game and helping you run your best, whether that’s hitting a new 5K PR, or completing your first marathon feeling strong. We offer everything from foundational running 101 tips, FREE training plans, and in-depth reviews on the latest running shoes, just like this one.

The Rocket X2 is still legendary (that’s HOKA’s previously released race day shoe), but the Cielo X1 is something else! Oh my god, these race day shoes are next level fast!

In this HOKA Cielo X1 review I’m going to be breaking down its key features, and then I’ll share what I absolutely love about these racing shoes and where I think there’s room for improvement. I’ll finish off with my final rating and some quick pros and cons. As always, we want to hear from you; share your experience with HOKA running shoes in the comments below.

HOKA Cielo X1 Video Review

Here’s what I love about the HOKA Cielo X1

I’ve been absolutely loving my fast runs in the HOKA Cielo X1, and I’m thrilled to piece together this review for you all! It’s such an exhilarating shoe, and honestly, it’s a joy to talk about when you have something as impressive as this in your hand.

Diving into the highlights first then, before sharing a few drawbacks that could be improved.

I might as well start off with the initial feel, because because they really are like nothing else out there in this regard.

Getting these shoes on might seem like a bit of a challenge at first, as you might have noticed in the opening clip in my video review of these racing shoes.

But once they’re on, and you’ve got the lacing system dialed in, the comfort is actually really impressive, yes you need to work for it but it’s worth those extra seconds of adjustments.

This comfort, I believe, is largely due to the knit breathable upper which is incredibly soft and comfy.

The tongue, designed like a gusseted sock, stretches nicely to fit but snugly returns to shape, offering a fantastic feel once everything’s laced up.

Its breathability is on point too, which by the way is important for. racing shoe as your feet do heat up when running at high intensity.

I’m also a fan of the minimal collar design, which is not something I would normally go for due to comfort issues. HOKA has cleverly integrated cushioned pillows that cradle your Achilles without wrapping around the back; this is a distinct departure from what many other brands do.

This design choice provides an excellent heel lock without compromising comfort around the Achilles, which I’ve found problematic in shoes from other brands that don’t leave the space for your achilles to sit in.

So, a big thumbs up for HOKA‘s innovative approach here!

Moving on to the midsole with its dual layer PEBA foam, rocker geometry, and winged carbon plate.

The synergy between these elements is remarkable, and it’s clear from a professional shoe reviewer like myself, that HOKA invested significant time in research and testing to perfect this combination.

Right out of the box, the shoes feel amazing, testament to HOKA’s commitment to quality and performance.

The rocker silhouette of the HOKA Cielo X1 genuinely sets it apart – it’s notably more aggressive compared to the HOKA Rocket X2 which you can see from my photos of them both below:

This design ensures that your midfoot connects more effectively with the ground, allowing for a more effortless run.

Essentially, you’re not just running as you normally would; you’re being propelled forward thanks to the combination of the winged carbon plate, the responsive dual layered PEBA foam, and the rocker geometry.

It’s an incredible feeling – one that I absolutely love – I was skeptical about this shoe outperforming the Rocket X2, which has been my go-to interval training and race day shoe since I reviewed it last year.

However, the Cielo X1 has earned its spot in my rotation (alongside the Rocket X2, which I still love by the way), especially for intervals, tempo runs, and even race day.

The midsole is probably the most standout feature, offering that unique rocking motion without compromising responsiveness, which is critical in a racing shoe.

Yet, unlike many other responsive shoes race day super shoes, it doesn’t sacrifice midsole cushioning, or comfort in the upper. In a wide variety of HOKA’s top running shoes, they have mastered this balance better than any other brand I’ve experienced, and it’s one of the many reasons I love their shoes.

Interestingly, the Cielo X1 features a 7mm drop, diverging from HOKA’s typical 5 mm – I mean even the Rocket X2 had a 5mm drop.

This adjustment works well with the shoe’s rocker placement, enhancing the overall feel. This experience really is something you have to experience for yourself to fully appreciate – words barely do it justice, but I hope I’m convincing enough to encourage you to try them out some day.

Touching briefly on the outsole then, the grip is solid, providing ample traction in wet and dry conditions, however, given the higher stack height, these shoes are optimized for long, straight runs rather than sharp turns where agility is key.

They excel in keeping you moving swiftly over long distances with gentle curves.

Even in wet conditions and on gravel, the traction holds up well. There’s a slight chance of picking up stones due to the cutaway in the midsole, but during my tests on gravel, I encountered no issues.

➡ If you’re enjoying this review drop a comment down below, and consider subscribing to our newsletter for more running shoe reviews just like this one, and if you’re familiar with the Cielo X1 or you’ve run in the previous version, let me know in the comments, I want to know what your thoughts are on them.

Features that I feel could be improved in the next Cielo X2

Let’s delve into areas where the HOKA Cielo X2 could see enhancements in its next iteration.

Now, onto a couple of drawbacks that I’ve noticed during my time running in the Hoka Cielo X1 so far. You might recall from an earlier clip in my video review (if you watched it), where I humorously struggled to put these shoes on. Well, it turns out, it wasn’t really a joke – they genuinely require a bit of effort to slip into.

The main culprit? The lacing system.

Although they look cool (in my opinion anyway), the flat, plasticky laces don’t glide through the eyelets particularly well; maybe this will change with more wear, however. So you’ll need to loosen them significantly to get your foot in comfortably.

It does raise the question, “Will I have to wrestle with these every time?” And the answer is, yes, a bit more than you might with other running shoes, but the snug, comfortable fit once they’re on makes it worth the hassle.

However, my lace saga doesn’t end there, during my run, the laces came undone not once, but twice, which dented my confidence in their design a little. They might look sleek, but practicality took a hit until I tied them extra tight, which solved the issue.

My tip? Just go for a double knot to avoid mid-run interruptions, especially during a race – that would be an unwelcome distraction.

The only other consideration is the price tag – at $275, they’re undoubtedly a premium option, and not everyone will find this accessible, but for those who can stretch to it, the unique running experience they offer is unparalleled, and quite frankly unique, which means you can’t buy this particular experience anywhere else right now.

Beyond the lacing system, and price tag there’s little to fault with these shoes, and I believe they’re worth the investment for the unmatched performance they deliver. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my runs in them and plan to keep them firmly in my rotation.

HOKA Cielo X1 review summary

Wrapping up my HOKA Cielo X1 review then, who exactly are they for? They’re perfect for runners aiming to achieve their fastest speeds, who don’t mind investing $275 in top-tier footwear.

Whether you’re tackling a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or even a full marathon (and if you do plan to, download our training schedules), these shoes stand out as potentially the best option to help you cross the finish line swiftly.

So, if you’re in the market for a high-performance running shoe that excels in speed work, tempo runs, and intervals, the Cielo X1 could be your ideal match. I wholeheartedly recommend them.

I hope you found this review of the HOKA Cielo X1 helpful and enjoyable. If so, please hit the like button in the bottom right, share it with someone who might find it useful, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for more helpful running shoe reviews and training tips.

Where to buy the HOKA Cielo X1

The Cielo X1 is currently available for $275 at hoka.com via the link below – this is an all gender running shoe, meaning there’s no men’s or women’s version, it’s just the one at the link below. This is a common thing with premium race day super shoes.

Hoka Cielo X1 image gallery

Thank you for reading this review, If you found it helpful, please share it with friends who might also enjoy it, and don’t forget to subscribe to Newsletter for more insightful running shoe reviews, running 101 advice, and full access to our training plans. Your support is greatly appreciated!

As the founder of Trail & Kale, and seasoned marathoner & ultrarunner, Alastair loves bringing our readers independent running shoe reviews and gear insights to help you run your best. Learn more about Trail & Kale here.


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