By Brian Metzler
After a rather unique winter across the northern parts of the U.S. – epic, record-setting snow in the West, mild temperatures and very little snow in the East and Midwest – we’ve all finally emerged into springtime. And that means it’s time for everyone to start thinking about trail running and, more specifically, trail running in the new Hoka Tecton X 2. Quite simply, I would consider this to be one of the best trail running shoes ever made. Whether or not you’re interested in running a race on trails, almost every runner enjoys trail running as part of their training. Whether you’ve run on trails once or hundreds of times, you know it pays to have a good pair of shoes with trail-specific features.
At first glance, the Hoka Tecton X 2 is a very expensive trail running shoe. But, while everyone has a budget to follow, don’t let sticker shock keep you from considering this highly advanced shoe. Like the original model released last year, it has dual, independent parallel plates embedded in its cushy dual-density midsole that provide energetic propulsion and protection from the trail. It’s a lightweight, comfortable, durable and versatile shoe capable of tackling a wide variety of terrain. Yes, it’s pricey, but it’s an extremely good shoe.
What’s New: The biggest change to the Tecton X 2 is the new airy, hydrophobic upper, which is more breathable and less constraining than the upper on the first version. It’s made from a lightweight material called Matryx, which has high-tensile synthetic fiber strands across the midfoot for strength and durability. The lacing system has been updated slightly, too, helping provide a more locked-down fit.
Fit/Feel/Ride: The Tecton X 2 fits true to size with a medium-volume interior from heel to toe. The toe box isn’t quite as roomy (or sloppy) as the previous version, giving the shoe a more precise feel on technical terrain. There is a moderately soft and accommodating step-in feel, thanks to the thin, soft and smooth gusseted tongue and sufficient padding around the heel collar. The first thing you’ll notice when you pull them out of the box is the stiff demeanor created by the carbon-fiber plates embedded in the midsole. But once you lace them up and start running, what you’ll notice is its smooth and very energetic ride. It feels like a road running super shoe on smooth dirt trails and gravel roads, but, with reliable traction from the Vibram Megagrip Litebase outsole, it also adapts well to technical terrain.
Why It’s Great: It’s great because it’s one of the only trail running shoes that successfully incorporates carbon fiber plates without being overly tippy in lateral edging or cornering maneuvers. Speaking from my own personal experience, trail running shoes with singular carbon fiber plates embedded in their midsoles can be downright dangerous because they can quickly lever your foot in a lateral or medial direction. To that point, I have rolled and sprained ankles more in the past two years than ever before while testing carbon-plated trail models. However, the Tecton X 2 (like its predecessor), with its dual/parallel plates, offers considerably more lateral variability and torsional flexibility that conforms and adapts to trail features instead of just tipping over quickly. In other words, it still offers the propulsive benefits of the plates, but without sacrificing stability.
Hoka Tecton X 2
Weights: 7.4 oz. (women’s size 8), 8.8 oz. (men’s size 9)
Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm (33mm in the heel, 28mm in the forefoot)
Why You’ll Love It: The Tecton X 2 is a great all-around trail running shoe that can cruise over almost any type of trail terrain. It’s great for running fast on smooth dirt trails and gravel roads, but it also excels at maneuvering over moderately technical terrain with rocks, roots, gravel and other trail debris. The dual propulsion plates in each shoe double as protective rock plates, while the reinforced toe bumper and upper guard against stubbed toes and sidewall abrasions. Plus, the adhesive purchase from its low-profile Vibram lugs can provide good traction on both rocky mountain routes and wet, sloppy trails.
Pro: While the parallel propulsion plates understandably get a lot of attention, the dual-density ProFly X midsole system is actually what makes this shoe so dynamic, comfortable and versatile. Made from the combination of a thick layer of very responsive supercritical CMEVA foam and a slightly softer compound directly under the foot, it provides the smooth, lively and cushy ride of a road shoe with just enough proprioceptive feel-for-the-ground necessary for agile running on technical terrain.
Con: Once again, the price might seem exorbitant for many casual trail runners, and that’s understandable. But if you consider the technical performance and durability of this shoe as value-enhancing features, it might be a bit more palatable.