We were excited to get our hands on this update, as the original Tecton X was a top pick from our spring 2022 shoe review lineup. The danger in updating a great shoe is not messing up what already works, and we were happy to see that HOKA nailed making some minor improvements without taking away the features we loved, and while carving out a full ounce from the overall spec weight of the original. We tested this shoe on everything from rolling forest service roads to the most gnarly east coast mountain trails on the Black Mountain Range which hosts the very popular Quest for Crest 50k and the old Sky Runner Series Vert K courses. We quickly logged over 100 miles in the shoes before forcing ourselves to hide them away for a while to keep them fresh and snappy for a spring 100-miler.
Primary updates in the Tecton X2 are focused on construction of the upper, with a goal of improving the fit and breathability while simultaneously decreasing weight and bulk. This intention checks out with our experience using the original model, which had some fit irregularities and didn’t seem completely in sync with the midsole platform below it. On the X2, the upper and midsole combination feel more compatible; it’s sort of an intangible sensation, but definitely noticeable. The new uppers are made from a high contrast Matryx mesh that was first introduced on some of HOKA’s EVO models. Matryx is a hydrophobic textile infused with Kevlar (the stuff bulletproof vests are made from), making it highly resistant to puncture or abrasion, but it also has very light weight and low bulk, and breathes and drains very efficiently.
These new Matryx uppers are not only much more lightweight, but they also stretch and move with the sole rather than pulling or working against it. And even though the material is so breathable that you can hold it up to a light and see right through it, the uppers perform well at keeping dirt and debris out. Another tweak to the upper is that the lacing system doesn’t extend as far into the toe box as the first version, which minimizes an issue of bunching above the toes, but doesn’t completely eliminate it. Lasting of the upper is comparable to HOKA’s Speedgoat shoes; our narrow-footed testers had to cinch the laces pretty tight for a secure fit, while wider-foot testers had some slight pressure at the medial metatarsal area. A new lay-flat gusseted tongue is still very thin, but feels softer than the original version and stays in place comfortably. Likewise, the heel cup feels slightly softer and less structured than the previous version; we sometimes found our heel slipping a bit at the beginning of runs, but this was easily corrected by tightening down the upper with a quick adjustment to the laces. All in all, the stripped-down and streamlined upper is an upgrade to the previous edition from both a performance and comfort standpoint.
From the midsole down, the Tecton X2 is virtually unchanged from the original. The midsole utilizes the same PROFLY-X dual density compound that provides a wonderful blend of soft cushioning with a very responsive rebound. The major performance boost (and what you pay the extra money for) in these shoes is the X factor—the letter X is HOKA’s naming convention for shoes with carbon plate technology. In a trail running model, carbon plates provide not only a boost of speed, but increased underfoot protection by functioning as a rock plate. HOKA has a unique approach to their carbon plate technology, using two parallel plates rather than a single sheet, allowing both sides of the shoe to interact and respond to irregular terrain independently while maintaining quick responsiveness throughout. The combination of the spring from the carbon plates and the Meta-Rocker midsole geometry makes for a sweet combo in overall ride quality; while testing the X2 on some smooth rolling South Carolina terrain for a tempo run or speed workout, we felt like we were getting a little extra speed with each stride.
We found that the more technical or soft the terrain becomes, the speed advantage from the plates diminishes somewhat compared to other high-performance trail shoes. One practical downside we have experienced with both versions of the Tecton X is that on highly technical trails, the sole has a tendency to shift laterally rather than flexing to accommodate prominent obstacles like roots and rocks. We found this to be especially true when using the X2 during a long run on the Quest for Crest 50k and old Sky Runner Series Vert K trails, which are considered among the steepest and most technical trails on the East Coast. So you do need to give some thought to what kind of terrain would be a good match to justify reaching for the Tecton X2. We would definitely pick them when racing on smooth to moderately technical trails, but maybe not for super steep or sketchy terrain.
The Tecton X2 outsole is made from the same Vibram Megagrip with Litebase found on the original model, with identical lug depth and spacing. Although the 3mm lugs are on the less aggressive side, the sticky outsole compound was enough to handle all the various types of terrain we tested them on, and the lug configuration is smooth enough to roll comfortably for moderate stretches of asphalt. On challenging surfaces, we experienced minimal slipping going down the steep and technical Vert K course after some light off and on rain, and solid traction on loose gravelly descents. Any mud we ran through shed easily from the shoe and never weighed us down.
From a distance standpoint, the Tecton X2 has great multi-use functionality; it is light enough to use as a racing shoe for shorter distances, but has plenty of cushioning, comfort, and durability to accommodate 100-mile (or higher) outings. One consideration for runners new to carbon plated shoes is that the plates give the midsole an inherent stiffness that might cause some fatigue or soreness over long distances if you are not accommodated to them in training. It’s always good sense to break in your shoes for 50 to 100 miles before racing an ultra in them, and that advice is even more critical with carbon plated shoes. If you’re already familiar with carbon shoes in general or the original Tecton X shoe in particular, the Tecton X2 is a welcome new option for delivering efficient ride quality during big mileage days or race efforts.
The HOKA Tecton X2 is available in men’s and women’s versions at www.hoka.com.
Features and Specs:
- Weight: 7.4oz(W), 8.8oz(M)
- Stack height: 30mm/25mm(W), 32mm/27mm(M)
- Heel to toe drop: 5mm
- Upper: High contrast Matryx fast dry mesh with lay-flat gusseted tongue
- Midsole: Neutral PROFLY-X compound with early stage Meta-Rocker
- Parallel carbon fiber plates
- Outsole: Vibram Megagrip Litebase with 3mm lugs
- Two identical colorways for men and women
- MRSP: $225