Hoka’s new ‘illegal’ running shoe is turning people on to running

Yellow running shoes with numbers on them
Yellow running shoes with numbers on them

The clock is ticking. Activewear brands are racing to make the best running shoes on the market.

Days are getting longer, the weather is warming up, and marathon training season is in full blow. Olympic buzz has fueled a surge in sports tourism and shopping trends, and Hoka has come in with a hot new sneaker that is ‘so good’ that it’s technically banned in competitive races.

That’s right — another ‘illegal’ running shoe to add to the list, sitting alongside the Adidas Adizero Prime and New Balance Supercomp Trainer. Hoka, the 15-year-old French sportswear company owned by UGG’s Deckers brand, has been chasing competitors’ heels for years and it certainly seems to have caught some momentum. Many customers will be eager to get their hands on the most recent addition to Hoka’s diverse catalog of ultra-cushioned marathon sneakers and plush platformed walkers: the new Skyward X.

It’s not difficult to recognize Hokas. The brand’s unmistakable popular Bondi 8 and Clifton 9 models are known for their high-contrast wavy neon soles, roundish, wide toes, and chunky builds. Hoka sneakers have never tried to be especially fashionable. They’re almost anti-trend — like a dad shoe. Except, they’re built to keep away the dad-bod.

The Sykward X features a 48-millimeter stack height — technically too plush from competitive racing — but ideal for supercharging speed and mileage.

On April 25, Hoka unveiled a new pioneer in the maximalist category, the Skyward X. The sneaker boasts a “supremely plush experience” and has been specially engineered to “help runners enjoy every step,” per the company’s April press release.

“We increased the stack height and completely reimagined our use of elements like PEBA foam and carbon fiber plates, typically associated with race day products, to create a super running shoe that provides core runners with a supremely plush experience for their daily miles,” shared Colin Ingram, the Vice President of Product and Apparel at HOKA.

To deliver on these lofty promises, the Skyward features a 48-millimeter stack height and a revolutionary suspension system, nestled between two layers of foam. Such a tall boost level is banned by World Athletics, which requires the drops to stay at 40-mm drops or less to compete in any timed road event.

But, the brand doesn’t seem too concerned that this new shoe probably won’t be getting an Olympic showcase. It’s already creating a frenzy among the masses, especially avid joggers, recreational racers, and those recovering from injuries. Shoppers have gone as far as to suggest that these shoes make them “want” to keep running.

Runners are suggesting the Skyward X is outpacing many of its competitors, including the popular Bondi and Clifton models.

“I’ve been ‘taste-testing’ all the shoes, trying to find the right ones for daily runs,” explained one elated customer, who pointed out that the Skyward’s carbon plates deliver spring in every step like a “launch pad” and the “squishy cushioning” leaves her feeling like she is floating on air. “The eagle has landed!”

The stack height hasn’t stopped some runners from taking these shoes across the finish line. Many of these runners, some of them first-time racers, have even proposed that the Skyward X was responsible for dramatically improving their speed.

“Just ran my first marathon in these and they were perfect!” one racer shared. “When I first put them on, I couldn’t believe how comfortable and bouncy they were… I blew my marathon goal out of the water while wearing these. Unreal shoes!!”

The sneakers have even motivated some people to pick up running again after suffering from various injuries, back pain, knee pain, insertional Achilles tendonitis, bunions, metatarsalgia, and more conditions.

“I’ve been out of running for about a year due to back and foot issues,” said one shopper. “I managed to run a 5k in these and didn’t have any back or foot pain after. I will definitely be buying more when new colors come out.”

The Skyward X is available at Hoka for $225, and shoppers seem to be ordering fast — a few sizes have already sold out.

Hoka Women’s Skyward X


The women’s Skyward X weighs in at 9.2 ounces and is built slightly lighter to accommodate women runners’ size and stride. A soft-yet-resilient PEBA foot frame foam cushions and cradles the foot to provide a responsive ride. The shoe is available in sizes five through 12, and two spring styles — Sunlight and Swim Day.

HOKA $225.00

Hoka Men’s Skyward X


The men’s Skyward X tips the scale at 11.3 ounces, adding some more weight for a larger build. The external TPU heel counter provides more structure, working alongside a ghillie system for additional lock-down across the midfoot. The men’s Skyward X is available in sizes seven through 15 and two shades — sunlight and virtual blue.

HOKA $225.00

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