For ten years now the shoe that grants me the freedom to run more, run longer, and run into my later years is and has been the HOKA One One Bondi. It has been the source of my greatest run equipment pleasure, and of my occasional frustration.
The original Bondi B, out in early 2011, was a revelation. The occasional frustration has been the underperformance of a new Bondi edition from that time ‘til this. Now, a decade after this shoe’s debut, the Bondi X has been released. This is the first time a Bondi has appeared that has me saying, “The original Bondi has been surpassed.” And boy, has it!
Mind, the first Bondi – which I have been running it predominantly since the Bondi B was reissued two years ago mostly (I suspect) as a fashion release – had problems. The foam wasn’t great. The upper wasn’t seamless. But the shoe just ran. It was the near-perfect combo of foam, architecture, specs, fit, geometry. In recent years HOKA has really gotten it together and has produced one hit after another, most notably (for my use) the Mach 4 and the Carbon X. But the shoe I love and rely upon the most has remained a disappointment.
This has been the case, for me at least, even as the Bondi continued to remain HOKA’s flagship shoe. Yes, Bondi's upper was vastly improved. But the spring and spry ride of the original Bondi was just not there and I migrated to the Vanquish and the Elevon. I wondered if, like Elvis or Jesus, the Bondi magic was really gone, and was it ever going to come back?
The magic is back, and it’s better than ever. The Bondi X has a carbon plate, and I darned well know this is going to be what runners think rehabilitated the shoe. But I think that’s only a part of it and maybe not the biggest part. In fact, if the Bondi 8 (we’re on the 7 now) were to become the same shoe as the Bondi X, just without the plate, I’d be interested in running in that shoe, to see if that shoe is fine for me. Because, well, this Bondi X is a $200 shoe. Yes, my legs are worth it, but I don’t know how much run value the carbon plate adds to the feel of the shoe. I know precisely how much it adds to the price of the shoe: $40.
The Bondi X is just different all over from the Bondi 7, well beyond the carbon plate. It’s only very slightly lighter than the Bondi 7, by maybe a fifth of an ounce, but it’s a lot springier. You may say, “Sure, because it’s got a carbon plate.” The Bondi X and the Carbon X and the Rocket X all have carbon plates, and they’re all springy (well, I assume the Rocket X is; I’ve never run in that shoe). But these three “X” shoes also use the same foam. What makes these shoes all so lively?
I inquired about the foam used because it so much better than the foam in the Bondi 7. Here’s what Zach Paris, senior designer, had to say: “The Bondi X has the same foam as the Carbon X 2 and the Rocket X, which is different from the Bondi 7... The formulation and recipe of the foam is different, and offers a significantly lighter weight and softer ride.” I don’t know, but just by running in the shoes I suspect it’s the same foam used on the Mach 4. HOKA has really upgraded their foam in these models, and while it may not be Boost or PEBA, you can really tell that HOKA has solved its foam issues, at least in the models I’ve been enthusiastic about.
There is another feature all these great models share, and that is a different approach to midsole and outsole architecture. It’s the Swallowtail in the rear of the shoe, and it works like independent rear suspension in a car. It provides for a softer landing and the footstrike doesn’t lever the foot to the ground. In the image just above you see this deployed in the Mach 4 and the Bondi X. This feature, and the foam, make both the Mach 4 and the Bondi X run similarly (though the Mach 4 is for sure a lighter, quicker shoe). I point this out because the Mach 4 has no carbon plate, and the current shoe in HOKA’s line that feels most like the Bondi X is the Mach 4. So don’t think it’s just the carbon plate.
I’ve been critical of the wider forefoot and heel in the Bondi releases over the years, and the Bondi X has a slightly bigger footprint than the original Bondi. But this doesn’t bother me in this shoe. I think it’s a combo of the better foam, the Swallowtail rear, and whatever features in this shoe allow me to run without feeling like I’ve got snowshoes strapped to my feet. “The carbon plate!” you might say. But, if you actually measure the Mach 4, it’s also got a pretty big footprint (as you can see in the image above). The Mach 4 runs great, and it has no carbon plate.
If I like the Mach 4 so much, why don’t I just train in that? Because the Bondi X is a much more substantial shoe. If you’re an overpronater (which I am) and you rely on the Active Foot Frame (like placing your foot in a bucket seat) for structure or guidance (which I do), then you need the Bondi as your everyday runner. The Mach 4 won’t do. The Mach 4 is for the occasional fast effort. But I weigh 170 pounds. If you weigh 150 pounds, the Mach 4 may well serve well as your everyday runner.
The height of the Bondi X is:
Mens: 33mm heel, 28mm forefoot
Womens: 31mm heel, 26mm forefoot
This yields a 5mm drop. Women’s sizes are 5 to 11; mens are 7 to 13 (in half sizes) and then a 14. There is one colorway, mens and womens, you see it here.