Propulsion in a carbon-plated sneaker I find to be the most valuable resource and the CIELO X1 from HOKA delivers that in spades. It goes beyond bounce, or comfort, into a lightning-quick, dynamic ride that delivers forward motion while increasing cadence and making not only a smooth ride — but a fast one.

HOKA has emerged from the running shoe competition as a bonafide leader and their inch thick foam midsole and heel has been copied by nearly every sneaker contender. As a shoe brand, HOKA has reached a wide audience and, not for nothing, I see the effects of this trend upon workouts with my mother and sister.

Both of them swear by HOKA shoes.

The CIELO X1 is a different story. This is a serious race shoe. The winged carbon fibre plate is centred between two layers of PEBA foam. Weighing 9.3 ounces with a 7 millimetre heel-to-toe drop, the shoe is designed for road racers with time goals and they have a lightweight, minimal, rubber outsole. It’s shockingly light to the touch. With a classically fitted upper, dynamic cutout and vibrant colour scheme, it reminds me of a Porsche 911; saddled into the sneaker, I feel like I’m riding in one.

I wore the CIELO X1 on both long runs and speed workouts and found the responsiveness never wavered. The shoe isn’t made out of glass. Durability in a carbon-plated sneaker is an asset often overlooked—I understand the shoes are designed for race day—however, at $310, I also believe the shoes should be good for at least 300 kilometres. At least.

I’ve worn the CIELO X1 for at least three hundred kilometres and still they feel fresh from the box. They’ve withstood rain and snow days and, out one day deep along the Martin Goodman Trail, I had a nail ensconced in my heel. Not only didn’t I feel it, but when I yanked it out, like a precision surgeon, the shoe was no worse for the wear.

I’m not sure many ultra lightweight carbon shoes can do that.

The CIELO X1 is a max-cushion race shoe and it’s worn by HOKA top athletes, including world-beaters like Adelle Tracey and Futsum Zeinasellassie. Where I train in Toronto, Gabriel Jarquin, the winter iRun cover star, wears them on his Road to Boston, and my friends Caroline and Monica, marathon runners who train with BlackToe Running, also train in the shoe.

These are serious athletes with intense shoe demands and all of them agree with my assertions: the CIELO X1 is a confidence-building source of (style and) starting line power, an edge when it matters most.

Spring 2024 is an exciting time for runners. When it comes to carbon-plated sneakers, this season, thankfully, there’s choice. The price has come down, the technology has been democratized and most of your favourite shoe brands will offer a high-end alternative for race day.

Combining the unique HOKA assets—top of the line foam, green production values and cutting-edge design—the CIELO X1 is a fiery race day choice and an excellent light, propulsive race shoe, also built to handle the miles.

The CIELO X1: I strongly, strongly recommend it for your big spring goals.