With Hoka sponsoring elite road and track runners, and with a rapidly growing base of regular runners training roads in Hok,s it makes sense that in addition to their traditional trail and ultra runner base they come out with more "minimal", relatively speaking, Hokas that are suitable for fast road racing and training. The Tracer is the first example.
|HOKA ONE ONE Tracer|
- A new dual density midsole construction puts softer foam in the rear of the shoe joining with slightly firmer foam in the forefoot. Hoka calls this approach Pro2Lite, a balance of "PROtection and PROpulsion".
- The upper is superb, foot well held all over yet not constricting. I did size up half a size
- While not wide, the toe box area is particularly well executed, very light mesh supported by what now is becoming ubiquitous, a substantial TPU toe bumper which raises the front volume yet secures the foot given the rest of the soft unstructured mesh up front.
- For the first time a Hoka does not include Oversize Active Foot Frame, the midsole wrapping up around the foot to stabilize. The Tracer has a slight stability element through its dual density midsole.
Upper and Fit
Hoka sent me a size 9, half size up from true to size as they were out my size. The fit is about perfect for me with medium weight run socks. Snug and secure with decent toe width and volume. I did replace the thin flimsy sock liner with a more substantial one. I believe the relatively unstructured toe box with very few overlays, somewhat forgiving, the thin but not overly stretchy upper, and the toe bumper which raises the front volume should accommodate most foot types except very wide feet, understanding that this is more a race fit than trainer fit. The upper is very breathable with good drainage.
Behind the toe box the upper has a thin but substantial white overlay on the medial side to stabilize the foot.
|Medial Side HOKA ONE ONE Tracer|
On the lateral side the open mesh extends further back with thin orange overlays.
|Medial Side HOKA ONE ONE Tracer|
The tongue is a very thin leatherette and except for a bit of padding down the center essentially un padded. More padding at the lace up area would be appreciated although as the fit is snug and secure I did not have to lace very tight.
Midsole and Outsole
|Hoka One One Tracer medial side|
|Hoka One One Tracer lateral side|
The forefoot flex is fairly stiff at first, with a distinct spring and it has taken a solid 20 miles to soften the flex more towards where I like it, so be aware of this when you first run them. More "seasoning" to go for me. Tracer is more flexible and with more of a distinct toe spring than either the Clifton2 or my favorite Huakas both with considerably more miles on them.
The Tracer is a light weight, no compromises racer fast trainer. Its Pro2Lite dual density midsole represents a new direction for Hoka. Those used to prior Hokas such as the Clifton and even Huaka should expect a different experience although of those two I would place the Tracer closer in feel to the Huaka but firmer. What should one expect?
- A firmer ride for sure.
- Far better upper than any prior Hoka with no goofy compromises but a snug one with a great race fit toe box.
- A shoe built for speed and likely not for slow, easy miles
When comparing to other shoes in its class the 7oz 22/18 stack Tracer is lighter by almost an ounce than the Kinvara 6 with the same stack heights and is firmer. I have not run in my Kinvaras recently.
Tracer is close in specs but lighter than the New Balance Fresh Foam Zante again by about an ounce. I compared Zante and Tracer, one on each foot for a short run and the one ounce heavier Zante has a smoother more consistent cushion feel not surprising as the Zante Fresh Foam is one continuous material, harder heel outsole plug, and a bit less stable forefoot. I prefer the Tracer upper which is slightly roomier with no tightness under the arch or somewhat pointy toe of the Zante.
The New Balance 1400 is another potential comparison. The 1400 is lighter by 0.7oz has a similar heel height but a considerably higher drop 23/13 leading to a 13mm forefoot which is to thin for me in even a racing shoe. Firmness of midsole otherwise quite similar as far as I can tell.
The New Balance Vazee Pace is close in stack specs at 22/16 but heavier by an ounce. and shares the RevLite midsole with the 1400. I have not run in the Pace but suspect ride might be comparable to Tracer.
The Altra Impulse I like so much (review here) is in the same general class. FootShape toe box aside, the upper fit of the Tracer is superior, a far more dialed in, smooth fit. Advantage in the forefoot feel and cushion to the Impulse. Both try to achieve some element of stability Impulse largely through the Stablipod outsoles and Tracer with its dual density Pro2Lite midsole Their heels feel quite similar on the firm side. I toyed with running the Tracer at my recent half but with only four miles on them went with the Impulse. They needed more seasoning of the forefoot flex.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The Tracer does not feel or run like any prior Hoka. It is a firmer, no compromises racer trainer of the more "classic" variety. The upper is superb, the best of any Hoka I have run to date. The ride is not like being in a comfy chair as I have found with other Hokas, it means business. While firm, cushioning is very adequate with a snappy toe spring. I have not had sore legs after any of my runs in them, fresh legs after a Hoka trademark, even at speed,. The transition of foam densities takes some getting used to and favors running at speed and mid foot strikers. Tracer will be a 10K-half marathon shoe for me. Those who tend to run lighter firmer shoes but want some cushion will find them a solid choice for marathons.
Overall Score: 4.75 out of 5
-0.1 for unusual feel of dual density transition at slow speeds
-0.15 for firmness, a touch softer foam firmness overall would better suit my run style
Our review of the new Hoka One One Pro2Lite Clayton a light trainer racer is here
The Tracer was provided at no charge to RoadTrailRun. The opinions herein are entirely our own.
Order the Tracer and Clayton from Running Warehouse. Available Now!
Use COUPON CODE: RTR10 for 10% off!
Tracer and Clayton are also available from the RoadTrailRun partners below.