Hoka One One Tracer ReviewFebruary 23, 2016
- Comfortable, highly breathable upper
- Lightweight overall construction
- Outsole impact areas well-mapped
- Rigid throughout midsole
- Narrow midfoot and forefoot last
- Traction lacking in wet conditions
Hoka’s first entry to the road racing market positions itself very comparably to well-established lightweight racers like the Nike LunarTempo, Mizuno Hitogami, and Adidas Adios series. This is the lightest shoe in our testing, and no other shoe offers as much cushioning per ounce. Fit will be an issue for some runners, particularly those who like a roomy toe box for toe splay on impact, and the ride quality will be very stiff and firm for anyone accustomed to Hoka’s thickly cushioned models.
Hoka One One is famous for being the trendsetter in the current maximal cushioning craze – but with the Tracer, the company offers a downsized model that is lower to the ground, with stack heights that are comparable to other companies’ minimalist offerings. While the Tracer is similar in appearance to other speed trainers, its lightweight construction distinguishes it as a newcomer to be reckoned with in this category.
Our testers felt the length of the Tracer may run a half size small, so consider trying on a half-size larger when you’re shopping. Another quirky issue is that the rim of the insole rides up high on its perimeter, and can fold over on itself if the rearfoot or midfoot aren’t well secured. The overall fit is fairly narrow through the forefoot, so don’t expect to get full toe splay in the Tracer.
Lightweight padding around the heel cup and ankle collar cradle the rearfoot, and the heelcup itself is pleasantly soft and pliable against the Achilles tendon. The forefoot liner is perforated for maximal breathability, and the Tracer ventilates as well as any shoes in our test group. Comfort underfoot is solid thanks to dual-density midsole that is softer in the heel and firmer in the forefoot.
Runners accustomed to the pillow-like cushioning of Hoka’s trail runners will be in for a surprise: the dual density midsole of the Tracer is much firmer than anything Hoka has used before. The EVA in the heel area (white sections in the photos above) retains a bit of the old cushioned feel, but the orange sections are a much firmer compound that is designed for faster rebound and energy transfer. The effect works quite well for midfoot strikers – especially with the rockered geometry that rolls you forward – but for consistent heel strikers, some energy is lost from heel to forefoot.
There is very little flexibility in the midsole from heel to toe, and testers found the ride to be very stiff in testing. There’s a palpable transition point in the midfoot area that marks both the transition from soft EVA to firm, but from the posterior side of the rockered geometry to the front side. This is more pronounced for heel strikers than with midfoot strikers, even though Tracer shoe has a relatively shallow 3mm heel to toe drop.
If you’re OK with the fit and your running form works well with the midsole technology, the Tracer will make it easy for you to turn your legs over quickly. Although this is the lightest shoe in our test group, the responsiveness and ride quality aren’t quite smooth and snappy enough to fully take advantage of the lightness.