I am a 41-year-old neutral runner with a mid-foot strike, about 165 pounds and 6’ 1” tall. I race all distances, from 5ks to Marathons, and spend at least half of my year training for an upcoming marathon.
Cushioned for the Older Runners...
My older brother is a firm believer and promoter of “Hoka Nation” and has been after me to give them a try.
He swears that as we get older (he’s in his mid-40’s) we need a more cushioned shoe if we plan to run marathons, especially in our struggle to race a Boston Qualifying standard. His theory is that, as we put in more and more miles on the road, we wear our bodies down, which makes it necessary to run with more cushioning under our feet.
I could not disagree with him, so, as I approached the peak of my marathon training, I purchased a pair of the Hoka One One Tracer 2.
My intention for this shoe was to use it for 2 runs per week: my Monday track workouts, and my Thursday interval workouts. I also intended to run a half marathon race in them, in order to test their performance abilities.
Here, you can see a screenshot of my training log for the Hoka Tracer 2:
Out of the Box
The Tracer 2s were pretty stiff out of the box, not very plush around the foot, and definitely not very flexible.
They did appear to have extreme cushioning underfoot, but less toward the forefoot.
The shoelaces were clownish yellow and extremely long! I ended up removing the long yellow laces and replaced them with shorter black laces.
Other than that, they felt comfortable enough. The shoe is very lightweight, so I knew I would be reaping some benefits in speed where I lost some benefits of added plushness in the upper.
The toe box was spacious enough for me, though narrower than I was accustomed to in Altra shoes.
On the Road
I ran a few easy runs at first to try and break them in a bit before I tested them out on speed workouts. Immediately I noticed that the Tracer 2 really encourages a mid-foot landing and fore-foot push off.
The design of the outsole, namely, a thicker cushion on the heel and mid-foot, and thinning cushioning as the shoe goes forward to the toes, urged me to push off with explosive power in the faster intervals.
Another note on the road: Since the shoe is so lightweight, I noticed that it felt as if it became part of my foot, which allowed me to run with greater assurance on uneven surfaces.
I did not have one instance of a twisted ankle or foot while running in these shoes.
On the Track
Everything that is great about the Tracer 2 on the road is exponentially amplified on the track.
Aside from a racing flat, this is an absolutely perfect shoe for Track Mondays. I found the Tracer 2 to be extremely responsive on the track. The contour of the outsole is perfectly designed for speed.
The upper is lightweight and breathable, almost unnoticeable.
In The Race
As part of my training for the upcoming Dallas Marathon, I ran the McKinney Half Marathon in the Hoka Tracer 2.
I am considering running the full Marathon in these shoes, so I wanted to get a good idea of how they would perform. The race was hot and humid, and though I did not set a personal record, I did win my division with a time of 1:30:45.
I was moderately pleased with the performance of the shoes. The breathable upper allowed all the moisture in the wet and humid race to escape unnoticed.
While they are great at faster paces, I found myself fatigued during the latter half of the race, the thick heel seemed to get in my way. While I understand it was related to my failing running form as I became exhausted, the shoe felt a bit cumbersome.
Again, I would prefer less of an obtrusive cushion in the heel, less of a heel-to-toe drop, and an overall smaller shoe, at least during races.
- Great outsole shape for better running form
- Lightweight and breathable for top performance
- Supreme cushioning compared to other racing shoes
- Great color option in red
- Gigantically long clown shoelaces
- Too much cushioning foam for slower paces
I have not decided whether or not I will race the full marathon in the Hoka One One Tracer 2. I’m not sure I will be happy with the feeling during the later miles of the marathon as my legs fatigue.
The cushioning is definitely supreme, especially in correlation with its overall weight. I am definitely pleased with the shoe’s performance in speed. The toe-off is powerful due to the contour of the outsole.
That being said, I am afraid the shoe would become cumbersome in the latter miles of a full marathon.
I am not fully persuaded to jump on the Hoka bandwagon.
Nonetheless, I gave the Tracer 2 a high score for it's supreme cushioning in a lightweight racing shoe & for its exceptional design meant to enhance toe-off speed.