1st up I need to clear this up for everyone – The 'One One' in Hoka One One is pronounced 'Oh Neigh, Oh Neigh' – Maori for "flying over the earth…"
Since they appeared on the scene, I have always been curious about the fat soled Hokas. So naturally, I was happy to recieve a pair to test run. These are my impressions of the Hoka Tracer.
Looks are entierly personal and the worst reason to purchase a pair of running shoes – but as it turns out, I think they look very cool – with great color combos that been turning many heads ( not that that matters one bit). At a shade under 8oz, for a shoe that looks so heavily padded, they're also much lighter than expected.
The Tracers are suitable for the narrower fore- foot and/ or if you prefer a snug feel. Right out of the box, my feet felt perfectly at home in them. You know when you're trying a new pair of running shoes and they just 'feel right'? Well, there was a lot of that going on here.
While I have never been a fan of the pure minimalist shoes, I do lean towards a lower profile/ low volume/ 4mm drop 'lightweight training flat' type of shoe. From reference – Brooks Pure Cadence and Saucony Kinvara 5 have been my past favourites. The immediate impression in the Tracers was that I was running higher off the ground than usual. For the 1st few steps, the extra height caused me to feel less sure-footed but this sensation disappeared within 5 mins. In fact, the close fitting Active Foot Frame midsole allowed for a very precise and well controlled foot strike. Every step I took landed under the hip. exactly where I wanted it to. So far so good.
Many people may associate the thicker sole with a shoe that favours heel strikers but nothing could be further from the truth. With a subtle 4mm heal to toe drop. this shoe is definitely one for the mid- foot striker and I found myself landing in the 'sweet spot' each time. The forefoot material is firm and responsive while the extra volume provides more cushioning than a typical training flat. This makes the Tracer a perfect shoe for a big set of threshold intervals in the treadmill, a middle/ long distance easy run on the roads ( or even lihgt trails), a short hard tempo effort or some speedwork on the track. Basically, a super versatile 'go to' shoe.
Where the shoe really shines is towards the end of a big session of intervals or a long run. As the fatigue accumulates a runner's light footed, high cadence style of running will naturally deteriorate, giving way to compensatory longer strides and heavier foot strikes. This was when I was really able to appreciate the extra comfort afforded me from the superb cushioning of the Tracer's. Even though I was pounding out the closing stages of a set of 40 x 400's, my feet and knees were not taking the beating that they would normally would be subjected to, As result, I felt fresher at the end of this big run and in turn, this allowed me to focus on holding my form all the way to completion. The curved Meta Rocker increased my awareness for a natural toe-off motion and I found that by leaning forward slightly my stride length was increased without much effort at all.
In a nutshell – Love 'em. And I know in a few weeks time, they'll feel even better than they do now.