Meaghan: It felt like déjà vu opening up the box of HOKA Tracers. The colorway is the exact same as the HOKA Clayton. But it’s a very different shoe. The Tracer is a less “HOKA-y” shoe. It doesn’t have the apparent stack height like most other shoes from the lineup. It looks and feels more like a traditional trainer. The midsole is a PRO2LITE Dual Density midsole – the same stuff that’s in the Clayton. But the Tracer has a softer landing and a smoother transition. I assume this is the difference in the outsole. The Clayton has an RMAT outsole (a blended rubber EVA), where the Tracer just has some rubber placement on the bottom of the shoe. It’s just enough to keep the shoe durable and add some traction, without weighing it down. My W7.5 came in at 6.25 oz. Pretty amazing for all that cush. I would say this shoe falls in between the Clifton and the Clayton in terms of firmness and bounce underfoot.
I love the fit of this shoe. It hugs the foot. There isn’t a ton of room in the toebox, but it’s enough. I never had any rubbing like I did with the Clayton. Huge win.
Despite the somewhat flashy design, the upper is minimal. It breathes well and doesn’t hold water. My last run in this shoe was 11 miles in the rain. I’m talkin’ real rain. Pouring. They held up better than any shoe I can remember in the rain and once they dried out – good as new.
Thomas: This is the running shoe I was hoping the Clayton would be! The HOKA Tracer is the easiest place to start if you want to try HOKA because it is the closest to a traditional trainer. The magic is, HOKA didn’t sacrifice the ride of the shoe to get you to a lower stack shoe. Stack refers to how far from the ground the outsole and midsole elevate your foot. While much lower than the HOKA Clifton, the Tracer still has a similar feel.
The look of the Tracer is sweet. It is very recognizable and stands out from other brands. It isn’t just a pretty face, form follows function. The upper fit my foot well with minimal rubbing and no hotspots. The overlays are just a film material over the pretty traditional mesh. The minimal overlays help keep this shoe on the feather-weight side of the scale. My size 10.5 weighed in at 7.95 oz!
The durability of the shoe is solid. After 50 miles, the shoes still look new. There is very little noticeable wear on the outsole.
Meaghan: The complaint I have about this shoe is minor but notable. The tongue. Again, HOKA used that super-minimal, too flexible tongue construction they used in the original Clifton. It makes the shoes feel sloppy and takes away from the secure feeling when you’re lacing up.
Thomas: I had two small issues with the HOKA Tracer. First, I had a little rubbing on the outside edges of the toe box. Watch the video review for more detail about that. The other issue I had was with the rocker style of the midsole. I try to land as close to the middle of my foot as possible, sometimes I get up on my toes. When that happens, the shoe can put the brakes on my stride. You may want to take a demo run in them before you purchase if you run midfoot to up on your toes to make sure you can achieve a nice silky stride.
Meaghan: Until I wore the Tracer, I loved the Clayton. Now, I would easily pick the Tracer for race day over the Clayton, and probably even the Clifton. We will have to wait and see what V3 brings to the Clifton. I’ve put about 60 or so miles on the Tracer and they are not leaving my rotation anytime soon. For the runners who haven’t tried HOKA yet, I’d say this is the perfect shoe to jump into. You’ll get the feel of a max-cushioned shoe without the gargantuan looks.
Thomas: The HOKA Tracer is a winner. The Tracer will pair nicely with the Clifton for a training partner. Easy runs in the Clifton, speed and races in the Tracer. If you have wanted to see what the fuss is about HOKA, the Tracer is also a good place to start, since it is closer to a mainstream trainer.