Hoka Clayton 2 Review

Astonishingly, this is another Hoka review. I blame CY for this. And I blame eBay too because just like how I snagged the Tracer (reviewed here), there was a store-returned, like new, Clayton 2 there as well. At RM420.

Now, you’ll be able to find plenty of mixed reviews online about the Clayton 1, with wearers raving about the ride, cushioned responsiveness and stability all in a sub-9 oz lightweight package. Then the same wearers would often vent about the shoe’s various design issues which caused bad chafing around the arch area. So when had the chance to try out CY’s Clayton 1, I almost immediately took a liking for the shoe. They’re like the Skechers GoRun Ultra, minus a couple of ounces! Prior to this experience, my impressions of Hoka weren’t that positive, to be honest. I appreciated their concept of building super comfy yet relatively lightweight shoes but did they have to make them so puffy and pricey?

 

Unlike the Tracer, I stuck with US10 for the Clayton 2 (C2). While not supremely light, 8.4oz is in the vicinity of proven racing and performance trainers such as the Boston 6, Kinvara 8 and Zoom Elite 9. The C2 has a 28/24mm stack height. But let’s cover the upper first. It’s largely a one-piece mesh upper with zig-zagging latticed overlays, from the forefoot up to the midfoot area, while a more structured but soft construct secures the heel.  At one glance, one might opine that the entire concept lacks breathability and the lattice constrictive, but the opposite is true. The C2 has the most forgiving upper of Hokas. I wouldn’t call the C2’s upper the best ever simply because even the Zoom Elite 9’s is more generous in the toebox height department.

The overlays are reflective, making the C2 one of the highest visibility shoes I’ve ever worn, just behind Skechers’ Nite Owl versions of the GoRun Ride and GoRun Ultra.

Laces are stretchy and very long, necessitating a double-knot approach to securing them. Or simply tuck them under. Where it gets a little tricky is achieving a secure lockdown which, for some reason for me, is a frustrating affair. I’ve resorted to using the heel-lock lacing method to get a good hold but that resulted in a tiresome lacing experience.

The step in feel is expectedly pillowy soft. Your foot comes in contact with a thin layer of removable Ortholite insole which sits on top of a layer of perforated foam forming the footbed. Like Hoka’s other go-fast model, the Tracer (reviewed here), the C2 also features the Pro2Lite dual density midsole. That’s Protection (in the heel) + Propulsion (forefoot). And in a shoe with the C2’s stack heights, the difference in sensation of the softer/firmer midsole sections are more palpable here than in the Tracer.

The foot actually sits cupped inside the midsole, where the tip of my thumb is, in the photos below. The first photo is of the medial side, and the second, the lateral side. As you can see, the sidewalls are high, typical of Hokas, which centers the foot, creating a stable footplant.

Hoka’s customary early stage meta-rocker geometry works to get the wearer through the gait cycle quicker. Other than the lightweight cushioning the shoes offer, what attracts me to the Clayton is the way they make me run tall (well, they’re higher stacked shoes anyway) and upright, and with a certain sense of efficiency in the strides.

The Clayton’s full contact outsole is all RMAT foam. They feel spongy to the touch, so durability will not be comparable to rubber. The RMAT coverage is very generous though. At 73km, there are already visible signs of wear and 350 – 400km would be my estimate before they look worse for wear.

I’ve not covered distances long enough (10 miles being the longest) in the C2 to be able to confirm the non-recurrence of the chafing issues reported for version 1. I did, however, pre-emptively swap out the stock Ortholite insole with Skechers’ 😬. So far so good.

The Hoka One One Clayton 2 is already in selected stores in the country but with a eye watering price tag of nearly RM700. It’s for that reason that I can only recommend an online purchase from overseas sites. Furthermore, Hoka will be releasing the all-new Cavu and Mach early 2018, with the Mach a direct replacement of the Clayton 2. So I’d say hold off your purchase of the Clayton 2 and wait for a few more months. If you’re interested, Sam Winebaum had a nice post up on both the new shoes over at www.roadtrailrun.com.

Hoka Tracer Review

Trainer + Racer = Tracer. That’s what the Hoka Tracer (HT) is. It took me awhile to what with a name that references tracer rounds used by the military. This featherweight shoe weighs in at a paltry 7.8oz for my US10.5 (I upsized by half since Hokas are typically narrow and racing shoes fit snug). Here are some weight comparisons with others of the same category (US10 unless otherwise stated):

The K8, Elite 9 and Fly would be more appropriately clubbed together, leaving the Tempo, GoMeb and Fastwitch the HT’s closest competitors. Interestingly, according to Running Warehouse, the HT’s stack height measures at 24/20mm, almost similar to the Saucony Freedom’s 23/19mm.

Like the Hoka Clayton models, the Tracer features the Pro2Lite dual density midsole. That’s Protection (in the heel) + Propulsion (forefoot), in case you’re wondering. Unlike other Hokas, the Tracer looks just like any conventional running shoe as it completely departs from the Active Foot Frame construction that lends the brand its trademark look. There’s still an obvious toe spring but not much of a midsole flare as you can see from the photos above.

Lateral side of the Tracer.
Medial side.

The one thing the Tracer shares with its siblings is the Early Stage Meta-Rocker geometry. As the name suggests, this is the curved midsole geometry (when viewed from the side) that serves to propel the wearer more efficiently and quickly through the gait cycle. Several other companies have implemented this before – Skechers being the easiest to come to mind with their M-Strike.

As mentioned, the Tracer is as conventional as a Hoka comes. Remove the Ortholite insole and you’ll see that the thin foam footbed. The interior of the shoe looks to be well constructed and soft enough, with no wayward stitching. I’ve not run sockless in them to determine if they’re suitable.

The upper of the shoe appears to be a sandwich of 3 layers – softer perforated underlayer, a open mesh top layer held together by strips of welded overlays.

The welded strips securing the front half of the shoe are thinner in width than the thicker and wider ones used (such as the white ones) from the midfoot to the heel. I’m pleased with the greater support and structure in those areas.

The thin flappy tongue bunches up but is ok when worn.

A firm toebox and substantial external heel counter (with a huge branding print) make up the front and rear of the Tracer respectively. Design elements and colorway are certainly to my liking conveying a fast look. The fit around the ankle is snug right through to the midfoot before opening up in the toebox region. This is a surprising take on footwear design by Hoka, since they’re notoriously narrow and tight in the toebox. Again, the Tracer isn’t your typical Hoka. The upper has a little give so that’s pretty sweet as well.

The outsole comprises of hard rubber around the high wear areas but more than 50% of what you see when you flip the shoe over are the RMAT foam. There’s also a small hollowed out section in the midsole where the foot strikes (if you land heel center), so if you’re a heel striker, there’s a bit of shock attenuation feature there for you.

I haven’t had many miles in the Tracer, only 43K, and it’s not because of my dislike. Instead, the opposite is true. I just want to save them for key speed workouts and races. The local distributor in Malaysia marks up the price of the Hokas to such a ridiculous level that the brand isn’t an automatic choice for 95% of the running population here. It makes sense for me to wear it judiciously. I wouldn’t have been acquainted with the Hoka had it not for eBay. Just like the case of the Clayton 2, I was able to snag the Tracer off eBay – the Tracer at RM350 (literally new and worn less than 5 miles) and the Clayton 2 at RM440.

Speed workouts, tempos, trackwork and of course races up to the Marathon would be up the Tracer’s alley. Having run several tempo and interval sessions as well as a 16K in them, I can attest to their versatility. It’s way more stable than, say, the Nike Lunar Tempo and Flyknit Lunar 2/3 yet doesn’t relinquish the speed factor. My next Half Marathon shoe will be a toss up between the Tracer and the Zoom Elite 9. The Tracer is proving to be a more exciting option than the Boston Boost 6 and Fastwitch 7. It’s fast, offers firm and responsive cushioning, with a hint of bounce. The fit is unlike any Hoka, but do remember to size up by half.

The Hoka Tracer reviewed is a first version with the update (which also sees a slight weight bump) just released into the wild last month. I’d give the Tracer a thumbs-up!