UltraBala, running marathon & ultra, running products


Product review

Product review – Hoka Challenger 2 ATR or Hoka Speed Instinct. What is your choice?

I recently had the opportunity to test out both Hoka Challenger 2 ATR  and Hoka Speed Instinct during TMBT2016. Both are trail shoes by Hoka One One. For those who are unfamiliar with Hoka One One trail products, they have 4 trail shoes.

  • Hoka Stinson 3 ATR
  • Hoka Challenger 2 ATR
  • Hoka Speedgoat
  • Hoka Speed Instinct

In this blog, I will review both Hoka Challenger 2 ATR vs Hoka Speed Instinct. I had bought these shoes specially for my first trail ultra. Both shoes undergo brutal trail and road challenges for 50+km.

Hoka Challenger ATR 2

The Challenger ATR 2 is trail version of Clifton 2. the shoe have  a great feel on both road and trail. However, it does not perform very well on muddy surfaces or rocks with moss. The shoe is designed with Early stage Meta-Rocker (explained in my earlier blog) meant to focus on the transition zone behind the metatarsal head. It is to create a smoother ride and faster transition to the forefoot.

The downside of this shoe is similar to the Clifton 2. Some runners may complain on its small toe box. But, for me it fits just fine. I used this shoe during the Permai Hybrid trail challenge, which consist of 3km road and 10km permai trail (included wet moss rocks and semi wet trail road). I found the shoe performed well on tarmac. It had similar cushioning feel, like its full road shoe (Clifton 2). The 4mm lugs did feel a bit stiff on tarmac. But on wet roads, traction was impressive up and downhill.

In trail, the shoe had acceptable traction going downhills. But, on wet moss rocks, the shoe was impossible. There was practically no grip. (But, i found out that this was the same for other brand trail shoes too. Hence, nothing to be really disappointed about). Landing on hard edge of rocks, proved to be manageable. I remember flying downhill during Hybrid challenge and TMBT (2nd half of course). But, the durability of the shoe side can be further improved. I rip my Challenger 2 ATR on a tree branch. Luckily for me, it was just the first layer of the shoe. My toes where still protected. The shoe have very good drainage. Manage to keep my feet damp, rather than soaking wet during heavy downpour and river crossings in trails.”What goes in, must come out”.

Unfortunately, the shoe does feel slightly bulky, clumsy in trails. Maybe this was due to size US11 that I was wearing. I seem to be tripping on roots. I think, Hoka can improve further on the toe box protection, especially if you plan to be flying in Asian Trails, where you may trip over roots.


Hoka Speed Instinct


This shoe was just launched in April 2016. The latest addition to the Hoka One One trail shoe family. You can see that the shoe design and base is very different from the conventional challenger ATR. The speed instinct comes with multi directional lugs, which allows the shoe to have better traction in trail terrain. The shoe base is designed with PRO2Lite technology. What does Pro 2 Lite means?  It basically means the transition of a softer and lighter heel support, to a firmer and more responsive forefoot. That allows better propulsion when running. You can clearly see from the picture above, the heel has an added cushioning in black compared to the forefoot, which is more of a firmer material. The speed instinct basically feels like your feed fits in a cradle, snug and well protected.

On tarmac, this shoe performed superbly in wet (raining) and dry weather. Due to the Pro2Lite technology, the shoe actually feels great. I tried the shoe while doing my weekly LSD. I assure you, the shoe feels like a well cushion road shoe.

On trail terrain, the shoe was very nibble. Just like a ballerina, you could be dancing in the woods. I used the speed instinct for the first half of TMBT, as i wanted a fast response shoe up and downhill, without compromising the cushioning and support. And I am glad that I made that decision. The shoe responded better than the Challenger 2 ATR going down muddy terrain. I recalled climbing uphill using this shoe without taking out my trekking pole. The grip was excellent. Even running downhill, did not pose a threat.

River crossings and wet surface rocks did not bother the speed instinct. This was due to the multi-directional lugs design and Seamless Air Mesh concept by Hoka One One. The seamless air mesh allows the shoe to be lightweight and highly breathable.



To be honest, for me, the speed instinct would be my next trail go to shoe, when comparing to the Hoka Challenger 2 ATR . Unfortunately, for the Hoka speed instinct,  I had to get 1/2 size larger (US11.5) compared to the Hoka Challenger 2 ATR, to allow more space for my toes.

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If you are interested in owning a pair of Hoka Speed Instinct, please visit the following locations:

Please remember to quote #ultrabala, prior to purchase to receive an additional discount when buying from Revolution Run Borneo.


Run Happy , Run Safe, Run Injury Free.


Hoka One One Tracer

Lightweight, ability to reduce water retention and good cushioning are the selling point of Hoka One One Tracer. This shoe was only launched in April 2016, after the launch of Hoka One One Clayton. What is so special about the Hoka Tracer, versus the Hoka Clayton? The team at Hoka One One, apparently decided to move towards a more responsive racing shoe, without sacrificing the comfort and cushioning. Thus, the birth of Clayton and the Tracer. Although the Hoka One One Clayton won the 2016 Runner’s Editor’s Choice Award, I still prefer the Tracer model.

Reason are as below:

The Tracer comes with a medium fit toe box, similar to the Clifton 2, as compared to the clayton, (which is about 3mm wider). Hence, if you have a normal with feet, and enjoy the Clifton 2 fit. The tracer would be the right choice.

The weight of the shoe is phenomenal, just look at the picture below. It only weights 230 grams for my US size 11.


The technology used is the Early Stage – Meta Rocker (as previously described in my previous Hoka Clifton 2 post). Early Stage Meta Rocker means, the shoe is focused on the transition zone behind the metatarsal head. It is to create a smoother ride and faster transition to the forefoot. Thus, making the shoe more responsive. Especially, if you run with your forefoot, rather than heel stride.

I purchase my Hoka Tracer about 9 days before the Kuching Marathon, held on 14Aug 2016, (I ordered mine from Choi CC).

IMG_4291I managed to clocked about 40km on the shoe before using it for the Kuching Marathon. Here are my first thoughts of the shoe performance upon wearing them on a dry day and in the rain.

  • Comfort:

I felt that the shoe was a nice fit. It snugs your feet in, just like the Clifton 2. The shoe does not feel narrower to me. Although, I think Hoka One One team can improve further on some of the shoe design.

Problem: Shoe upper tongue too flimsy. Only secured on one side.

Suggestion: Consider using an elastic material which secures both sides of the upper tongue to allow a better wrap.


Problem: Laces. Restrict feet movement. Very inconvenient.

Suggestion: Consider changing the laces to elastic laces, which allows user to just slip on the shoe and adjust tightness if required.

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Upper tongue of the Hoka Tracer (you can see that the right side of the tongue is stitched, while the left side is not)


  • Responsiveness:

Going on flats, you can feel that the Hoka Tracer does have a forward repel when you start to stride. When running up-hill, you do not feel the sluggish effect as per the Hoka Clifton or Bondi. Instead, you can feel that the shoe is actually flexible. As you run downhill, you can sense that the shoe has sufficient grip and cushioning to prevent any unwanted knee and feet injury, due to the impact. It allows your feet to react faster, hence improving your cadence downhill. The grip of the shoe on wet surfaces (down Green Hill, Kuching – opposite Mirage) was great. I was going up and down hill at 4:50-5:00min/km, I could feel that it had sufficient traction. However, on overgrown moss surfaces; (such as pedestrian walkway in front of westwood), the grip was off slightly.


  • Water Retentions & Breathability:

As I was running in the rain and puddles of water all around town, I wanted to know if the shoe will be submerged in water and gain weight. Surprisingly, as per advertise, the shoe was pretty dry. All water that got into the shoe, quickly disperse. This is due to the breathability of the shoe design, which is not available on other Hoka models. From this close up photo, you can see that covering these air holes, are just the mesh of the shoe, which allow the shoe to be breathable and light. Therefore, if you are a person who sweats a lot during your runs, or looking for a shoe in wet weather, I would recommend this shoe to you.

Mesh and the breathability of the Tracer
Upon clocking 40km on these shoe; (after break-in). You actually could feel the flexibility improved. As I used it for my Kuching Marathon, running a full 42.6km. I had no complaints at all. The shoe was dry. I did not feel as if my feet were sweating. Even with water pouring down my costume, it stayed dry. Going up and downhill felt great. It felt like I was wearing a simplified version of the Hoka Clifton2.

Me in my Hoka Tracer during Kuching Marathon 2016, which I finished in 4:09hrs gun time
The sole of the shoe seemed durable. You can see from the image that there is no significant wear rate on it. For me, I would say that it should be able to last for another 500km. I will update again upon hitting 200km.


As of now, I think I did make a right choice in purchasing the Hoka One One Tracer as a short distance race and training shoe. I would like to thank Jeff Ooi (Hoka One One Malaysia Ambassador), for giving me his comments on the clayton and tracer before purchasing mine.

As usual, you can get your Hoka One One from the following places:


Remember, always Run Happy, Run Smart, and Run Injury free!!

HOKA One One – What’s the hype?

Recently (July 2016), runners in Kuching have been introduced to a new running shoe brand; The Hoka One One, which basically means “Flying Over the Earth” (in Maori). This shoe was founded by 2 Frenchman (2009), whose vision was to create a light weight, but yet maximal cushioning shoe.  Although the norm was, light weight shoes are always considered minimalist shoe (minimum cushioning), it never stopped them. Since leaving their previous shoe company to pursue their dream, they have been very successful and was bought over by Deckers Outdoor (in 2013), which produces brands such as Teva, Sanuk and UGG.

Over the years, Hoka One One shoes have received numerous awards, including the Competitors Editor’s Choice Road Running Shoe 2016, Competitors Editor’s Choice Best Update Shoe 2016, Competitor Magazines Best Ride Award 2015, Competitor Magazines Best Cushioning Award 2015, Competitor Magazines Trail Shoe of the Year 2015, Runner’s World Editor’s Choice Award 2014, Competitor Magazines Editor’s Pick 2014, Competitor Magazines Best Innovation Award 2014. So, what makes Hoka One One shoes so great? Is it just because of the awards, or is there something really special? The only way to find out was to purchase a pair.

Last year, buying a Hoka One One in Malaysia with my shoe size was hard. Even in Singapore. There were no retailers available. Thus, when my family and I had an opportunity to visit my sister-in-law and family in Perth, it was a great opportunity to go to the Hoka One One retailer and try it on. I was looking for a maximum cushion shoe for my first 100km ultra-marathon. I found out that my marathon shoes were not sufficient to sustain my weight over a duration of > 6 hours. You will start to feel that the heels take the most impact, especially on the tarmac. And since, I have read so much good reviews and video blogs about the Hoka One One Clifton 2, I just need to have it. I still recall my expression, the first time I picked up size US 11 of the Hoka One One Clifton 2, “Wow! This is light”. As I tried it in store, I could really feel the meta rocker at work.

Clifton 2 Weight:

I have never tried the Clifton version 1 prior to using the Clifton 2. But, if I were to compare the Clifton 2 to other maximal cushioning shoes of the same categories. I can assure you that the Clifton 2 was the lightest. Here is a simple comparison for reference, (Nike Lunarglide 3, Saucony Iso Triumph, Zoot Ultra Tempo 6 & Hoka Clifton 2). The Hoka Clifton only weights 282grams versus the Zoot Ultra tempo 6, which is Tri shoe, and is considered light. When comparing to Saucony Iso Triumph (max cushioning running shoe), you can see the difference in weight of about 25grams.

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Shoe weight comparison

Clifton 2 Comfort:

Due to the unique material design of the Hoka Clifton 2, using a CMEVA foam midsole and Meta-Rocker, the comfort is beyond comparison. What is CMEVA? (Compression Molding Ethylene Vinyl Acetate block foam inside a metal mold. Imagine you are making a jam tart. The mold used to make the jam tart will have the design etched into it. Using heat and pressure, the material EVA material is injected into the mold and allowed to cure. Attached is a link of how shoes are made , which you may find it interesting. As for Meta-Rocker, it is a rocking chair concept, similar to the Skechers rocker bottom shape up shoe at one time

The Hoka Meta-Rocker design is to have a low heel-toe differential and a sculpted outsole that creates a unique fulcrum effect. The purpose of this is to promote a runner’s natural running form and smooth roll-off. Hoka came out with 2 types / stages of the Meta-Rocker, The Early stage (used in Clifton 2, Odyssey, Challenger 2 ATR) and the Late stage. Why do they call it that? I have no idea. However, the Meta-Rocker Early stages if meant to focus on the transition zone behind the metatarsal head. It is to create a smoother ride and faster transition to the forefoot. While the Late stage Meta-Rocker (Stinson 3) focuses on the transition zone placed in front of the metatarsal head), which is meant for a more stable base and forefoot support.

If you are < 80kg (men) and are looking for an ultra-distance or marathon distance shoe, you can try the Hoka Clifton 2 (normal feet), Hoka Vanquish or Hoka Infinite (wide feet) or Hoka Odyssey. However, for me, my choice of preference is still the Clifton 2. However, if you are of > 80kg (men), you may want to look at other Hoka One One models which will provide a better cushioning and comfort, such as the Hoka Stinson 3, or Bondi 4.


Clifton 2 Durability:

Base on my current usage of the Hoka One One Clifton 2, I have clocked about 750km, since January 2016. I have used it in my LSD runs, marathon and ultra-events. The recommended replacement (lifespan) is after 400miles (~643km). You can see from the photo attached, that I can still get about another 100km + out of it. (Do note that I am 180m in height and 75kg in weight, the weight of a person does affect the lifespan of the shoe.). Thus, to me I would consider the Hoka One One Clifton 2, a very durable shoe.

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My Hoka One One Clifton 2

The new version for 2016 Clifton 3 is out. According to the specification, the toe box is wider. Not sure if it is suitable for runners with wide feet. You will need to try and find out.

Where to try and purchase?

If you are interested in trying a comfy and yet responsive shoe, you can try the following places in Sarawak and West Malaysia:

Chafing & Bliters – Every runners fear

Chafing and blisters are 2 common words that every runner fears. It does not bother you at first. But once you start having it. You will continue to have it. In this blog, I will share with you on my cheats to prevent these phenomena.

  • What is chafing?

Chafing refers to the irritation of skin caused by repetitive friction, usually generated through skin to skin contact of multiple body parts. Chafing is usually contracted in the inner thighs and inner glutes. Nipples can also develop chafing, this common when you run a full marathon and more. Of cause the material (shirt) you wear plays an important role. However, even our best cotton shirt may some times cause nipple chaffing. If you are unaware of how nipple chafing looks like, please take a look at the photos below obtain from the web.IMG_4311

Trust me, you do not want to experience this when you are just hitting 28KM and u have another 24 KM to go. it really hurts. Not forgetting the phrase, “a picture paints a thousand words”. Especially, when the photographer takes a photo and everyone sees it.

  • How to prevent chafing?

For me, my preference have always been surgical tape. Why don’t I use sports shield products (eg: glide, 2 toms, run guard),  petroleum jelly (eg: vaseline) or nip guard?


Nip guard has the same affect as surgical tape, except the cost is cheaper for surgical tape. Sports shield products and petroleum jelly however,  wears off after prolong runs, unless you re-apply after intense sweating. This does make a lot of difference when you are running an Ultra events.The last thing you would want, are bloody nipples. I have many runners who keeps telling me that they do not have this problem. Unfortunately, their happiness are short lived. Thus, I like to be always ready. Like the scout motto,”Always be prepared”. You can get your surgical tape from any pharmacy.

To prevent chaffing on the inner thighs and groin area, especially during ultra marathons. My choice of preference is 2 Toms Sport Shield. I have tried several other off-self products available in the market. However, only 2 Toms sport shield, can last for 12 hours. Even after a shower with soap, you can still feel the lubrication on your skin. I actually swear by this product. Even the manufacturer guarantees 100% anti chafing.


  • What is blister?

Blister is a small pocket of fluid within the upper layers of the skin, typically caused by forceful rubbing of your feet to your shoe or socks. There are several causes:

  1. Your shoes are not of the right size (fit) or comfort
  2. The suitability of socks material (assuming that you wear socks to run)
  3. The moisture on your feet over prolong runs


  • Your shoes are not of the right size (fit) or comfort

How do you pick your running shoe? Do you buy your shoes based on peer pressure? Do you buy based on looks? Price? Weight? Comfort? or Function? Here are simple guides. Know your feet arch. (Neutral, Stability or Motioned Controlled)

This is how to check.

STEP1: Wet the bottom of your feet.

STEP2: Step on a piece of brown paper.

STEP3: Look at the imprint.

You should see the imprint matches one of these 3 imprints. 80% of human are average arch(stable), while 10% are high arch (neutral), and another 10% are low arch (flat foot). People with high, stiff arches are probably more susceptible to bony injuries on the outside of their foot, ankle, and leg, while people with flat and flexible arches are more likely to get soft tissue injuries and problems on the inside of their lower body.

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Types of Arc
After knowing what feet type you belong to, you can start to pick the type of sports shoe that meets your running needs; speed or long distance running. If you are a person > 80kg (men )/ 68kg (women), or if you run more then 50km per run, you will need to look at high cushioning shoes.  Examples of high cushioning shoes are Hoka One One Clifton (neutral), Hoka One One Bondi (neutral), Hoka One One Odyssey (stability), Hoka One One Infinite (stability), Asics Kayano (stability), Ascis Gel Nimbus (neutral), Brooks Glycerin (neutral), Brooks Transcend(stability), Mizuno Wave Paradox (stability), Mizuno Wave Creation (neutral) and Mizuno Enigma(neutral).

Hoka Clifton 2
HokaOneOne Clifton 2
If you are <80kg (men)/ 68kg (women), then you can look at normal running shoes. Examples of these are Hoka One One Clayton (neutral), Hoka One One Tracer (neutral), Brooks Launch(neutral), Brooks Ghost (neutral), Mizuno Sayonara (neutral), Mizuno Wave Rider (neutral), Mizuno Wave Inspire (stability), Zoot Ultra Tempo (stability), Zoot Ultra TT (neutral), Ascis GT2000 (stability), Ascis GT Trainer (stability).

HokaOneOne Clayton

For me, my choice for Ultra Marathon are HokaOneOne, due to its great cushioning and weight. As for runs < 42km, I would use my Zoot Ultra Tempo (discontinued) and HokaOneOne Tracer and ON Could.


  • The suitability of socks material

I tired several socks, but the best fit for my feet would still be the Injinji five-fingers ultra thin no show socks. As you can see in the image below, it has very good breath-ability allowing your feet to stay snug and dry. It also helps your toes to splay naturally. Thus, preventing them from rubbing against each other, causing blisters. The best part, it comes in various colour. To add an additional; layer of protection, I normal apply a layer of Vaseline on my forefoot too.


Disclaimer: These are my tips on how I keep my body free from chafing and blisters during my LSD, marathons and ultra runs. It works for me, and I hope it does for you to0.

  • Where to Buy?

If you are in Kuching (Malaysia), and are wondering where you can get these items;2Toms sports shield, Injinji socks and Hoka One One  Clifton. Please go to Revolution Run Co (Brooks) at green heights mall.

If you are in West Malaysia, do try World of SportsMy Triathlon Shop Penang, and I believe Choi CC also carries some of these products.

I will do a product comparison for Hoka One One shoes in my next review. Watch out for it.

Run safe, Run smart, Run injury free!




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