Hoka One One Clifton

The Hoka Clifton, the original Clifton, was a very popular shoe introduced in July of 2014. This shoe helped launch the company’s lightweight, but maximally cushioned shoe line which appealed to many runners. Prior to the Clifton, Hoka shoes were known for their bulky midsoles and extreme cushioning but were not very good for fast runs. Weighing in at just 7.5 ounces and with a thinner midsole, the Clifton offered a new look and new line for the company. The Clifton became the first maximal racer which still featured all of the Hoka plushness, but in a design that encouraged stability and speed. Although now an older and discontinued model (look for the Clifton 4 in July 2017), the original Clifton, or Clifton 1, is still available and some runners claim this version is the best.

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Where to Buy
Where to Buy
Pros & Cons
  • Extremely lightweight seamless upper prevents  blisters and chaffing
  • High abrasion EVA outsole that lasts for miles
  • Early stage rocker design for a natural heel-to-toe feel
  • Highly comfortable and cushioned midsole
  • Low  dropping from the heel
  • Very lightweight and fast shoe
  • Cons
    • Toe box is considered narrow for others.
    • Discontinued model that is hard to find
    • Thin tongue can be irritating
    • Key Features
      The outsole of the Clifton consists of abrasion-resistant Compression Molded EVA (CMEVA) rubber. High impact areas of the outsole feature a slightly denser Hi-Abrasion EVA rubber which helps reduce the wear to the exposed softer CMEVA rubber. The outsole is very light and may not seem like it will hold up to extended miles of road friction, but after an initial wearing down, the tread holds up rather well. Some runners bragged about getting over 1,000 miles out of this shoe which is not recommended, but impressive. The combination of rubber materials in its outsole provides just the right amount of durability and traction for a comfortable ride. There were a few complaints of the exposed CMEVA rubber “shredding” after just a few runs, but this is more of a cosmetic issue and does not really affect the durability or traction. This outsole did not change for the Clifton 2 upgrade as most runners got high miles from this shoe.
      CMEVA rubber is also used in the Clifton midsole. This rubber is durable, but lightweight which keeps the maximal midsole from adding weight to the shoe. The midsole features Hoka’s renowned early stage geometry rocker meta which is designed for the shoe's low drop and promotes a natural forward “rolling” movement of the foot. Grooves or cut-outs in the thick midsole help with flexibility and also lighten the shoe. The high rebound properties of the midsole material also offer exceptional impact protection. Runners described a feeling of being propelled forward with every step.

      Most runners will find two Hoka insoles in the box. One is very flat and thin and the other is more customized for the shape of the shoe. Wearers have a choice of using one or both insoles for extra comfort. There were a few complaints of only receiving the customized insole with the shoes.
      The upper of this Clifton shoe is seamless and consists of a less weighing, breathable mesh with numerous thin overlays in the front. The meshed material allows for great airflow into the shoe thus keeping the foot dry. The laminated overlays help give the shoe structure and hold the foot securely in the shoe. The overlays are fused directly to the mesh, not stitched, which reduces the weight of the Clifton shoe and prevents stiffness in the upper. Heavier overlays protect the toe and heel. The tongue of the shoe is made from a thin, almost leather-like material. After many miles, this tongue can become stiff from dried sweat and can create an irritation point on the top part of one foot. This tongue is padded in the Clifton 2 which some runners found to be an improvement and some did not. A standard lacing system allows the runner to customize the fit of the Clifton shoe. The laces that come with the shoe are round and prone to coming undone. They are long enough for double knots which will easily solve the problem.
      The male version of this Clifton shoe weighs an amazing 7.5 (size 9) ounces. Putting to use the CMEVA foam in its midsole keeps the weight of this Clifton shoe down, yet manages to provide all the required support. Wearers new to this Clifton shoe were surprised to find out how lightweight the shoe was despite its oversized midsole and heavy-looking design. The weight and design of this make it ideal for fast speeds and long distances. Although the terms “maximal” and “racer” are a contradictory, this shoe truly is a maximal-racer.
      The slim, mesh upper of these shoes allows good airflow around its toes. On wet runs, wearers said these shoes to be one that drained well and dried quickly. On certain cool runs, the mesh material provides some wind block. The overlays cover much of these shoes but do not interfere with the ventilation. There were very few complaints about the breathability of these shoes.
      All Hoka shoes are known for their plushness and comfort. This is a result of the shoe’s extreme, maximal cushioning and also to the overall construction of this shoe. Many runners describe the shoe as “running on pillows.” Although the Clifton has less cushioning than some models, runners still described the shoe as very plush. Padding in its heel and around the ankle adds additional comfort. The shoe comes with two types of insoles to allow a more natural fit. One is a soft Ortholite material where the other is a standard EVA insole. The EVA insole cups and holds the heel as opposed to the thin Ortholite insole which is very flat and simply adds more cushioning. Runners can select the insole that offers the better fit or use both insoles for more cushioning. Some runners found the shoe to be narrow, especially in the toe box. Hokas tend to run true to size so sizing up may result in a shoe that is too big.
      The big, huge look of the Hoka shoe is not loved by anyone. The shoe’s massive midsole makes them appear heavy and awkward. The Clifton has a slightly thinner midsole (29mm in the heel and 24mm in the forefoot), but still an unmistakable Hoka look. The Clifton's colors are somewhat limited due to the shoe being discontinued, but men will find blue, lime green, and gray options, with a teal and rose model available for women. Diagonal grooves in the midsole create an illusion that the midsole is thinner than it is and also add flexibility to these shoes.
      The Clifton is a durable shoe according to most runners. The CMEVA midsole and outsole are soft but can stand up to many miles of road friction. Runners may discover some scuffing or shredding of the white sections of its outsole tread after a few miles, but this is mostly cosmetic and does not affect the traction of the shoe. The harder colored sections of the tread take on most of the road wear and are very durable. The shoe's thin meshed upper material holds on pretty well and there were no complaints of seam issues or toenails poking through.
      The extreme thickness of the shoe's rockered midsole protects the wearer’s foot from sharp objects and rough pavement. If used on mild trails, the shoe has several protective features for trail running. A thicker overlay across the toe area offers enough shielding to the front part of this shoe. The shoes can be used on trails, but perform best on the roads.
      Despite its look, runners described the Clifton as very springy and not squishy at all. The foot does settle into the midsole, but this helps secure one's foot to the shoe. The rocked midsole design helps propel the runner to the front without losing the responsive feel. The result always has a very sleek feel from its landing through its push-off.
      The Hoka Clifton is advertised as a neutral shoe. The midsole is the main unit for support which keeps the foot stable also on varied and uneven terrain. The cushioned midsole design lets the foot sink inside this shoe instead of riding on top. The shoe is fairly high off the ground, but the midsole provides good stability and prevents excessive lateral movement. Runners new to Hoka shoes described the rockered feel as “different”, but enjoyed the comfort of the shoe.
      The Clifton is in the list as a performance shoe that has components for speed. When used on pavements and sidewalks, this shoe performs very well and has excellent traction. The shoe is normally used on grass, gravel, and mild trails, but the outsole tread is very flat and lacks lugs needed for loose terrain grip. On wet landscapes, this shoe does fairly well.
      Because this shoe is discontinued, prices vary greatly. When it debuted, the price was $130. Runners lucky enough to find the shoe in their size can expect to pay around $100. The shoe’s reputation for durability means runners can expect twice as many miles when compared to comparable running shoes, which ensures money is saved in the end.
      The soft outsole gives the Clifton a greater traction on most hard surfaces. The outlay of the rubber provides a firm grip and runners had no complaints about slipping or sliding, even on wet roads. This shoe is not meant for high technical trails. Runners are looking to find a more supportive shoe with aggressive tread and protective features meant for technical trail running. Keep to the roads and this shoe will perform well.
      The shoe is not highly flexible. A “toe bend-test” results in moderate stiffness throughout the shoe. Diagonal grooves on the midsole add some flexibility, but the thickness of the midsole limits its bendability. Most runners found the flexibility of these shoes to be adequate and did not come across any restriction in their running form. Some stiffness is required for the meta rocker feature to do its job.
      The Clifton is a stable shoe with a wide forefoot platform for solid ground contact. The Hoka rocker midsole design encourages a natural “rolling” movement of the foot from heel to toe. Working with the shoe’s low offset, the cushioned midsole also helps runners maintain proper form. Many runners said the plushness of the shoe helped reduce fatigue in the legs and feet and greatly reduced stress-related injuries. Wearers who strictly used the shoes for walking, found the shoe to be very stable. The cushioning and stability of this shoe makes it very versatile and popular for many activities.
      With a stack height of 29mm in the heel and 24mm in the forefoot, the Clifton sits high off the ground. A drop of 5mm, however, allows for a fairly level position upon landing. Some runners prefer low drop shoes because it helps reduce heel striking which often results in high millage injuries. A low drop in a shoe is said to improve running form and helps with softened landings.
      Key Features
      • Well-cushioned shoe built for distance and speed

      • Durable abrasion-resistant CMEVA rubber outsole

      • Impact protection delivered through CMEVA foam in midsole and outsole

      • No sewn mesh construction in the upper

      • Early Stage Meta-Rocker plan advocates for a good running form

      • Fully established ground touch outsole for stability

      • Good traction on most surfaces

      • 5mm heel-to-toe drop
      Bottom Line
      The Clifton is a lightweight enhanced cushioned shoe designed for speed. Like most Hoka shoes, it stands higher off the ground on a well-cushioned midsole, but a low 5mm drop of the offset allows for a leveled and stable landing. An early stage rocker midsole assists the foot to achieve a fast and energy efficient run. This well-tractioned and versatile shoe can be utilized for many uses from everyday training runs to marathons. The shoe’s incredible light weight and cushioning make it a great choice for long distances races. The shoe is also great for minimal races and everyday activities. Because of it being an original model, supplies are limited. If unable to find the Clifton 1 in your size, consider the Clifton 3 which has many of the same characteristics as the original, plus a few upgrades. Clifton fans had many negative reviews of the second version and many claim the original is still the best.
      Where to Buy
      By Abbie Copeland
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Jul. 26. 2021

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