While HOKA ONE ONE has become synonymous with maximum cushioning, the Clifton is different, and we were excited to try out the range of the company's footwear. We were instantly impressed with how comfortable the Clifton is and found it to be a good potential choice for runners looking for more cushioning than a traditional shoe but still not quite as much as the Bondi provides. This shoe ranked lower than some of its competitors for its less comfortable upper and not-as-responsive sole. Scoring highly in the support and weight categories, the Clifton had solid performance overall but ultimately evaded one of our coveted awards.
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 4 ReviewPrice: $130 List | $78.75 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Great landing, very supportive, lightweight
Cons: Not as responsive, upper is less comfortable
Bottom line: The Clifton 4 is a narrow shoe with a great landing and excellent side support.
Sizes Available: 5 - 11
Upper Material: Mesh, puff print
Manufacturer: HOKA ONE ONE
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Clifton is a solid shoe designed for comfort, and we found this to be true in the landing but not the upper. Our testers appreciated the supportive reinforcements and lightweight of this shoe, but it failed to win an award due to its lack of responsiveness.
The Clifton 4 was one of our top performers, but it pales in comparison to some of its high scoring competitors.
This scoring metric was designed for the Clifton 4. We loved the soft, plush landing in this shoe and scored it a 9/10 in this category. Only out-ranked by its sibling, the HOKA ONE ONE Bondi, the Clifton's ride was both smooth and comfortable.
This shoe's performance in this category was similar to those of the Brooks Glycerin, and with only a half of a point separating these two models' total scores, it's a toss-up to which is a better buy. Their landing comforts are very similar, and we think that both may have too much cushioning for the average runner. We appreciated shoes with a better balance of cushioning and responsiveness, like that of the Brooks Adrenaline GTS.
The Clifton is more cushioned than most shoes in this review, and we think that it would make for an excellent long-run trainer or for athletes with injuries who need a little extra cushion to soften the blow of dozens of miles.
In some reviews we write here at OutdoorGearLab, the scoring metrics are unrelated, and so we look for the highest scores possible. With running shoes, categories can come at the price of others. A highly responsive shoe is going to be less cushioned, and a shoe with maximum padding is going to be less responsive. Our favorite shoes were ones that found a nice middle ground, even if, on paper, that resulted in lower scores in some categories. The Clifton is more comfortable than it is responsive, but not every runner needs a significant bounce in their step.
Compared to the Bondi, whose intense padding limit its responsiveness significantly, the Clifton is more towards the middle of the pack. We found its performance to be similar to the Altra Escalante in this category, but the fit and feel of these two shoes are entirely different. The Escalante falls flat because of its minimalistic design, while the Clifton is the opposite. We scored the Glycerin, the Clifton's closest competitor, just a little bit higher in this category. At the end of the day, we still were looking for more responsiveness in a potential Editors' Choice Award winner, which is one of the reasons why the Adrenaline jumped so far ahead of the pack.
For such a highly cushioned shoe, we were surprised to see that the upper didn't match. The Clifton's tongue is not as padded as some of its competitors, and the toe was significantly more narrow than the Bondi.
This is one category that we can start to judge as soon as we take a shoe out of its box. With the Clifton and the Bondi, we were disappointed that their great underfoot cushioning was met with less cushioned uppers. Compared to those of the three Brooks models we tested, the tongue, heel, and sides are just not as plush, and we started to feel this on our long runs.
The material of the Clifton is soft, but what got to us with this shoe was the narrow toe box. We read many reviews online about each model we tested, and in this case, we were able to confirm our suspicions. We didn't test the previous version of this shoe, but we can say that we were surprised at how narrow the shoe fit when compared to the Bondi. We would highly recommend trying on these shoes before purchasing as this could be a deal breaker for many runners.
Stability and support are usually features included in a shoe for runners who overpronate or whose strides needs a little bit of push in the right direction. And while the Clifton isn't designated as a stability shoe, we did appreciate its supportive features.
Earning a high score in this category, only out-scored by the Adrenaline GTS, the Clifton has wonderfully printed overlays on the side of the foot. This excellent reinforcement, along with a sturdy heel, makes for a comfortable and confident step. No matter the distance, our testers liked having a more robust shoe. Unlike the minimal Escalante, the Clifton leaves you feeling snug and secure so you can stride with abandon.
Our testers believe that weight should only be used as a secondary scoring category for shoes since characteristics like comfort and support often add up in weight. We did have to recognize the Clifton, however, for having one of the lowest weights in this review without compromising these important qualities.
While weight is substantial, what matters is at what cost. While the Bondi's weight is justified by its ample cushioning, for example, it's more difficult to explain the heavy weight of the ASICS GEL-Cumulus. The Clifton is surprisingly light for being so padded, and at 8.0 ounces per shoe is one of the lightest shoes we tested. Ounces may or may not be important to you, but we had to hand it to HOKA on this one.
The Clifton is best for athletes who are running longer distances at a slower pace or who are nursing, or preventing, injuries. The extra padding makes for a soft landing, but the narrow fit of the upper limits its range, and we strongly suggest trying this shoe on before purchasing, since the fit has been an issue in the newest iteration of this shoe, the Clifton 4, when compared to older versions.
At $130, the Clifton is slightly on the higher side of the shoes we tested. When compared to the Glycerin, its closest competitor, at $150, we believe the choice will have been made based on support and weight versus upper comfort. Our testers agreed that the Glycerin's incredible upper justifies its high price tag, but the savings on the Clifton are a nice bonus as well. Overall, the Clifton is priced appropriately when compared to its competition, and we wouldn't let the price deter you from it if it's the right shoe for you.
Overall, our testers had mixed feelings on the Clifton. With a soft landing and tons of lateral support, we initially loved this shoe. However, its narrow fit and less padded upper wore on us, and we ended up liking the Glycerin more. Their scores were virtually the same, separated by only half of a point. The Clifton could easily be the shoe for you if landing comfort is supreme, but we highly recommend trying it on first. At the end of the day, the Clifton failed to take home an award because it was more padded than we think is necessary for the average runner with not enough responsiveness or upper comfort.
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Most recent review: January 30, 2018
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