Clifton 6 Available Now
HOKA ONE ONE released the Clifton 6, which features embroidered stitching on the upper, designed to offer support and keep the foot in place without adding extra weight. Compare the Clifton 6 (left) to the Clifton 5 we tested (right)
We are now linking to the updated Clifton above, but the text to follow is our report of the Clifton 5.
Hands-On Review of the Clifton 5
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 light weight of this shoe, but it failed to win an award due to its lack of responsiveness.
The Clifton 5 was one of our top performers, but it pales in comparison to some of its high scoring competitors.
Checking out the new Clifton 5 from HOKA
This scoring metric was designed for the Clifton 5. We loved the soft, plush landing in this shoe, earning it one of the highest scores in this category. Only outranked 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 that 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.
Ample cushioning and a supportive heel make the Clifton great for distance running.
In some reviews, 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.
A close-up of the Clifton's padded, supportive toe
Compared to the Bondi, whose intense padding limit its responsiveness significantly, the Clifton falls towards the middle of the pack. Its performance is similar to the Altra Escalante in this metric, 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.
The Clifton features a super comfy, padded upper.
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 excellent 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 online reviews 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. 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.
The Clifton has a great, supportive structure.
Our testers believe that weight should only be used as a secondary scoring category for shoes since characteristics like comfort and support are basics requirements for a running shoe. 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 challenging to explain the heavy weight of the ASICS GEL-Cumulus. The Clifton is surprisingly light for being so padded, but at 8.4 ounces per shoe, it's still on the heavier side in this review. Ounces may or may not be important to you, but we had to hand it to HOKA on this one.
The Clifton is excellent 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. We strongly suggest trying this shoe on before purchasing, since the fit has been an issue in the newest iteration of this shoe.
Yosemite's endless paths are a great place to test out the distance-driven Clifton.
At $130, the Clifton is on the higher side of the shoes we tested. When compared to the Glycerin, its closest competitor ($150), we believe the choice will have been made based on support and weight versus upper comfort. 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.
Our testers had mixed feelings on the Hoka ONE ONE 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 appreciating 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.
All smiles with happy feet in the HOKA Clifton 5