Now in its 9th generation, the HOKA Clifton is still the brand’s most popular model and the shoe that brought maximal cushioning into the mainstream.
The high stack of cushioning and lower heel-to-forefoot drop ratio are now instantly recognizable and have made the shoe the massive success it is today.
The HOKA Clifton 9 drops the weight just a little but manages to increase the amount of cushioning at the same time.
Hoka Clifton 9 – First Impression
The shoe fits true to size in terms of the rest of the HOKA range. However, UK wearers new to the brand should take care as HOKA use only a half-size conversion from a US size to UK size compared to most other brands’ full size (HOKA US10=UK9.5).
The newly engineered mesh upper is a step up from previous versions and has a better-quality feel and finish about it.
There’s a nice level of padding and the foot slides nicely into the shoe thanks to the Achilles tab that flares gently away to remove any possible irritation.
Hoka Clifton 9 – The Tech
When it comes to technical features, there’s not too much to talk about here.
Whilst the midsole is a new compression-molded EVA blend, it remains just that. There’s no super-foam, TPU, or PEBA here.
The CM-EVA stack has been increased by 3 mm from the previous version, although most would probably struggle to notice that difference.
The HOKA Clifton 9 features the brand’s early-stage Meta-Rocker for a smooth entry into the gait cycle. This slightly cut-away heel essentially catches the foot strike and guides it smoothly into the midfoot.
The updated outsole pattern does seem to offer coverage and as a result, should provide better durability.
There is reinforced rubber now, covering the vast majority of the exposed parts of EVA that might come into contact with the road.
Hoka Clifton 9 – Road Test
The step-in feel of the shoe is great, the foot slides into place thanks to that flared heel tab, and when on the go that flare ensures minimal contact with the Achilles.
The upper has a twin-layer construction. A lining sits beneath an engineered mesh, and together they offer a great fit and lots of breathability.
There’s still neat padding in the tongue, something which I like, particularly in a daily trainer from a general comfort perspective.
The sock-liner of the shoe is the standard for HOKA and remains the same pretty thin style previously used.
An improvement here would instantly lift the shoe in terms of comfort and be a low-cost way to provide an instant benefit.
With a 5 mm drop and the early-stage meta rocker, you can feel the heel of the shoe sink when you first stand in the shoes.
Combined with the soft cushioning, I’ve always questioned the reasoning behind this rocker and low drop. To me, a low-drop shoe should encourage a more midfoot strike, and the early-stage meta rocker seems a little counter-productive. However, it’s a design many find great, so who am I to argue?
The ride is soft, and the foot does roll through nicely, even on the longer (10mile+) runs I did in the shoes. There’s no arguing with the overall comfort.
I also tried a 10k road race in the shoes. Ok, so I wasn’t going full-tilt in this event, running around a 6-minute-per-mile pace. The shoe was again ok, but at a faster pace, you notice that there isn’t the same level of response that you get from something like a Brooks Ghost or Mizuno Wave Rider.
The CM-EVA just doesn’t have any of that ‘pop’ or ‘spring’ that newer midsole compounds offer. This was an issue with shoes such as the Rocket X* and Carbon X, with great Carbon plates but a standard foam midsole.
*Rocket X2 does have a new midsole and is due on sale very soon.
Durability looks to be holding up pretty well, with around 50 miles on the shoes so far there’s little sign of wear, so the slightly different outsole pattern is holding up well.
There are no signs of scuffing to the exposed areas of the CM-EVA which did use to be an issue for some runners on earlier versions.
Hoka Clifton 9 – Conclusion
Part of the reason many shoe models remain successful is that they retain the key features of the shoe throughout their various generations. The HOKA Clifton 9 is true to this and can easily be traced back through its generations.
But given the advances in footwear technology that have taken place during the lifespan of the Clifton’s 9 generations, it’s a little disappointing that the shoe still uses a CM-EVA midsole.
HOKA haven’t even got around to giving their CM-EVA a name. With the rise of super-shoes and their various midsole technologies, it’s time to see such advances in the brand’s bestseller.
Perhaps HOKA is holding out with something special lined up for the 10th-anniversary model of the Clifton? Let’s hope so, and if they are, it will give the shoe the boost it deserves to keep pace with the fast-moving daily trainer pack.