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HOKA Clifton 9 running shoe review

Let take a look at the Hoka CLIFTON 9 running shoes with a full rundown test and review. The HOKA Clifton 9 are the perfect pavement pounder for any runner who prioritises both cushioning and comfort in a running shoe.

HOKA’s larger-than-life shoes are known in running communities as the ultra-marathoner shoe of choice. This was something I was initially skeptical to vouch for a new brand to me until I started taking the shoes out for my long runs and the recent Singapore Army Half Marathon. Let’s delve into a comprehensive review of these shoes, examining their design, performance, and durability.

Let's take the Hoka Clifton 9 out for a through review.
Let’s take the Hoka Clifton 9 out for a through review.

The Hoka Brand

Hoka was named after a Māori phrase meaning “fly over the earth”. The brand created a model with an oversized outsole that had more cushion than other running shoes at the time. Moreover, the shoe’s history is rooted in a quest for downhill speed, conceived by Hoka founders Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard in 2009.

Yes it is a Hoka alright, a distinct large consistent logo spot found on almost their entire line of shoes.
Yes it is a Hoka alright, a distinct large consistent logo spot found on almost their entire line of shoes.

Since, the brand have offered a diverse product line, featuring low-profile and max-cushioning shoes for road, trail, and all-terrain running. Also, it is worth noting not all shoes in Hoka range spots is recognisable ostentatiously thick mid-sole and so for only their range, which is favoured by ultra-long distance runners all around the world.

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Shoe box
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Out for a run!
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Bottom sole

Design and Construction

At first impressions, the CLIFTON 9 presents itself with a slightly larger size compared to conventional running shoes. It deviates from the prevailing trend of smaller and lightweight designs. This is a trademark of their shoes. Hoka first gained attention in the running industry by producing shoes with oversized outsoles. The brand’s signature is the oversized midsole, known as “maximalist,” distinguishes them as the “fat bike” of running shoes.

The distinctive orange may be tad ostentatious for some, but has good night visibility.
The distinctive orange may be tad ostentatious for some, but has good night visibility.

The CLIFTON 9 incorporates recycled content mesh and a new EVA midsole. Also, the front toe mesh area is nicely well blended into the shoe design. You can’t tell the difference between the interfaces from the shoe’s body and the mesh area. Also, to go on with the exaggeration, the front rubber toe does also extend from the sole and runs pretty high up midway to the toe box too.

Traditional laces and a largely padded shoe box.
Traditional laces and a largely padded shoe box.

Additionally, the nose ultra-light mesh is very breathable. It provides for a comfortable environment for your toes, while doing a reasonably good job in preventing large splashes of water through the front mesh.

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Shoe front mesh
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High rear lip keeps sand out
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Non marking sole

Interesting tapered heel

Moreover, the heel area has an unconventional tapered edge, contributes to a slight V-shaped profile. This is contrary to most running shows which has a more stable stationary flat profile. You might experience tad of a rocking feel when you first put on your Hoka shoes and standing up. This combination of an Ultra-Plush Heel and what Hoka calls an Early Stage Meta-Rocker, and Flat-Waisted Geometry delivers a rocking sensation during the initial strides.

Clifton 9 is well constructed with refreshing unconventional proportions.
Clifton 9 is well constructed with refreshing unconventional proportions.

Interestingly, I found the Hoka’s slight V-shaped profile aids in your heel strikes and helps in pronation on your feet when your heel strikes the ground. This what HOKA claims, their early stage Meta-Rocker technology supports an ergonomic running style. This could add-up to less fatigue over longer runs given lesser material to compress at with each foot strike. It makes these shoes an ideal choice for going the distance and last longer for high-mileage runs through reducing fatigue.

The Hoka Clifton 9 supports an ergonomic running style with a taper rear heel
The Hoka Clifton 9 supports an ergonomic running style with a taper rear heel.

Weight and Comfort

On the shoe construction, the Clifton 9 inner shoe is padded, albeit quite thinly, this gives what Hoka touts as a lightweight design. The Clifton 9 weighs just under 250 grams (247g) per shoe for a US 9 sized shoe. Also, the shoe’s less-than generously padded inner shoe contributes to some weight-saving, allowing for the shoe to shave off some weight which would otherwise be much heavier for a shoe this size.

Inner sole, specifically named for the Clifton 9.
Inner sole, specifically named for the Clifton 9.

Still, the CLIFTON 9 is not the lightest option on the market. Comparatively, the Hoka sits in heavier than the 225g Decathlon Kiprun KS Light and a much lighter than Mizuno Wave Creation 20 (330g), a personal long-distance favourite of mine. Still, the effective energy recovery compensates for the added weight, making it a suitable companion for long-distance pavement pounding. Also, I found the CLIFTON 9 cleverly conceals its weight during runs, thanks to an impressive energy return that mitigates fatigue. This feature allows runners to cover more ground before feeling the onset of tiredness.

Very good energy return

The CLIFTON 9 is equipped with a super-soft midsole that excels at impact absorption. It provides for very good cushioning in its class and weight, making for an ideal choice for daily use and high-mileage use. On my runs, the shoe does hide its weight well. The generous amount of energy-return back to you which does make the shoe feel lighter than it is and reduces the onset of fatigue by pavement pounding. It’s makes up for its heavier weight, this good energy recovery allowing you to run further before feeling tired.

The shoe is a pretty good pavement pounder.
The shoe is a pretty good pavement pounder.

I can see the thick mid sole being able to stand up to prolonged distances without being uncompliant or start to show signs of cushioning ineffectiveness. Also, there is quite a thick mid-sole to go and last you for your long runs. Also, the amount of padding and cushioning is more generous than the Decathlon top of the line Kiprun KS Light we previously looked at.

Sole Construction and Durability

The sole of the CLIFTON 9 exhibits a three-part construction with contact pads attached to the bottom. These rubber bits are non-marking and does not loudly screech on surfaces.

Really thick midsole which take up over half the shoe's height.
Really thick midsole which take up over half the shoe’s height.

In my experience on high-mileage durability of shoes, the peeling of the rubber soles are usually the first signs of wear and damage to the shoe. Unless if you are able to repair the sole by gluing it back (not a difficult fix which can prolong the lifespan of your shoes), most cases would spell a trip to the bin and the end of the shoe’s lifespan for most runners.

It is worth noting that the shoe rubber soles are excessively more complicated than it should. It comprises of a string of long yellow rubber strips which runs diagonally along the length of the shoe. These thin rubber strips results in a small effective contact patch of the shoe, meaning there is less energy lost to sole friction.

The rather complex thin rubber sole bits in yellow.
The rather complex thin rubber sole bits in yellow. These are glued on a strategic spots to minimise your rubber contact patch.

Moreover, the Clifton 9 rubber soles are held up by glue. Hence, the longevity of the rubber pieces remains a question. Over time, wear and tear might impact the adherence of these rubber components to the shoe. It appears the robust design is capable of withstanding prolonged distances without losing compliance or cushioning effectiveness.

Only time will tell whether the glue used in the sole is lasting for these to stick on. Otherwise, the mostly likely failure methods are parts of the sole peeling and flapping off yet still connected to the sole.

Durability Test at 300km

At this point of writing, I had put about 300km into this pair I am reviewing. It had accompanied me on the recent Army Half Marathon earlier this August. Sadly, from experience, usually at distances past 300km, these rubber sole pieces on most mainstream shoes brands tend to start peeling off with the midsole going stiff.

This includes even those from top running shoe ranges from Reebok, New Balance, Nike and Decalthon. This is with the exception of Mizuno running shoes, which are legendary in lasting over 1000km in my tests, with the rubber soles completely wearing out flat even before they start peeling off.

Taking the Clifton 9 out on the paces in the wild.
Taking the Clifton 9 out on the paces in the wild.

Still, the Clifton 9 is holding up very well and has exhibited remarkable durability. This bodes well for the long-term durability of the Hoka CLIFTON 9, potentially outlasting competitors in the market. Everything looks good so far, and do have good hopes for Hoka.

Sizing and Fit

Wrapping up on sizing. Hoka shoes, including the CLIFTON 9, are known to be half a size larger than mainstream shoes. For example, a US size 9 in Hoka might equate to a US size 9.5 in Mizuno, and size 10 in Asics shoes. Also, the availability of wider D and 2E sizes caters to individuals with broader feet, offering a comfortable fit for a diverse range of runners. Notably, New balance US 9 2E sizes are the same as Hoka’s.

The Hoka Clifton 9 made for the distance. A recommended shoe.
The Hoka Clifton 9 made for the distance. A recommended shoe.

In conclusion, the Hoka CLIFTON 9 emerges as an excellent choice for runners prioritizing cushioning and comfort over lightweight designs. Its is a marathon-capable show with distinctive features, including the oversized midsole, effective energy return, and durable construction, position it as the perfect pavement pounder for those tackling extensive distances.

While the weight may be slightly higher than some counterparts, the overall performance and durability make the CLIFTON 9 a reliable companion for the daily run and even marathons.

Hoka CLIFTON 9 running shoes

Pros

  • Excellent cushioning with great energy return.
  • Retains mid-sole compliance after long distances.
  • Comfortable padded fit.
  • Marathon capable.

Cons

  • Colours and design may be tad ostentatious.
  • Could be expensive for current year models.
  • Design are permutations of the same format.

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