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Review: Hoka Clifton 2 || Featherlight, plush, & well fitting running shoe

The Hoka Clifton 2, a featherweight and generously cushioned running shoe that excels on paved surfaces.

Count me among the Hoka One One skeptics when it first arrived on the scene. I assumed the exceptional stack height would translate into a wobbly ride. I was turned off by the obnoxious color pallette. And I observed one client destroy a new pair in just 60 (hard) miles in the High Sierra.

But based on the brand’s growth, clearly I was missing something. So when Campsaver offered to send me the Hoka One One Clifton 2 for review (in an attractive cherry red, no less), I jumped on the opportunity.

Review: Hoka One One Clifton 2

The Hoka One One Clifton 2 is a featherweight running shoe with plush midsole cushioning and a secure upper that excels on easy and moderate runs on paved surfaces.

It will be most comfortable and natural for runners with small- or medium-volume feet, neutral pronation, and a forefoot or midfoot foot strike.

The Clifton 2 has been replaced by the Clifton 3, which seems identical except for a slightly wider forefoot that should be better for medium-volume feet.


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Key product specs

  • Weight: 7.7 oz (M’s 9), 6.6 oz (W’s 7), 9.7 oz (my M’s 11.5)
  • Stack height: 29 mm (heel) and 24 mm (forefoot)
  • Drop: 5 mm
  • Upper: Breathable mesh with reinforced overlay
  • Pronation: Neutral
  • MSRP: $130, now at Campsaver for $85

Personal use

In six weeks I have run 150+ miles in the Clifton 2, about 100 miles more than I needed to solidify my opinion of them. For any easy or moderate run on paved surfaces (and sometimes with sections of gravel or singetrack), they are my first pick.

The $130 retail price is mid-tier and would give me pause. But at $85 from Campsaver they are very attractive, and I have considered buying a second pair with personal funds. Free shoes are great, but shoes that I like to wear are even better.

Weight

At 7.7 oz the Clifton 2 is a featherweight. In my closet, only the Salomon Sonic Pro 2 (which I will race in next month at the Boston Marathon) is lighter, at 7.2 oz.

Normally I prefer a heavier training shoe, because the extra weight translates into more cushioning and durability. So far at least, I have not found tradeoffs for its airiness; and I’ve enjoyed feeling more light-footed than normal on my easy days.

In my size M11.5

Fit

I have a small-volume foot with a narrower width. For context, the Salomon Sense Pro (my long-term review) has been a longstanding favorite, and I tend to swim in Altras. I’m a reliable size 11.5.

The Clifton 2 fits me perfectly, in both shape and size. For runners with wider feet or who prefer a slightly wider toebox, you might consider the Clifton 3.

Without even putting on the Altra Provision (left), Hoka Clifton 2 (middle), and Salomon Sense Pro (right), you can see that the Clifton and Sense Pro share a more similar shape than the Provision, which is notably wider.

Upper

The breathable upper has the right balance of stiffness and suppleness. It’s secure and stable, but never pinchy.

After 150 miles the upper shows no signs of wear. However, the shoe has not been subjected to abrasion and it has never been caught in the rain. (Blame the recent May-like weather along Colorado’s Front Range, not the reviewer.)

Tongue

The tongue is one of two complaints that I have about the Clifton 2. Its tip is too stiff, which can cause minor tenderness at the crease of my foot/leg. I would prefer it be softer, but making it shorter or more cushioned would have been an improvement, too.

The tongue is one of my two complaints. It’s badly positioned and stiff, which can cause tenderness.

Cushioning

The Clifton’s enormous stack height, courtesy of 25 mm to 29 mm of EVA foam, is one of Hoka’s signature features. Its softness makes road-running much more tolerable; “pounding miles” is no longer such an apt description.

The cushioning comes at a price, however. The shoe feels mushy, like a road bike with under-inflated tires. It’s not a responsive shoe, with energy undoubtedly lost during push-off. I therefore do not recommend the Clifton 2 for fast workouts or races, assuming you can tolerate a firmer shoe for those applications.

The midsole/outsole is flared, i.e. it’s wider than the base of the upper. This counterbalances the top-heavy design, and makes the shoe much more stable than appearance would suggest. If not for its road-oriented outsole, I would be willing to take it on Boulder’s most technical trails, even with the mushy cushioning.

Outsole

The Hoka One One Clifton 2 has a low-profile outsole that is designed for paved surfaces. It has poor traction in loose soils and mud; it’s acceptable on packed trails. The outsole rubber appears largely unphased by 150+ miles of use.

I’m baffled why Hoka did not cover the entire outsole with rubber. Instead, in a number of places — including high-torque areas in the forefoot — the “outsole” is exposed midsole foam. The abrasion-resistance of this foam is a fraction of outsole rubber, and I fear the lifespan of the Clifton 2 will be needlessly shortened by this design decision.

The outsole design is mystifying to me, because the foam “outsole” is not wear-resistant relative to conventional outsole rubber. The lifespan of this shoe may end prematurely early due to this design decision.

Buy the Clifton 2 now from Campsaver


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