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Review: Hoka One One Clifton 4 || Reliable road trainer, but not characteristically Clifton

The Clifton 4, a firm (by Hoka standards) daily road running shoe that will best fit normal and wide feet.

The Clifton 2 was my first shoe from Hoka One One. I loved it: its plush midsole was wonderful; its last fit my narrow-ish feet; its reinforced upper provided good control, to the degree that I occasionally used it on moderate trails; and its weight was feathery, all things considered. (Read my full review.) But after running 550+ miles in them, they needed replacement.

Review: Hoka One One Clifton 4

Naturally, I looked to the recently released Hoka One One Clifton 4, the fourth (and newest) generation. Hoka describes it as having an “air of refinement” relative to earlier iterations, and states that, “we believe Clifton 4 is the best Clifton yet.”

In some respects, it is. It’s a reliable daily trainer for roads and non-technical trails. Consider that I have laced up mine — which were generously sent by Hoka — for nearly every road session since I received them, now totalling over 100 miles.

But the Clifton 4 is not characteristically Clifton. The midsole is firmer and heavier; the last is wider and shaped differently; and the construction of the upper has changed. It therefore has different optimal users and uses than earlier generations. Existing Clifton fans may not be thrilled by C4, but it will still find an audience.

Key specs

  • Weight: 9.3 oz M’s US 9; 11.3 oz M’s 11.5
  • Stack height: 29 mm/25 mm at heel/toe, respectively
  • Drop: 5 mm
  • Midsole: EVA that is firmer than earlier generations
  • Outsole: Low-profile rubber, only in high-abrasion areas
  • Last: Average and wide feet
  • Upper: Breathable mesh with minimal exoskleton
  • MSRP: $130
  • More product specs

The Clifton 4 seems to fit true to size. My review pair is size 11.5, as were my Clifton 2’s. I am also size 11.5 in Altra, Merrell, Salewa, and Salomon; and size 45.5 in La Sportiva.


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Fit

The Clifton 4 will best fit medium and wide feet. In comparison, the Clifton 3 was designed for medium feet, and the Clifton 2 was snugger, notably in the forefoot.

The shape of the last seems to have changed, too. While the shoe is wider, it seems to fit straighter feet, whereas earlier generations (or at least the Clifton 2) had more curvature, providing more room for the big toe.

This single factor changes the Clifton 4’s core customer. If you love, say, the Altra Instinct or Lone Peak (my review), you should now also consider the Clifton 4. Whereas if you loved earlier Clifton generations or, say, the La Sportiva Bushido (my review), you probably will have to look elsewhere.

Upper

In addition to the wider last, the new upper construction also contributes to the wider-feeling fit. Previous generations were made of breathable mesh and a reinforcing TPU exoskeleton.

The Clifton 4 upper is made of highly breathable mesh, which helps to reduce the buildup of heat and perspiration.

The Clifton 4 upper is less reinforced, which improves foot mobility and air-permeability, but which reduces lateral and fore/aft control. The cumulative effect is noticeable: whereas I felt like the trail-worthiness of the Clifton 2 was limited only by its road-oriented outsole, I keep the Clifton 4 on roads and flat graveled surfaces only.

As with the Speeedgoat, the Clifton 4 features elasticized laces. In theory, this could improve fit and comfort, but I’d prefer standard static laces, which are more secure and more durable, and which retain less water.

Comparison of the Clifton 2 (red) and Clifton 4 uppers. Notice how the Clifton 4 is less reinforced. This improves foot mobility and breathability, but reduces foot control.

Midsole

In my view, the typical Hoka shoe is “marshmellowy” — they’re like pillows for your feet. The squishiness has drawbacks (e.g. lack of sensitivity on technical trails), but it eliminates — or at least greatly minimizes — any sense of “pounding.” In the Speedgoat 2 (read my review), for instance, I can barrel through gravel beds and leap down log staircases with minimal caution.

The Clifton 4 is notably firmer, especially when new. It’s soft enough, but not “Hoka soft.” The change does improve responsiviness (and therefore speed), and probably midsole longevity, too.

Outsole

Perhaps my chief complaint about the Clifton 2 was its outsole, which was stingy on rubber, notably in the push-off zone for the big toe. No surprise, the exposed foam became disproportionately worn in this area, and was the most limiting factor in the shoe’s lifespan. This was fixed for the Clifton 3, and remains fixed for the Clifton 4.

The exposed foam elsewhere on the outsole proved to not be a concern on the Clifton 2. The design is unconventional, but seems to work, and helps reduce the shoe weight.

Outsole of Clifton 2 (right) and Clifton 4, which feature rubber only in high-abrasion areas. The Clifton 2 lacked rubber in one critical spot, below the big toe. That has been fixed for the Clifton 4.

What questions about the Clifton 4 do you have? Or what has been your experience with them?

Learn more about the Clifton 4


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