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Review: Hoka One One Clifton 5 || Iterative changes from 4th gen

The Clifton 5 is a reliable trainer, most suitable for easy days and recovery runs.

The fifth-generation Hoka One One Clifton 5 arrived in retail stores a few months ago, and the fourth-generation Clifton 4 (my review) is being phased out (REI clearance here). It is available in two versions:

I was sent the standard Clifton 5 for review. Both styles are available in wide sizing.

Review: Hoka One One Clifton 5

The standard Clifton 5 fits and performs nearly identically to its predecessor. It will best fit average-width and average-volume feet, with a comfort range that extends both bigger and smaller. It fits true to size. Its rockered outsole and ample midsole foam results in a smooth and cushioned ride, for both heel and mid-foot strikers.

Personally, the Clifton 5 (and the Clifton 4 before it) has been my go-to for easy runs and recovery days on paved surfaces and gravel roads. I’d recommend it as a reliable everyday trainer. When I want to run fast or run on trails, I reach for other shoes.

The outsole has rubber only in the most abrasion-prone areas. It’s unconventional, but it works.

Key product specs

  • Height: 29mm (heel) to 24 mm (forefoot)
  • Drop: 5 mm
  • Weight: 9.4 oz (M’s size 9); 7.6 oz (W’s size 7)
  • Midsole: EVA foam
  • Outsole: Low-profile rubber, only in high-abrasion areas
  • Upper: Breathable mesh with minimal exoskleton
  • MSRP: $130
  • More product specs


Clifton 5 vs. Clifton 4

If this were a review of two successive Altra shoes, I’d be writing about the Clifton 4.0 and the Clifton 4.5. The “Clifton 5” implies a generational change, but in reality only iterative changes were made. The Clifton 4 and Clifton 5 share the exact same:

  • Last shape,
  • Midsole thickness and density,
  • Outsole layout and rubber compound,
  • Weight (9.4 oz, an increase of just 0.1 oz over the 4), and
  • MSRP, at $130.

The most significant difference (and, overall, it’s pretty minor) is that the upper of the Clifton 5 has fewer overlays than the Clifton 4, to improve breathability and flexibility. I notice the difference, but it’s slight. Frankly, I thought the Clifton 4 upper was already pretty good in both respects.

Nearly everything that that I included in my Clifton 4 review will apply to the Clifton 5, too.

The most significant difference between the Clifton 4 and Clifton 5 is the upper, but overall it is still very subtle: the 5 has less overlays, making the upper more flexible and breathable.

Clifton 5 (left) versus Clifton 4 (right). If you’re not seeing any differences, you’d be correct.

A reliable everyday trainer

In its marketing literature, Hoka describes the Clifton 5 as being “light, cushy and very, very fast.” Historically, the Clifton was both light and cushy (e.g. my Clifton 2 review). (I’m not sure it was ever fast — the marshmellow-y midsole slowed turnover speed and absorbed toe-off power.) But the Clifton 5 is really none of these things:

  • 9.4 oz is middle-of-the-pack.
  • It’s nicely cushioned, but not “cushy” (it’s less plush than that) and certainly not marshmellow-y.
  • And, sorry, a 9.4-oz shoe with a semi-soft 28-mm heel stack is just not going to be fast.

For a truly “light, cushy, and very, very fast,” shoe, consider the Hoka One One Cavu (my review) or its smoother and better fitting sibling, the Hoka One One Mach ($140, 8.2 oz). I have worn through a pair of each, and found them both well suited for road workouts and long runs, when I wanted a light and fast shoe but didn’t want to hammer my legs with minimalist racing flats.

I have found that the Clifton 5 is best suited for easy outings and recovery runs, i.e. it’s just a modest everyday trainer. I put 430 miles on the Clifton 4 (which have life left still), and so far 250 miles on the Clifton 5. Some of these distances were in the form of 20-mile long runs or inconsequential faster reps (e.g. a handful of striders at the end of a run or while warming up for a track session), but most of the miles were very average. That may not sound inspiring, but these types of miles constitute the bulk of most training systems, and the Clifton 5 is perfect for them.

The upper is soft and breathable

Have questions about the Clifton 5? Leave a comment.


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6 Responses to Review: Hoka One One Clifton 5 || Iterative changes from 4th gen

  1. Jennifer Froemming August 12, 2018 at 3:13 pm #

    Dispose of this shoe and return to 4 Bondi. I love Hoka until they changed. I’m an RN, my sister is an RN, we turned lots on to Hoka 4 not any more.

  2. Ben D August 13, 2018 at 10:02 am #

    Clifton 1: 7.8oz
    Clifton 5: 9.4oz

    They turned a lightweight, but well-cushioned shoe into a brick. I don’t get it.

    • Andrew Skurka August 13, 2018 at 10:59 am #

      I’ll add another spec: Clifton 2 was 7.7 oz.

      Having worn out a pair of the Clifton 2, 4, and part of a 5, I think I know the explanation for this trend. The source of the weight increase is mostly in the midsole, a little bit in the outsole, and a little bit in the upper.

      The newer uppers are more padded. The Clifton 2 was pretty thin, but it fit me so well that I never complained.

      The newer outsoles have more rubber. The Clifton 2 was missing rubber in key areas.

      The biggest thing though is is the midsole. The newer midsoles are notably more firm and dense. Much less air in them. So the newer midsoles last longer for everyone, and don’t collapse in high-stress spots for runners with sub-par biomechanics. I’m a fairly efficient runner and I’m not a Clydesdale, so I didn’t experience this latter problem, but I’ve seen runners with older pairs (at this point, they were relegated to cutting the lawn or walking around the office) and you could observe crazy deformation in the midsole, causing their posture to be all out of whack. If used for running, that kind of failure is going to lead to a lot of discomfort, and probably injuries.

      The good news for runners is that Hoka didn’t abandon the light-and-cushioned shoe. They just forced you to look elsewhere. Look at the Cavu and Mach. Both are around the weight of a the original Clifton’s, fit nicely, and have good cushion.

  3. Ron Bell August 13, 2018 at 1:05 pm #

    I sooooooo miss the Clifton 1 and 2. Those were *special shoes* (most like the original Hoka Stinson) for wide toed folks and long runs when the feet swell. They had a much wider forefoot and a significantly more curved last… room for your big to move to then inside. I tried the Clifton 5’s on a pubrun 5K and for sure they are designed for Morton Big Middle Toe Mutants ( aka: Normal People) and NOT for Altra Lovin’ Big Fore Foot Apes like me.

  4. Jon S August 14, 2018 at 3:15 am #

    700 miles in the 2 350 miles in the 4 both shoes are done but the 4 sole shows more wear.

  5. Cb August 14, 2018 at 9:36 am #

    Thanks for the review, especially appreciate the comparison between 5 and 4 as I’ve been curious about the marketing that the 5 midsole is less dense and softer than the 4.

    Taking durability out of the equation, the 2 was my favorite. Adding in durability, the 4 wins. But really it’s a comparison of apples to oranges. I could only justify(and afford) models 1-3 if purchased at clearance prices. Loved the softness but for me that only lasted for 200 miles or so. I’d wear them for 300-350 miles but after 200 they felt dead. While I am light, my footstrike isn’t and I do a lot of up and down running which broke them down prematurely. The 4 has been very durable and has offered a less cushy but more consistent ride experience. I like it. But don’t love it how I did the first 200 miles of Clifton 1-3.

    For tempos and faster runs, I like the Mach. It’s holding up well. Superior to all the Cliftons for this type of running.

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