Hoka Clifton 9 Running Shoe Review

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The Hoka Clifton 9 is one of the brand’s most popular running shoes. The latest version has some small updates, but Hoka fans will be happy that the fit, feel, and performance hasn’t changed.

Trying to decide if it’s going to be your next favorite shoe? Here’s our detailed Hoka Clifton 9 running shoes review so you can decide if you will be rocking a pair soon.

Pros and Cons

Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons of the Hoka Clifton 9.

PROS:

  • Plush EVA foam midsole for comfort and cushioning
  • Breathable, comfortable mesh upper
  • Gusseted tongue locks the midfoot down securely
  • Meta-rocker design for easier transitions
  • Regular and wide sizes are available
  • Excellent rubber coverage on the outsole
  • Available in many colorways

CONS:

  • The toe box might be too spacious for those with narrow feet
  • Despite the spacious toe box, the rest of the shoe runs a little narrow
  • Great as all-purpose running shoe but you may still want a dedicated racing or speed shoe
 

Who Should Run in This Shoe?

The Hoka Clifton 9 is for neutral runners who like a decent amount of cushioning. Runners who have used and enjoyed previous versions of the Clifton will this version.

It’s an excellent choice for those who like plush, soft shoes for almost any type of run. If you’re looking for a light yet well-cushioned shoe with a great rocker that can see you through many comfortable miles, this one will suit you just fine.

Mild overpronators should be able to run comfortably and securely in this shoe, thanks to the midsole rim design, which holds the foot securely in place.

Who Should Not Run in This Shoe?

If you want the lightest or zippiest shoe, this will not be the shoe for you. It’s not responsive and will frustrate those looking to pick up the pace.

It’s also not a great choice for those who want a moderate to minimal amount of cushioning underfoot. There’s quite a chunk of padding, so if you’re the type who feels less is more, then you should probably look at other shoes.

The Clifton 9 is also not the best choice for runners who overpronate and need a stability shoe. Although it’s a supportive, neutral shoe, it still lacks the support an overpronator would want.

Upper

The Clifton 9’s upper has been revamped and feels quite different from older models but in a good way. It’s made of breathable, soft engineered mesh, devoid of overlays, and with plenty of plushness throughout.

A thick, supportive heel collar with a mild elf-ear design helps lock your foot in with a huggable comfort. The gusseted tongue effectively stops any movement or chafing on the top of your foot.

It’s somewhat narrow in the midfoot but widens in the toe box to offer more than enough room for most runners’ toes to splay naturally.

The shoe is available in many colorways, including all black and all white. There’s truly something for every taste!

Midsole

Like all other Hoka shoes, the Clifton 9 has a surprisingly lightweight EVA midsole. It has been reworked for a bit more bounce, but it’s still not a speedy shoe.

It has a plush, comfortable feeling underfoot, with softness on every step. This midsole is made for those who want soft comfort for longer runs!

Another great feature is the midsole rim, which cups the foot securely and adds an element of stability to the shoe. It helps to guide the foot through the gait cycle without it moving out of position and potentially causing injury.

The men’s shoe features a stack height of 32 mm in the heel and 27 mm in the forefoot, while the women’s shoe has 29 mm in the heel and 24 mm in the forefoot. Both have a 5 mm drop.

Clifton’s meta-rocker has been redesigned and is quite noticeable on the run. You can feel a difference in the heel-to-toe transition, making your stride feel easier and faster.

Outsole

There’s a decent bit of runner on the outsole of the Clifton 9, adding to this shoe’s lifespan. It’s made for the road and not the trail, with flat sections of grippy rubber that’ll keep you on your feet on road surfaces and the occasional easy off-road venture.

The outsole has remained the same design as the 8, with diagonal flex grooves across the midfoot. This affords it some flexibility, but the shoe still has a stiffness to it that’s responsible for the slightly increased bounce.

Other Features

Fit

There’s some discrepancy from buyers about the sizing of this shoe. Some claim it fits true to size, while others say it runs narrow.

As all feet are different, it’s difficult to get a good handle on it, but the plushness of the upper can make it seem tighter than expected.

Thanks to the comfortable mesh, gusseted tongue, and flat laces, you can get a really great lockdown, which may contribute to the narrow feeling for runners with wider feet.

Weight

The Clifton 9 is surprisingly lightweight for its size and thick midsole. A men’s size 9 comes in at 9.1 ounces—258 grams—which is impressive. A women’s size 8 weighs just 7.3 ounces—205 grams—which is much lighter than running shoes.

If you’ve run in Hoka shoes before, you may be surprised at how lightweight the Clifton 9 feels on your feet. Those who like a bit of weight in their shoes may need some time to get used to it but don’t expect the lighter weight to add much speed to the shoes.

Durability

Hoka came under fire initially for their exposed midsole, which shortened the shoes’ lifespan somewhat. However, the Clifton 9 has great rubber coverage in all the most wear-prone areas, so you can expect a good long life out of these shoes.

Consider replacing them at 400 to 500 miles, just like any other running shoe. Hoka shoes are no longer less durable, but the “minimal” outsole still significantly reduces their weight.

Although the midsole is soft, it bounces back fairly nicely after each run. If you want to extend the life of your Clifton 9s, you could rotate running shoes to give them more than enough time to come back to full foamy padding.

Price

Both the men’s and women’s Hoka Clifton 9s are selling on Hoka’s website for $145. This is pretty average for a running shoe of this standard, so you get good value for your money at this price point.

You may be able to find them on other retailers for a little less, but it’s worth buying directly from Hoka to ensure you’re getting the best quality.

Real World Testing

I’ve run in almost every version of the Clifton from the original to this one, it’s 9th version. I’ve seen the Clifton go from soft with no durability to firm but long-lasting. All the while, it’s remained Hoka’s best-selling model thanks to its featherweight build and cushioned ride.

For the last several Clifton models, Hoka has finally settled on a nice mix of soft cushioning with a durable outer- and midsole – all while keeping it nice and lightweight. It’s a nice combination that satisfies a runner who wants a good daily trainer with something suitable for races.

With the Clifton 9, Hoka didn’t do much to deviate from this package and delivers a sho pretty much the same as recent models.

In short, if you loved the Clifton 8, you’re going to love the Clifton 9. And if you’ve never ran in Cliftons before, but you want a shoe that mixes cushioning with a pretty light shoe, this fits the bill.

First Impressions

Putting on the Clifton 9s reminded me of meeting up with an old friend. It’s like you were never apart!

For the record, I usually run in the Hoka Bondi’s – I love (and maybe need) a good cushioned pair of shoes and you can do no better than Hokas. It’s been a while since I ran in the Cliftons and after putting them on, I wondered why I didn’t run in them more often.

Putting them on, they had a nice in-foot feel. The upper was comfortable and didn’t present my feet with any spots that felt too loose or tight. The elf-ear tab on the heel looks a bit weird. But it’s meant to help you slip the shoes on without having to stick your thumb down into the shoe.

When I started running, I was a bit worried that the high tab might annoy me by rubbing against my ankle. But luckily, the tab flares far enough away that I didn’t feel any friction on my ankles.

The cushioning was great and fit that Goldilocks spot of not being too soft or too firm. It provided plenty of cushioning but not too much that it won’t last for many miles.

There’s a slight rocker feel when running. Enough that it helped me get into a good rhythm as I ran. Despite my best efforts, I’m usually a heel-striker and the Cliftons did a nice job smoothing out my gait as I ran.

I didn’t feel any hotspots while running. And the lightness of the shoe might have given me a little extra snap during my run. The weight – like almost every version of the Clifton – was nice and light. I didn’t race in these but could have done so easily – they are great for a mid-pack finisher like me.

Updates

Like I mentioned earlier, there haven’t been many updates to the Clifton. It’s very, very similar to version 8. So much so that I honestly couldn’t feel a difference. And this is what Hoka is going for with this model – keep the good things going from verion 8.

But according to Hoka, they did make a few small tweaks. One is the stack height, so it’s a bit higher. You might think this makes it more cushioned – and maybe it does – but I couldn’t tell the difference.

The other change is a lighter shoe. About 4 grams lighter. Sounds great on paper. Personally, I couldn’t notice it. However, always better to make the shoe weigh less than to make it weigh more!

Overall Thoughts

The Hoka Clifton has been a great running shoe and remains a great running shoe with version 9. If you want a lightweight daily trainer that can double as a good race or speedwork shoe, this is it.

It’s this versatility that makes it Hoka’s best-selling shoe. In my testing, I found nothing that would prevent anyone who loves the Clifton to not buy the latest model. It fits the bill: soft, cushioned, lightweight, and durable.

If you haven’t run in the Clifton before, it also works as a great entry-level shoe to Hokas. It’s got cushioning but doesn’t have the same extreme look or plushness of the Bondi or some of Hoka’s other models.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.