Today we’re comparing two popular shoes: the Hoka Clifton vs Brooks Ghost.
Which is the better option? They’re both neutral shoes with good cushioning, but they have some very marked differences that could be what you are or aren’t looking for in a running shoe.
Let’s get into the details so you can figure out which one would suit you best!
Main Difference Between the Two Shoes
Both shoes are designed for a neutral foot.
The biggest difference is in the cushioning! Hoka is known for their chunky monster cushioning, which is fairly soft and comfortable underfoot. Brooks has lower-profile cushioning, although it’s still fairly soft.
Also, the Clifton features a light rocker sole. The Brooks has a slight upward swing in the forefoot but technically doesn’t have a rocker. It does, however, have a particularly roomy fit in the forefoot, which the Cliftons seem to lack.
An interesting fact is that the Ghost is the first carbon-neutral shoe Brooks has created, which gives it a big edge over the Clifton in terms of being eco-friendly.
The engineered mesh upper of the Ghost 15 is smooth and sleek, with a little bit of stretch that molds to the contours of your feet.
It feels thinner than the previous version’s upper, with more breathability. There’s no uncomfortable pressure, hot spots, or rubbing, even on long runs.
The flat lacing system works together with the 3D Fit Print technology to provide more structure to the midfoot. Reinforced lacing slits help to distribute the pressure more evenly while allowing you to cinch down for a personalized fit.
The tongue, heel tab, and collar are generously padded with foam that provides comfort and support. The heel counter is slightly stiffer in the Ghost 15, which locks your foot in and helps to prevent lateral movement.
Reflective detailing on the toe box and side of the heel counter help keep you visible in low light conditions, increasing the safety of these shoes.
The seamless, engineered mesh upper of the Clifton 9 is made from 100% percent vegan materials. It has large perforations on the toe box to make the shoe more breathable.
It also has a bit more wiggle room for your toes than its predecessor, making it ideal for those with bunions, hammer toes, metatarsalgia, or other foot conditions.
The inner lining provides step-in comfort and doesn’t create any hot spots while you run. A generously padded and gusseted tongue stays on top of the foot without shifting as you move.
The laces of the Clifton 9 are long and the eyelets have been reinforced. There’s actually an extra set of eyelets that allow you to get a personalized fit by using a heel lock lacing method.
There’s an extended “elf ear” heel collar that holds your foot firmly in place without irritating the back of your Achilles tendon.
Reflect detailing on the sides of the toe box and the back of the heel up the safety factor and make you visible to motorists and other runners at night.
Brooks used a layer of full-length DNA Loft foam in the midsole, which has a nice balance of firmness and cushioning. Even though the foam is medium soft, you’ll feel like your legs are still fresh when running long distances.
The midsole of the Ghost 15 provides protective cushioning but still delivers smooth transitions, even if you’re running on a hard surface. You’ll easily be able to change from running long miles to picking up the pace for speed work in this shoe.
The shoe is flexible and some runners may find that it’s a bit less responsive, but the midsole foam does provide some energy return.
The midsole of the Clifton 9 was updated and it’s estimated to be up to 15% lighter than the 7. But it still features a thick one-piece layer of EVA foam with a high toe-spring, which allows for quicker transitions.
You’ll save energy with this bouncy foam, and the midsole is very supportive on both long and medium runs. There are two vertical sidewalls on the heel, which prevent the heel from over-compressing. This provides additional cushioning and comfort.
The Clifton 9 also has a thick Ortholite insole, which helps to create a soft, protective ride and greater step-in comfort.
The Ghost 15 has a thick, durable layer of rubber on the outsole. The forefoot features soft, blown rubber that provides a snappy toe-off. In the heel, robust carbon rubber helps to absorb shock and cushion the heel, which is great if you’re a heel striker.
Omega Flex grooves on the forefoot provide flexibility and stability, even if you change direction swiftly. Extra rubber was added to the medial side of the shoe to provide more support in this area.
A segmented crash pad helps you save some energy throughout your gait cycle and reduces the shock of impact. The generous amount of rubber also provides great traction on most surfaces.
The Clifton 9 features a good amount of rubber strategically placed in areas that are prone to wear. The heel of the shoe is also angled, which helps to improve transition if you land over the heel.
Hoka has updated the forefoot design, and the lugs are now diagonal with the flex grooves running across the forefoot.
This makes the forefoot more snappy, by providing a bit more resistance when the shoe flexes and gives a more satisfying pop during transitions. It also makes it feel slightly stiffer.
Some exposed midsole foam remains on the midfoot and there’s a shallow arrow-shaped cavity that extends from the heel to the midfoot. While it may provide some stability during the gait cycle, it won’t change the ride much.
The early-stage meta-rocker helps to roll you forward, providing smooth transitions and saving you some energy for when you really need it.
The Ghost 15 does have some bounce and a touch of responsiveness, as the medium-soft foam cushioning has a bit of firmness to it.
Soft blown rubber in the forefoot does provide a snappy toe-off, but the thick layer of rubber makes the shoe firmer. The wide platform of the Ghost 15 provides a stable, balanced ride where you can feel that your feet are supported.
The DNA loft foam is on the dense side and you won’t have to worry about the cushioning falling flat too soon.
The Clifton 9 has excellent step-in comfort, but it can take up to 12 miles to break-in. That being said, it does have a stiffer forefoot that makes it more snappy.
The Clifton 9 provides a familiar ride as it’s very similar to the Clifton 7. It has incredibly smooth heel-to-toe transitions while providing soft landings.
Both the Ghost 15 and Clifton 9 have substantial stack heights. But that does come with very little road feel, which some runners may find to be a disadvantage.
The Ghost 4 has a forefoot stack height of 21.4mm and heel stack height of 33.8mm, giving the shoe a heel-to-toe drop of 12mm.
The Clifton 9 is a very cushioned shoe, with forefoot stack height of 28mm and heel stack height of 33mm. But the Clifton 9 has a much lower heel-to-toe drop of 5mm.
The Ghost 15 is the heavier of the two shoes, but not by much. A men’s shoe weighs 9.9 ounces, and the women’s shoe weighs 9.0 ounces.
At exactly an ounce less, the Clifton 9 men’s shoe weighs 8.9 ounces and the women’s shoe weighs 8.0 ounces.
While the Clifton 9 is a touch lighter than the Ghost 15, it’s not significant enough to make one shoe stand out over the other!
These two shoes are priced quite similarly, with the Ghost 15 retailing at for $10 less than the Hoka Clifton 9 at the time of writing.
Considering the similarities of the shoes, the price is pretty on-par. If you choose the Ghost, you won’t be losing any features for the lower price. But if you choose the Clifton, you won’t be getting any more for the extra $10.
In the end, because the prices are so similar, they won’t be the deciding factor between the two shoes. It will depend on your personal preference and the subtle differences in the features and performance of the shoes.
There’s really no hugely significant difference between these two shoes. If you’re already a fan of one of the brands more than the other, you can choose their shoe and will most likely have a great experience wearing it.
If you’re after cushioning, the Clifton will come out on top. It has a more substantial stack height in the forefoot, and a lower heel-to-toe drop, padding the entire foot with comfortable cushion. It’s also a touch lighter.
On the other hand, if you want a decent all-purpose trainer, the Ghost is a great choice. It’s super versatile and is a bit less clunky than the Hoka. It’s got a great step-in feel as soon as you lace them up.
Ultimately, the choice is yours!