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It's in that sweet spot for triathletes where you get the cushion and support to keep you from getting legsore during a half or full marathon following the bike segment, but it's light enough to be a true triathlon race shoe. What does this cost you, in features, versus what's in the Bondi? In my opinion, the cost is significant but acceptable for an overpronator like me, if we're talking a race shoe. Whether it would work for you as an everyday training shoe depends on how old, heavy, imperfect and broken down you are – if you're Brandon Marsh it might be your everyday trainer; for me, I need the Bondi's support in my everyday shoe, the Clifton won't do beyond racing and very selective high performance training efforts. I'll attempt here to quantify what you get, and what you have to give up to get what you get.
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The shoe fits rather like a Conquest. And it looks like a Conquest. Below is an image of the two shoes and it's hard to tell which is which. The Clifton is above, the Conquest beneath it. You can see from the architecture of the shoe that much from the Conquest is borrowed in the Clifton's design. And it's not just the midsole architecture that makes these shoes seem similar. The upper, the tongue, the materials in the upper, the fit, are all very similar between these shoes. If you like how the Conquest fits and feels you'll really like the Clifton. If you find the Conquest was too narrow for you, you still might like the Clifton. The Clifton is very slightly wider than the Conquest, but not nearly as wide as the Bondi 3. The Clifton, in width, sits between the pretty narrow Conquest and the middlin' Bondi 2.
But the Clifton is 2 to 3 oz lighter than the Conquest, so why would you buy the Conquest? Two reasons. First, the Conquest is a more structurally sound shoe for pronators, and the Conquest has a firmer ride – it's not as soft as the Clifton. The Conquest was released to big fanfare, but the Clifton is going to claim a big chunk of the Conquest fan base, causing the Conquest to recede a bit and maintain a space in Hoka's lineup that no other Hoka shoe inhabits.
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How can the Conquest be "more" shoe than the Clifton, but offer less plush cushion? The Conquest has a significant amount of its midsole made of a material called RMAT, which has a lot of fine qualities associated with it, but plushness is not among them. RMAT makes the Conquest durable, stable on pavement, with great wear resistance, and great in slippery conditions.
Now let's talk about what you give up. The image below is a Bondi 2 (at right) and the Clifton, from the back. You almost can't imagine that this is the same shoe you're looking at in the other images. Now maybe you can see where Hoka found 3 oz worth of weight savings.
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You might look at this image and think the Clifton is a lot lower, that is, there's less shoe between your foot and the road. It is lower. The Clifton has heel and forefoot heights of 29mm and 24mm, and these are each about 4mm to 5mm lower than the Bondi. But the image above makes it look like the Bondi is a lot more than 5mm taller than the Clifton, and that's because of one of Hoka's most important features: the midsole that wraps up and around the upper, giving the upper a ton of medial support. This is what makes the Bondi such a fantastic shoe for overpronators even though it lacks the typical supportive gimmicks attached to typical guidance or stability shoes.
This makes the Clifton a stable shoe for pronators, a good shoe for pronators, but not for long distances and not for a lot of miles. I would not train in the Clifton, except for those rare occasions that called for a specific quality workout. This is my racing flat. Furthermore, it's my flat for up to 13.1 miles assuming I'm ever again able to run 13.1 miles in a race. For 26.2 miles I'd be in the Bondi.
This isn't to say that you should be encumbered as I am. The Clifton may well be your training shoe, but if so you'll probably be lighter than I, or less of a pronator than I.
One thing I'm supremely happy about: Hoka did not attempt to carve out the arch of the shoe. A truly neutral race shoe will usually have this carved, more like a track spike. This ruins the shoe for anyone who does have a tendency to overpronate, and no medial posting mechanism or feature will fix it. This makes the Clifton hold up. There is just enough shoe there to be supportive for the great majority of runners. There is just enough cushion there for the shoe to make Hoka devotees happy. But there is only just enough. Hoka jettisoned every bit of ballast off this shoe. It is the least amount of Hoka you can buy, and still have it be a Hoka.