A Conversation on HOKA's New Clifton and Clifton Edge

We’re now approaching 10 years of HOKA One One being a key brand in the running space. Since the introduction of the Bondi B, HOKA has consistently grown. With that growth has come some significant misfires over the years -- whether it has been with poor uppers relative to their midsoles, or changing midsoles on key products to the point where they are no longer recognizable, it has not been a pattern of consistency in the product line.

That may finally be changing. Long-time industry veteran Colin Ingram (formerly of Mizuno and New Balance) now sits as the Director of Product. And it was under his stewardship that we now arrive at the two shoes that we’re reviewing today: the Clifton and Clifton Edge.

The Clifton has long been a staple of the product line, originally introduced in 2014. Outside of the long-running Bondi, it is the elder statesman of the HOKA line-up. Meanwhile, the Clifton Edge is a brand new shoe; it’s the first expansion in HOKA’s Clifton family. It brings the long-tail heel to the road for the first time, but still retains the early rocker and light weight that are familiar to Clifton wearers.

HOKA sent pairs of each shoe to Dan and I to take for a test drive. Here’s our conversation about how each shoe runs.


Ryan: Dan, this shoe keeps evolving.

Dan: The Clifton with each iteration becomes slightly less of what it was or originally - a lightweight trainer/racer in the Kinvara vein - and slightly more of an everyday lightweight trainer. This is a con to some, but a pro to those like me who find that the most ardent need is for the thing you do 99 percent of the time. Train. It’s easy to find a race shoe. A race shoe is a date. A training shoe is a spouse. The Clifton has been slowly morphing into the latter.

Ryan: I really agree with that. With each update, it feels like they make this shoe ever so slightly more substantial. And now here we are, a bunch of iterations in, and it feels like this shoe has grown up, been to college, seen a few things, and matured. I’m really impressed by this update. This is probably the best upper that HOKA has ever put on a shoe: it’s the right combination of overlays, midfoot wrap, heel cup, and materials. HOKA has always fallen down somewhere in this regard; whether it was the tongue being too thin or too thick on those old Bondis, or simply an abrasive mesh on too many shoes to count. But this is a revelation.

The ride is also friendly -- it’s soft without being overly so. You won’t confuse it for a really responsive riding shoe, but it doesn’t feel like a marshmallow strapped to your feet. It’s really runnable. I found myself doing all kinds of distances and surfaces in this, and when trying to pick a shoe to go run in, more often than not my hand would gravitate to picking these out of the line up.

Dan: It isn’t quite yet my everyday trainer. This shoe works well for those under weighing less than 155lb or 160lb and who have moderate mechanical issues. Maybe 170lb if you have zero issues. What HOKA lacks is the old Bondi B. The current Bondi has grown up and out of lightweight-trainer-for-average-male-runner status, and the Clifton hasn’t quite yet grown into that status. The Elevon 2 is the closest thing to it, but it lacks sufficient forefoot cushion. The Clifton can accept and support an orthotic. But it’s a half-time, not full-time, training run shoe if you weigh more than a prescribed max weight for this to be an everyday training run shoe.

Ryan: I don’t know about that, Dan. I’m 185 lbs and about as an average to mediocre runner as they come. I could wear the Clifton every day. My feet aren’t exactly the prettiest, but I guess I would say that it is more mechanically sound than anything. I think this is probably the closest to that original Bondi HOKA has gotten in a while in terms of platform; you really sit in the shoe, and I feel like there’s plenty of cushioning here. But I’m also a guy who used to run in racing flats all the time.

Clifton Edge

Dan: This looks like a great shoe. For somebody.

Ryan: The Clifton Edge was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to me. On my gravel road, it felt completely disconnected from my foot. That feeling melted away when I got onto asphalt and came alive a bit more: much softer experience, a snappier turnover, and I really liked the extended heel for the steep downhills near my house.

But that ride feel would move it from an every day trainer for me into the occasional or race day shoe. At that point, it has to compete with everything from my traditional racing flats to anything with a carbon span in it to, well, some of HOKAs other shoes. Including that regular Clifton, which I think might be the best shoe they make right now.

It was really unfortunate, to me, how sloppy the fit was. I don’t have a particularly high instep, nor a really narrow heel. But this shoe seemed, to me at least, to be a relic of just after the Deckers acquisition, when HOKA couldn’t make an upper to save its life.

Dan: There is no removable sock liner (insert). There is a very thin, maybe 1/8”, insubstantial foam pad, glued in. If you place an orthotic on that pad, fuggetaboutit. I turned my heel over a quarter mile into my first run in this shoe. If you overcome the adhesive and pull it out, there still isn’t enough volume in the shoe to account for the orthotic. I must run in an orthotic. So, no go. Not my shoe.

What I will add is that while this looks like a terrific shoe for the right person, how this is in any way a Clifton family member is a mystery to me. This shoe is like Steve Martin in that movie The Jerk. Very obviously not a genetic match for the rest of the family. Someone needs to set me straight on how this is a Clifton anything.

Ryan: And I think that’s the biggest dilemma with this particular shoe: fundamentally, it isn’t a Clifton at all. It’s something else entirely. The similarities seem to start and end with “lightweight with surprising amounts of cushioning for the weight.” Everything else is different. The fit of the upper leaves a lot to be desired. As you mentioned, Dan, the sockliner is glued down and doesn’t provide enough volume for your orthotic. You sit on top of this shoe, rather than in it.

That said, this is a quick shoe, especially on pavement, thanks to that extended heel and early rocker profile. I think this is a shoe that will be significantly better on its second iteration with a re-thought upper. But I would change the name to just “Edge.” It's a decent shoe. The problem is that the regular Clifton is great.

Clifton Edge pre-orders begin 06/15 with full availability scheduled for July 1st. The Clifton will release on August 1st.