Hoka Clifton 4 Review

   We have another review today from the great Dr. Nathaniel S Kollias DVM, MPH.  Dr. Kollias was kind enough to provide a review on the Clifton 4.  We both have evolved from being somewhat wary of Hoka shoes due to overly soft rides.  In recent months both Nathaniel and I have been very impressed by the shoes from this company and are slowly becoming bigger fans.  Read on for more on the Clifton 4. 

I know some of you may have read my review of the Hoka One One Clayton 2 (HERE), and you would know that I was not the biggest fan.  The evolution was great in concept in theory, but there were several issues that kept it from fully blossoming.  Among them the continued blister issue that I had when I tried the Clayton v1.  Even further back, I had tried the Clifton 2 and had major issues with the upper causing tendonitis on the top of my feet and black toenails (Editor's Note: That at the time seemed like minor tendonitis of the extensor digitorum).  Overall, I do not have a good track record with wearing Hokas.  Then you are probably asking yourself, “Nathaniel, why in the world would you try another pair of Hokas?  Isn’t that the definition of insanity?  Trying the same thing multiple times and expecting a different result?”
Well yes, that is the definition of insanity (or something like it), but I am here to tell you that I have found sanity! Read on and see how Hoka One One may finally be making a shoe that works for me.
Couldn’t wait to put them on when I first got them.  Price tag and all!
Upper and Fit:
I don’t know what happened at Hoka, but they finally got the memo and made an upper that works.  The Clifton 4 is night and day when compared to the previous iterations of the shoe and is superior to the Clayton v1 and v2.  
Let’s break this upper down
Heel: No slippage, well padded (but not too much), moderately stiff.
Midfoot: nice contour and wrap around the foot, no hot spots, no blisters!
Forefoot: the toes have room, no rubbing, toe box is not cavernous nor too shallow, slightly pointed with enough room for the toes.
Material: breathable, no rubbing, no blisters and sock liner is durable and well structured (not a cheap flimsy one that was seen in the Clayton v1).
Nice snug heel with dip in the Achilles region.  Upper is much more accommodating (albeit still narrow) in the forefoot with excellent breathability and give to the fabric, which eliminates any hot spots.
Volume: This was one of my biggest gripes with their other shoes I tried. Too much volume with odd fitting front and back.  Clifton v4 is just right with a nice snug fit but room for slightly wider feet.
Design: I actually want to be seen in these.  They don’t look like moon shoes, with a geometric pattern that is very eye catching.
Overall: These fit snug, but provide enough room for toe splay and there is no awkward material rubbing the foot
Midsole and Ride:
From reading other people’s reviews this is the area of biggest conflict.  The fans of version 1 seem to lean toward dislike and those who have not run in Hoka seem to like it.  My verdict?  I love the new midsole material and find that it is a great evolution for this shoe.  The durometer has been moderately increased and the layout of the outsole modified.  This all contributes to a more responsive ride with a firmer forefoot and more stable transition. The base appears to have been widened from v2 (note I never wore v1 or v3), which also contributes to the stability of the shoe and excellent underfoot feel.  These shoes are still Hokas, so they have a plush underfoot feel and are best for longer days and recovery runs.  I also enjoy the improved early meta rocker design and feel that it adds to the smoother transition underfoot (Editor's Note: I have discussed this before, but those with stiffer MTP joints will generally like toe spring as it eases the transition over the toes).  
One can appreciate the meta-rocker design of the midsole.  Also nice upward curvature of the heel with no lateral or medial bias.  The geometric pattern on the upper also adds a nice visual appearance to the shoe.
Outsole and Durability:
The placement of rubber has also been tweaked in this addition and will contribute to better longevity of the shoe with the increased durometer of the midsole.  There are patches of harder rubber placed at high wear areas (forefoot and lateral heel), which also contribute to stronger toe off.  After about 100 miles on my pair, there is some obvious wear of the midsole in the exposed areas.  Granted, I am not surprised by this as it is exposed midsole.  Even with this superficial wear, I expect to get around 400-500 miles on these shoes.  
Note placement of Hi-abrasion contact rubber along the forefoot and along the lateral aspect of the heel.  This picture was taken after 30 miles and presently there is some wear on the exposed midsole sections.
Room for Improvement:
I would like them to increase the durometer a little more, especially in the forefoot.  Another interesting idea would be to play with the Pro2Lite +10 material.  This midsole material is utilized in Hoka’s race and up-tempo shoes (Clayton, Tracer) and is softer in the heel and firmer in the forefoot.  The only other area I would critique is the weight.  If Hoka could drop 0.5 to 1 oz from this shoe I think it would be a great up grade.
Overall:
Hoka did a fantastic job with this shoe and they have a new fan here!  They definitely listened to people’s criticism and put a great deal of R&D in this newest iteration of the Clifton.  I look forward to future versions of this shoe and others from Hoka One One.
These opinions are my own, these were a personal purchase and I received no monetary compensation for this review. -Dr. Kolias, DVM, MPH

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this blog belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. My blog should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Currently Dr. Kollias has >100 miles on his pair of Clifton 4s. We put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of hour reviews. Thanks for reading!

Dr. Matthew Klein, PT, DPT and Dr. Nathaniel Kollias, DVM, MPH

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