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Hoka Clifton 9 and Clifton 9 GTX Review: A Refined Workhorse
By David Salas, Nathan Brown, and Bach Pham

The Hoka Clifton series has always been the neutral workhorse for the brand. One of the best-selling shoes in the marketplace, it's become a legacy series not only for runners, but also everyday people who are on their feet for much of the day due to its consistent comfort. The shoe itself is iconic for helping usher in the maximalist movement that's reshaped running as we know it. The new Clifton 9 continues its lineage with a few updates, including a change to the midsole foam, 2mm of stack height, and a new upper that is more accommodating. The shoe continues to be the lightweight, rockered daily trainer that people have come to love and expect when putting on a Clifton. 

Hoka Clifton 9
Price: $144.95 ($159.95 for GTX) at Running Warehouse
Shop Men | Shop Women

Weight: 8.7 oz,  248 g (men's size 9), 7.3 oz, 205 g  (women's size 8)
Weight for GTX: 9.6 oz, 272 g (men's size 9), info not available for women
Stack Height: Not Provided (though 2mm more stack)
Drop: 5mm
Classification: Neutral Daily Trainer




RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

David: The Hoka Clifton 9 is a neutral daily training shoe with a rockered ride. The shoe still provides the max cushion and lightweight feel of its predecessors with some positive updates. The upper is more accommodating and less narrow through the midfoot and the midsole is updated to give it some more resilience. The overall feel is similar to the previous Cliftons, but with a skosh more responsiveness and comfort with instep.

Bach (GTX): The Clifton 9 GTX swaps out the upper of the regular Clifton 9 for a GORE-TEX "Invisible Fit" upper that is waterproof and features 360 reflective elements for dark winter runs. Some recycled elements help with breathability to this first ever weather-ready Clifton. It sacrifices a bit of weight for the exchange, but provides a nice upper built for the elements. The overall ride remains untouched, but in this review we'll see if the upper plays well with the rest of the package.

SIMILAR SHOES
: Saucony Ride 15, ASICS Nimbus 24, ASICS Novablast 3
PAST MODEL: Hoka Clifton 8



VIDEO:
Comparing the Altra FWD Experience with the Hoka Clifton 9




FIT


David: The Hoka Clifton 9 fits true to size in my Men's 9.5. One thing I noticed right off of the bat is that the upper is not as snug through the midfoot as previous Hoka Clifton's I have worn. The midfoot was more forgiving and I felt the upper wrapped my foot better. The mesh material itself also feels a little more resilient and does not have quite as much stretch as previous models. I felt foot security was better throughout. Width in the heel, midfoot, and forefoot I would classify as normal throughout. There is a relatively stiff heel counter present, though it is padded and provided no irritation for me. The tongue is padded well and had no slippage. This is the best fitting Clifton I have had so far. The only thing I really noticed was that the heel counter extended further laterally and got pulled a little bit when lacing the shoe down tight. This created a little bit of pressure on my lateral midfoot, though I did not develop any irritation because of it. Just something to note on lessening.

Nathan: The Hoka Clifton 9 fits true to size with an overall fit consistent with most Hoka models. By this I mean overall more narrow in the forefoot and maintaining that narrow-leaning fit back to the heel. However, compared to other models from Hoka like the Rincon or Mach (or even previous Cliftons), there seems to be just a bit more volume throughout, allowing it to accommodate well. I have personally been sensitive to narrow shoes in the last 6 months, and I did not have any problems with this shoe. I also did not notice any abrasion to the arch area, which is different than my experiences in previous Clifton models. The upper is moderately thick but has some mild stretch, which will make it durable and keep it secure. The padding in the heel and tongue kept the foot secure and I did not have any irritation or slipping. On shorter or longer runs, the upper never got in the way, which is what I look for in a daily trainer.

Bach (GTX): The Clifton 9 GTX fits lengthwise true to size, but is a bit on the snug volume-wise between the forefoot and midfoot. The midfoot is low volume, but slightly wide, while the heel is just slightly wide. I had no issues with heel slippage in the shoe. The Goretex material does have some minor break-in, being on the stiffer side out of the box. The shoe is decently breathable. I took the shoe for a run in pretty hot and humid weather and never had any hotspots or felt like I was overheating. What I did find, however, was that my foot was wanting to go fairly medial in the shoe and pressing against the upper, especially in my forefoot which caused light rubbing. Sizing up and down doesn't seem like an option because it would then be either too snug or too long. Thick socks make the shoe feel a bit too snug. I believe the shoe could use some more midfoot security to help keep the shoe feeling more centered. I had just a bit of lateral sliding that encouraged my tendency to run medially.

My more neutral left leg didn't have this issue as much as my typically more unstable right foot. Neutral runners and those who tend lateral may not have this issue, but if you have medial stability needs this is something you'll definitely want to try first on foot.

The Goretex upper handled light rain well. Since I only had light rain during testing, so I ended up just blasting the shoe with a hose to get a better sense of the Goretex's ability. It managed to hold up nice and dry.



PERFORMANCE

David: The Clifton 9 still feels like a Clifton, though it does have some noticeable updates. The shoe does have 2 more millimeters of foam underfoot with an updated midsole. The foam is still EVA-based but has been dialed in for a little more resilience. I will say that though it is slight, there a noticeable change in feeling. The shoe does seem to have a little more bounce than previous Clifton's I have tried. The shoe still uses a balanced rocker profile throughout. The shoe uses sidewalls throughout most of the length of the shoe and I feel it does a pretty good job of making you feel centered. The outsole seems to be a touch thicker than I remember on the Clifton 8. This seems to firm up the ride a tad and make the cushioning feel nearly identical with the 8. That's not a bad thing though since you get a tad more bounce. The traction underfoot is decent and I can take this in runnable trail and grass as well. The shoe feels like a well-cushioned neutral shoe without any major bells or whistles. Those that like a neutral shoe with decent cushioning and a rocker profile will find this fits the bill.

Nathan: Before running in this shoe for the first time I did not have any of the specs or information about the update, so I just went out "blind". Not even a half mile in I audibly said to my running partner, "this Clifton feels different." I was used to a very flat, yet rockered feeling that Cliftons have been producing. The Clifton 9 actually felt like it had some life to it. Even on that first recovery run, I could feel the pop from the midsole and the shoe felt fun to run in. That little extra pop was consistent on other training runs and my 13-mile run with a fast finish. After checking out the tech sheet, this pop comes from the update to the EVA midsole to improve some resilience of the foam. Though early, this is one of my favorite daily trainers of 2023 and late 2022. For me, the amount of pop felt in this shoe was most similar to the Novablast 3 (my favorite trainer of 2022), but less aggressive of a rocker and a bit heavier given the thicker upper and rubber. In terms of running experience besides the "pop," it operates on a balanced rocker that doesn't have a propulsive nature. It is a workhorse trainer update that makes mild, but important changes that make it worth getting the new version.

Bach: The Clifton 9 GTX is definitely a higher stacked trainer best for logging easy miles, whether daily or long. It does run on the firmer side with the tacky rubber and dense CMEVA midsole. Those who ran in the Kawana will find this a bit softer than that model, but nowhere as soft as the Gaviota or Bondi. You don't really feel the road in the Clifton, but you don't feel exaggeratedly off the ground like a 40mm heel shoe either.

The shoe transitions pretty well and logs miles easily. It's a shoe that the longer you run in and get into the groove, it settles nicely to a good rhythm. The GTX is nearly an ounce heavier than it's regular sibling. I do think that holds it back a bit from having versatility. It felt best at gentle, easy paces - something you'll likely be doing amid ran and wet roads most of the time. The outsole did a good job of handling wet roads. The wide base also combines well to give a lot of area to grip the surface with and provide confidence.

Despite my issues with the upper, I did take the shoe for a long nearly two hour run and didn't end up having any toenail or blisters from the light rubbing, but I would be concerned with putting long term miles in the shoe that the damage would add up over time from a fit and ride combination.




STABILITY

David: The overall stability of the Clifton 9 is done pretty well. The shoe gives you a sense of being centered throughout the full gait cycle. The heel has the classic bucket feel you get from HOKA's and the sidewalls extend through most of the midfoot both medially and laterally. The shoe does have a crash pad in the heel that extends to the beginning of the midfoot. The outsole feels a little firmer and grips pretty well on most surfaces, and there is a decent amount of width throughout. The upper security is good and I felt good when turning. Stability is pretty good for a neutral shoe, and one I'd put in the stable neutral category.

Nathan: The Hoka Clifton 9 sits in the stable neutral category for me. As with many HOKA shoes, it has a wider platform to the ground, some side walls, sole flaring, and a balanced rocker. The rubber coverage also helps stabilize the ride a bit. There are no formal stability elements and does not have a strongly built-up arch, which I appreciate.

Bach (GTX): The Clifton 9 GTX for me is a mixed bag in terms of stability. Due to the upper, I felt myself leaning fairly medial often, which is my weak side as a flat foot runner. I had trouble no matter what I did with lacing and different socks, I just couldn't keep very centered on the platform while running, which really surprised me as wide base shoes don't tend to give me that issue. The foam itself is firm and wide enough that if the upper kept me centered, this would be a great stable neutral shoe, but the medial tendencies it gave me with the upper makes it lean unstable for my own needs. I didn't have any issues underfoot with the Clifton 9.



Thoughts as a DPT: Updates without an Overhaul
By David Salas

The Hoka Clifton 9 looks a lot like the Clifton 8 from the outside though there are some noticeable changes. One thing that sticks out is the slight increase in bounce you get underfoot. They updated the midsole (though still EVA based) to increase its resiliency. The foam was a little bit lighter and so they were able to add 2 more millimeters of foam underfoot as well. The upper was also changed to be more accommodating for different foot types. The rubber seems to be thicker as well and provide good traction with less wear. Everything about the Clifton 9 has been made for durability of the shoe without sacrificing what makes it a Clifton. 

The Clifton has always done a good job of providing a centered and stable feel throughout the gait cycle without the usage of posting. The shoe is still very much neutral but incorporates good sidewalls, upper lockdown, and traction. Hoka in some ways has always been the poster child of a "rockered" shoe and they continue to demonstrate that with this model. Though there have been some pretty big changes inside of the shoe for a shoe cycle, the DNA is very much similar. The Clifton 9 is a good example of bringing a lot of updates to a shoe without overhauling the feel or design of it. 




RECOMMENDATIONS

David: The Hoka  Clifton 9 is the best Clifton so far for me. The only thing I would really look into refining is the fit through the heel and midfoot. The midfoot is much more accommodating than previous Cliftons, but I did notice that the heel gets a little more pressure when the shoe is laced down. It feels like the heel counter portion that extends through that region gets pulled slightly with lacing the shoe down, providing some pressure to the lateral midfoot. Other than that this is a solid shoe to log daily miles in. 

Nathan: I agree with David that the best place to update this shoe is through the upper. I'd personally like to see the toe box opened up even more while keeping midfoot security strong, making it more versatile in terms of types of feet that will fit well.

Bach (GTX): I believe the midfoot could be a bit more secure from the midfoot to forefoot in keep the foot centered in the GTX model. This would help prevent sliding and rubbing. A little more forefoot width medially would be welcome also. I agree with the others that the heel could also be a bit more fitted. Lastly, I also think the bevel could be a little more lateral to help further smoothen out the ride.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR

David: The Hoka Clifton 9 is a neutral daily training shoe for the runner that wants a rockered shoe with a moderately cushioned feel. There is plenty of foam underfoot to give consideration for maximum cushioning, though the outsole seems to firm the feel up a tad. The shoe is not crazy responsive and so this shoe leans itself towards that daily workhorse. This is a training shoe for forgetting pace and rolling with the miles.

Nathan: The Clifton 9 is for someone looking for a daily trainer that can handle lots of miles and functions on a moderately rockered platform that still maintains some flexibility through the forefoot. For those who like the feel of the Novablast but find it unstable, the Clifton 9 might be worth a look.

Bach (GTX): The Hoka Clifton 9 GTX is an easy mileage trainer for neutral runners who want protection in the rain. It has the elements of fairly good durability and the Goretex does a good job of protecting from the elements so you can get your run in. If you have medial stability needs, you may at least want to try the shoe first to see if you have sliding issues like myself. The shoe does run middle of the ground ride-wise and is suitable for someone who just wants a run-of-the-mill trainer that's not too maximal, but well-stacked underfoot. There aren't that many road shoes with GTX today. Alternatives to the Clifton 9 GTX is the Saucony Ride GTX for those who want a middle of the road drop shoe trainer and Brooks Ghost GTX for those who want a higher drop alternative.



GRADING

David
Fit: A-  (Best fitting Clifton so far. Midfoot much more accommodating, though some pressure to the lateral heel and midfoot with lockdown)
Performance: 
A-  (Great for logging daily mileage, a little more bounce noted, though still not quite enough to reach for if there is any speed requirements)
Stability:  (Stable throughout for a neutral shoe. Wide platform, good traction, reliable upper, good sidewalls)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (They made some nice updates, but nothing revolutionary here. Balanced rocker with some good sidewalls.)
Personal: A- (Boring in a good way. Nice balanced transitions that you can just focus on getting your miles in.)
Overall: A- (A good move forward for the Clifton while maintaining the Clifton DNA)

Nathan
Fit: A-  (Comfortable upper that disappears, could be just a touch wider in forefoot)
Performance: 
A-  (Notable change in the amount of pop from the midsole, holds it own for long runs and daily mileage)
Stability: A- [Stable Neutral]  (What David said)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (A nice mild update that makes meaningful differences. Nice balance of rocker and flexibility)
Personal: A (One of my top trainer choices so far this year. Nothing remarkable, just the right amount of pop and cushioning)
Overall: A- 

Bach (GTX)
Fit: B (Medial forefoot fit concerns is an issue here)
Performance:
B+  (A fairly basic, but consistent ride that logs everyday miles decently. Lacks versatility with extra wieght over normal version)
Stability: B (The foot sliding may cause medial issues for mild stability runners)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Goretex is always a nice option for runners to have)
Personal: B (The fit issue is a bummer, because otherwise I don't dislike the ride at all and enjoy the more classic characteristics of the shoe)
Overall:

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Price: $144.95 at Running Warehouse

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Feetures Socks: Massively grippy socks that will make you feel more one with the shoe
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FURTHER READING: More Hoka

Guide to Hoka Running Shoes
Hoka Arahi 6
Hoka Bondi 8
Hoka Kawana Review
Hoka Mach 5
Hoka Mach Supersonic

Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website 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.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Hoka for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. 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 our reviews.

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Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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Guide to Hoka Running Shoes

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