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HOKA Clifton 8 Review
By Chief Editor Matthew Klein and Contributor David Salas


The Hoka One One Clifton series started out legendary as THE cushioned lightweight trainer. The original was incredibly light for how much midsole there was. However, that was the early days of Hoka, where the uppers were narrow and often fit oddly. Fast forward almost a decade later (we can almost guarantee that work has started on the Clifton 10...) and the Clifton 8 retains some of the elements but has certainly changed. A greatly improved upper, a softer sole and a continued smooth ride make the Clifton 8 a better fitting and cushioned easy day and daily training shoe.

Hoka One One Clifton 8, lateral view. An aqua upper with a red sidewall and bright white EVA midsole. Hoka written on the heel
Hoka One One Clifton 8, lateral view. An aqua upper with a red sidewall and bright white EVA midsole. Hoka written on the heel

Specifications for the Hoka One One Clifton 8 (per Hoka One One)
Weight: 8.8 oz (men's size 9) 7.6 oz (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 29 mm / 24 mm (likely does not include insole)
Drop: 5 mm
Classification: Daily Trainer


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The Hoka One One Clifton 8 returns with a smooth, slightly softer ride and a very comfortable, slightly more voluminous upper. The upper is dramatically higher in quality, with excellent breathability, far more room but a bit of heel slippage. The sole is softer, providing plenty of cushioning for those with stable mechanics wanting to get some higher mileage in. While on the lighter side for a trainer, the softer ride makes this shoe best for easy days and long runs. The Hoka One One Clifton 8 relaxes a bit, providing more comfort all around to keep you going long.

Who This Shoe is For: Those with stable mechanics looking for a highly cushioned and softer ride.

Who This Shoe is Not For:  Those with narrow feet with instabilities, those with sensitive heel bones (calcani) or Achilles tendons or those wanting a firmer/more responsive ride.

David: The HOKA Clifton is HOKA ONE ONE's flagship neutral daily trainer. The shoe features a nice rockered ride throughout with moderately high cushioning. The upper does fit snug throughout and can be narrow through the midfoot for some. The shoe creates a bucket like sensation in the heel and provides some sidewalls through the upper and midsole to help with stability. This is one of the lighter daily training options out there for the amount of cushioning this shoe provides. 



FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

Matt: The Hoka One One Clifton 8 fits me true to size my normal men's US size 10. There is far more volume that I am used to in a Hoka. The upper has more volume and width thanks to a stretchy mesh. The fit overall is fairly normal, with a bit more room in the heel and very slight snugness in the forefoot. There is a solid heel counter in the rearfoot with minimal padding. Those with sensitive heels may want to be cautious with this shoe. The elf heel does provide for an easy slip on, however I did notice some heel slippage. There was not enough for me to lace lock the shoe and the midfoot secures down with the laces quite well. I have not run sockless extensively in this shoe, but the material around the heel collar is very comfortable. I would caution against sockless running however due to the to guard being present more on the inner aspect of the upper at the forefoot. With socks I did not notice this at all.

David: The HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8 does fit me true to size in my normal US men's 9.5. The length of the shoe is normal to slightly long. The width of the shoe is normal in the heel and forefoot but narrow through the midfoot. The heel collar wraps around the heel and rearfoot pretty well. There is a heel counter present that is semi rigid and does a decent job of stabilizing at the heel. The retrocalcaneal region however seems to be too roomy. The material also seems to be a little less durable in the liner in this region as well. I find that I have to lock down the shoe really well to make sure there is not any slippage in that region. The fit through the midfoot is also very narrow throughout and the medial sidewall does rub on the navicular and medial longitudinal arch on me. It was not enough to blister me (the 6 did) but can create some irritation for those not used to that. The mesh material itself is nice and the upper is breathable. There is a good amount of reinforcement throughout and the upper does feel secure. The tongue is highly padded thankfully and protects the dorsum of the foot when I lace the shoe down tightly to avoid the heel irritation. The toe box is normal to slightly wide and does a good job with toe splay. Overall it is a decent upper and should get the job done. 



PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)


Matt: The Hoka Clifton 8 features a soft and cushioned ride throughout the length of the shoe. The ride is softer than previous versions, feeling almost pillowy. It isn't a very responsive ride, which makes this shoe best for easy and long runs. This is definitely a more protective shoe for those wanting a soft max cushion shoe. There is a 5 mm drop that is not noticeable due to the well placed rocker. Heel landings and forefoot transitions are very smooth given the soft midsole, healthy amount of toe spring and heel bevel. The heel is a little softer than the forefoot, which is also fairly soft. Traction on the outsole is fairly good. Like many Hoka shoes, the Clifton 8 can translate to light trail well with the outsole design. However, the durability is fairly normal and I am already starting to see wear after 35 miles. This is mostly in the posterior-lateral heel, which is quite normal for me. I expect an average to slightly above average number of miles out of these due to the softer ride and max amount of midsole.

David: The HOKA Clifton 8 has an interesting contribution to the performance category. The ride is cushioned and fluid throughout, but the midsole does not have much responsiveness. In a lot of ways this is a true daily trainer in the neutral category. The shoe feels best at easy and daily efforts and loses pop pretty quickly once the pace picks up. The cushioning is great throughout and I have been able to run upwards of 18 miles with absolutely 0 problems in them. The sidewall on the medial aspect might irritate the arch of some people, but mine seemed to do ok with the 8. Traction on the shoe is decent and is able to handle some light multi terrain conditions as well. I joke that the shoe is underwhelming in a good way. Rhythmic and smooth daily paces are the best for this shoe. 



STABILITY 

Matt: The Hoka Clifton 8 is a neutral, maximalist cushioned shoe. There are some elements that make it stable, but due to the soft ride it runs fairly neutral. The heel bevel and toe spring do a decent job of keeping the foot on a forward progression. The thick heel counter does keep the foot centered and extends almost into the midfoot. In classic Hoka style, the rearfoot sits into the midsole, with sidewalls gently cradling the foot. The flex grooves in the forefoot are interesting in that they are biased laterally. This provides some very subtle guidance laterally in the forefoot. That may be good for those who tend to pronate a bit too much at the forefoot or those who want to avoid going over the first toe (secondary to arthritis, an inflamed joint, etc). However, for those who are already supinating too much at toe off, this may not be the best. The major drawback instability in the Clifton 8 is the very soft midsole. The ride is more pillowy and cushy with less bounce. Softer soles are inherently unstable. All combined, this is a fairly neutral shoe with a slightly guided ride, more so in the forefoot.

David: The HOKA Clifton 8 is very much a neutral daily training shoe. The shoe does have some stability components though however. The midsole and upper do have some sidewalls integrated medially and laterally which help stabilize the foot and keep it linear throughout the gait cycle. The heel security is decent, but the retrocalcaneal region seems to be a little too roomy posteriorly, leaving the shoe to have a higher chance of heel slippage without good lockdown. Overall the stability is decent and the rocker is done well though. 




THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Matt: Heel counters, like many components of shoes, work differently for different people. I tend to prefer to external heel counters being seen more frequently on models like the Saucony Endorphin Shift 2 and certain Adidas models. Heel counters theoretically are meant to stabilize the heel (calcaneus) and set the foot up for a centered transition at heel strike. This works well for some people and not so well for others. Those with sensitive calcaneus bones (heel bones) tend to not do well with these because the stiffness can be irritating. Things like a Haglund deformity (pump bump), irritable insertional Achilles tendonitis/tendinopathy or a sensitive Achilles tendon can be irritated by the counters. This does not apply to all runners, just those with sensitivity here.

Most heel counters  should come straight up around the heel. Most of these tend to be hard plastic or another firmer material (some new ones are using different more flexible materials). Given the density of them, it would not be advisable to have them dip into the foot. The tops can have sharp edges, which could cause tissue irritation or damage pressing into the foot/ankle with the repetitive nature of running. A retro curve refers to the top part of the counter curving in toward the Achilles tendon. Repetitive pressure will occur here every time the runners moves into the toe off or terminal stance phase of gait.

Those with tendinopathy, irritations of the Achilles tendon and other injuries/pathologies in this area would do well to avoid this design. Those with tendon irritations from the repetitive load of running are often more sensitive secondary to chronic overload, irritation and sometimes nerve involvement in the chronically irritated tissue. While this can be treated (with carefully prescribed loading programs including eccentrics, resistance training, gait analysis to assess for biomechanical faults, etc), it is best to avoid further aggravation from factors like this. These tendons do not need further pressure from a sharp edge. 



RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: My biggest recommendation is to redo the heel counter. The retro curve design was quite irritating to my Achilles tendon. This was only exacerbated by the loose heel and "elf" design which made my heel slip. I would suggest that Hoka look into external heel counters or redo this. My other recommendation is to rethink where Hoka wants the Clifton series to go. The original could handle racing and fast running. The current model is a trainer and is too soft to handle uptempo running, let alone racing. Recreational runners who want a cushioned, soft, protective trainer trainer may be able to use these for marathons, but people wanting to run fast will need to look elsewhere. If that is where Hoka wants this shoe to go, by all means continue on. If not, some work needs to go into making this shoe more responsive.

David: I really like the Clifton 8 despite some of the things I said earlier. My main recommendation for the Clifton 8 would be to refine the heel region to lockdown posteriorly better to prevent heel slippage and to refine the medial sidewall a little better. The medial sidewall can either be lowered or the platform widened slightly in that region. Another option would be creating a lacing system that wraps medially a little better to lock the foot on the platform better as well. 



WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Matt: The Hoka One One Clifton 8 is for those with medium width feet wanting a very comfortable mesh upper, a stiff heel counter and a rockered and soft sole for long and easy miles. The Clifton 8 is very much a daily trainer, best for getting your miles in. What the shoe loses in responsiveness it makes up for in softness for relaxed runs. The ride is classic Hoka, with a well-rockered and thick sole. The slightly lateral flex grooves in the forefoot are interesting and I will need more miles to figure out if they actually do anything. The retrocurved heel unfortunately is a bit irritating to my heel, so those with sensitivity there should approach this shoe with caution. Overall Hoka is making strides forward in creating a relaxed Clifton.

David: The HOKA Clifton 8 is a daily training option in the neutral category for someone looking for a cushioned neutral ride. The shoe is very lightweight for the amount of cushioning it provides and also provides a great rocker throughout. The heel security isn't great but if someone does not need much stability or security in that region the shoe should do well. The sole is on the stiffer end but the rocker does great with transitions. This is a neutral daily training option that will work as a workhorse. 



GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

Matt
Fit: A- (Very comfortable upper. Normal fit with stretchy mesh. Nice counter but too stiff and does retro curve)                   
Performance: B+ (Super smooth and soft ride. Loses responsiveness, so best for easy and long days) 
Stability: (Good components, including great rocker, bucket seat, thick heel counter offset by softer, less stable midsole) 
DPT/Footwear Science: (Good and interesting points for lateral bias flex grooves. However minus points for retro curve heel, which may place more pressure than necessary on Achilles tendon) 
Personal:  B- (I want to like this shoe, but soft midsoles and retro curved heel counters do not work for me. ) 
Overall: B/B+ (A solid update for those who want a comfortable upper and a softer ride for long easy miles)  

David
Fit: (Very comfortable upper. Too much space in retrocalcaneal region, medial sidewall too involved, otherwise good)   
Performance: B+ (Super smooth and balanced ride, lightweight, just not very responsive) 
Stability: (Good for a neutral shoe, but the heel security could be improved and the midfoot lockdown could be refined) 
DPT/Footwear Science: (Agreed with Matt. Heel can be improved but the rocker design is done well and the shoe has flexibility where it should) 
Personal:  A- (Underwhelming in a good way... the shoe provides a nice cushioned ride for daily mileage and easy days, I just don't like picking up the pace in it or strides. This is a strict daily training option) 

Overall: B/B+ (A good daily training option for those who liked highly cushioned neutral rides without giving up weight or durability.)             

HOKA ONE ONE CLIFTON 8 VIDEO REVIEW



Chief editor Matt Klein talks about his experience with the Clifton 8.

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Purchase the Hoka Clifton 8 at Running Warehouse here.
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FURTHER READING

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Puma Velocity Nitro -
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Thanks for reading!

TESTER PROFILES:

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. IG handle @kleinrunsdpt

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.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Bach Pham MS
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Hoka One One 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 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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