Sunday, March 13, 2016

Review-HOKA ONE ONE Clayton: A Little Less Hoka. Light, Fast, Lively, Forgiving Trainer Racer. Comparisons to Huaka and Clifton.

Article by Sam Winebaum, Editor Road Trail Run

The Hoka One One Clayton is one of two shoes from Hoka's next generation: the
Pro2Lite series: "PROpulsion and PROtection. The other is an upcoming pure racing flat the Tracer(review here). Clayton weight is 8 oz/ 227 g in my men's size 8.5.*

The stack is 28mm heel/ 24mm forefoot, according to Running Warehouse so this is"less Hoka", something I have always wanted to find in a Hoka, without compromising the protective cushioned ride. It is lighter yet more agile, and a bit more flexible than its close cousins the Huaka and Clifton. It is also an improved Hoka as finally we have a great, no compromises, well fitting upper with decent toe room and a well held easy to lace mid foot area,

First Impressions and Comparisons.

The ride is fast and forgiving. It has a combination of a softish heel at slow speeds and a firmer, responsive yet still very well cushioned forefoot both from the Pro2 Lite dual densities of midsole foam, back and front of the shoe. It is no surprise that Michael Wardian took an early pair right out of the box and set a world 50K treadmill record in them. Clearly his performance is a clue, and I can confirm that the Clayton is ideal for long, fast mileage. For many it will be a great marathon shoe choice , especially on a hillier course. It is a unique sensation to have such a light, stable, cushioned and lively shoe underfoot. The RMAT outsole's rebound is distinct: soft feeling yet springy.

In many ways a cousin to one of my favorite shoes of the last several years the Huaka (review here) which had a full RMAT midsole and 27mm heel/25mm forefoot, the Clayton likely will also be a fabulous road trail hybrid for smoother trails, maybe a touch less supportive upper than the Huaka but with the addition of the pronounced Oversize Active Foot Frame, with the foot now sitting down in the midsole for stability.
One could also call the Clayton a cousin of the popular Clifton 28mm heel/ 24mm forefoot (review here). The Clayton is clearly more agile with more rebound, more road feel, more stable at the rear with far less of the Clifton's beveled high heel. While having only a soft heel cup, the high side walls of the Active Frame stabilize the heel just fine. It has a far better fitting upper for me, well held, no hot or tight spots and has a toe box which does away with the stiff high and long toe bumper of the Clifton 2 and the heavier overlays. I did feel that the Foot Frame in the arch area was a bit high and noticeable and might imagine those with flat, wide feet may notice some pressure there.

Midsole and Outsole

The Clayton has Hoka's new Pro2Lite midsole construction of two densities of EVA, softer in the heel (the white color) firmer in the forefoot (generally the yellow) . The lime green outsole is the high rebound RMAT of the great Huaka's midsole here used as the outsole, with no rubber. The outsole is more segmented than Huaka's with square pods. "Outsole" wear will be an issue as I am already seeing some heel wear at 20 miles, Shoe Goo will be your friend as it was for me with the Huaka which had thin rubber wear pads. Generally I have found that Hoka's tend to "wear in" fast as they adapt to your particular pattern then the wear slows. This said the Clayton will  clearly not be a "million" mile shoe, use them for long and fast workouts and racing!


Upper and Fit

As previously stated, the Clayton and its race flat cousin, the Tracer, have superb uppers. Why did it take Hoka so long! They fit me true to size. Clayton has been among the easiest shoes to lace and go, no fiddling ever with lace tightness for me and I tend to obsess a lot about the right lace pressure. I would call the fit a relaxed race performance fit. The mesh is fairly dense with the overlays a better match to the upper in terms of softness than previous Hokas. 
The tongue is among the best I have experienced recently and certainly the best in a Hoka to date: just the right length, thin but padded with black suede like wings that keep the tongue from slipping side to side  
There is no stiff heel counter but the foot sits down in the Oversize Active Foot Frame. While the toe box is not Altra or Topo wide and high volume, by carefully matching overlays and toe bumper to upper the toe box is comfortable with a bit of toe splay and great foot hold.  All of these details contribute to a great fitting upper. The Active Foot Frame height at mid foot is noticeable on one foot for my medium height arches and may be an issue for some. After sensing some irritation there I swapped the insole for a thinner one which eliminate the issue.  
The Clayton upper is more relaxed for sure than the narrow toe box, stiff upper, and extra lace down by the toes of the Huaka, less stiff and burdened with heavy overlays and toe box bumpers than Clifton. 
Toe Box Comparison Left to Right: HOKA ONE ONE Huaka , Clayton, Clifton 2 

The ride is superb: cushioned and lively with a distinct rebound as the pace picks up. The heel section of Pro2Lite foam is a bit softer at slow speeds than I prefer but without the instability and sinking feeling, along with some difficulty transitioning, to toe off I had in the Clifton 1 and even 2  at comparable paces. The ride is quite similar to the Huaka, a touch firmer and more agile in the forefoot and softer in the heel as the Clayton heel landing area has softer foam, no hard if thin rubber outsole and a wider segmented heel landing platform. 
Heel Comparison Left to Right HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 2, Clayton, Huaka

I had no problems running Clayton fast or slow, both equally enjoyable. Miles go by easy.
When compared to Huaka the heel is a bit softer on Clayton, remember no outsole rubber on Clayton and EVA above the RMAT midsole. My only wish for improvement in Clayton would be either a slightly firmer heel midsole or better yet some rubber heel patches to firm up the heel landing and provide better wear. The forefoot underfoot platform on Clayton feels narrower and definitely more agile and more PROpulsive than the Huaka's but this likely is an illusion as they appear to be the same width. What I think is really going on is that the firmer EVA of the Clayton forefoot, combined with the segmented RMAT outsole is more responsive and at the same time more compliant to how my foot wants to push off, so "less in the way" compared to Huaka. The Clayton in addition to its more stable yet still soft heel has a livelier more connected to the road toe off than the Clifton, and its lighter by close to an ounce.

Quick Comparisons
Hoka One One Tracer vs. Clayton
The new Tracer (review) is considerably firmer in the heel and and somewhat firmer in forefoot, a full blown racing flat with a bit more cushion than a typical flat. The Tracer has hard rubber patches while Clayton has only the softer RMAT for outsole. The Tracer upper is a more snug, a race fit but equally fine. I sized up a half size in Tracer for a bit more room, did not in Clayton.

Saucony Kinvara 7 vs. Clayton
Both have a great foot hold but the Clayton has a better execution of the mid foot hold and more room in the toe box. The ride is quite similar with the Clayton having for me a somewhat more cushioned forefoot and the Kinvara 7 a firmer heel with the distinctive rebound of the Everun. Longer miles comfort Clayton. Shorter faster miles Kinvara 7. Kinvara 7 review here

Nike Lunar Tempo 1 vs Clayton
Lunar Tempo has far more of a slipper like feel both upper and underfoot and is slightly lighter.  Lunar Tempo has a somewhat more consistent cushion feel front and back not having the dual density midsole and is considerably more flexible. It is less stable. While stiffer and thicker the forefoot of the Clayton is both more cushioned and has more pop if you are off the heels.
Lunar Tempo review here

Altra Impulse vs. Clayton
The Altra's forefoot ride is fantastic, long smooth and stable flex vs. a stiff toe spring in Clayton. Both have well cushioned forefoot. Its zero drop heel is considerably firmer than Clayton's and you have to be able to handle zero drop. I don't adding a wedge and more weight. Impulse is heavier. I would not try a marathon in the Impulse due to the heel. but would in Clayton. Clayton upper while no foot shaped toe box is superior overall. Impulse review here

adidas Boston Boost vs.Clayton
Boston Boost is a good compromise between trainer and racer. It's forefoot like the adios is thinner than Clayton so if need good forefoot cushion for the long haul Clayton may be better. The Boston heel is softer and less stable than adios as it has no lateral plastic to support the Boost. It's heel feel is firmer than Clayton but for me a bit unstable. It is about an ounce heavier than Clayton.

adidas Adios Boost 1 vs. Clayton
If we are talking racing shorter distances Adios is superior. Great toe spring, a just right heel and of course Boost.The outsole rubber on Adios is longer lasting, very long lasting while RMAT on Clayton will wear far faster. It is thin in the forefoot, about 16mm vs. 20mm for Clayton so your feet may take more of a beating in longer races or on hills.. For long and comfort at a fast clip, Clayton. For shorter speed or if your feet can take the thinner forefoot, Adios.

Conclusions and Recommendations
The Hoka One One Clayton is a superb light trainer racer , one of the best I have run in the last few years. The miles go by easy in this shoe. The Hoka marketing for the Pro2Lite midsole PROpulsion and PROtection rings true. It is a unique sensation to have such a light, stable, cushioned and lively shoe underfoot. It should be a great long road race shoe : half and up and up, particularly hilly courses.  It runs slightly better at speed than at slower paces but after all Clayton is a speed distance shoe. While I have not yet run them on trails as I did extensively its older cousin the Huaka, more agile runners on smoother non muddy trails will likely consider them for a race shoe. Highly Recommended.

Score: 4.8 out of 5
-0.1 heel softness, no heel/outsole wear rubber and premium price
-0.1 for some light blistering under the arch from the Active Frame side walls.

Available April 2016. $150.

The Clayton was provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are enitirely the author's.

* Hoka catalogs have the weight at 7.3oz men's 9 and stack of 24mm heel/20mm forefoot, same stack as the seemingly lower Tracer. My pair weighs 8oz men's 8.5. Running Warehouse has stack height at 28mm heel/24mm forefoot but weight still 7.3 oz. Small differences in weight between prototypes and production can occur. I suspect stack is correct at 28mm/24mm but will confirm with Hoka.

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harris said...

Sam great review. I have a pair and have put about 10 miles on them o far. I feel they are a bit more stable than the Huaka a shoe that I also like very much (just got two more pair at half price so will be running in these for a while as well). I think as you do this will be a great racing shoe. Thanks again for a great review

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, do you think that this shoe would be suitable for someone with mild/moderate pronation considering the pronounced active foot frame and overall stable feeling ride?

Sam Winebaum said...

Anonymous, What works for you now? Road and Trail. And if trail what kind of trail? If Road likely if not daily trainer. Infinite another good Hoka option for mild pronation. Mainly road due to minimal outsole profile but non muddy trails should be fine. Thanks for reading! Road Trail Run is also on FB @

Anonymous said...

Sam...did you go same size with Huaka and Clayton? Any chance you could do the quick comparisons like you do with your other favorite shoes -- Lunartempo, Kinvara 7, Adidas boston, etc.

Sam Winebaum said...

Great suggestion Anonymous! Thanks! Got going on Hoka comparisons and forgot the others. Post is updated.

Jeremy said...

Hello Sam,
Thanks for your insightful review.
How would you compare the clayton to the tracer?
And, for instance, how would you compare those two new hokas to Adios Boost2 or Salomon SLab X-series? Are the Hoka softer? Snappier? Do they fit a bit more relaxed in the forefoot?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hello Pluto, I added the Tracer to the comparison in the review and edited my comparison about Adios. X Series is very similar in feel to Tracer, both very firm EVA especially the heel. Tracer a bit more cushioned but not by much. The Adios Boost 3, just got a pair, is definitely snappier than the others and has like the Tracer and Clayton a more relaxed fit than the X-Series. The Adios Boost 3 sits somewhere between Tracer and Clayton in firmness both heel and toe area and for me is more comfortable underfoot and snappier than Tracer or X-Series although in upper the Tracer and Clayton are tops. Thanks for reading! You can also follow Road Trail Run on Facebook search for "" there.

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks so much cmho3000! Much appreciated!
As far Shoe Goo. What I did for the heel, where I wear fast, was to run them until there was some wear then apply the Goo. A thin layer seems to hold quite well. Make sure the area you Goo is clean
You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook: Twitter: roadtrailrun.

Unknown said...

Hi, I am a high school xc and long distance track athlete and I love my huaka's, I have 3 pairs, but I cannot find them anywhere and don't know what a potential replacement for them would be. Suggestions?

Sam Winebaum said...

HI Zach, Clearly and I have been a huge Huaka fan for roads the Clayton is the replacement. If you run trails and especially rougher rocky trails it might be a bit light but still should be a good replacement. Hoka is coming out with a speed trail shoe, based on the Tracer, called the Speed Instinct. That might also be a good alternative understanding they are firmer than Huaka is.
Thanks for reading!
You can also follow Road Trail Run on Facebook: or Twitter: roadtrailrun.

Unknown said...

Hey Sam! Fantastic review! Just now found you and you are one of the best of MANY, MANY I've read. Love the HOKA brand, but kinda got dumped on when they quit offering the 13.5 in the Conquest (13 = black toe nails, 14 = SLOPPY fit) so, I've been struggling to find the right HOKA since. The Constant 1 fit is great but it just didn't feel quick enough, kind of sluggish. The Clayton has caught my eye with reports of the wider toe box but you have me worried with comments of it being a more long run/up tempo/fast pace shoe. I'm not super speedy but I don't think I'm a slug either. My normal miles are in the 7:30-8:00 min pace and speed work I can maintain high 6's and low 7's for 10K and under but I'm not much of a racer. I'm mainly looking for a daily trainer that doesn't kill my little piggies, could this be it or keep looking/waiting? Btw, I'm in the Vanquish 2 now doing the "alternative lacing" at the bottom holes.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Todd, Thanks so much for your kind words. We're working hard at it and the compliments are much appreciated! First at your speeds which are mighty fine the Clayton will not be to to much of a race machine for you. It is a very comfortable trainer racer at any speed although for sure a bit less cushion than Conquest or Constant but still very much a Hoka. Your pace for any type of run fast or slow is liable to be faster as they are so much lighter. They are wider than other Hokas I have tried in the toe box but have not run the Conquest or Constant. The overall width is not hugely greater than say the Clifton but they are wider. The key is much softer more foot compliant upper and overlays. One thing to be aware of is that more than a few have reported irritation or a blister just behind the ball of the foot towards the arch on one foot. I had some irritation. The "problem" is being resolved by either trying a thicker or thinner sock liner. For me it was thinner. I think this has something to do with the combination of supplied sockliner sidewalls and the active frame midsole sidewalls. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook and Twitter.

Fat Maggot said...

I loved the improvements implemented by Hoka in toe box room and the lively ride of these shoes. The deal breaker for me was the blistering. Both my boyfriend and I have high arches and we both experienced *extreme blistering* at the front of the arches in both feet. I own Tracers, Clifton 1s (which I love and stockpiled a bunch), Clifton 2s (which I hated every mile in), and Challenger ATRs (meh). I tried the men's Clayton as well with the same blistering. Tired of nursing my foot back to health, I returned the Claytons. Hoka is well aware of this issue and Roadrunner Sports says that the great majority of Claytons they sold are all coming back so they think that Hoka will probably have to recall the shoe eventually. It is sad because it is otherwise a great show. I don't know why they had to incorporate that bump in the sole. It does not make the show any more stable for forward motion. It merely irritates the foot.

Fat Maggot said...

Sorry my autocorrect keeps correcting shoe into "show" Don't know why. Makes me sound like a retard.

Fat Maggot said...

If your foot does not blister in them, the shoe is great. Changing insoles did not help in my case and I have high arches. My boyfriend runs in your pace range and he also sustained blistering and could not live with the pain. Good luck in your search.

Sam Winebaum said...

Sorry to hear FM. I somehow think there was a last minute change in insole type. I had some irritation there my first run but swapping out the stock insole for a thinner one and more miles, maybe breaking in the side walls, solved it completely. Somehave found adding a thicker insole helps eliminate the problem. For me it was a thinner one. A smart move on Hoka's part would have been to include 2 insoles as they have sometimes done. Regardless this kind of issue just shouldn't happen.

shan said...

Seems like blistering is the common issue with Clayton :(