Thursday, February 01, 2018

Hoka One One Napali Review: Tuned Up, Dialed In Clifton 3 at a Lighter Weight and Price than Clifton 4

Article by Dave Ames

The Hoka One One Napali ($100) debuts for Spring 2018 in the Hoka lineup as a less expensive alternative to the ever popular Clifton ($130).  The oversized EVA midsole combined with the early stage Meta Rocker design allows for a smooth, efficient ride.  The upper has been modified a bit to allow for better overlays and enhanced breathability. Napali ATR, an alternative to the Challenger ATR road to trail shoe is also available for $100, RTR review soon.

Stack Height: 29mm Heel/ 24 mm Forefoot, 5mm drop
Weight (per Running Warehouse):
   7.5 oz (Women’s US 8)
   8.6 oz (Men’s US 9)
$99.95. Available now from Running Warehouse here

First Impressions and Fit
I’ll lay it out here right now, as I had in previous reviews of Hoka, I just can’t run in Hoka!  They have always been far too soft and really did a number in beating my legs up.  But….wait for it!!  The all new Napali is quite the shoe.  I’m sold on it.
It is far firmer.than other Hoka models I have tried lately (Clifton and Cavu) and really gave me a quite pleasant running experience.  I’d would compare it in terms of road feel to the Clifton 3.
The fit is very nice.  I am a size 9 at true to size and had no issues with the sizing.  Hoka has gotten a bad rap for their sock liners causing arch irritation, but over 30 miles in and I haven’t had a problem.  I know this issue was worked on for the Clifton 4 and upcoming Mach replacement for Clayton as well.  The light weight of the Napali at 8.6 oz is quite impressive, as with all that EVA you would think it may ride a bit like a brick.  But nope….it really disappears underfoot.

Dave:  I’m a bit torn on the upper and I think they cheaped out a bit on the Air Mesh, No Sew construction.  With multiple run companies stepping up there game in the upper department this is for sure not the best upper out there, but I guess at the $100 price point, you get what you pay for.  Note:  I had no issues with the upper while running, or in terms of fit, just would urge Hoka to spend a few more bucks to give it a softer feel.  I have been critical of Hoka’s uppers from Day 1. As a company with Deckers' financial backing they could bring the upper game a little stronger.  If Skechers Performance can do it for less than $100 in the Ride 7 and Saucony can in the Kinvara, Hoka can.


Dave:  HIP CMEVA (High Injection Pressure Compression Molded EVA) foam is packed into the Napali. A strong, yet subtle when you want it to be midsole, it provides an excellent heel to toe transition and an overall pleasant running experience.  Somewhat like the M Strike does in Skechers Performance, if you get lazy, tired or sloppy in the Napali, the geometry reminds you to check your gait.  I like that in a shoe.  Recovery days are a breeze in this shoe and when feeling beat up, it keeps your stride in check.  However, the Napali is quick enough in transition rate to crank it up for a tempo, progression run or some always needed in training marathon race pace miles at the middle and end of a long run.

Dave: The outsole uses high abrasion lightweight rubber which gives a good sense of overall ground contact .  With the transition rate being so efficient in this shoe, while at the same time maximal in stack, you do get a good sense and feel of the road as well.  If that makes sense.  30 miles in and the shoe hasn’t lost an ounce of pop, but at the $100 price point and exposed EVA, I do question how many miles I can pull out of this thing.  I guess time will tell.  I plan on continuing to run in it.

Dave:  The first run out of the box was very pleasant.  I did have to stop and re-lace and lace lock, because I found myself slipping around just a tad.  Once I fixed that, it was gravy.  The more runs in this shoe, the better it got.  It’s soft, but very snappy.  It does not allow you to sink into the pavement like other Hoka’s (Bondi, Clifton 3, Cavu) - - which in turn have always beat the crap out of my legs.  I’m still not a believer that maximalism (very high stacks of foam midsole) is the answer, at least for me, but was surprised that this shoe rode so well.  Going forward I will use is for recovery days as there are far faster shoes out there for workouts.  But I wouldn’t be fooled if I pulled it for an easy 20 or 20+ miler in my next marathon cycle.   If you are a “Hoka Head” you will find the Napali to be capable of doing a wide variety of things for you!

Conclusions and Recommendations
Dave:  All in all a nice job done by Hoka One One.  A really nice price point and you get a good amount of shoe for that!  The upper could be better and the exposed EVA may wear down quickly (I don’t know yet) but overall it's Napali provides a great running experience for me.  Long runs and recovery days would be the recommendation and for the runner looking for good cush and good pop would be the pull if I were still slinging shoes in a run shop. The Napali may just be the answer to you Clifton fans who weren’t 100% sold on recent updates.

Dave’s Score: 9/10
-.5 upper could be better all around.
-.5 sloppy around the heel collar.  Had to use the last eyelet and lace lock

Hoka One One Napali vs. Hoka Clifton 3 vs. Hoka Clifton 4 (RTR review)
Dave:  The Napali reminds me most of the Clifton 4 in terms of ride and snap.  While I haven’t run in the 4, through speaking with many of the athletes I coach who wear Clifton 4, the firmness and responsiveness seems the same as in the Napali.  I did run in the Clifton 3, which was far too soft.  Long story short….take a look at the outsole of the former Clifton 3 and look at the Napali.  They are spitting images.  The upper is almost in my mind the same as well.  So, I have concluded is that the Napali is just a tuned up, dialed in Clifton 3, about an ounce and $30 lighter than the Clifton 4.

Hoka One One Napali vs. Skechers Performance Go Run Ride (RTR review)
Dave:  The Ride 7 now somewhat enters the maximal category based upon my running it is so far Both shoes pack a good amount of liveliness, but in terms of midsole technology, Skechers FlightGen foam is just outstanding.  At high speeds the Napali gets a bit sloppy laterally and transitions less smoothly, whereas the Ride 7 continues to be smooth, stride after stride as the pace picks up.  I will be getting far more use out of the Ride 7 than the Napali.

Reviewer Bio
Dave Ames is the Founder and Head Coach of Ame For It Run Coaching, a nationwide run coaching business, training athletes of all ability levels from 5K to Marathon. He works on keeping sub 3 hour marathon fit.

For Dave's full run bios see our Reviewers Bio Page here
The Napali was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Comments Questions Welcome Below!

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Anonymous said...

Sounds like this shoe is somewhat different than the Clifton 3. I was led to believe that it was the same as the 3 with a little different upper. Does it ride as firm as the Clifton 4.

Lightning said...

Looking forward to trying this as someone whose favorite shoes are the Challenger ATR (had 4 pairs) and the Clifton that I'm currentlyracking up miles in. I've only had the first versions because I like the lightweight, simple uppers, and didn't like the weight gain on the subsequent versions. The Air Mesh looks good to me. The Napali looks like a return to the roots in a good way, with a $30 savings bonus.

The exposed EVA isn't an issue. I have 1,050 miles in my Cliftons currently and still going, and the EVA is all there. The rubber looks about new too, though just starting to peel a bit (a common complaint with the Challenger when used on rocky ground).

Xavier said...

$100 should never be a way out for shoe companies to provide sub par products, and reviews like this give them an excuse to do so by saying "you get what you pay for". Running should be a minimalist sport that doesn't require expensive gear, and the less gear the better, let's not forget that.

We're now seeing a lot of shoes lines ranging from $130 to $180 when the difference isn't black and white from a $100 product, and by purchasing them we are effectively telling the companies that this completely acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Don't know how a well cushioned shoe could "beat my legs up."

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Agree with Dave. A well cushioned overly soft and unstable shoe can beat up your legs. Excessive muscle contractions compensating. Example for me Clifton 1-3 but not 4 mainly due to change in heel landing geometry and a touch firmer. I am a heel striker and more mid strikers likely not to have as many issues.
Sam, Editor

Dave Ames said...

Hi Xavier,

Thank you for your input. My point about "you get what you pay for" was about this shoe. There are a bunch of solid $100-110 price point running shoes on the market right now who have outstanding uppers. Hoka could have taken an already solid shoe and made it just a tad better...they have the resources to do so.


Dave Ames said...


Glad to hear the EVA is going well for you. Hoka does a good job of listening to runner feedback, something some of the run brands today, have forgotten to continue to do.

As a non-Hoka guy, I was interested to test this shoe and am really digging it!!

Hope your training is going well.

Dave (shoe reviewer)

Anonymous said...

I ran in clifton 3s all last year. I quite enjoyed my miles in them and went to try the 4s when they appeared. I ran four laps and was unhappy with my mid strike experience. The 4 wasn’t built for my gait and slightly wider feet. I tried then brooks ghost and scoffed at the lack of cushion support I had become familiar with in hoka. I waited from November to January 8 for this Napali to come out. I strapped them on and haven’t looked back. When these are done in 6 months I am getting another pair. They are perfect for the layman who isn’t trying to be an athlete but trying to stave off health risks by running every day. I love these shoes. These shoes deliver. -Kevin in NYC

Wes Arnold said...

Bit confused by the review; all the pre-release blurb said this was a just a Clifton 3 with new upper so the outsole and midsole should be identical to the ‘3’ not firmer like the ‘4’?

Anonymous said...

I prefer the Air mesh than the less breathabe knit upper. Toebox looks narrow.

Bill said...

Dave, thanks for your review, very insightful. I am encouraged to see that you include Skechers in your review (no, I am not doing a Skechers ad lol). I find their full line from the GoRun, Ride and GoRun Unltra to be very good for my gait and level of running but so few reviewers -- and runners -- consider them as serious running shoes yet. I was a Clifton 3 lover but not the 4 so much so I am looking into these Napali's as an option for my rotation.

Unknown said...

Just got this shoe in blue. I like the looks. Size 13, justs fits, toe maybe 1/4 inch from end of shoe, a very lightly snug fit. The heel area is softer than the front area. I have regular arches, I don't feel enough support in that area, but it is sort of acceptable. People with flat feet tell me they like this shoe. The way it feels reminds me of the Brook's Caldera trail shoe. My feet feel cool in this shoe, in the GoRunRide7, my feet sweat a little bit. I prefer the Vanquish 3 shoe compared to the Napali. I'll keep these shoes, but I am not going to purchase another pair. I also have the Skechers GoRunRide7, and the Forza3 which I prefer more. The GoRunRide7 I had to get a size 14 to fit me, the Forza3 is a size 13, which fits fine.

Unknown said...

How is the width/volume on this compared to...

Skechers Gorun Ride 7 with sock liner out?

Skechers Gorun Ride 7 with sock liner in?

Hoping this shoe will work in my rotation, just not sure on the width. I am very comfy in the Ride 7 sock liner out, but with sock liner in it's pretty snug, but has loosened up a bit for me over time to where it definitely is workable. Thanks.

Dave Ames said...

Hi Kip,

The Width and Volume of the Napali compared to the Ride 7....Note this is based on my narrow foot and my testing.

With the sockliner in the Ride 7, the Napali offers me much more wiggle room. However, I do not have an issue with the sockliner in the Ride 7 because my foot is narrow. But for the runner with an average to wider foot will notice they have a more pleasant feel in the Napali compared to the Ride 7 with the sockliner in.

With the sockliner out in the Ride 7, they feel about the same to me. Just comfortable and it works.

With the way the Ride 7 has been performing for me lately, I find myself reaching for the Napali less and less, unless I want a really slow recovery miles day.

I'd personally just stock up on the Ride 7, Kip!


Dave Ames said...

Hi Wes,

While it may look like the Clifton 3 from the midsole and outsole standpoint, the durometer has been tuned up a bit to provide a firmer and more responsive ride from what I am told.

In my honest opinion, maximalism needs to have some snap back to it, otherwise you are running on a marshmallow (like early Hoka's) which basically just beat the crap out of my legs. You used to spend far too much time on the ground, causing all the force and impact to shoot into your calves and knees. But when a max cush shoe provides more response upon footfall and encourages a quicker heel to toe transition rate, your gait cycle is far smoother and your legs feel far fresher.

This is why the Napali worked well for me. Just my thoughts.

Dave (shoe reviewer)

demian said...

Out of all the Hokas you've tried, which one is your favorite so far?

Σπύρος said...

How is the Napali sizing compared to the Torrent?

Dave Ames said...

Napali runs true to size. However, Torrent is made for trail racing and I'd suggest going up a half size for cruising down the downhills.

Mark said...

Hey Dave,

Do guys see Hoka bringing an updated Napali out soon? I see this model on sale now. But, with it being kinda a one-off shoe (not really a roadmap for this model), wasn't sure if we could expect another iteration.