Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Hoka One One Clifton 5 Review: A new upper the big update

Article by Dave Ames, Jeff Valliere, and Sam Winebaum

Hoka One One Clifton 5

The Clifton 1 put Hoka on the road running map with a super light (7.9 oz), maximally cushioned, very soft and lively performance trainer, and for many also a longer racer. It proved very popular, if not very stable for heel strikers and had questionable durability. Since version 1 Hoka has stabilized the Clifton with a less aggressive heel bevel, somewhat firmer and more durable foam, and of course upper improvements. Weight had gone up almost two ounces by the Clifton 4 with some runners complaining loudly along the way as the Clifton evolved into a mid weight highly cushioned, softer daily trainer from a very light performance trainer and racer. So how does the Clifton 5 measure up?

Official Production Weight: 9.4 oz/ 266 g (US M9, 7.6 oz / 216 g (US W8)
Tested Pre Production Samples: 9.9 oz/281g (US M 9), 9.5 oz. / 270 g (US M 8.5)
Stack Height: 29mm heel/24mm forefoot, 5mm drop
Available in wide for men and women
$130. Available June 2018.
Men's US size 9 Sample 9.9 oz
Clifton 4
Weight: 9.35 oz/265 g Men's 9, 7.15 oz/215 g W8.
Tested Sample: 9.2 oz/261 g M9

First Impressions and Fit

Sam: The Clifton 5 shares a similar blue and yellow colorway with many other 2018 models. Classy, sleek, and modern looking the overly busy and overly colorful Hoka look of the past is gone. The fit is true to size for me with a notable lack of excess pressure anywhere. Every Hoka I have tested this year has a significantly improved and modernized upper and fit and the Clifton 5 is no exception.
LEFT: Hoka Clifton 5                                                              RIGHT Hoka Clifton 4
Compared to my Clifton 4, which was at a half size up, I notice less pressure under the arch in the C5 and a slightly more tubular, of a piece fit upfront with a touch more volume at the metatarsals. Those who sized up in C4 may consider true to size. Wide versions will also be available
Dave:  You either like Hoka or you don’t. I’ll save this story for another day, but I am not a fan of maximalism, and especially softer midsoles in maximal shoes. Soft maximalism can force the runner to work far too hard in a shoe.  It causes the overworking of many muscle groups, via too much shock absorption time upon footfall, including at the knees, hips, shins and can overfire the glutes. A smooth gait cycle should have minimal absorption time between footfalls hence creating a quicker cadence.  Soft maximalism has far too much "sinking" time forcing the runner to push off harder to complete the gait cycle. Why work harder than you have to?

However, Hoka has changed my thoughts (a little bit) with the new Napali, which is a great recovery day shoe for me, as well as the completely badass and indestructible Hoka Torrent trail racer , coming Summer 2018 (RTR review) - -  I was excited to test out the Clifton 5, knowing so many runners had decent success in the previous versions as a daily workhorse trainer. My size 9 was spot on with no issues. The new upper felt quite nice.

Jeff: I have run in most Hoka trail shoes built since 2010, as well as several road shoes (Bondi 1,2 and 5, Huaka). I had never run in a CIifton and was a bit surprised at how large the shoe is.  I actually received on the same day as the Bondi 6 and partially because they are both the same light blue color, I had trouble telling them apart and even after 6 or so weeks, still have to closely look when I pull them off the shelf.  Just holding them in the hand, it is still hard to tell, yet the scale reveals that the Clifton 5 is an ounce lighter than the Bondi 6 and the Bondi at a 33mm heel and 29 mm forefoot stack has 5mm more midsole at the heel and 4mm more at the forefoot.


Dave:  Clifton 4 was a solid update from the 3, boasting a new completely seamless engineered mesh.  However, I thought it had too many overlays getting in the way. The new C5 rids itself of these overlays, while going with a new engineered mesh to allow more foot molding and better breathability.  I like it a lot and for the first time in a “thick” Hoka my foot felt secure, at least walking around in it.
LEFT: Hoka Clifton 5                                                              RIGHT Hoka Clifton 4
Jeff:  The upper is excellent, soft and seamless with breathable engineered mesh that hold my feet securely with enough room for splay, swell and comfort.  Fit is true to size and works well with my low volume foot, but should accommodate a wide range of runners.
LEFT: Hoka Clifton 5                                                              RIGHT Hoka Clifton 4

Sam: Following the trend of other 2018 Hoka, the Clifton 5 has a fine tightly woven engineered mesh upper with plenty of openings for breathability. The new mesh has more inherent structure than the C4's while remaining quite pliable. So foot wrap is secure and all of a piece in feeling.
The C5 should prove more breathable than the C4.
LEFT: Hoka Clifton 5                                                              RIGHT Hoka Clifton 4
While the last is the same, the wider spaced pattern of front of toe box overlays and elimination of the solid over the toe overlay leads to more toe overhead room even if the mesh is a touch less soft, a slightly less pointy toe box and a more comfortable fit up front. I also noted a touch less metatarsal pressure in the C5 despite it being a half size down from my C4.
LEFT: Hoka Clifton 5                                                              RIGHT Hoka Clifton 4
The overlays at mid foot are mostly eliminated and the angle where upper meets midsole is more vertical in the C5 likely contributing to the reduced arch pressure noticed above. A few overlays with some branding extend towards the heel collar, always a good idea in one piece engineered mesh uppers to tie the lace up to the rear of the shoe and support the first part of the ankle collar.
The lacing system is the same as C4 but now the laces have a bit less stretch, a fine improvement along with the slightly firmer less puffy tongue as I found the C4 to stretch and required quite frequent re lacing. Lacing has been once and done in the C5.
LEFT: Hoka Clifton 5                                                              RIGHT Hoka Clifton 4
The top of the tongue is a bit more rigid and thinner and is more than adequately padded. It loses the puffy top of the C4. As noted above, the tongue is an improvement contributing to the secure no fuss lace up. The ankle collar appears unchanged in padding, width and height.The achilles notch is more open in the C5. On the run I noticed a touch less achilles hold pressure in the C5 as a result but no real change in hold.

LEFT: Hoka Clifton 5                                                              RIGHT Hoka Clifton 4
Sam: The midsole remains unchanged in materials or firmness from the C4 according to Hoka. We continue to have Hoka’s EVA and Early Stage Meta-Rocker geometry. This is still a stiff midsole but the rocker is effective especially as the pace picks up. Compared to C4, I noticed the C5 midsole seemed a touch softer, especially up front, less slappy, and transitioned more smoothly.

Dave:  Well, let’s put it this way….I snagged a pair of Clifton 4 last year and eventually gave them away.  The EVA midsole was just too dang soft for me to run in. I had the same experience in the C4 last year. I was hoping the Clifton midsole would be firmer. It did feel that way in the first few miles, but as the runs got past the 4 or 5 mile mark, I found myself working way to excessively hard in the C5.  I still think they need to firm this baby up. I’d be interested in knowing the durometer differences of the Napali vs. Clifton 5. I can actually run in the Napali! It packs a ton of snap for a maximal shoe. The Clifton 5 lacks a quick heel to toe transition rate after 4 or 5 miles, because in my mind, it is still far too soft.  In the Napali, I find myself getting to the forefoot l quickly and popping smoothly and solidly off the forefoot. My legs feel far less fatigued post run, compared to C5.

Jeff:  I sort of agree with Dave’s comments above, but am not quite as impacted by softness of the shoe.  I expected the Clifton to be lighter, quicker and more responsive, but was surprised that it was not so much.  While the midsole is on the plush side, I found it to be good for daily training runs where I wanted a maximal shoe for recovery and impact absorption on hard surfaces, which the Clifton 5 provides in spades.  Though not as responsive as I had imagined and not necessarily inspire speed, I felt that when pressed, the Clifton 5 can rise to the challenge when pushed.

Dave:  I don’t notice to many changes in the outsole geometry vs. Clifton 4.  If anything, the heel continues to be beveled off just a tad, allowing for a quicker transition rate and not getting “stuck” in full blown heel striking land. It grips well on all surfaces and did well on some cinder rail trail.

Jeff:  The outsole provides good grip on roads, cement paths and even works for light trail use (graded paths, dirt roads).  The rubber seems durable, compliant and gives a soft landing.

Sam: The outsole is unchanged. While thin, I have noticed almost no wear to date at about 30 miles, even on my usual fast wearing lateral side.  I wish Hoka would increase the heel coverage and thickness to better stabilize the soft heel. This would be especially helpful for slower paced running. I also think it could benefit from more outsole coverage and thickness overall, and more flexibility as found in the Hoka Mach.
Dave:  A very nice shoe for 4 to 5 miles, that’s about it.  Take it longer and I ran into issues with my muscles over working.  This is my issue with maximalism. There is far too much “sinking” rather than “reaction” (No this isn’t a Newton ad about Action/Reaction) - - To me, that’s not how we work, biomechanically.  This is what Hoka does for me. I am beat up in my shins and knees like no other.  

As a certified natural running/good form running coach, we do not want to teach getting “stuck.” I see newer runners put into maximalism all the time.  Unfortunately, such runners never get to experience what having some pop in your stride feels like.  They get used to plowing into the heel, slowly transitioning to mid load, sinking, then excessively forcing toe off while ending up with a lower stride rate and usually over striding. Why does a shoe like the similar geometry Napali work for me?  It is far firmer and far more lively.

Jeff:  I found the ride of the Clifton 5 to be smooth, well cushioned and comfortable, but not quite as responsive and quick as I had anticipated or hoped.  Though the transition is smooth and fluid, it just seems a bit sluggish and takes some work along the way and at toe off.

Sam: The ride in the C5 is soft but lively. I enjoyed it most at faster paces but wished for a touch more heel rubber to provide more pop and greater flexibility. While the Clifton 1-3 were overly soft for me leading to unusual achilles twinges the Clifton 5 rides considerably more stable while not losing that bouncy lively feel of the original. The Clifton has for sure a softer ride, somewhat bouncy and a bit mushy in a pleasant but not always efficient way.. I found it to ride best at moderately fast paces, medium tempo which for me is in the 8:30 minute mile or so range. Faster than that the softness seemed to contribute to less pop and more forefoot instability.  
Conclusions and Recommendations
A soft and far too sloppy transitioning shoe for me for most daily running .  I work excessively hard in the shoe to remain smooth and in control of my gait. I left runs  really banged up in the achilles, soleus, knees and shins. Recommended for the runner who likes it soft , slower transitioning and lacking distinct  pop off of the forefoot. This is not an entry level shoe. Let’s get that straight right now. Newer runners will struggle here. It will take considerable time in figuring out your gait stepping into them.  I was excited to try the C5, but honestly, since the C1, it’s just gone in the wrong direction. Hoka heads, and those who love the soft ride, will most likely enjoy the upper update and the somewhat more dialed in midsole.  To each his or her own, I guess!
Dave’s Score - 7/10
Dave:  Just unrunnable after 4 or 5 miles…..Does not work well with the way I run.  Firm up the durometer, lower the stack to somewhat that of a Skechers Performance Ride 7 and it would be a shoe more to my liking.

The Clifton 5 is a fine pick for those looking for a well cushioned, smooth maximal road training shoe with excellent comfort and a supportive upper.  I have to say I had envisioned the Clifton 5 to be more of a high performance, uptempo trainer, but seems much more at suited to slower to moderate paced miles, recovery runs, etc…  I think this shoe will satisfy most runners who are less concerned with utmost performance, but might not be the ideal pick for faster runners seeking top end speed.
Jeff’s Score - 9.1/10
-0.3 for weight
-0.3 for lack of response

-0.3 for slow transition

The Clifton 5 gets a more breathable, consistent fitting and supportive upper, is very slightly softer underfoot and transitions more smoothly. With this update the Clifton comes of age as a lively, softer daily trainer for runners seeking a maximal cushion shoe with a polished upper. Fans of the Clifton 4 will enjoy this update. 

This is the first Clifton I have really enjoyed running at most paces as it offers that special, softer, lively bouncy Clifton ride which is now more stable at the heel and more comfortably well locked in by the upper than the early versions were. It is still softer than I prefer and I wish it had the deeper bucket seat rear midsole of the Mach. It can be a touch sloppy to run consistently and smoothly when tired and lacks snappy response. 

Some might reach for such a softer shoe for recovery or long runs. I wouldn’t based on my preferences for well cushioned but slightly firmer trainers and its somewhat soft and sloppy ride at slower paces.Clifton 5 seemed to work best for me at moderate tempo paces and as the others have said shorter runs. At faster paces, or for longer slower runs, the softness and stack got less stable and responsive. 

How to tune the Clifton? I could see a slightly firmer or lower stack midsole, a deeper heel bucket seat, more outsole rubber and deeper flex grooves up front in some combination..
Sam’s Score 8.75/10
I scored the Clifton 4 considerably higher and while I enjoy the new upper underfoot I think it is time to really rethink the midsole materials and outsole design.
-0.50 for weight. I realize that Clifton has a maximal stack but others such Altra with the Duo have a greater stack yet and have figured out how to keep the weight down. The EVA here is “dated”.
-0.75 for softness, stiffness and lack of responsive pop and snap. Back to the midsole foam and also limited rubber.
LEFT: Hoka Clifton 5                                                              RIGHT Hoka Clifton 4

Hoka One One Clifton 5 vs. Hoka Clifton 4 (RTR review)
Sam: Clearly the big update here is the fine new upper. Underfoot I found the C5 a tiny touch softer and it transitioned slightly better. Bottom line if you liked the C4 you will very likely enjoy the C5.

Hoka One One Clifton 5 vs. Hoka Mach (RTR review)
Sam: The Mach has a clearly firmer more responsive and stable ride from its dual density midsole (softer heel, firmer forefoot with 5mm less stack front and back and bouncy RMAT outsole. It’s upper is slightly less structured but has a deeper heel area midsole "bucket seat". It fits me yet better and is more breathable. At 7.9 oz it weighs what the original Clifton did. Nod to the Mach. The perfect Hoka for me would be a slightly higher stack Mach or one with a touch softer midsole.

Hoka One One Clifton 5 vs. Hoka Napali (RTR review)
Dave:  Napali takes the cake here.  I really enjoy that shoe! It’s lighter by at least an ounce, firmer and just far quicker in working with the way I run. Colorways and aesthetics go to the C5. The Napali colorway I have (Black/Yellow) is fugly!

Hoka Clifton 5 vs Altra Duo (RTR review)
Sam: Atra shows Hoka how to do a maximal shoe that is light and with a lively, firmer ride in the Duo...and with remarkably little sense that it is actually zero drop. It is for sure not the soft easy midsole of the Clifton yet it is plenty cushioned. To get the weight down to a remarkable 8.5 oz. with its giant 31 mm heel and forefoot stack, the upper is paired down to a minimal very light mesh yet one with huge toe box volume. The fit and foot hold of the Duo may be more challenging for those with lower volume or those preferring a more supportive upper that the Clifton provides. Runners prefer different underfoot cushion some like it soft others firmer, and with the cavaet that I would like to see some drop in Altra, nod to the Duo.

Hoka One One Clifton 5 vs. Skechers Performance Ride 7 (RTR review)
Dave:  Ride 7 for the win. FlightGen midsole technology trumps Hoka’s EVA.  The Ride 7 is a far more enjoyable running experience that also allows you to step on the gas.  The Ride 7 shines at faster paces. The C5 does not.
Sam: I agree with Dave that FlightGen is a superior, light midsole. It too is soft but springier than the Clifton’s. The Ride 7’s upper is even better than C5’s for me which is saying something!  These two share the same stack height and close to the same weight with the Ride 7a bit lighter. I prefer the extra stability provided by the Clifton’s outsole and broad on the ground geometry but both are softer shoes than I prefer for daily training. Toss up on any given day.

Hoka One One Clifton 5 vs. Altra Instinct 4.5 (RTR review)
Dave:  While in a little bit different territory. these 2 shoes can easily be decently compared.  I do like the Altra better because on its “road” feel. They both pack a little more cush than the general daily trainer, but the snap I get from the EVA + A-Bound gives me the pep I am looking for.  That combined with the thick Yoga mat sock liner make it a great shoe! Altra for the W.
Sam: I agree with Dave here, 100%. Even with its considerable weight the Instinct is a fun and lively workhorse daily trainer with incredible upper comfort.

Hoka One One Clifton 5 vs. Saucony Ride, Brooks Ghost, Nike Pegasus (Reviews at our Index)
Sam: Going to keep this comparison simple. The Clifton 5 now plays in the daily trainer weight class. Bottom line is that it is the softest of the bunch with the most forefoot cushion and the least outsole rubber. It is more fun to run for shorter runs than any of the others above but more limited in its utility and likely longevity due to the softness of the midsole, stiffness, and outsole rubber coverage.

Reviewer Bios
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.  A formally competitive runner in High School and College, Dave focuses the majority of his time now on his athletes, but maintains the love for running and racing by keeping sub 3 Marathon, fit. 
Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several. 
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun . He has been running trails and roads and run shoe and tech geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half as well as 2 days after his 61st birthday a 3:40 marathon.  He also runs trails in rocky rooty New Hampshire and smooth Park City, UT. 
The Clifton were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Clifton 5 will be available June 2018
Comments & Questions Welcome Below!
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demian said...

I have to say the Hoka Napali is the best Hoka I've every ran in.

Steve How said...

How does C5 compares with C3? Thanks again for the reciew. Seems like opinions are divided on the C5...

Anonymous said...

I had a problem with the Clifton 4 and Clayton 1 in the arch where it was so high it gave me a crazy blister. Does this shoe fix that problem?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous, can’t be sure it will be solved for you but as in review I note definitely less arch pressure in C5.

Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links to all shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated

Unknown said...

i think you need some different reviewers. Hoka made it big originally providing cushion to people that needed it to run. Many were older or had knee issues and needed max cushion. Hoka went away from that but not far enough to please others, and they are losing their original customers making stiff not- as cushioned shoes. Perhaps they are going back to that now.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Robert, You make a good point as I know many older runners and those with issues including knees and Plantar's who are still able to get out there due to Hoka. Of the ones I know almost 100% are in the Bondi a stiffer firmer yet more cushioned shoe than Clifton. The original Mafate was also stiff. I would not recommend the Clifton 1 or even the Clifton 5 which is firmer and more stable tan C1 for runners with injuries or conditions. Over soft cushion can lead to instability and injuries, Maybe for some walking yes.
Sam, Editor

chromered said...

Love the C1 (never bettered) and live in the C3 but, how does the C5 compare to the Cavu

Anonymous said...

Why is Dave's score 7/10 even though his summary/conclusion read like 3/10 maximum?

Is the rating scale explained somewhere? Is it consistent between different shoe reviews?

Wesley said...

The C4 is superstiff. It's like a board. I don't necessary agree with Dave about the sinking in part. Because with the c4 (and c5 also) you land on a board. Try and bend the new cliftons.. it's just almost undoable.
I'm an ultrarunner and a huge fan of the earlier cliftons.. but after 5 miles or so, my feet hurt and my knees hurt on the new Cliftons. Simply because the shoe isn't responsive at all.
The Napali is though. So for me that's my new Clifton. And I think it has nothing to do with maximalism and working harder. It's about responsiveness. Hoka figured it out with a great transition in the earlier Clifton's... to combine maximalism and smooth effortless running. They ruined it.
Going to have a look at the Altra Duo.. it's supposed to mimic the C1.

Unknown said...

In response to Wesley, I agree with all you said although I have said that with the Bondi's latest version. However I must say that after giving up on my pair of Bondi 5's completely after a few months of trying to break them in I recently gave them another shot. What I did first however was use all my strength to actually bend the shoes over and over(did this over a few days in my arns and leaning on them on the floor) to break the stiffness. They are still stiff but usable for short easy runs now. Feet feel better now. The next version supposedly has more break pints in the sole so we shall see if it gets fixed.

Sam Winebaum said...

The Cavu is firmer, more flexible and more responsive. It has a lower stack at 24/20 so not really a classic maximal cushion Hoka.
Cavu here is here:
Sam, Editor

Scott R said...

Clifton 1 was the greatest recovery/easy run shoe ever made. Every version since then gets worse.. with all due respect to Dave and his disdain for soft shoes, the Clifton 1 was a game changer a ton of people (google them). On the other hand, The Clifton 2 was the worst follow-up shoe ever made.

When the 2 could be found on sale everywhere, stores were charging in excess of $200 for the last of the Clifton 1s.

Hoka would make a killing if they re-released the 1.... Yeah the 1s did not last long but those 300 miles were pure running bliss.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Scott,
We all see and run things differently. I found the Clifton 1 , when run slower very very unstable and soft at the heel with on top of that the huge bevel angle.. So soft I got totally unusual for me achilles pains. Dave and I are both heel strikers more than Peter is and I think landing makes a big difference in the Clifton. At faster paces it was excellent. So for me not much range or utility. The 5 for sure is more stable but quite stiff.
Sam, Editor

60 said...

Why would anyone buy the Clifton 4 or 5 when the Mach exists?

rms said...

Robert had an excellent suggestion for those who want to salvage these overly-stiff models: Bend them in your hands. I did this myself with the Stinson 4 when they first came out— what was basically a rigid flat styrofoam block, after 15min of brute force bending in half now has a full front-to-back rocker profile (what used to built into early Hokas). The difference in your stride before and after is dramatically improved,very noticeable. Or you could give the Stinsons away and get the new Mafate, who’s major improvement is more flexibility out-of-the-box without being mushy or styrofoamy.

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks for the tip RMS! Sam, Editor