Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Hoka One One Clifton 7 Review: Can a New Upper Take it Back to its Roots?

Article by Canice Harte and Sam Winebaum


Hoka One One Clifton 7 ($130)

Introduction

Sam: Way back in 2009 Hoka emerged with the first max cushioned shoe the trail Mafate at the height of the minimalist run shoe era. In 2014 Hoka launched the Clifton (RTR Review) photo below, and it was an immediate success as it combined a sub 8 oz weight (7.7 oz) with a 29mm heel / 24 super cushioned stack, same as in the new Clifton 7 so a shoe light enough to race in and cushioned enough to train in for many. 

I found it to be a very fast shoe and also a very unstable one at the heel due to the softness of its midsole and its minimal rubber. Not a shoe I enjoyed for any easier running as it gave me strange and very unusual side of the achilles pains and at the time much preferred the RMAT  rubberized foam Huaka, a far more versatile shoe.


Through multiple iterations the Clifton got firmer, stiffer, heavier, more stable and more durable yet runners pined for the original with Hoka even re-issuing it a few years ago. 


The Clifton 6 was a decent update but I found its transitions and toe off still more labored and stiff than I would like and the upper OK but a bit of a straight jacket over the stiff underfoot.

The Clifton 7 we first saw last December promised a new soft and supportive sandwich mesh upper with a bootie/gusset tongue (a first for the model I believe), replacing the 6’s denser midfoot mesh and rear stitching support and also adding an achilles pull tab. When it arrived I noted a very welcome drop in weight of about 0.35 oz to about 8.55 oz / 242 g based. Still not the 7.7 oz of the original but very fair for the stack height. At first glance more comfort up top and that’s about it. But was there more? We tested to find out including in the A/B Test video below so if you want just what we found as differences stop here and check it out. The differences are also covered in the article.



Stats

Estimated Weight: 8.55 oz / 242g men’s US9 (based on our sample)

Catalog Weight: 7.1 oz / 201g women’s US8, 8.7 oz / 247g men’s US9

  Samples: 8.29 oz / 235g US M8.5

Clifton 6: 8.9 oz / 252g US M9

Stack Height: men’s 29mm heel / 24mm forefoot, women’s 27mm heel / 24mm forefoot

Available August 2020 including in wide for both men 2E and women D. $130


Pros:

Canice: Soft, well cushioned midsole with a very comfortable upper and lightweight.

Sam: Strong cushion to weight ratio, superb easy on the foot and secure (finally) upper

Sam: Improved rear foot stability, more and softer bounce

Sam: More flexible with an easier to find rocker at slower paces.


Cons:

Canice/Sam: Not so much a con as more of a personal preference, but the Clifton could use more bounce or pop when toeing off.

Sam: Soft and not ideal for slow running and softer than my tastes front and back at faster paces. Not a great shoe to lose form in and get back on the heels in. More rubber front and back would help give the Clifton more pop.


Tester Profiles

Canice is a 2 x finisher of the Wasatch 100, the Bear 100, Moab 100, Western States 100, and Leadman as well as many other ultras. He regularly competes in Expedition Length Adventure races with his longest race to date 600 miles as well as in traditional road races and triathlons.


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 63 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 163 lbs.


First Impressions and Fit

Canice: The Clifton 7 is lightweight and feels soft in hand when you first remove them from the shoe box. As you slip into the Clifton you feel secure and then notice the plush cushioning. The Clifton 7 has a 5mm drop and a full-compression EVA midsole with an early stage Meta-Rocker. The Clifton 7 is well balanced, has a smooth transition from heel to toe, and full ground contact which provides a smooth and stable ride


The Clifton 7 fits true to size and though the Clifton 7 has a relaxed toe box, I do feel the Clifton 7 is a bit tight in width at the laces across the instep. This has never been a problem but it is something I feel. Once I am all laced up the sensation goes away and I’m off running.


Sam: A modernized Clifton in appearances and upper materials although the midsole and outsole look almost identical to the original and the stack and drop remain as day one. The upper is very soft and  clearly very well ventilated and better so than the Clifton 6 as I found out during my humid A/B test. The upper is backed up by the new gusseted tongue, essential with such a pliable thin upper and I immediately noted no more side migrating tongue as in the Clifton 6. It fits me true to size with no issues whatsoever right out of the box.


Upper

Canice: The Clifton 7 utilizes an open-engineered sandwich mesh construction in the upper and delivers an incredibly breathable and comfortable shoe. Al lightweight mesh gusset prevents tongue migration and reinforced eye stays provide increased durability. The Clifton 7 also has a new vertical pull tab for easy entry. I found all of this combines for a nice lightweight and soft upper that you’ll be comfortable wearing all day.

Sam: The toe box has a less stiff toe bumper, letting the engineered mesh do more of the work. The overlays up front are 3D bands instead of a continuous strip over the toes as in the 6. 

This results in a very comfortable yet secure toe box with plenty of room for my medium to narrow feet. Recall if need be wide is also available but with this new upper fewer will need to go there as not only is the upper softer and more pliable up front but the shoe itself is more flexible working better with the upper to prevent bite and binding on toe off for me. And no tongue migrating! See picture above.

It was clearly more breathable in my A/B test  than 6 given the perforated toe box and mid foot, backed up by a fairly thin gusset which starts quite far forward and has a small amount of stretch. 

This leads to no migrating to the side tongue with the tongue itself quite short but long enough. Interestingly I found less arch pressure even with the band than in the 6th. Is there also something different underfoot there to deal with the dread Hoka arch bite or is it just the more pliable softer upper wrapping the foot better? Gone is the stitched support and essentially closed mid foot mesh or the 6.

The new rear pull tab achilles collar has less roughness in rear hold yet more security and I think helps give better stability at the rear, essential in the soft midsole light on the rubber Clifton and an improvement over the 6.


Midsole

Canice: A full-compression EVA midsole provides signature HOKA cushioning. The platform is fairly wide so it’s stable and while the midsole is very soft it is also incredibly durable within this context. With that said you should still expect to rotate your Clifton 7’s out a bit earlier than other shoes but generally speaking the midsole hold up incredibly well while providing an amazing amount of cushioning.


Sam: Canice describes the midsole well. I noted that the midsole feel is softer and bouncier than the 6 during my A/B test and overall the shoe feel is a touch less responsive in feel but clearly more flexible. Response off the front and flex can be interrelated in stiffer shoes all other things being identical and can seem to provide more pop when stiffer at pace while feeling more labored at slower paces. I think that is the case here.


I will take the new approach as not only is it a touch softer and more flexible, the rocker now is considerably easier to find and roll to toe off at slower paces, something I struggled with in prior Clifton at slower paces.


Outsole

Canice: Strategic high-abrasion rubber zones reduce weight and give you plenty of traction for all your road runs.

Sam: Not a ton of rubber here but it is in the right places. No changes to the outsole were called out by Hoka or apparent. This is not a forever outsole but an adequate one for the purpose. I do think more rubber would improve longevity and give the shoe more pop and stability.


Ride

Canice: The Clifton 7 has a moderate heel bevel which provides a smooth transition and a flat-waisted geometry which provides stability. The Clifton 7 has an early stage “Meta-Rocker” which gives the shoe a smooth transition from heel to toe. 


You’ll find the ride of the Clifton 7 to be soft and shock absorbing in a way that makes you feel like you’re running on clouds. There isn’t much ground feel, but you get the impression this is what Hoka intended.

Sam: The Clifton 7 is more flexible than the 6. The midsole feels a bit softer with a bit more bounce and has a smoother transition due to the increased flexibility I noted less forefoot fatigue in the 7 than the 6.


All in all the Clifton 7 has a fun light ride that is best experienced at faster daily training paces and at tempo where you can get off the heel onto the dynamic bouncy forefoot. The new upper provides better rear stability while more flexibility and a more forward flex point  had me more easily rolling through the rocker and thus enjoying somewhat slower paces than the 6 which I found stiffer and more ponderous at slower paces. While memories are hazy it reminded me more of the Clifton 1 than the 5 or 6.


Conclusions and Recommendations

The Clifton 7 is a great everyday running shoe for someone looking for maximum cushioning with minimal ground feel. The fact that Hoka managed to do this while keeping the shoe lightweight and comfortable really puts the Clifton 7 top of the list of max cushion shoes. If I could have one request of the design team at Hoka it would be to give the Clifton 7 more energy return / pop when toeing off. Other than that, the Clifton 7 is a fabulous shoe and definitely gets two thumbs up.

Canice: 9.6 / 10


Sam:

Canice summarizes well. Lots of cushion, a fun bouncier ride at a very reasonable weight and now with a superb upper, long an issue with the model. The additional flexibility was a big plus for me as it extends the utility of the shoe to slower paces as does the more stable rear hold. All of this said the Clifton still favors a more mid foot strike than a heel strike and faster paces (and most do strike further forward and with less time at the heel as pace quickens).  

While more than adequate, the midsole foam in my view could an update to a more modern, lighter material or blend with more spring than bounce as we have in the Clifton 7.

All of this said the Clifton 7 update ends up, despite on the surface “only” being an upper update as quite significant for me as the sum of the parts (upper, flexibility, slightly softer and bouncier, more stable) will have me reaching for them more frequently for them than any prior Clifton for a greater variety of run types. And it will also make a great light walking shoe for those who don't run as much,

Sam’s Score 9.1 /10

Ride: 8.7 (50%) Fit: 9.8 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style:9(5%)


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Clifton Edge (RTR Review)

The Clifton Edge has a prominent rear outrigger which no question makes the shoe more stable and more suitable for heel striking and slower paces than the Clifton 7. It is not quite as dynamic at faster paces due to its rubberized foam outsole/midsole with compressed EVA above even if I think it has a more effective yet front rocker than the Clifton 7.  Interestingly at the same 29/24 stack the Edge only weighs a touch more.  


Hoka One One Rincon (RTR Review)

Take the Clifton and put it on a slightly narrower platform and slightly more responsive feeling foam and you get the lighter race ready Rincon.


ASICS Novablast (RTR Review)

Another shoe with the bounce, a springier feeling one than Clifton. The Nova has a more modern dynamic midsole foam in its Flyte Foam Blast which provides a fantastic feel and ride but.. It is yet less stable due to its narrow on the ground platform than the Clifton and its plasticky harder to mid foot dial in upper is no match for Clifton 7’s. Efficient runners with good form will appreciate it if it fits your foot and stride but the Clifton 7 is now a safer bet for that kind of ride. 

The Clifton 7 is available now at the stores below and in more general release August 2020


Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was a provided at no charge. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review. Clifton 7 or Endorphin Shift as a long run/ recovery shoe? I'm training for a first marathon so just looking for something to keep my feet as pain-free as possible as the miles pile up.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous, no question Shift or..in Hoka Clifton Edge or Bondi 7. See reviews below
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our index page with links 100’s of in depth 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.
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