Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Hoka ONE ONE Clifton 8 Review

Article by Sam Winebaum


Hoka ONE ONE Clifton 8 ($130)


Introduction

The Hoka Clifton when it first launched (RTR 2014 Review) ushered in the era of light weight, low drop, max cushion road shoes. 


The OG was a soft, bouncy, fast and not particularly stable at heel. I got weird and unusual side of achilles twinges from it. It weighed a remarkable 7.7 oz vs the 8.7 oz of the upcoming Clifton 8. I sure ran some fast training runs in it but as a heel striker used it “cautiously” much preferring the all rubberized foam road trail hybrid the Huaka which launched about the same time.


Over subsequent versions the Clifton gained weight, lost weight, got firmer, got softer, improved its upper in some versions but not in others but still remained popular. With the Mach 4 in the line up with a slightly lower stack height and a lighter weight at 8 oz it was time to tune the icon up.

In the Clifton 8 Hoka does not change the basic formula but makes a number of tweaks from what I could tell in my testing:

  • a lighter and less structured engineered mesh upper while retaining a solid heel counter and rear hold-not a new last but a softer more accommodating forefoot with a new gusset tongue to lock the mid foot given the soft pliable mesh. 

  • a new flavor of the usual compression molded EVA midsole-my sense slightly softer and bouncier

  • a more flexible overall rocker geometry- most welcome

  • a new outsole pattern most noticeably at the forefoot with flex grooves oriented more across the foot and all the way to the lateral side, a more continuous central decoupling groove and more heel rubber coverage area. 

Weight remains about the same with a small increase of 0.14 oz / 4g to about 8.7 oz / 246g


Pros

Highly cushioned and light in weight, return of a bouncier softer ride.

Great upper for moderately wide higher volume feet. Breathable, supportive, accommodating, soft

Improved flexibility works well with new rocker design.


Cons

Compression molded EVA midsole foam, its weight and run feel showing its age

Narrower lower volume feet may struggle for lock down in the quite unstructured upper.

Best run faster and towards midfoot. Overly soft and unstable for my preferences at slower paces daily training.


Stats

Official Weight: men's 8.8 oz / 250g (US9)  /  women's 7.6oz / 215g(US8)

Estimated Weight: 8.7 oz / 246g  

  Sample: men’s 8.43oz / 239g US8.5

Weight Clifton 7 men’s 8.29 oz / 235g  US8.5, 0.14 oz / 4g less than Clifton 8

Midsole Stack Height: 29mm heel / 24mm forefoot, 5mm drop

Total Stack Height (Running Warehouse): 37mm heel / 32 mm forefoot

Available June 2021 including in wide EE for men and D for women. $130  

First Impressions and Fit

Sam: The fit is true to size, no question about it. While I do not have my Clifton 7  (RTR Review) where I am now, I went to Runner’s Alley, my local running store, to try the Clifton 8 side by side with the 7 noting the following about the comparative fit:

The 8’s forefoot fit is higher and broader, the broader part I think coming from the softer thinner mesh and with a now comparatively more minimal and less firm toe bumper.


I noticed the new gusset tongue doing a solid job locking the midfoot in the now more unstructured upper and also with less arch pressure. The now puffier tongue was comfortable and effective with the laces. 

The achilles collar is now less rough and scratchy in feel and a bit broader before the “elf” rise.

Finally walking around I could clearly feel a smoother and somewhat more pronounced rocker and more flexibility up front.


Upper

The upper is a thin, very soft and pliable engineered mesh. It is made from 100% vegan materials. I have no doubt it should prove very breathable and more breathable than the somewhat denser thicker Clifton 7’s mesh which was already decently breathable.

I really like the execution of the “plush” tongue and flat laces. Often plush tongues are more for show but here it works very well with the lacing, the soft unstructured midfoot mesh and the necessary gusset tongue to provide a very comfortable lock down which I have not had to adjust on the run . 

That lockdown is helped mightily by the stout firm heel counter and high achilles collar. Without it I bet the shoe would be not nearly as secure. It is very tricky to pull off a secure fit in such a thin, soft, and pliable mesh upper and Hoka pulls it off quite well overall.

The toe bumper is firm enough at the very front tip but thankfully, unlike Clifton 7's, does not extend over the top of the toes and is not stiff to the sides. Combined with the soft mesh, I suspect that those who have had to barely move to the available wide sizing for a bit more front comfort and width may want to try “regular” in the C8. 


The Clifton 8 has an Ortholite sockliner which is a bit mushy and not as supportive at the arch as I would like and as a result my sense not as well integrated as the Mach 4’s apparently denser EVA sockliner is and which also seems to add more pop to the ride. Easily replaced if you prefer something different. 


Midsole

Hoka says: “the Clifton 8 is reinterpreted with our new, ultralight midsole foam.” It remains a compression molded EVA according to the catalog as was v1 of the Clifton.. The foam by itself does not seem to contribute to a drop in weight of the Clifton. The feel is soft with some bounce and my sense both a bit softer and bouncier than Clifton 7 and closer to the very original Clifton than the 7 was.  And the 7 was softer and bouncier than the 6 was for me.


The midsole geometry and foam, as always with a Clifton for me, favors midfoot striking and faster paces and yet more so here than Clifton 7. The heel is more stable than many prior Clifton, always an issue for me in any Clifton, but is not as stable as the swallow tailed design of the Mach 4 with its bonus of firmer thick quite firm rubberized foam at the heel rather than relatively thin rubber under soft foam in the Clifton 8.


The foam feel is soft and bouncy but lacks the dynamic “return” feel of newer compounds such as Zoom X, FuelCell as in the Rebel and RC Elite, Hyperburst, and Puma Nitro. For my personal preferences if this foam is to be retained in the future, I would like to see the main midsole slightly firmer as it is in the Arahi 5 or as in  the Mach 4 with its sandwich of equally soft top layer and firmer rubberized foam below for a snappier more responsive feel and maybe also to deliver a touch more stability. 


My personal preferences aside, I think Clifton fans will be  pleased with the now somewhat softer and bouncier ride here than in recent editions.


As I felt while walking around in them side by side with the Clifton 7, on the run the front rocker geometry is clearly improved (as it is in Edge, Arahi, and Mach 4) with more flexibility with an easier to find rocker at slower paces and a slightly quicker if soft and bouncy toe off at faster paces . 

Earlier Clifton, but already less so in the 7, had me needing to drive up and forward with the knees to get past it. Considerably less of that here in the 8. You can see in the photo above that the rocker seems to start earlier in the 8 than the 7 and is more acute in angle, all good things in a max cushion shoe to move things along!


Outsole

The outsole features a zonal partial array of rubber in a new configuration, in all the right places for me.

I think the more diagonal pattern upfront with grooves all the way to the lateral side help contribute to the increased flexibility. It also looks like the rubber extends further back on the lateral midfoot from the front which may help supinating midfoot landers with that wear area. 


The heel rubber now has a central triangle of rubber in the line of travel which I think may give the heel a touch more stability on landing below the soft foam.

 

Ride

Sam: A classic soft Clifton and bouncy ride here now with a soft and comfy upper to finally match! My personal preference would be for a slightly firmer ride with more foam spring to give the shoe more pop and so as to better handle slower paces with a touch more underfoot stability at the rear. The new rocker and flexibility is a plus in smoothing transitions and toe offs compared to prior versions’ rides. This said when you wind up the Clifton, as it always has been they are fun and fast and should be familiar to fans of the model. 


Conclusions and Recommendations

The pioneering Clifton, the first light and max cushioned road trainer, gets a solid update with the highlight for me the soft upper’s comfort (maybe a bit too comfortable and unstructured for my tastes)  and a new more flexible and smoother geometry up front.  Fans should be very pleased especially if fit and firmness of ride has been a past issue. 


I personally prefer a more substantial lockdown and a slightly firmer more stable ride, such as the Mach 4 delivers for me but will for sure take the new flexibility and front rocker.


I do wonder what one of the newest super critical type foams would lead to here. Not only in terms of ride dynamism (not quite as soft but at the same time springier or bouncier with more of a sensation of energy “return”) but also likely leading to lighter weight.  This said this iconic favorite, dare I say now legacy model's latest update is solid and I think on point for the shoe’s loyal audience.

Sam’s Score:8.97/10

Ride:8.9 (50%) A bit softer and less stable at the heel than I prefer.

Fit: 8.9 (30%)  Comfort is outstanding but mid foot lockdown could be more secure 

Value: 9 (15%) 

Style: 10 (5%) Spectacular looks!


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Hoka One One Clifton 7 (RTR Review)

Sam: A softer, more accommodating but maybe a touch less secure upper and somewhat softer midsole and ride are the key differences. Wider higher volume feet will be pleased with the update while lower volume narrower feet may wish for the Clifton 7 slightly more secure fit. 


Hoka One One Mach 4  (RTR Review)

The Mach has 2mm less stack height and has a dual density midsole with soft Profly (similar to Clifton’s main EVA midsole in feel) with below a firmer thick rubberized foam midsole as outsole layer. The Mach is more responsive, less bouncy soft than springy and notably more stable at the heel due to its swallow tail. It weighs 0.8 oz less. Its thin and denser upper is more supportive with less of the soft pliable and not as quite well held comfort of the Clifton 8. My personal preference in this matchup is the Mach for its superior rear stability for my heel striking at slower paces and for its snappier more responsive toe off. Those with a forefoot midfoot strike may prefer the Clifton 8's bounce if you can maintain that form.

 

Watch the Clifton 8 vs Mach 4 Comparison Review (11:15)


Hoka One One Arahi 5  (RTR Review)

Sam: Arahi is the stability flavor with almost the same stack height as Clifton but with a firmer main midsole, the stability J Frame and the densest most supportive (if still thin) upper of the three (Clifton 8, Mach 4, and Arahi 5). While I don’t mind the J Frame’s medial support it wraps around the lateral side making the heel considerably firmer than Clifton 8 if much more stable. Lose that “excess” and it would be stiff competition to Clifton for me.  


Skechers GO Run Ride 9 (RTR Review)

Sam: This new Skechers coming May checks in at 0.5 oz less with a slightly lower stack height. It has considerably more rubber coverage, is more stable, springier if a touch firmer. It is not the bouncy fun of the Clifton but for my uses is more versatile with a wider range of paces accommodated. It is also true to size with a very thin not quite as soft or as toe box roomy but more supportive upper.  


Saucony Axon (RTR Initial Review)

This intriguing new $100 max cushion shoe from Saucony has an equally soft midsole (an EVA TPU blend) and a slightly higher 38/34 stack height. Unlike the Clifton, it has a rigid rocker profile with a slight forward final roll sensation. It does not feel quite as dynamic as the Clifton does at faster paces but is more stable (in part due to its full rubber coverage) at slower paces. It has an equally comfort oriented soft pliable upper with about the same hold and volume mid foot to forefoot (maybe a touch less overall) but with somewhat better heel hold and stability.

 

New Balance Fresh Foam More v3 (RTR Review)

New Balance’s challenger to the Clifton has about equal cushion of soft foam. Its Fresh Foam becomes bouncier and more reactive the faster you press it while the Clifton feels softer at all paces. The More v3 is somewhat more stable and I prefer its more supportive upper. All of this “extra” comes at a cost in weight as it weighs 1.3 oz more than Clifton 8.

The Clifton 8 releases June 2021

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review from . The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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