Saturday, October 28, 2023

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Multi Tester Review: 6 Comparisons

Article by Jana Herzgova, Sam and Dominique Winebaum, and Michael Ellenberger

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX ($160)


Sam: The Clifton 9 GTX is on the surface a weatherized version of the Clifton 9 featuring an Gore-Tex Invisible Fit upper, many reflective highlights, and a somewhat fuller contact outsole. 

I personally found it significantly different from the regular Clifton 9 in both fit and ride with a more generous and roomy upper and a firmer more rocker based ride. Please read on for all the details as I join Jana, Michael, and Dominique in the review.


Firmer midsole foam makes it more stable and responsive than the regular Clifton 9: Sam/Michael

Very decent weight for a Gore-Tex equipped shoe at approx. 9.7 oz / 275g US9 with a high 38mm heel / 33mm forefoot stack: Sam/Jana/Dominique/Michael

Many reflective elements (including entire lace eyestay) for winter/ lower light running: Sam / Jana/Dominique

Most effective rocker in a Clifton yet, far more effective than flex based Clifton 9 rocker: Sam


Firmer foam to pressing and on the run than regular Clifton may be a negative for some: Sam/Dominique 

CMEVA foam does not deliver a particularly energetic modern ride: Sam /Jana/ Dominique/Michaek

Upper given GTX Invisible Fit is quite stiff if holding the foot well: Sam/ Dominique/Michael

More than usual weight difference (0.34 oz / 9.6g ) between right and left shoes: Sam

Please find the testers full run bios at the end of the article after Comparisons.


Approx Weight: men's 9.7 oz  / 275g (US9)  /  women's oz / g (US8)

  Samples: men’s approx. 9.51 oz  / 270g US8.5 (9.17 oz right, 9.51 oz left);

                   Clifton 9 regular upper: 8.62 oz / 244g US8.5 

                  women's approx. 10.33oz / 293g. US 10.5

  Stack Height: men’s 38mm heel / 33mm forefoot, 5mm drop

                        women’s  36mm heel / 31mm forefoot. 5mm drop

$160  Available now.

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: The upper is Gore-Tex Invisible Fit. This means the waterproof breathable barrier is laminated directly to the outer mesh. A traditional Gore-Tex upper is a bootie that sits as an inner lining in the shoe. Invisible Fit allows the Gore-Tex part to be lighter and less prone to wear as grit can get between the outer mesh and the inner bootie causing wear. The Invisible Fit membrane and upper both feature recycled content although the percentage is not specified. 

Given the shorter winter focus of the shoe, Hoka includes extensive reflective elements. These include: the entire eyestay (lace holder) and all 6 silver logos and highlights.

The combination of Gore-Tex membrane and mesh leads to a relatively stiff upper, and stiffer than the regular Clifton if one with, for me, a better overall hold. 

I did an A/B run with one on each foot in my video review  The rear fit is both more comfortable and more secure than the regular Clifton 9. 

The rear achilles collar has clearly been redesigned with a less swept back profile (more secure hold) and more padding and is a clear improvement.

The midfoot is well held with the tongue attached to the eyestay (lace holder) whereas the regular Clifton 9 has a stretch gusset connecting tongue down to the midsole. 

The toe box is clearly wider and higher than the regular Clifton (as shown below) but is not as soft and foot conforming. 

Overall hold front to back is more secure if more voluminous. 

I am true to size in both versions with the regular not as accommodating in the toe box if softer in feel due to no Gore-Tex membrane laminated to the inside of the upper mesh.

Jana: This is my first Hoka Clifton. My very first impression was not that great, as they felt quite stiff to me.  However, after a few runs and all day wear at work, they have improved. I can understand why they have been a staple in Hoka’s shoe line. They are very light, breathable, and very comfortable. They are not built for speed ( at least I don’t take them for speed workouts), however, they are very good recovery/long runs companion for me. I would also recommend them to walkers, or people who stand on their feet all day at work, as they are very comfortable and cushioned.

I took them on a stroll in snowy Colorado weather with snowy/slushy door-to-trail conditions, and they performed quite well. No slipping on road, steady footing on non-technical and somewhat flat trails.

The upper is seamless, and  on the slightly thicker side. It also has reflective elements for dark winter runs/hikes.

The toe box is mid range width for me. They don’t feel sloppy running in them like in Altras (too wide for me), nor do they feel like my toes are squeezed in. I had zero hot spots, nor did I experience any foot sliding/rubbing at all. The heel collar is padded for comfort and does not create any hot spots/chafing. Again, zero issues there as well.

They breathe quite well and keep my feet dry at all times - my feet felt warm in CO freezing morning temps, wearing just thin socks. 

They feel true to size.

Dominique: Prior to testing and reviewing shoes for RTR the Hoka Clifton was my go-to running shoe. Last March, I got reacquainted with the model by testing the Hoka Clifton 9, and my experience was indeed very positive (RTR Review).  However, this new Gore-Tex Invisible Fit Clifton edition, felt like a different shoe, a tad too stiff and not as enjoyable to run in.  By all means, it has none of that soft cushiony feeling that I was expecting from a Hoka Clifton.  

After several runs in them, I am still struggling with the firmness of the midsole and the stiffness of the upper, though less so than  when I first run in them.   I find that they are a great option as walking shoes, especially as the weather gets colder and wetter. 

The fit is on the roomy side and a tad too big as I can slide my finger in the back of the shoe. Unlike the regular Clifton 9, the sizing is not perfect.  Perhaps the last was designed based on the shape of men’s feet as opposed to women’s, but it is clearly off for me in terms of sizing.    The upper is quite stiff and is not free of extra folds in the toe vox.  I prefer the Gore-Tex Invisible fit on the Nike React Pegasus Trail 4 GTX , which was my top favorite shoe of 2022. 

The upper is very protective against the elements helping keep your feet comfortable and dry in rough weather.  Also, the level of reflectivity is optimum,  providing 360º coverage.  I would characterize the ankle collar as well padded along with the tongue to help create a secure foothold, however due to the sizing issues that I am experiencing,  it is not as secure as it should be, which is also true for the heel collar.  

Michael: Usually these “weatherized” or “weather-proof” shoes come with significant compromise, and while the Clifton 9 GTX isn’t perfect, I do think it’s the closest thing to a no-brainer weatherized shoe that I’ve run in - and that starts with the upper. In the vein of “isn’t perfect,” I’ll note some minor flaws, first - I did find the upper to have a little too much volume, which (as others note) is exacerbated by the relative stiffness of the mesh, which means that (in some cases) you can end up with bunched up folds of firm material against your foot. 

It’s a problem in theory, but not a large one in practice; I actually noticed it immediately upon trying on the shoe (you wouldn’t necessarily pinpoint this as a “winter” shoe, ala Gore-Tex, but you can tell something is up when you try it on) but the issue was considerably less noticeable when running. In fact, it was only in the first few minutes of a run that I’d take any note of it at all. If you plan to wear these around casually, it may make sense to go down a half-size to eliminate some of that issue but otherwise I’d wear them true-to-size for running.

With the bads out of the way, I’ll touch briefly on the goods, too - the upper here is extremely durable and weather-resistant; I ran through puddles, damp days, and even a literal thunderstorm (all this in a very abbreviated testing time for me - thanks, fall weather!) without incurring problems. They’re not water-proof, but they’re comfortable and dry, without much tradeoff. I’m a fan (especially of this color!). 


Sam: While Hoka highlights the Gore-Tex Invisible Fit upper I also feel major changes to the midsole and ride. Still CMEVA foam as before, but here clearly to pressing and on the run a firmer flavor with more response and considerably more stability both at the front and at the heel. 

Whereas in the regular we had a combination of some flex and the early stage meta rocker,  here we have, even after 20 plus miles we have a near totally rigid rocker profile shoe, no front flex while the regular has plenty of flex. Prior Clifton had more rigid rockers than the Clifton 8 and 9 but here the changes are notable. I have often found Cliftons not particularly rear stable and with the rocker hard to engage consistently at slower paces. Not so at all here. Any pace is welcome.

The Clifton has always been a neutral shoe and here in the GTX it remains so. That said I now find it also much more inherently stable and more consistent in feel than any prior Clifton. The cushioning upfront felt deeper and more protective in  my A/B test run and the heel is more locked down and stable. I will say the CMEVA foam is not as energetic as more modern supercritical foams such as Puma’s Nitro, Nike’s Zoom X, and Saucony Pb.

Jana: I don't have much to add to what Sam mentioned above, I have no comparison to any of the previous Clifton models. As a neutral / stability shoe (for me), I did not expect much of an energy return, and they perform for me exactly like that. 

Dominique: The firmness of the midsole has been an issue for me, especially at the heel since I am a heel stricker.  I came back from my first run in them extremely puzzled - and disappointed - as it did not feel anything like my regular Clifton 9.  The fact that I was transitioning from the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080, a shoe with high stack height pretty similar to the Clifton GTX, but with a remarkably soft and comfortable midsole, made it harder for me to adjust to my new tester.  

On the upside, the midsole is inherently stable, as stated by Sam.  

Michael: Once again, I think the GTX flavor of the Clifton provides improvement without much compromise; I’m not exactly in love with Hoka’s CMEVA foam (this is a carryover in material from the previous Clifton’s and, as others have noted, is not exactly the most modern-feeling composition) but I did find these to ride a little more energetic than the previous iterations of the Clifton. There may be some interplay between the stiffer upper and a quicker toe-off here, and the underfoot feel is undeniably firm, tending towards dull, but I did get a little more bounce and give from this version compared to my recent testing of the previous Clifton’s. There’s just an ever-so-slight rocker feeling, but I do wish the Clifton would adopt the geometry of something like the GlideRide, where that firm midsole becomes a benefit more than a tradeoff (or plain neutral element). My feedback sounds harsh, but shouldn’t be - if you like the Clifton like, you’ll like this as much or more than the non-GTX variants; I know I did!


Sam: The outsole has the same general pattern as the regular Clifton. There are differences with the pads more filled in so more flush to the road than regular Clifton 9’s. The idea is to create more contact surface to the road for wet conditions. This remains to be tested but in principle for winter running I would prefer smaller more lug like elements.

As said in midsole, the platform is considerably stiffer than the regular Clifton and the more filled in lugs may contribute (along with the firmer denser midsole and upper) to this.

Jana: As Sam pointed out, the lugs are big, and create sticky pads that don’t slide on wet surfaces. As I mentioned above, I tested them in wet Colorado conditions and they perform very well. I I have run roughly 30 miles in them so far, so to try to estimate how long the outsole will last is impossible at this point. I have zero wear/tear on them, but the mileage is quite low as well.

Dominique:  The outsole is designed for wet conditions on flat surfaces, such as roads.  The Dubraison rubber outsole appears to be quite durable and the traction pods provide more contact surface, as opposed to lugs.  I got caught in the rain on a run and felt very steady on the downhill.  I like to wear them on long walks whether road or trail. 

Michael: I was actually pleasantly surprised by the outsole here; I know this is a weatherized shoe, but I found Hoka’s to consistently be towards the bottom when it comes to outsole grip and performance. Not here! This was a great experience to test these on some wet leaves and trails, and I had no major issues. I don’t know if I’d take these on really icy roads or something, but this isn’t a winter-specific shoe, just a weather-ready one. Kudos to Hoka here. Durability-wise I can’t really comment, though - I lucked out in having some good testing days for them, but I only put 15 miles on them or so, so I’m not really qualified to speak on it! Will update if anything really surprising comes up. 

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Jana: The Hoka Clifton is a good cushioned neutral shoe choice for daily trainer/long distance runs. It can also be a very comfortable and cushioned option for walkers / all day standing folks. The upper is built weather-ready, and the ride is stable and very comfortable with the ease of mind for being prepared for any weather condition

I am not sure how many Gore-Tex road shoes are out there now, but this is definitely a great choice if you are looking for a more cushioned and neutral type of shoe.

With the upcoming winter weather running, I’ll definitely keep them in my rotation. To describe them in two words - Waterproof Comfort.

Jana’s Score: 9.05 /10

Ride 9; Fit 9; Value 9.5; Style 9


Sam: Not what I expected given the Clifton heritage of softish, not very stable pure neutral trainers. The GTX version, due to its firmer/denser foam than the regular Clifton 9, is considerably more rear stable and noticeably more front protective/cushioned upfront than the regular Clifton 9. Further, unlike the regular 9,  it returns to a considerably stiffer more rocker based profile than the Clifton 9’s rocker with some flex. I find the rocker effective unlike some older versions where the rocker started later and prioritized faster paces. Here it is effective at a wider range of paces.

I say “firmer” but there is plenty of cushion here with some moderate rebound. This is not an old school EVA midsole ride but neither is it a lively supercritical foam ride. The ride feel is stable and consistent in feel at all paces so for many (but not all) l see this “new” underfoot as more practical for more runners. For example Brooks, Ghost fans who want to move to a lower drop (5mm here vs 12mm for the Ghost although the new Ghost Max is 6mm and closer in specs to the Clifton). The ride ends up very similar to Saucony’s PWRRUN in the Ride with a touch more energy return and bounce.

The GTX upper not only provides more support than the regular one but also is somewhat higher volume, and while not exactly luxuriously soft due to the laminated Gore-Tex , it is a better fitting upper for me. With Gore-Tex adding only $15 to the price and winter on the way (and thank you Hoka for the extensive reflective elements), it is a good 3 season daily trainer value as the upper, even with its waterproofing, is decently breathable for a solid 3 seasons.

The Clifton 9 GTX is not exactly “exciting” overall or as exciting as the regular version. That said, the sum of its parts: a more stable and consistent any pace ride, GTX upper (fit, weather protection and reflectivity) moves this GTX version of the Clifton somewhat away from its uptempo light and lively roots to a position in the Hoka line up as the steady daily trainer with the Machs the faster and lighter trainers and the Bondi the heavy duty max cushion slo,w paces option.

Sam’s Score: 9.1 / 10

(-0.6 for a more energetic and pleasing foam and ride, -0.3 for a less stiff upper)

Dominique: I run at a slow pace (11 min/mile) on my regular runs and have not enjoyed the firmness of the ride.  However, when picking up the pace, I get to enjoy the feel of the rocker, which helps dissipates the firmness of the heel.  A neutral shoe that is very stable given its  firm midsole and wide platform.

The cushioning is “balanced” versus being “responsive” and “plush” which is the main reason I have struggled with this GTX edition of the Clifton.  Likewise, I experienced sizing issues with the GTX version versus the regular Clifton.  

The Invisible Fit GTX upper adds another layer of stiffness to the shoe, yet value in terms of weather protection.  As shorter days are upon us and colder temperatures, GTX protection and 360º reflectivity, are worthy features.  I agree with Jana that they make great walking shoes.  I have worn them on long walks (up to 10 miles), wearing a thick pair of socks, and they kept my feet comfortable and dry.  

Dominique’s Score: 8.4/10  (issues with fit/sizing and not most pleasant ride) 


Michael: I’m not sure if I’ve been totally clear in this review (let’s blame the baby brain), but I am a big fan of the Clifton 9 GTX. 

In fact, if you’re looking for an offering from the Clifton line, there’s very nearly no reason to get the “regular” Clifton over the GTX. I’d offer only really two reasons to skip GTX (well, three if you consider aesthetics, but I’ll set that aside - I think it looks cool!) - first, if you go through shoes fast enough that you’d wear the Clifton only in the summer, then sure, skip GTX. Also, if you’re someone with a really low-volume foot (say, regular trainers are often bunching up on you, or you need to tie overly tight) then again, I’d maybe stick with the non-weatherized offering. Otherwise, if you want a Hoka Clifton, I’d pick the GTX over the non-GTX any day. It’s all the same shoe, with some minor improvements, and hardly any compromise. Perfect timing for fall running, too! The Clifton has never been my favorite trainer (I much prefer the Mach in Hoka’s lineup) but this is a slightly sweeter flavor of an old classic, and if you’re a Clifton devotee, this one will only make you happy.

Michael’s Score: 9.0/10 (I’d love a full overhaul of this shoe one day soon!) 


6 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE 

Hoka Clifton 9 (RTR Review)

Sam: Covered in the review and in the comparison video below. The GTX version has a firmer more responsive ride and is more stable. It is clearly also more rocker based than flex based as the regular is. It’s upper is of course great for wet, cold weather, dark runs but also has higher volume and in particular superior heel hold, if due to the Gore-Tex it is stiffer.  Bottom line, the GTX is a more versatile shoe with only summer runs not its forte.

Brooks Ghost (RTR Review)

Michael: I’ll cut to the chase - the Clifton 9 GTX is a better shoe than the Ghost in nearly all ways. I do think the Ghost has a slightly more refined upper in terms of fit… but the weather-proof nature of the Clifton 9 GTX basically negates that advantage. I often knock Hoka’s outsoles, but they’ve cleaned that up here as well. Pick the Hoka!

Brooks Ghost Max (RTR Review)

Michael: I really enjoyed the Ghost Max (to my surprise!), but the shoes here are hard to compare - the Ghost Max is a smoother-riding cruiser, while the Clifton GTX is a sharper, firmer (some would say ‘harsher’) shoe with a little more pop to it. I prefer the Hoka, but it’s close!

Sam: I agree with Michael as very similar but.. I prefer the Brooks in this matchup as it is a bit more forgiving and its rocker a bit smoother.

Saucony Ride 16 (RTR Review) Ride 17 (RTR Initial Video Review)

Sam: The Ride 16 has a very comparable riding midsole, so on the firmer more responsive side. The Clifton GTX has a more energetic ride feel than the Ride 16 and is less harsh in feel. Both have fairly stiff fitting uppers with the GTX roomier up front and a bit more relaxed at the rear. Both are true to size. 

The upcoming Ride 17 is broader in platform than the 16 so comparable to the Clifton GTX. It is softer and more energetic than the Clifton 9 GTX. Its non GTX upper is equally as secure and more comfortable. 

Hoka Mach 4 and 5 (RTR Review)

Sam: Basically a speedier more flexible Cliton the Mach has a dual foam midsole and a lively ride. It can serve as a tempo days complement to the now more daily training focused Clifton 9 GTX whereas before the regular Clifton was very close in ride feel and purpose to the Mach.

Available now including at our partners




Tester Profiles

Jana Herzgova took up running in 2016, after a back injury. Prior to that she was a speed skater, but due to back pain and doctor's recommendation, she transitioned into running. Since then, starting with shorter ultra distance races she quickly evolved into an avid long distance and unsupported mountain runner. She also loves to take on challenges/races in arctic and subarctic climates, mainly in unsupported and semi-self supported style. She currently lives in Utah/Wyoming.

Dominique has run for over 40 years, consistently about 25 miles per week at paces between 10 and 11 minute miles and once a week down in the mid 9 minute miles. She races rarely, but always surprises more hard core runners in her age group when she does. She has a 1985 marathon PR of 3:16 in her second marathon which at the time put her on the top 10 Swiss women’s lists. An avid hiker and trekker, she has been around Mont Blanc 3 times, hiked Chamonix to Zermatt, and completed the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers. She is the mother of two grown children, both runners post college, and also enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, tennis, and gardening. 

Michael is a patent attorney and graduate of Northwestern University Law School. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). Michael’s PRs include a 67:43 half-marathon (Chicago Half-Marathon) and a 2:21:19 marathon PR at the 2023 Grandma’s Marathon. Michael continues to race on the roads, and is chasing a sub-2:20 marathon and potential OTQ in the future.

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 66 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he gets very very lucky. Sam trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah be it on the run, hiking or on nordic skis. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Europe only: use RTR code RTR5ALL for 5% off all products, even sale products 


Men's and Women's SHOP HERE
  • 10% Savings Every Day*  5% Back in Rewards Cash
  • Test Run Shoes 90 Days Worry Free
  • Crazy Fast, FREE Shipping

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Use RTR code RTRTOP4 for 5% off all products, even sale products

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE


Find all RoadTrailRun reviews at our index page HERE 
Google "roadtrailrun Shoe Name" and you can be quite sure to find just about any run shoe over the last 10 years

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun


No comments: