When the Hoka One One Clifton was first released in July 2014, it quickly became a top seller here, at Running Warehouse. There were three reasons for it’s immediate success: 1. Very soft cushioning. 2. Light weight. Incredibly light relative to the substantial cushioning. 3. At $130 it was Hoka’s least expensive model. A successful as it was, it was not perfect. Some runners experienced problems with durability, a feature usually sacrificed when the focus is light weight. Others experienced problems with fit. The midfoot volume of version 1 was very big. Even with a thicker insole, many found it tough to dial an ideal fit. The shoe also fit a little long.
With the Clifton 2, Hoka sought to correct one of these two issues. People loved the ride of the shoe, so Hoka did not change the outsole or midsole. This means durability did not change between versions 1 and 2. It also means the ride remain unchanged. Hoka did change the upper, in hopes of creating a better fit. As a result, the shoe increased in weight by almost an ounce. It was still light, just not as light as the original. This upper modification changed the fit, however, many still complained about the new fit. There is a population of runners who found the Clifton 2 to be cramped in the toebox. And for those who found the original to have too much midfoot volume, the Clifton 2 was only marginally better. Even with a thicker tongue (where most of the weight gain came from), the midfoot fit had a very high volume. Though many complained that the Clifton 2 had a toebox that was too tight, the shoe continued to be a hot seller.
With the Clifton 3, Hoka is hoping for the proverbial third time is the charm. When Hoka changed the Clifton 2, they simply cut a different upper pattern. The Clifton 3 has new last, which means the upper is fitted to a different shape. The new shape results in a fit more rounded at the tip of the toebox and broader across the metatarsal heads. Early reports on the new fit have been extremely positive. One shoe will never fit everyone well, but the Clifton 3 has a much more universal fit. And while people are praising the improved toebox fit, the midfoot fit is much improved. The midfoot now has a traditional medium volume fit. This volume accommodates a broad range of foot shapes.
The Clifton 3 midsole has not changed, but there is a subtle change to the forefoot outsole. Two pods of HIP CMEVA foam previously exposed on versions 1 and 2 are now covered in outsole rubber. The rubber also covers the fore and aft flex grooves. This will increase durability in the forefoot and improve toe-off stability. If you have had durability issues in the rear half of the shoe, these issues will persist. The rear half of the sole has not changed, with the majority of it being expose HIP CMEVA. It is this design that delivers the ride that so many have come to love. A change here could have resulted in a very different feeling shoe, and Hoka didn’t want that.
Other things that remain unchanged and keep the Clifton 3 feeling the same are build specs:
- 5mm heel-toe offset puts the foot in fairly level position upon landing.
- Early Stage Meta-Rocker for a quick feeling transition.
- Active Foot Frame provides inherent stability.
- High stack height, delivers oversized cushioning.
Here is my take: The Clifton 3 is the first Clifton version I have not had to put a second insole in. The fit of Hoka shoes have always felt too roomy on my feet. However, I have done what I could to alter the fit, so that I could enjoy the soft feel of their shoes. With the Clifton 3, I feel like the fit as on par with ASICS, Brooks, Saucony, etc.
I applaud Hoka for leaving the rear half of the outsole unchanged. This has allowed the shoe to maintain the same ride as its predecessors. I have not had any durability issues with versions 1 and 2, just like I had no issues with the original Kinvara or Kinvara 2. With the Kinvara 3, Saucony added outsole rubber to improve the durability of the shoe, and that change dramatically altered the ride. I feel like it took them until version 6 to start heading back in the right direction. I will always choose a better ride over greater durability.
Even though the Clifton 3 is light enough to be a performance shoe, many runners are using it as a daily trainer. I prefer to use it for easier runs and recovery days.