Continuing the Clifton’s legacy as a lighter-weight, highly cushioned option for daily training, the Clifton 4 underwent several significant updates that differentiate it from its predecessor. As someone who uses the Clifton 3 on a regular basis, I was excited to see if the changes led to any noticeable on-foot improvements.
Stepping into the Clifton 4 the first thing that I felt was the arch structure. Markedly higher than the 3, the arch structure in the Clifton 4 presses gently against the bottom of my arch. This raised some concerns given that I have had zero issues with the arch on the 3, but it was a comfortable pressure that caused no initial pain or irritation. As my feet sunk into the cushioned midsole, I also noted that the heel collar fits more snuggly than the heel collar on the 3, which gave my foot a more secure feel within the shoe.
While running, I experienced the significant cushioning that I would expect from a Clifton, but the toe-off felt springier than that of the 3. While both the 3 and the 4 offer cushioning that allows the foot to sink noticeably into the midsole, the 4 delivers a more responsive toe-off, and the energy return from the foam feels greater. With the 3, I often felt that I was sinking into the foam without getting anything back, and while that was a good thing on easy days, having improved spring makes the 4 a more versatile model. This effect is the result of an update to the full length EVA midsole, which incorporates a different foam from the previous HIP CMEVA. A less welcome side effect of the updated foam is a slight increase in shoe weight. Despite a lighter upper material, the Men’s Clifton 4 (size 9) is 0.8 ounces heavier than the 3, and the Women’s Clifton 4 (size 8) is 0.6 ounces heavier than the 3. In addition to the responsiveness, I felt that the 4 had a smoother transition from the midfoot to the forefoot. I also failed to notice the arch or develop any blisters as I ran, so my initial concerns were unfounded.
Another key update is the outsole, which features an altered design for both increased traction and durability. An altered pattern in the outsole rubber adds grip while the durability is improved due to an increase in the total surface area covered by rubber. These features did not stand out as I ran, but incremental gains are gains nonetheless.
The Clifton 4 incorporates a new, engineered mesh upper with a 3D Puff Print Frame, as opposed to the air mesh upper with structural overlays used on previous models. This new upper is thinner and less rigid than its predecessor, which generates a much more flexible and lighter-weight feel. While my forefoot just below the toes felt constrained in the Clifton 3, the upper on the Clifton 4 allows my forefoot to spread more comfortably. That being said, the engineered mesh is by no means sloppy in fit. It slips snuggly around and over the foot without pinching or pressure to deliver a much sleeker feel that of the 3.
After wearing the Clifton 4 for several different aspects of my training cycle, I will continue to throw them on for easy days and daily runs when my legs are feeling a little bit beat up. They have the fluid ride that I want for runs that are evenly paced and the soft underfoot feel to keep me comfortable for the entire run. I’d also like to add that while I don’t plan to use it for faster runs, I know that some runners prefer a heavily cushioned experience while running at uptempo paces. For those runners, the 4 has enough of a responsive toe-off that it could be used for times when the pace drops a bit.
Will has been running competitively since high school, and is currently running with the HOKA Aggies, a post-collegiate club here on the central coast of California. With a preference for the humorous and the verbose, he enjoys playing the wordsmith almost as much as his daily runs.