The Hoka One One Cliftons are a lot of shoe. When I first pulled one out of the box and turned it over in my hands, it almost felt like I was holding a football at the park, preparing to throw it. But, that look and feel is exactly what makes Hokas, well…Hokas.
Hoka One One emerged in 2010 and turned the tables on the minimal shoe craze that was raging strong with their head-turning “maximalist shoes,” designed to provide the foot with maximum protection against the ground underneath. Since they hit the market, runners wearing Hokas have consistently been performing very well at both trail and road races throughout the years. They’ve been doing especially well in the last two years in ultramarathons, worn by such notable racers as Sage Canaday, Karl Meltzer, Dave Mackey, Darcy Africa, and Jen Benna (who recently placed first female at the American River 50-miler whilewearing Cliftons!).
With all that in mind, Hokas seem like they would be a fantastic shoe for run commuters. We run consistently throughout the year over terrain that, while not usually woodsy trail, can be quite similarly irregular, jagged, rough, and variable. And, unlike a nice soft trail, our commutes are spent pounding bone-shaking pavement day after day, usually with an additional 8 – 10 pounds in our packs.
So, when Hoka One One sent me a pair of their latest model Cliftons to try out, I was pumped. Here’s how they performed for run commuting.
Hoka One One Clifton
The Hoka One One Cliftons (US Size 10)
Initial Wear and Walk
Since the drop in these shoes (5 mm) was a bit more than what I normally run in, I wanted to start off by wearing the Cliftons for a short one-mile walk.
The shoes fit snugly and were slightly tighter in the midfoot region, with more ample space in the toe box. The first few steps were surprising; it was like walking across couch cushions on my living room floor – springy, bouncy, comfortable.
The midfoot region pushed up into my arch at first, but relaxed after about a half mile.
The tread pattern is grippy on flat surfaces and very functional on rough terrain
5 mm Drop
7.7 oz. Weight
24 – 29 mm Sole
Six Color Options
The Clifton’s thick sole provides impressive protection and comfort
Things I Noticed on my Run Commute
- When running, the shoes felt like they caught my foot as I landed, rocked it forward, and then pushed me off again. I’m not used to having such full foot movement, and it was cool to feel.
- Hills were the Clifton’s strong game. I felt like I had a distinct advantage, both in comfort and leverage, while running up and down hills. The Meta-Rocker geometry they tout actually works very well.
- I felt almost nothing underfoot. It took a while to get used to, but the sole thickness provides a ridiculous amount of protection, allowing me to run over large broken rock, pushed-up sidewalk, and a litany of other rough surfaces without discomfort.
- Great for running up and down hills
- I felt nothing underfoot, even while running over large broken rock
- Extremely comfortable
- Excellent tongue material
- Excellent overall construction
- Minimized surface impact
- May require an adjustment period if you were previously using a higher drop shoe
Overall, a great shoe with a unique design that feels like it gives the runner an advantage. A bit bulky at first, and may require a gradual build-up period, but it is worth it. The Cliftons are great on long runs and should have a long use-life (500+ miles?). Perfect for those looking for more foot protection in a shoe. Ideal for run commuters who regularly carry heavy loads.
* Disclosure: Hoka provided us a pair of Cliftons for this review.
Running on ice can be treacherous, and sometimes even dangerous. For many years, I have been carrying a set of Yaktrax for those days where the paths were just too icy to run comfortably. However, I never felt I had stable and solid footing while running with these on, and most of the time, I ended up running much slower than desired. Running intervals with these on was simply just out of the question.
Since running on icy and snowy surfaces north of the 49th parallel is frequent, I started looking for other options. Among them are the IceSpikes. Unfortunately, I was never able to test them since they are, at least in my area, only available through online purchase.
Last Spring, as I was resigned to keep doing my best with my Yaktrax for many more years, I stumbled on a very good deal for a pair of Salomon Snowcross CS. I had known about these shoes for over two years, but their price tag ($200) was, at least back then, just too high for the family budget. This time though (under 100$), I did not hesitate.
These shoes stayed in my closet until this past November, where Ottawa started having some relatively inclement weather, which left us with quite a bit of snow, lots of ice and some cold temperature, but still not enough to get the cross country skis out, for about a month.
Not expecting much, I took the Snowcross out for many spins over that month… and I don’t think I will be able to live without them ever again.
On the ice, the nine carbide spikes on each shoes offered unprecedented grip, to a point where my brain actually had problems adjusting to it (“lots of ice. Should be slippery. Very slippery, but… not slippery. Not at all… can’t compute.”) Honestly, it took me about four or five runs over a week to understand that these would keep me going on the ice as fast as if I was on clear roads.
In the snow, the aggressive cleat pattern also got me going pretty fast. The integrated gate design, borrowed from the cross country ski world, also kept the snow out while keeping me warm and cozy.
Frankly, I am now in love with these shoes. If you have to run on icy and snowy roads on your way to work, they offer amazing grip while keeping you warm.
Since I have to keep a minimum of critical sense, the low points of these shoes are:
- the integrated gate is water resistant, but not waterproof. It will keep you dry through snow, but not through puddle of slushy water.
- the white lines are not reflective. For shoes of that price, this would be expected.
Last, but not least; with the carbide spikes*, make sure you do not walk on wooden floors.
*The Salomon Snowcross CS share their soles with carbide spikes with the Salomon Spikecross. The latest are basically the same shoes as the Snowcross, but without the integrated gate. Therefore, a clever alternative to the Snowcross would be a pair of Spikecross combined with a set of short gators. The company Inov-8 also has two models with integrated carbide spikes (Oroc 280 and Oroc 340), which could also be used in conjunction with a short set of gators for similar results.