The HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3 is a quality, cushioned, ultra-comfy shoe that stands up to high mileage with its full EVA midsole. Our trail and road-tested review of this outstanding lightweight running shoe.
The HOKA Clifton is a running shoe that takes cushioning to a new level, with solidly fantastic shock absorption for trail running adventures. It’s also extremely lightweight. If you thought those two elements were impossible to have in one shoe, think again: six pairs and a few thousand miles later, it’s safe to say that I love them.
The HOKA ONE ONE brand first jumped on the running scene back in 2013, delivering a doubly thick midsole that bucked the running trends of the time that leaned towards a minimalist design. In keeping with the HOKA tradition, the Clifton 3 is the third shoe in a very successful series that takes cushioning to a new level, and the recently-launched Clifton 4 continues that tradition. It delivers neutral stability, which means that the shoes don’t correct for pronation or supination. If you have a fairly efficient stride and are looking for a soft ride, keep reading. This is pretty much my favorite running shoe for any terrain.
Our HOKA Clifton review
These shoes are ready for the road and trail right out of the box – I’ve never needed a break-in period with them. In fact, if you’ve never had the chance to run in HOKA, the first couple of miles could be life changing for you: the ride is just that good. The cushioning feels like you’re running on marshmallows (read: excellent shock absorption). It offers one of the softest rides out there and though the shoe looks thick, it’s incredibly lightweight, weighing only 7.4 ounces. I really appreciate the effort HOKA has made to keep the weight down – it makes a significant difference, especially when my legs are feeling heavy or I’m climbing a hill.
These shoes also have a Meta-Rocker midsole, helping the shoe support your natural running gait and help propel you forward. There is also a very low heel to toe differential, helping make your stride more efficient. As for stability, Hoka designed the shoe so that your foot sits deep in the midsole (rather than on top of it). It’s almost like a bucket seat for your foot, helping increase both support and stability.
In addition to providing excellent cushioning and stability, the shoe is also breathable and made with seamless construction (think: little to no chance of blisters). I pair mine with Feetures Elite Ultra Light socks and after many, many runs, still have yet to experience a blister or even a hot spot. I also wear them year-round: rain, snow, mud and scorching asphalt are no match for the Clifton 3.
Though it’s technically a road shoe, I’ve run mine over a wide variety of trails. More than once, we’ve started a run on the Blue Ridge Parkway and ended up on a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail, and throughout the run, the shoes offered more than adequate support, cushioning and traction. They seem to excel on gravel and trails with lots of sharp rocks: this shoe is perfect for the runner who likes to plow through technical sections rather than pick their way over rocks and roots.
Finally, these shoes are incredibly comfortable. I get hundreds of miles out of each pair before needing to replace them. I average between 500-600 miles before needing a new pair, and replacement is an easy decision: I always go for another pair of HOKA Clifton.
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 3 review wrap-up
The Clifton 3 offers superb cushioning and is at the same extremely lightweight. Though HOKA designed them for the road, they’re versatile enough for trail runs and hybrid runs, and are built to last for hundreds of miles. If you’re looking for lightweight comfort and a shoe that blends excellent design with good looks, this might be the shoe for you. One thing is for sure: they’ll be on my feet for many thousands of miles to come.
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