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Maximal cushioning in a lightweight shoe: The Hoka One One Clifton 3

Hoka One One Clifton 3

Hoka One One Clifton 3

The recently updated Hoka One One Clifton 3 features maximal cushioning and support in a sleek lightweight design. It almost sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t!

RELATED: Hoka One One Clayton offers cushioned ride for longer, faster running

One of Hoka One One’s signature and runner-approved road shoes, the Clifton has become a go-to neutral trainer for those looking to pick up the pace yet still enjoy a cushioned ride. The Hoka One One Clifton 3 maintains the best aspects of previous versions with subtle but significant improvements to the shoe’s fit and function.

The Essentials:


Release date: Fall 2016
Type: Neutral lightweight trainer
Heel-to-toe drop: 5 mm (29 mm to 24 mm)
Weight: Men’s: 8.6 oz. (size 9), Women’s: 7.4 oz. (size 7)
Price (MSRP): $165
Terrain tested: Mostly road/pavement but also trail and mixed terrain
Kilometres tested (so far): 750 (on one pair) and 210 and counting on another…

Those interested in what’s new about the Clifton 3 have much to be excited about. The shoe was widened by 2 mm in the forefoot’s width which is welcome news for those with wider feet and for those who felt previous versions were a tad too narrow. It’s also enjoyed by those who log longer miles and just want more space for the toes to splay.

The upper was also improved to include the lightweight no-sew SpeedFrame Construction. That means minimal chafing or foot irritation and also ensures greater breathability and ventilation.

Unique to most Hoka models, the Clifton features an oversized midsole made from Compression Molded Ethylene vinyl acetate (CMEVA) foam that offers maximal cushioning yet is of minimal weight. Combined, the Clifton delivers an exceptionally smooth and comfortable ride with a feeling of stability and top shock/impact absorption. The Early Stage Meta-Rocker geometry with its low heel to toe differential and sculpted outsole also encourages fast, forward propulsion using a more natural gait. An active foot frame (“the bucket seat”) has the foot sitting deep down in the midsole which gives inherent stability without extra weight or materials.

The outsole features a full ground contact design for stability and responsiveness and also utilizes strategic rubber placement that provides optimal traction and greater durability from wear and tear.

We first got our feet on a pair of the original Clifton about two years ago and admit that we found them really “boat-like” or “boxy.” However, we really liked the abundance of cushioning – the staple of the so-called maximal running shoe movement – and wore them for shorter, easy runs to give the body a break from the constant pounding. The upper bothered us though and testers reported that they just didn’t like the way the shoe felt on their feet.

Flash forward to last summer when we got our first look at the Clifton 3. Despite reservations–because of past experience–we were immediately and overwhelmingly impressed with the Clifton 3. They have become one of our favourite training shoes for long runs, tempo runs and even longer intervals/speedwork. The shoe is exceptionally soft and ‘springy.’ It fits comfortably, is extremely lightweight and provides the cushioning (and unintended but nevertheless appreciated support/stability) that many are looking for in an everyday running shoe.

The Hoka One One Clifton 3 is definitely light enough to be used for racing and competition and could be considered for almost any distance from 5K to the marathon. We personally love it as an everyday trainer and found that it works well for short, easy runs when you’re feeling drained and want to give your body a break, but also for going the distance on long runs and even for faster stuff like tempo runs and longer speedwork sessions. Its versatility is definitely an asset.

Honestly, the Clifton 3 can do pretty much everything and we can’t think of a runner who shouldn’t consider it. Yes, it still looks a bit boxy and certainly attracts attention, but given how comfortable it is and what it can do for your running, we definitely feel its worth it.