Shoe Review: HOKA Clifton 9
The HOKA Clifton is one of our best selling shoes at Fleet Feet, and it’s easy to see why. It’s soft, cushioned, lightweight and always available in fun colorways.
The latest update to the beloved Clifton features 3 additional millimeters of plush, underfoot cushioning for a smoother ride and an updated rubber outsole design for improved durability.
Fleet Feet reviewers put the HOKA Clifton 9 to the test during easy runs, long runs, walks and long days on their feet. Here’s everything you need to know about the latest version of the Clifton.
HOKA Clifton 9
7.3 oz (W) , 8.7 oz (M)
29 mm/24 mm (W), 32 mm/27 mm (M)
Brooks Ghost 15, New Balance More v4
Plush Midsole Creates Smooth Ride in Clifton 9
When HOKA first released the Clifton in 2014, it was a chunky shoe (compared to other shoes on the market) with a surprisingly lightweight feel. But now that competitors are catching up to HOKA in terms of cushioning level, the Clifton still manages to stand out, not just for the amount of cushioning it provides but for the unique feel of its midsole.
“The cushioning in the HOKA Clifton offers such a distinct sensation,” Kate says. “It’s lightweight with a soft step-in feel, but the cushion doesn’t stay compressed. It’s firm enough to provide a stable platform to push off from, yet still provide ample protection from the pounding of the road. I’ve been running in the Clifton since I discovered it in 2016, and I think it’s added a lot of value to my training, especially when I’m running higher mileage.”
The midsole is packed with a compression-molded EVA foam, which means the ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) is compressed inside a mold using heat and pressure to give it its distinct shape. The result? A smooth ride that rebounds with each stride.
“The midsole foam feels surprisingly snappy and responsive, considering how cushioned and soft the shoe is,” Nate says.
HOKA added 3 millimeters of that snappy midsole foam in the Clifton 9, offering an even more plush feel than previous versions. The shoe has a heel stack height (the distance in height from the ground to your heel) of 32 millimeters for the men’s model and 29 millimeters for the women’s model, which puts it right on par with other moderately cushioned shoes in its class.
The HOKA Clifton 9 is made with the same early stage meta-rocker as the previous version, meaning that the curved rocker shape is placed close to the midfoot to ease you forward from heel to forefoot upon landing.
“Honestly, this shoe rides the same as the Clifton 8 in my opinion, which isn’t a bad thing because I really love the Clifton 8,” Caroline says. “It’s got that same soft yet slightly responsive midsole, gentle rocker shape and overall cushy ride. I felt like the rocker shape gives it a bit of a rigid feeling underfoot, but it’s still flexible enough to provide smooth toe-offs.”
And even more good news: the Clifton 9 has been updated with a durabrasion rubber outsole to increase durability and traction. Previous versions of the Clifton weren’t as durable as comparable models due to the large portions of exposed midsole foam on the outsole. This is done to reduce weight from rubberized outsole material, keeping the shoe sleek and light. The Clifton 9 still has sections of exposed midsole foam, but the rubber used in the outsole feels thicker and grippier than previous versions.
Soft, Padded Upper Gives Your Feet a Friendly Embrace
Not only is the Clifton 9 soft and cushy underfoot, it offers a welcoming step-in feeling that envelopes your foot like a warm hug from a long-lost friend.
“Lacing up the Clifton 9 feels good,” Max says. “It’s got the classic HOKA feeling. My foot feels supported by the lightweight upper and I appreciate the ample room in the toe box. The partially gusseted tongue adds to the foot-hugging feel, which I enjoy.”
Extra padding in the tongue and the heel collar create a snug, dreamy fit, while a flared heel tab minimizes the chances of blistering or chafing.
“The Clifton 9 gives my Achilles plenty of room to breathe, which is a small but thoughtful detail that I recognize as someone struggling with tendonitis,” Caroline says.
Reviewers also notice that the flared heel tab makes it easy for those with mobility issues to pull on the shoe, especially if they need to use a shoe horn.
Long laces give you plenty of room to try out different lacing techniques to find your perfect fit, and the eyelets are reinforced to maintain their integrity.
HOKA Clifton 9 vs Clifton 8
Not much has changed about the HOKA Clifton 9, which is good news for loyal Clifton fans. The Clifton 9 offers the same smooth cushioning and gentle rocker shape as the previous version, with a few tweaks to improve the comfort and fit.
“The changes to the Clifton 9 seem to be micro improvements,” Kate says. “I think if you’ve been a fan of the Clifton in the past, you will love this shoe and find that it’s not much different.”
The main updates to the Clifton 9 are the added 3 millimeters in stack height, the slightly lighter weight (.3 ounces for the women’s model and .1 ounces for the men’s), the improved outsole design and added padding in the heel collar.
Some reviewers felt that the cushioning in the Clifton 9 was a touch more energetic than previous versions.
“Previous versions of the Clifton felt almost too soft for me, and I felt like I was expending energy just digging out of all the cushion,” Max says. “But with the Clifton 9, the midsole cushion feels a bit more responsive and has a bit more pop to it.”
But reviewer Caroline tried one shoe on each foot—the Clifton 9 and the Clifton 8— and noticed very minimal differences.
“The upper in the Clifton 9 strikes me as a bit more structured than in the 8, but this could be because I’ve been wearing the 8 for about six months now,” she says.
Nevertheless, the Clifton 9 remains true to form as a lightweight, moderately cushioned neutral trainer with a soft, plush underfoot feel. The latest version is $5 more than the previous version, likely due to rising prices across the industry.
Who is the HOKA Clifton 9 Best For?
The HOKA Clifton 9 is a neutral running shoe, meaning it’s best for runners and walkers who don’t need extra stability to reduce the effects of overpronation (the excessive inward rolling of a runner’s foot upon landing). It’s got a voluminous shape, so it works well for those with high-volume feet (feet that take up a lot of space inside the shoe). If you have low-volume feet, you may want to try a half size down in the Clifton 9.
“The Clifton 9 fits true to HOKA sizing,” Kate says. “For me, HOKAs across the board have a roomy fit and I always go a half size down from what I wear in other running shoes. These fit the same to me as the Cliftons of the past, and other HOKA shoes in general.”
If you aren’t sure whether you have high volume feet, low volume feet or are somewhere in the middle, be sure to head into your local Fleet Feet for an expert one-on-one outfitting. Fleet Feet outfitters use 3D fit id® foot scanning technology to gather information about your feet and the support they need by taking precise measurements of your foot length, width and arch height.
The HOKA Clifton 9 features a 5-millimeter heel-to-toe drop, which is the difference in height from your heels to your toes while wearing the shoes. This is on the lower end of the spectrum as a whole, but standard when it comes to HOKA shoes. Shoes with a lower heel-to-toe drop (0 to 6 millimeters) can relieve pressure on your knees and hips, making it ideal for runners who are injury-prone in those areas.
However, lower heel-to-toe drops can place more pressure on your calves and achilles, so we recommend gradually easing into this shoe if you have problems with those areas, or if you’re used to running in shoes with a higher heel-to-toe drop.
How Does the HOKA Clifton 9 Stack Up?
We took a look at some comparable shoes and how they stack up against the HOKA Clifton 9. Here’s what we found:
HOKA Clifton 9
Brooks Ghost 15
New Balance More v4
7.3 oz (W) , 8.7 oz (M)
8.8 oz (W), 9.8 oz (M)
9 oz (W), 10.9 oz (M)
29 mm/24 mm (W), 32 mm/27 mm (M)
35 mm/23 mm
34 mm/30 mm
Both the HOKA Clifton 9 and the Brooks Ghost 15 are categorized as moderately cushioned, neutral trainers. They offer a similar stack height, although the Brooks Ghost 15 is slightly higher.
“Both the Ghost and the Clifton fall right in the middle of the spectrum in terms of cushioning, compared to the other shoes in their brand’s lineup,” Caroline says. “That means these are great Goldilocks shoes—not too soft, not too firm, not too cushioned, not too flat. Those types of shoes work well for a wide variety of runners.”
However, the Ghost 15 has a higher heel-to-toe drop and is slightly heavier than the Clifton. The cushioning feels quite a bit different, too. Reviewers felt the cushioning in the Clifton 9 is most similar to the New Balance More v4.
“Even with such a high stack height, my feet feel immersed in the cushioning, like my foot is fully surrounded. I felt stable while running and even when taking sharp turns,” Nate said in the New Balance More v4 shoe review.
This is similar to what reviewers noticed about the Clifton 9.
“HOKA manages to create cushioning that feels like you’re sitting down in it, as opposed to on top of it. The Clifton 9 has a stable platform that feels smooth and supportive,” Kate says.