The Hoka One One Clifton 3 is a neutral daily trainer that strikes the sweet spot between cushioning and light weight. At $130, this is a premium road running shoe by Hoka One One and it has developed a serious following among distance runners since V1 debuted back in 2014. I have put some serious mileage on versions 1 and 2 of the Clifton, so I was looking forward to seeing what Hoka decided to do with V3. After around 175 miles on my Clifton 3s, I’ve got some great feedback for you.
Weight: 8.8 ounces – men’s size 9
Stack Height: 29mm heel, 24mm forefoot (5mm drop)
Midsole: The Clifton 3 has a full-length Compression Molded EVA midsole (CMEVA)
Outsole: Strategically placed high-abrasion rubber in the heel and forefoot
Fit – 8/10
The Clifton 3s fit exceptionally well all around. The fit is similar to that of the Clifton 2, but there are several noticeable improvements. One of the biggest is the widening of the toe box and the introduction of a mesh upper. These new features allow for good toe splay and proper foot movement within the shoe. There are no hot spots or rough patches to speak of either; the Clifton 3 doesn’t have any of the hard plastic overlays that plagued the upper of the Clifton 2. The lacing system remains pretty basic, but it works and my foot feels locked-in, secure and comfortable. The Clifton 3’s padded heel counter is largely unchanged from the Clifton 2, and it comfortably cradles the achilles tendon without any irritation.
There is one minor dislike with the fit, which is why I only scored it an 8 out of 10. That wider toe box I mentioned at the beginning of the review is nice, but it may not be quite wide enough. My pinky toes can slightly rub against my fourth toes on longer runs, which has caused a couple of minor blisters, especially during rainy or very hot conditions. I say “can” because it doesn’t always happen and may have more to do with my sock choices or the conditions than anything else. At any rate, it’s not serious, only slightly annoying. The Clifton 3 gets good marks for fit overall, but not stellar ones. Keep widening that toe box, Hoka!
Performance – 9/10
The Clifton 3 gets top marks for performance because it nails the weight to cushion ratio. This is something the Clifton has been doing since version 1. At just under 9 ounces, I can absolutely haul in these puppies. My feet feel speedy and unencumbered, regardless of whether I’m tackling a marathon race pace run, lactate threshold workout or steady 20-miler. And, unlike nearly every other shoe under the 9 ounce mark, I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing my legs to the pavement gods for the privilege. I’ve quite simply never run in a shoe that allows my legs to rebound from a workout quite like the Clifton 3 has. It’s truly transcendent stuff.
Durability is also excellent for the Clifton 3. After 175 miles on mine, the new mesh upper is still performing perfectly – no negatives to report there. As you know, I am a forefoot striker and I supinate, so the outside edges of the forefoot portion of my shoes take the brunt of the impact when my feet hit the ground. On the Clifton 3 the high abrasion rubber covers this spot and is holding up exceptionally well. There is some significant wear in the CMEVA material just behind the rubber lugs, but that is to be expected after 175 miles and it doesn’t affect the ride of the shoe.
The reason I didn’t give it a 10 in this category is because I am disappointed in how the Clifton has continued to creep up in weight with each version. The Clifton 1 was 7.8 ounces, the Clifton 2 was almost an entire ounce heavier at 8.7, and the Clifton 3 is 8.8. I was happy that the Clifton 3 stopped the bleeding, so to speak, but a recent Hoka One One event featured a 9.3 ounce Clifton 4 model. Granted, it’s just one source; there could have been an inaccurate measurement or a they could have measured a larger size than the typical size 9 cited at online vendors. However, if true, this news leaves me quite a bit less confident in Hoka’s desire to maintain the Clifton’s uniquely awesome weight to cushion ratio.
Looks – 10/10
Virtually no complaints here. Hoka has historically had kind of weird looking shoes that have alienated some runners I know (I happen to like weird looking shoes… because I’m weird), but they’ve got a great selection of colors for the Clifton 3. You can choose to be zany or normal, which seems to be the best way to do it. I especially like my black and green ones – Kylo Run colors.
Value – 9/10
Let’s face it, at $130, The Clifton 3’s an expensive shoe, so it doesn’t get a 10 out of 10 here. However, you get a whole lot of shoe for your money. At the rate I’m going I’ll likely get at least 350 miles out of mine and probably quite a bit more than that. The materials (mesh, CMEVA, high abrasion rubber, laces, etc.) are high quality and appear to have been built to stand up to punishing conditions. Plus, you can pretty easily find Clifton 3s for much less than their MSRP online. Even if you don’t/can’t find ’em cheaper, they’re still a great value shoe; one of those rare shoe models that are actually worth the money.
Verdict – 36/40
The Hoka One One Clifton 3 is a phenomenal daily running shoe and one that I keep going back to, over and over again. As a forefoot striking, efficient runner, needless weight is my enemy and forefoot cushioning is my friend. The Clifton 3 was clearly designed with this idea in mind and it executes in spades. It excels at nearly every workout or condition I can throw at it, it protects my legs, and looks good doing it. Well done Hoka One One. I strongly recommend this shoe to all Kylo runners out there.