Gear Shoe Review: HOKA, Clifton 9

Shoe Review: HOKA, Clifton 9


Few companies across the entire running industry have had the impact of HOKA, a brand founded in the South of France by former Solomon employees that launched in 2009 and is already experiencing billion-dollar quarters year after year. Their value prop, maximalist outsoles with minimalist weight, has been aped by their competitors and what HOKA started, the rest of the shoe world carries on.

Quite literally, Hoka changed sneakers, and after 10,000 years of sector innovation, that’s not easy to do.

This brings us to the Clifton 9, the ninth iteration of their most versatile shoe—a workhorse in the HOKA stable that isn’t as aggressively foamed as the Bondi, but still maintains the now classic HOKA form. An everyday trainer, the Clifton line is versatile, durable, reasonably priced, and comfortable. It’s no accident that, during the pandemic, frontline workers were wearing the Clifton in the ER.

The Clifton 9, fans of the line will be happy to hear, does not mark any radical transformations. The shoe worked, and thus hasn’t been changed, just slightly updated and improved. The newest model is softer, and has more plush foam—there’s a 3mm stack height increase—but the tweak does not come at the cost of more weight. The newest model weighs essentially the same as the old one, which makes the HOKA combination of lightness and durability the north star of accessible running shoes.

Across the HOKA line, there’s the Carbon X3 for fans of the carbon-plate models that want that state of the art energy return, and the aforementioned Bondi, which is in its eighth iteration, cool looking, and has a 4mm heel to toe drop. No doubt by now you’ve heard about HOKA and probably someone in your family owns a pair. A running shoe doesn’t crossover the way HOKA has without gaining widespread support. Presumably now you’re somewhere in the throes of your spring training and it’s quite possible fatigue has set in. The Clifton 9 is light, cushioned, and a good value from a brand you can trust, a brand that started quickly and hasn’t lost a step in innovation or design. With a more comfortable upper and great midsole energy return and support, the newest HOKA shoe, the Clifton 9, is a winner.

No wonder HOKA repeatedly does things that no other brand can.