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The name “Hoka One One” comes from the Maori language phrase meaning “fly over the earth”. This is why Hoka’s logo is a flying bird.
Hoka One One was started in France in 2009, back when minimalist shoes were selling like hotcakes. Hoka trainers were a breath of fresh air with their oversized midsoles which offered maximum protection, their pronounced heel and toe spring geometry and their low heel to toe drop.
Hoka One One is just over a decade old but the innovative brand is seeing massive growth levels worldwide. In the third quarter of 2020, Hoka’s sales increased 52.1% to $141.6 million compared to $93.1 million for the same period the year before.
The Clifton is Hoka’s most popular road shoe. It's their neutral, middle of the range, crowd-pleaser which is designed to suit a variety of paces and distances.
Last year's Clifton 7 was the best version of the Clifton to date with very little to complain about. It had an excellent upper which was very comfortable, a super soft, cushioned midsole and an outsole that could take a lot of daily training punishment.
The Clifton 7 was a minor update which consisted of only an upper change but the Clifton 8 has been completely revamped from the ground up. It has a new outsole, midsole and upper.
It now weighs slightly more than the Clifton 7 but it maintains the same price and the same 5mm heel to toe offset. So is the brand new Clifton 8 better than the previous version and how does it compare to other daily trainers?
The Clifton 8’s upper is everything you want in a daily trainer: comfortable, effective and secure without being overly engineered. It’s made from a mesh which is soft to the touch and not at all stretchy.
There are ventilation zones on the midfoot and on top of the toe box for increased airflow. The mesh is just the right thickness to be durable without being too thick and too warm for training in the tropical Singapore climate.
The eyestay is thinly laminated for extra protection in the lacing area without it being overly stiff and inflexible.
The biggest upper update on the Clifton 8 is the tongue. It's now puffier which provides more protection from lacing pressure and increases comfort over the instep of the foot. The tongue is semi-gusseted and attached on both sides with broad, thin bands so there is no tongue slide when running in the shoe.
The inside lining of the Clifton 8 has also been updated with a smoother, softer material which makes the insides of the shoe slicker. This gives the Clifton 8 a more luxurious, premium feel.
The elf-like heel tab flares away from the achilles to not irritate the foot and there is a sturdy internal heel counter which locks your heel in place. Heel lockdown is superb and there are also double last-row eyelets for if you need to do a runner's knot.
There is also good reflectivity on the Clifton 8’s upper. The heel has reflective horizontal lines and there are reflective patches on both sides of the toe box for night or early morning training.
The fit of the Clifton 8 is true to size but it has the signature Hoka One One narrow fit. The toe box and midfoot are snug so you might need to get the wide version if you have broad feet. The toe box is the perfect height.
The Clifton 8 is one of the most cushioned daily trainers you can buy due to its sheer midsole volume. It's made of compression molded EVA which doesn't have the high level of energy return of TPU or PEBA foams but it has an airy composition which gives it its cushy Hoka ride.
The forefoot of the Clifton 8 curves upwards, as does its heel. Hoka calls this the Meta-Rocker and it's designed to increase efficiency by rolling you forward with every foot strike.
The Clifton 8 has what they call “bucket seat” technology which means that your foot sits inside the midsole and not on top of it. The red section of the midsole is raised and it cups the foot. These rails are a stability feature which help to guide the foot and keep it centred.
On the medial side of the midsole, the Clifton 8 has a prominent arch because of the bucket seat setup so if your feet are sensitive to poking arch sensations, you need to try the Clifton 8 in the store first. When walking around, you can feel the arch against your foot but as soon as you pick up the pace, the arch sensation becomes less prominent.
There are two midsole sidewall grooves on both the lateral and medial sides of the midsole at the heel. During heel strikes, these grooves allow the midsole to compress so the heel acts as a giant crash pad. This increases rearfoot softness.
At first glance, the outsole of the Clifton 8 doesn’t seem to be very different to the outsole of the Clifton 7 but the small tweaks that Hoka has made are positive ones. There is slightly more rubber on the high wear areas and outsole durability is better.
The entire forefoot is covered with thick rubber as well as the heel area. There are deep flex grooves cut into the forefoot to save weight and increase flexibility.
On the rearfoot, there is a little bit more rubber on the outer lateral heel which stretches further forward on the Clifton 8. This is a heavy strike zone and the Clifton 7 suffered from premature wear in this area because it didn't have enough rubber coverage.
Under the heel is an arrow shaped cavity which extends into the midfoot. The cavity not only increases cushioning under the heel but it also centres the weight to make the shoe more stable.
The forefoot lugs and flex grooves of the Clifton 8 are arranged in a diagonal pattern compared to a horizontal pattern on the Clifton 7. This change in pattern direction makes the forefoot stiffer and more snappy because there is more resistance when the shoe flexes.
Outsole durability is acceptable and you can expect to get at least 600 kilometres out of the Clifton 8. The area in the midfoot which has no rubber coverage will show wear first but it doesn't impact the ride.
The ride of the Clifton 8 is medium soft and nowhere near as soft as max cushioned trainers like the Nike Invincible Run or the ASICS Nimbus 23. The CMEVA midsole foam of the Clifton 8 doesn’t overly compress so it’s a very balanced ride: not too soft, not too firm.
The Clifton 7 had slower ride transitions than the Clifton 8 because of its more flexible forefoot and the extra sidewall groove at the heel which made the rearfoot compress more.
The Clifton 8 has a more versatile ride character which can do relaxed easy or recovery runs, as well as faster efforts like steady runs. The Clifton 7 was more suited to easy and recovery runs.
The forefoot of the Clifton 8 feels more snappy and more propulsive because it’s stiffer so when you’re doing fast runs below 5 minutes per kilometre, transitions feel faster and less laboured.
Transitions feel very smooth when running in the Clifton 8. The single-density midsole results in a very uncomplicated ride which when combined with the Meta-Rocker, feels efficient.
Stability is also very good in the Clifton 8 because of how wide the midsole base is. The outsole is full ground contact so every foot strike feels very planted. The midsole sidewalls which are raised like barriers also increase stability by minimising lean bias.
Overall, the Clifton 8 has a very balanced, versatile ride which is also very stable and perfect for daily training.
The Clifton 8 can handle every type of run you throw at it which is why it’s so popular and the most versatile Hoka trainer. If you only want one multipurpose shoe, the Clifton 8 is a great option.
It’s a definite improvement over the Clifton 7 in terms of comfort. It has a plusher tongue and a smoother inner lining so you can run barefoot in the Clifton 8 if that’s your cup of tea. The Clifton 8 also has more outsole rubber and better durability.
There are lots of good daily trainers but what makes the Clifton so unique is its rocker-shaped midsole which eases you through transitions, saves you energy and allows you to pick up the pace with less effort.
The Clifton 8 has no major flaws and is a consistent, reliable workhorse for runners looking for a highly cushioned, versatile daily trainer. It’s easy to understand why Hoka is now one of the major running shoe brands and a force to be reckoned with.