A Podiatrist and an Avid Runner Agree: The New Clifton 9 Is Hoka’s Lightest and Most Supportive Sneaker Yet
If you would’ve told me last year that I’d be an avid runner, I would’ve had a hearty laugh at your expense. But it’s true—I love to run now, and I‘ve already logged 41 miles this year, according to my running app. All that to say, I never thought I’d be the type of person who actively looks for good running shoes, but I am. And the brand-spanking new Hoka Clifton 9 ($145) is the best shoe I’ve tried since I started to pound the pavement (and treadmill).
“The Clifton has been such a popular model for so long that people wear it for everything,” says board-certified podiatrist Doug Tumen, author of Ask the Foot Doctor. “It’s designed for runners, but you could also wear them casually because they’re so comfortable.” The new iteration of the Clifton 9 is "lighter and more cushioned than ever,” says the brand, which is known for producing sneakers with great stability and cushioning.
Weighing in at 7.3 ounces for women and 8.7 ounces for men, the Clifton 9 is great for any type of walk or run you may want to log. The heel-to-toe drop is 5 millimeters for women’s shoes and men’s shoes, which makes it easier on your bones and joints, since that’s what creates its iconic rocker bottom that propels you forward.
In stack height, aka the amount of shoe material between your foot and the ground, the Clifton 9 is between 24 and 29 millimeters for women’s sizes and between 27 and 32 millimeters for men’s shoes—which includes “3 millimeters of added stack height for a more cushioned feel,” Hoka posits. Simply put, these kicks are the lightest yet, and more supportive than ever before.
Heel-to-toe drop: 5mm
Stack height: 24-29mm
Heel-to-toe drop: 5mm
Stack height: 27-32mm
Whether he’s on the trail, hitting the pavement, or walking around at work, the chances are Dr. Tumen is sporting a pair of Hoka kicks. It was only natural, then, for me to ask him who should and shouldn’t use the Clifton 9 and what his thoughts were after using it.
Who should (and shouldn’t) purchase a pair of Clifton 9s
According to Dr. Tumen, who wears these shoes on the trail, pavement, and at work, you can add these kicks to your cart if you’re looking for a comfortable, everyday shoe or a trusty running sneaker. “This is a shoe designed for most runners in the neutral category. If someone is a severe pronator, though, they need something that has more motion control,” he says. (For the record, a pronator is someone who tends to put more of their weight on the inside of their foot.)
However, even if you’re not a pronator, you’ll want to rethink the purchase if you spend a lot of time weightlifting. As you’ll learn, I found it hard to keep my balance because the Clifton 9 is a good running shoe because its soles aren’t flat. But that’s not what you want if you’re weightlifting.
Walk (and run) a mile in my shoes: the Hoka Clifton 9
Dr. Tumen and I got the Clifton 9 before it was officially released, giving us a bit of lead time to test out the shoes. While Dr. Tumen was only able to get in a few runs in the Clifton 9, I had more time with them and went walking, running, flying (in a plane!), and to the gym in these sneakers. So let’s get into it.
Walking in this shoe is a breeze. Seriously—I almost didn’t even feel them on my feet. A couple of days after getting the sneakers, I endured a 25-minute indoor walk at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Airport gate, and the laces never came undone. I felt like every step was easier than the last, even though I was strapped with a heavy backpack and attached to a suitcase. I also loved them for outdoor walks, whether they were leisurely or at a faster pace. The lightweight status of this sneaker was evident to me from just walking, so I was very excited to run in the Clifton 9.
As I previously mentioned, I’ve been on the hunt for some good running shoes—and I can confidently say that’s what I’ve found in the Clifton 9. Again, they’re four grams lighter than their predecessor, but that doesn’t mean Hoka skimped on shock absorption. Don’t believe me? Take Dr. Tumen’s word for it. “I have done two runs in the Cliftons—a six-mile run and a five-mile run, plus about a mile walk, so about 12 miles total,” he tells me. “I found them super comfortable and easy to run in right out of the box.”
Dr. Tumen goes on to describe the Clifton 9 as “supportive, comfortable, and almost like a custom fit around my foot.” He also noticed that “the laces and upper support stayed true throughout the run with no loosening,” which is great because the last thing you want on your run is to stop and tie your shoes. All of Dr. Tumen’s insight rings true to my experience running in the Clifton 9.
Regardless of the type of run I’m doing, I want to feel confident that my sneakers can help me accomplish it. A few months ago, I (finally!) broke the three-mile ceiling. It didn’t feel like I could get to four any time soon, but—I kid you not—the Clifton 9 got me there. From the comfort to the support to knowing my laces wouldn’t untie, I hit four miles in under 40 minutes and that’s why the Clifton 9 is my new favorite running shoe.
However, these weren't ideal for activities on the weight room floor. Workouts like deadlifts or squats left me feeling a bit wobbly. On the treadmill (which is where I logged those four miles), these puppies are A-1, but because of the heel-to-toe dip, the Clifton 9 doesn’t provide the flatness you need for leg-based workouts. That said, Dr. Tumen says you’re good to go if you planned a cardio, arm, or abs day.
Pros and cons
After looking at, going over, and testing the Clifton 9, Dr. Tumen and I can agree that there’s a whole lot of good to them. “With this shoe, Hoka created something more,” Dr. Tumen says. “It has more energy return, more comfort, more durability, and a better fit…Overall, a great update for the Clifton, which should make a lot of runners happy.” I suspect it’ll also bring smiles to a lot of walkers and sneaker aficionados.
Sometimes I like to play a game of good news, bad news—but the bad news here is that there is no bad news. Once again, Dr. Tumen backs me up: “There were no red flags or concerns from my two runs,” he says. “So far, so good.” The only con for me is that I can’t squat at the gym.
The Clifton 9 and I have been entangled for almost a month now, and while I like to take things slow, I already know it will be hard for me to find a better shoe—and not just for my runs. I did everything in these shoes while I was reviewing them and loved every second. Usually, once my deadline approaches, I use the shoe a little less, but that won’t be the case with the Clifton 9. I’ll be reaching for them pretty much every time I need a comfortable sneaker.
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