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1st Impressions – The Original Hoka Clifton

The original Hoka Clifton is back but it’s available only in limited quantities and once it’s sold out, it’s gone! Were you a fan of the original? Don’t know why so many reviews always compare every version released after 2014 to the original? Read more to find out!

Hoka Clifton

Hoka Clifton

Our reviewer was really excited when he heard the news that the original Hoka Clifton was being released. He’s been running in the Clifton for several years but has skipped a few models since he rotates between a few different models. He’s run in two pairs of the original, version 3 putting in about 520 miles, and is currently put in over 200 miles in version 5. So he’s got a good amount of miles in 3 different version of the Hoka Clifton.


The fit is always going to be a bit of an issue in the first iteration of a new model and the original Hoka Clifton was no exception. The upper is a bit loose and some would even say “sloppy”. If you had wider feet, then this is not an issue. If you have average or narrow feet, then you’re going to notice how loose it feels. Since then Hoka has done a better job of shaping the upper to provide a snugger fit but some have complained that it’s gotten narrower. As the saying goes “You can’t please everyone all of the time”. The laces can be chinch down to secure the midfoot better unfortunately, there will be some wrinkling in the upper. The heel collar is also wide and individuals with a narrow heel may experience some heel slippage. The original version does not come with the extra eyeholes to help lace the shoes in a way that can secure the heel. While these items are negatives, for some they may not be as noticeable, and in some instances even seen as positives, especially if you need wide shoes or just like a wider toe box.


This is where the original Hoka Clifton shines. First of all, it’s light. Really, really light for a shoe with this much midsole. It certainly looks heavier. All the other versions have put on weight, primarily due to a better fitting upper with more durable materials. The upper is thin and creates a well-ventilated shoe, which is ideal if your running long distances in the heat. The thin upper also means it drains water/sweat very well. The cushioning is soft and the best word to describe it is “plush”. You do feel a little bit of a sinking feeling when you land but it’s not like the midsole completely compresses. It certainly isn’t mushy. There is still a good amount of energy return so it also feels responsive. For those looking for comfort on long runs, the original Hoka Clifton delivers big on comfort.


Once you start running, you immediately notice how light this shoe is. It’s 1.9 oz lighter than version 5 and that’s a big difference if you are running a marathon, especially if you just swam 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles on your way to an Ironman finish. The Hoka Clifton has a dual personality. It’s soft and comfortable if you’re doing an easy run. It’s also light and responsive (while still soft and comfortable) when you pick up the pace making your runs feel almost effortless. So it’s perfect for race day or long training miles.


While the original Hoka Clifton is far from perfect if you had wider feet or you could get past the design of the upper, it was darn close. Of course back in 2014 shoes with a lot of midsole foam looked a little ridiculous. Even “D2” referred to Hoka as clown shoes, once he ran in the Clifton, he changed his tune. These days, a “maximal” shoe is more accepted and more people have heard about Hoka shoes. As “D2” mentioned in his video review (below), the upper does have a chance of wearing out prematurely. The use of Engo Blister Patches on the inside of the shoe will help protect the upper and increase the longevity of this shoe. If you’re looking for a second opinion, take a look at what Runner’s World had to say.

If you were a fan of the original Hoka Clifton, this is your opportunity to pick up a pair (or two) since there are limited quantities available and there’s no telling if Hoka will ever release these again. Rumor is “D2” picked up a few pairs to keep him happy for a couple years and since he runs in different models and rotates shoes, he’ll be set for a while.

Order your pair online now.