The Hoka One One Clifton series has some pretty loyal fans, and many runners swear by the amazing EVA midsole technology. Hoka boast that their Clifton trainers achieve a perfect balance between lightweight speed and plush cushioning, a combination that is essentially the holy grail of long distance road running footwear.
With their latest model, Hoka have made some small but vital tweaks to an already excellent design, so read on to find out all you need to know about the Hoka Clifton 7 and decide if it just might be the road running shoe for you.
Who is the Hoka One One Clifton 7 for?
Hoka really wanted to make a trainer that is versatile enough to suit anyone, and the Clifton 7 is pretty close. If you are looking to pick up pace over long distances but also value comfort and support in your running shoes, then this model is for you.
The Clifton 7 is also particularly great for injury prone runners as it has great stabilizing qualities and plenty of cushioning.
Who is the Hoka One One Clifton 7 not for?
Arguably, runners who are serious about speed, particularly sprint runners, will find these trainers are too maximist for their purposes. In the same way, trail runners might prefer to look for specifically designed trail shoes that will provide the appropriate traction for off-road terrain.
But for anyone looking for a truly neutral trainer with excellent versatility, the Clifton 7 is ideal.
New and Improved Upper
In an upgrade from the previous Clifton models, the Clifton 7 has what is termed a ‘sandwich mesh’ upper. This material is thicker than traditional mesh alternatives and holds its shape very well as a result.
There are holes puncturing through the upper, but due to the sandwich construction they are less effective at ventilating the shoe. The multiple layers of this very thin mesh actually insulate the shoe and can cause your foot to become overheated and clammy, especially on long runs or in hot weather. However, the benefits of the sandwich mesh are that the upper is durable and hugs the foot very well.
Regular Sizing for True Fit
The fit of the shoe is very true to size, so there is no need for complicated calculations and annoying size up / size down maneuvers. And while the mesh upper keeps its shape, it also has just enough give to accommodate bunions and the inevitable swelling that occurs during long runs and hard training sessions.
Flat Laces for Effective Lockdown
There are a good amount of plastic eyelets running up the upper unit of this trainer, so the flat nylon laces get plenty of anchorage. You can cinch the Clifton 7 very effectively and keep your foot nicely locked down even as these trainers soften with wear.
Roomy Toe Box for Healthy Splay
The toe box on the Clifton 7 is nice and roomy for a good toe splay with every stride, and there is plenty of depth at the front of the shoe too, so your toes won’t feel like they are cramped under a very low ceiling.
Pull-on Functionality for Ease
The upper also has a new, and rather dramatic, heel tab that is integrated into the heel collar for pull-on functionality. Due to the padding in the collar, the tab is rather imposing and some runners have suggested it is a little over the top.
However, this tab lets you get a good grip on the back of the shoe and luckily it doesn’t cause any restriction around the achilles tendon as you run.
Cushioned Upper and Inner for Comfort
A big selling point for the Clifton 7 is its pillowy feel, not just underfoot due to the EVA foam midsole, but also because of the plentiful cushioning positioned throughout the upper. The tongue is particularly plush and helps to relieve any build up of pressure from the top of the foot.
The ankle and heel collars are equally well padded and provide lots of support and comfort for tired legs, so this shoe is great for recovery runs when your feet need some TLC.
The only downside to the maximalist approach to the cushioning is that the shoe loses breathability. The sandwich mesh is already a more clammy choice than you might wish for, and the thick tongue can cause the top of the foot to become pretty toasty mid run.
EVA Midsole for Responsive Ride
The feature that really elevates the Clifton 7 from other similar running shoes is its thick EVA midsole. EVA stands for ethylene and vinyl acetate, which is essentially a man made foam-like material with incredible flexibility and impact absorption.
Tiny air pockets act like cushions within the material itself, and not only soften the impact of each stride, but also have amazing energizing qualities that can harness the force of your footfall and respond with a springy bounce back in return.
The midsole of the Clifton 7 is thick for maximum cushioning, however it does not become mushy and draw pace out of your run, due to its lightweight and resistant qualities.
The midsole on this shoe is lovely and wide which provides great stability, particularly for those who are injury prone. The width of the midsole allows you to make clean and confident contact with the ground and lessens the risk of twisted ankles.
Rocker Shape for Rolling Motion and Pace
Another important innovation on the Hoka Clifton 7 is the boat-like shape of the midsole. Due to the fact that the EVA foam runs along the full length of the shoe, the Clifton 7 has a very low drop from heel to toe of only 5mm. The front of the shoe actually rocks upwards and this encourages the foot to roll forwards very smoothly.
It also has a beveled heel which curls up slightly and therefore assists a low-impact heel strike. By assisting the rolling motion of the foot, the Clifton 7 frees up the angles and helps to speed up the transition from heel to foot with every stride. You will really appreciate the improvement in pace that this simple design feature produces, and it looks pretty cool too!
Maximalist Midsole for Stability and Support
The midsole on the Clifton 7 does not narrow around the instep as is the case with so many running shoes, but instead keeps its width consistent. The wide waistline actually helps to really stabilize the shoe and does not allow for wavering confidence at any point in your stride.
The same applies to the flared forefoot and heel sections, which have increased surface area in order to cushion both landings and transitions and ensure you make excellent contact with the ground.
What is more, the sidewalls of the midsole are higher than the insole of the shoe and your foot is therefore cupped inside a very secure footwell. This minimizes slippage brilliantly and also feels very comfy.
Minimal Outsole for Lightweight Flexibility
The outsole on the Clifton 7 is really clever because the designers have used durable rubber sparingly but in just the right places. Rubber lugs are mounted on foam pods in a sparse but effective pattern all across the outsole.
The rubber is brilliantly durable and lifts the foam midsole off the ground enough to protect it, ensuring that the shoe doesn’t wear too quickly. The rubber is also great for traction and is positioned in just the right places so as to afford the shoe an effective grip even on wet surfaces.
The advantage of not covering the entire bottom of the shoe in rubber is that it reduces the overall weight and keeps the Clifton 7 lovely and light. The shoe is indeed lighter than its predecessors as a result, weighing 8.9oz for the average Men’s size and 7.3oz for the average Women’s size. This of course helps weary legs not to feel burdened unnecessarily and also helps to improve speed.
The rubber outsole also works in partnership with the more flexible midsole rather than resisting it. The midfoot has the least coverage of rubber outsole in order to allow that all important flexibility, whilst the toe and heel sections have a greater amount of rubber coverage to provide the appropriate grip and firmness. The outsole has sections of decoupling to increase its flexibility factor even further.
Overall, the Hoka One One Clifton 7 is an excellent road running shoe due to its incredible versatility. The developers have managed to achieve a plush, bouncy feel that makes for some pretty fun running, whilst also giving the trainer great stability.
Your legs will be able to go faster for longer due to the rocker-shaped EVA midsole, and will feel secure and comfortable even over long distances. The only downside would be the breathability element of the shoe, which is limited due to the thick cushioning and the sandwich mesh upper. However, this is not bothersome enough to dent the awesomeness of the Hoka Clifton 7.