The RW Takeaway: This new version of the Clifton is lighter, feels firmer, and rolls smoothly—even with that big landing pad.
- The extended heel is designed to soften and smooth landings.
- It’s lighter than any Clifton except the original model from 2014 that we loved.
- The thin, one-piece upper is heavenly for keeping a shoe feeling lightweight.
Weight: 252g (M), 204g (W), according to Hoka
Drop: 5 mm, according to Hoka
Availability: Pre-order on June 15, 2020; On sale July 1, 2020
Remember the zany Hoka One One TenNine, the radically different trail shoe with a huge bulge off its backside? Hoka’s bringing that concept to the roads, but has tamed it for the tarmac. It should be noted that trail shoe was built specifically for bombing downhill, but the Clifton Edge is a shoe meant to be used on any road surface, not just steep descents.
But why? After all, shoe manufacturers have tried to reduce what sticks off the back of shoes. Look at the outer edge of one of your own shoes and you’ll see that it curves up and away from the ground there on the heel. That traditional construction reduces the shoe’s 'lever arm'—if foam and rubber were there, it would accelerate the speed and forces that your foot pronates inward when you strike the ground. That’s a bad thing. So, is it a bad thing that Hoka stuck all this foam off the back end of the Edge?
Hoka’s director of product Colin Ingram says that midsole foam has been dialled so that when you land, it makes earlier contact with the ground and actually slows those lever forces.
I found it’s largely unnoticed—and perhaps unnecessary—if you have just a minor heel strike. Hoka’s PR man said to me, that’s 'because you have a Dream Stride®.' His words, not mine. But the truth is, nearly 95 percent of us hit heel-first, some more extremely than others. If you’re in that camp, you’ll find the foam cushions you gently and doesn’t actually slam your foot into a pronating mess. The fairly soft foam has deep grooves—there’s no hard rubber there—so it deforms pretty easily when you touch down.
Big, but not heavy
Hoka should’ve named this shoe the Edge or some other unique name, because it’s not really all that much like the Clifton you already know. First, look at that mammoth sole, which uses a rubberised foam—the same compound as found on the Mach—for the bottom layer. (The pink and orange foams are the same compound.) The stuff is durable enough that you don’t need more traditional outsole rubber, like that used on the standard Clifton. The rearfoot horseshoe is another new element and gives the shoe a firmly planted, stable sensation as you load all your body weight and start to transition to your toes.
Above that, Hoka is using a springy compression-moulded EVA that was previously found in the EVO Speedgoat. We dubbed that shoe 'Hoka’s best trail shoe ever.' Our testers loved that shoe’s foam, which was 'marshmallow soft, yet springy to provide a nice pop with each step.' On the Edge, it doesn’t feel like a marshmallow, but it’s clearly delivering plenty of underfoot protection and pop. In the past two days, I’ve logged 19 miles in the shoe, averaging 7:52 per mile. My legs feel great, despite some higher mileage than usual because I have the extra time to run a lot during this pandemic and stay-home directives.
I also love the Edge’s weight. I’ve previously bemoaned the continual weight gain over the Clifton’s lifespan. This shoe, at 8.9 ounces for a men’s 9, is lighter than every Clifton except the original version. Each year, the Clifton got heavier, ballooning to 286g for v5, before shedding nearly an ounce on the current model. Those figures are for sample sizes, but the gain was even more pronounced for my size 11.5—the original was just 266g but the v5 was an unrecognisable 337g. My sample of the Edge is just 289g, which isn’t featherweight, but is shockingly light for a shoe this beefy.
I’m convinced the upper was built just for me
Part of the Clifton’s weight troubles came from the thicker, more substantial upper it got with each iteration. But, if you dial in the fit of a shoe, you can get away with thin materials while still securely holding the foot atop the midsole. I’m a big believer that we should use as few materials around the foot as possible to strap on the foam—within reason, of course, and appropriate for each runner’s requirements. The Clifton 1 didn’t quite get the fit right—it was baggy and you’d slide unless you really ratcheted down the laces. So, elements were added to control movement, naturally.
The Edge, on the other hand, has a spectacularly thin, one-piece air mesh. It’s nothing terribly exciting, but what’s impressive is that it controls any movement without a lot of extra elements. Hoka used TPU yarns at the tip of the toe box and along the eye row to secure up those areas, but, otherwise, it’s just lightweight mesh locking you down to all that foam.
I could do without the extra-tall, pointy heel collar, but that’s in fashion right now, it seems, so be it. It curves away from the Achilles so it isn’t a bother, and just below the top line of the opening is a comfortably padded lining that prevents heel slippage.
I like it. Will others?
I’ll caveat this 'first look' as it being the opinion of only one man who can run in just about any shoe. I’ve been testing and reviewing shoes for years, so I have plenty of experience, but I firmly believe that you might hate a shoe that I love. That’s why we put shoes through an extensive test process—both in the RW Shoe Lab and on some feet of the more than 300 wear-testers in our program. That always gives us a better indication of how a shoe performs, and who will like it best. We haven’t yet had the chance to fully test the Clifton Edge, but we look forward to getting a more thorough read on the shoe in the coming weeks and months.
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