Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hoka One One: Clifton 3 Review

As a runner, you’ve probably heard this brand more than a thousand times. Hoka One One (pronounced O-nay O-nay) is a brand we’re accustomed to when we say maximum shoes…well MAXIMUM CUSHION to be exact. They revolutionized the shoe industry by embracing the idea that maximum cushion shoe offers less stress and impact to the body.

The Hoka is one of my favorite brands of shoes and it’s always been my “go to” gear for long distance training and races. I’ve tried quite a few Hoka’s when I started long distance running three years ago. I even did an in-depth review on some of their brands like the Infinite and the Clayton. My very first Hoka was the Clifton 1 which it served me well. I’m very happy with the Clifton 1 but not so much when I tried the Clifton 2. Though the C2 was dubbed to be the improved version of the C1 (and it was), but somehow Hoka missed one important part, a roomy toe box. It’s a bit narrow in my opinion and this has been echoed by many runners as well on their reviews and comments.

The Clifton 3 was released early July and there was so much anticipation when it was announced early this year. The Clifton 3 still bears the same qualities that we’ve known from the previous versions but with some added improvements. The Clifton 3 was awarded Best Update 2016 by Competitor. It’s a neutral shoe designed for road use and weighs 8.6 ounces (for men size 9) and 7.4 ounces (for women size 7). The heel to toe drop is 5mm for both men and women and the sizing is true to size based on size 10 that I normally wear. Not sure why some runners are suggesting to go ½ size up but if you want to avoid some hassle, I suggest that you visit your nearest retail store and try them on.

The upper is where you’ll find all the improvements, they updated the forefoot width by increasing it by few millimeters. Yup, just a tad! so don’t be surprise if you read some comments from some runners if they say or felt no difference. Maybe because they’re expecting a roomier toe box like on the Altra or Topo shoes but that’s definitely not the case. I’ll be honest, it’s not as roomy as that, but personally I was able to feel the difference when I put it on. Yeah, I like my toes splayed when running since it gives me the relax feel and stability but the tad improvement is enough for me to relax my toes and not have that feel of being constricted especially during the run when my feet tend to swell a bit. They also updated the material by using an Ultra-lightweight no sew speedframe, breathable air mesh construction for lightweight and superior comfort. On a closer look (see picture on top), it seems that they added some materials to increase its durability but not sacrificing its breathability. I tested this on my 7 ½ mile “runch” (run during lunch time) and also on my 15 mile run last weekend. I was impressed that my feet didn’t heat up at all and there was a good flow of air that passed thru. For safety standpoint, the toe caps were a bit higher this time to protect the toes from any accidental bump or getting stab by some debris on the road. Additionally, they also beefed up the heel cup area by adding some extra layer of cushion for comfort. Similar with the 2, the tongue area still bears the same layer and thickness for cushion and comfort. Hoka utilized the flat lacing that secures my feet nice and comfy.

Meta-Rocker Technology
(Front and Back are slightly tapered )
It is no surprise to see the same level of thickness of the sole. What makes this so unique is the absolute lightness despite this massive material. We all know that the biggest contributor on the total weight of the shoe comes from the sole. I’m not really sure how Hoka did it but the technology and material they used were amazing. The sole is made up of full length Compression Molded EVA (CMEVA) material that offers a nice cushy (not mushy) ride that offers a “cloud nine” feeling throughout the entire surface of my feet. The crash pads (orange rubber compound) are meticulously placed on the midfoot and heel areas where most runners tend to land. This helps in protecting the soft portion of the CMEVA material which helps prolong the service life of the shoe. I’m a bit of a heel striker myself and the meta-rocker geometry offers a smooth landing and helps push my body on the toe off to move forward, that’s free energy in my opinion. It also helps in smoothing out the heel to toe transition during landing and take-off. If you are not familiar with the meta-rocker technology, it’s simply the (slightly) tapered portion of the front and back part of the sole, making the sole to curve upright (kinda like a rocking chair, if that makes sense). Most shoe industries are trying to adapt to this new change and don’t be surprise if this becomes the norm in few years.

The Ride
I did a tempo and long run with this shoe and it was absolutely amazing. It is buttery soft and forgiving on my feet and joints. I have different brands of shoes that I normally rotate, and the type of run normally dictates what shoes I need to wear. The Clifton 3 is definitely built to be an all-around shoe but the best use in my opinion is for long distance running. Their signature of having a cushy ride is exactly what you’ll get from a brand like Hoka. It feels very stable even when cornering and the midfoot section has enough flex that makes it easy for my feet to bend naturally. The crash pads have enough grip even on loose soil and more noticeable when I ran this on pavement.  

My Verdict
Hoka has been getting accolades every time they released a new or updated version of their shoes. The recognition that they received from Competitor is well-deserved and I am so pleased with the updates and improvements on a shoe that is almost perfect in my opinion. To sum it up here are the notable features that you’ll be getting from the Clifton 3:
·         Lightweight
·         Supportive
·         Responsive
·         Updated forefoot width
·         Higher toe caps

It’s amazing how they were able to produce a shoe this light without sacrificing the quality and the ride. I can easily feel the difference when I put on my Clifton 3. I accepted that I am no longer the 20-year-old stud that can easily rebound the next day from hard workouts. The Clifton 3 makes it easier on my body even if I push myself to my limit.

Is there anything I don’t like about the shoe? Yeah, the shoe is really addicting and you may never want to look or try some other shoes once you get the comfort and cushiness of this shoe. It has the right amount of support and lightness that you can even race it in any given day.

The Clifton 3 sells for $130 which I think is just the average price, I can say that every penny spent on this shoe is worth it. You can purchase the Clifton 3 directly on their website or at retail stores near you. Let me know what you think so feel free to comment on the section below.

Thanks again for reading and as always have fun and be safe out there.

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