Tom's Guide Verdict
The Hoka Clifton 9 is a reliable, comfortable running shoe. It looks very similar to the Hoka Clifton 8, but the brand has made some key changes to the upper and the midsole to make this a snappier, more responsive running shoe.
Comfortable running shoe
Comes in two different widths
Not as bouncy or soft as other shoes on the market
Comes up a little narrow
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
The Hoka Clifton is an everyday running shoe, with a dedicated following. Now on its 9th iteration, there’s a lot to love about the new shoe — it’s lighter and snappier than the Clifton 8 and is a reliable shoe for easy miles. Clifton fans will still love this, but if you’re new to the line, and want a comfortable running shoe that’ll get you around your first 5K, or your next marathon training long run with ease, this is one to consider.
Weight: 8.7 oz (M), 7.3 oz (W)
But how does it compare to some of the best running shoes on the market? And should you consider the Hoka Clifton 9 over the Hoka Bondi 8? I've been running in the Hoka Clifton 9 over the past few weeks, putting in easy miles and faster tempo sessions. My verdict? I've been converted by the Hoka Clifton 9. Read my full Hoka Clifton 9 review below to find out more.
Hoka Clifton 9 review: Price and availability
The Hoka Clifton 9 is available from February 15, 2023, costing $145/£130. The shoe comes in men’s and women’s sizing. The men’s Clifton 9 is available in sizes US 7 to US 16 and comes in two different widths — regular and wide. The women’s Clifton 9 comes in sizes US 5 to US 12 and also comes in a regular and wide width.
The men’s shoe weighs in at 8.7 oz and has a 5mm drop. The women’s shoe is 7.3 oz, and also has a 5mm drop. The men's shoe comes in four colorways — orange, blue, black and white, and all black. The women's shoe comes in eleven colorways.
Hoka has added stack height, but reduced the weight in the Hoka Clifton 9 — the shoe is 2mm taller in the forefoot and heel in the women’s version and 3mm taller in the men’s yet weighs less. The Hoka Clifton 8 weighed 8.9 oz in the men’s shoe, and 7.2 oz in the women’s.
Hoka Clifton 9 review: Design and fit
Hoka has made some tweaks to the design of the Clifton 9 in an attempt to make it lighter and snappier. It looks very similar to the Clifton 8, but feels different underfoot. The main changes are to the upper and the midsole foam, but more on that below.
Fit-wise, I found the Clifton 9 came up pretty narrow in the foot. I wear a UK 5 (US 7 in Hoka) in my running shoes, and a UK 4 in my everyday shoes. I don’t have particularly wide feet, but I do have pretty high arches, and in the past, I’ve opted for the wide-fit Hoka shoes, as I find the brand tends to come up small width-wise.
I tested a pair of the Hoka Clifton 9’s in the regular width and experienced some rubbing on the medial side of my foot on the first few runs. They did give a little after 20 or so miles, but if you have wider feet, I’d recommend sizing up to the larger width, especially if you’re planning on wearing these for longer distances.
As mentioned above, the upper on the Clifton 9 feels completely different. Hoka has called it a ‘breathable engineered mesh upper’ and it definitely feels like it’s edging towards the bootie uppers that are becoming more popular in the running shoe world. Hoka said, “removing overlays and hotmelts, the stripped back upper has been consciously crafted with a plusher heel, reflective heel panel, and streamlined tongue with single side medial gusset.”
The upper does hug the foot and provide some support as you run. It’s not overly tight across the top of the foot or around the toe box, and the gusseted tongue stops any movement or bunching across the top of the foot.
Hoka hasn’t said all that much about the new midsole in the Clifton — it’s still an EVA foam, but it’s definitely more responsive underfoot for a snappier running experience. It’s definitely bouncier than the Clifton 8, and gives you a little more cushioning and energy return underfoot.
Hoka Bondi 8 vs Hoka Clifton 9
When comparing the Clifton 9 to the Bondi 8, the Clifton has always been a lighter, snappier shoe. The Clifton has a rocker geometry to the midsole, that allows you to take smoother transitions, whereas the Bondi is a thicker, heavier shoe, better suited to long distances. The Bondi 8 weighs 8.9 oz in the women’s shoe, and 10.8 oz in the men’s — while a couple of ounces might not sound an awful lot, you do feel this underfoot. The Clifton is still a plush shoe, there’s no way you’re feeling the pavement, but it’s much lighter underfoot and feels more responsive.
The rubber outsole of the Clifton 9 is designed to be durable, with strategically-placed rubber lugs on high-impact areas. It’s still best suited for road running, as there’s not a huge amount of grip, but this shoe should easily get you around runs on concrete and light trails.
Hoka Clifton 9 review: Running performance
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Clifton line — I’ve found the last few iterations a little lackluster and not all that responsive underfoot, but the Clifton 9 surprised me. I’ve worn it for easy miles, and for faster tempo sessions and found the new midsole foam gives this shoe more of an energetic ride than the Clifton 8 or the Clifton 7. That said, it still feels like a Clifton — Hoka hasn’t reinvented the wheel here, and fans of the shoe won’t be disappointed.
As mentioned above, I had a few issues with the upper rubbing on my initial runs in the shoe, but after this, I found it comfortable, and reached for it most on long runs and easy recovery runs as I gear up for my next marathon. I appreciated the arch support, especially when running on tired legs, and found it much lighter and snappier than the Bondi 8, which has a firmer midsole.
While this shoe has a huge stack height, it doesn’t feel like some of the super plush, max-cushioned running shoes on the market. Compared to the Nike Invincible 3, the Asics Gel Nimbus 25, and the New Balance 1080v12 you don’t sink into this shoe. While the foam is definitely cushioned, it’s not overly soft, but this gives the shoe a little more durability, especially if you’re trying to use it for tempo sessions as well as easy miles.
Hoka Clifton 9 review: Verdict
The Hoka Clifton 9 is the Clifton many runners know and love, but with a few tweaks to make it more responsive. It’s an excellent, everyday running shoe, and toes the line between lightweight and max cushioned well. Fans of the Clifton line will be pleased, and newbies will be pleasantly surprised by this comfortable shoe.
That said, if you’re a max-cushioned running shoe fan looking for a super soft, super cushioned feel underfoot, you want to look at the Nike Invincible 3 or the Asics Gel Nimbus 25, as both of these have more sink-in, plush midsole foams.
Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.