When I first started running and getting into triathlon I read the magazines and the big push at that time was to go minimalist or barefoot. I got on board and ran in shoes that were little more than foot covers. I did a few Ironman races in them but was never comfortable running. Minimalist running shoes certainly have their place but the feet of a Clydesdale runner is not one of them.
A teammate of mine who had had severe hip pain was wearing a pair of absolutely horrendous looking shoes but swore that they had extended his running career by years. I asked what they were and the told me they were Hoka One Ones. They came in offensive colours and the overly thick, cushioned sole were borderline eye sores. However, I decided to give them a try because anyone over 250 lbs that races in a one-piece spandex suit is obviously not overly concerned about how they look.
The difference these shoes made in my running were instant. I started shaving minutes off of my runs and feeling great while I was running. My first two pairs of Hokas were Tarmac Stinsons and I loved them. My first half marathon I ran in them I didn't have to walk a single step. This was a huge achievement for me and is still a watershed moment in my endurance racing career.
When I went to replace my last pair of shoes I discovered that they had discontinued the model that I liked. This always seems to happen to me but I move on and it seems to work out.
The new model I decided to try were the Cliftons. These appeared to be different than the Hokas I had used in the past. Rather than the elastic laces they had traditional tie up laces. The colour scheme was much more "normal" than the previous Hokas I have owned and the biggest difference was the weight. These Cliftons feel about half of the weight of the older models. My greatest concern was that in making them lighter they had reduced the cushioning to the point where they lost the Hoka advantage.
I have run in the Cliftons for about a month now and am happy to report they are everything the heavier Hokas were at a much lighter weight. My greatest complaint about them is the laces. It seems to me that part of the Hoka advantage was the ability for the shoe to adapt to the foot expanding as it struck the ground. The traditional laces didn't allow for this expansion and I felt some tightness across the forefoot but I fixed this quickly with a pair of elastic laces.
The positives of the Cliftons are everything else:
- They look better than some of the earlier models.
- They feel much lighter when running
- My heel feels more locked in than the previous models
The only thing that I'm waiting to see is if the lighter material will be as durable as the heavier models.
Overall I would say the Hoka One One Cliftons are an excellent shoe for bigger runners and show some wonderful technological improvements from the original Hokas.