by Aaron Monier, Runner’s Alley staff member

Sometimes subtle changes can make a big difference. That certainly is the case with the new Hoka One One Clifton 3. A few very minor tweaks vastly improve this shoe from the previous versions.

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Triumphant at the finish of the Mt. Washington Road Race! Now these legs need some Hoka cushioning!

Normally, I’d be the last person you’d expect to be reviewing an oversized shoe. I tend to gravitate towards shoes that connect you with the ground as opposed to floating above it. However, I was standing on some tired legs from the accumulation of the Bedford Rotary 12K, the Vermont City Marathon, Market Square Day 10K, and the Mount Washington Road Race recently. I jumped at the opportunity to test drive some super-cushy shoes and write up my thoughts. I’m really glad I did!

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Clifton 3 is that the mesh upper is softer than its predecessors. Despite being more substantial and durable it moves with your foot much better than the rigid plasticity of the Clifton 2. This allows for the TPU overlays to be lighter and less abrasive giving the shoe better breathability.

The heel counter and achilles dip have been redesigned to lock the heel in place better. Elsewhere, there is more blown rubber coverage on the outsole for better grip and longevity. All good things.

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When you get the Clifton 3 on your feet things start to get interesting. First thing I noticed was how plush and seamless the shoe feels. The fit is exceptional. I really appreciate the extra room in the toe box (2mm of width added). I felt very constricted in the original Clifton but I have had no issues with blisters or hotspots in the Clifton 3. The extra width also gives the shoe some added inherent stability. Forefoot runners will appreciate the wider platform.

Once you start running in the Clifton 3, things get REALLY interesting.

IMG_6277The shoe runs amazingly smooth for the amount of protection it provides. It’s forgivingly soft and stable without being too mushy and energy zapping. It performs equally well at a recovery run or tempo pace.

The rockered geometry of the shoe makes for a very smooth transition from initial contact to toe-off. I put the shoe through its paces in the 50 miles I’ve run in them so far. From light New Hampshire trail runs, long runs, tempo runs, to track workouts this shoe tackled everything I threw at it with vigor.

Hoka One One has continued to dial in this shoe as opposed to totally redesigning it. The result is phenomenal.

The Clifton 3 retains the same stack heights and offset of the previous versions. (Men’s – Heel: 29mm, Forefoot: 24mm, 5mm Offset. Women’s – Heel: 28mm, Forefoot: 23mm, Offset: 5mm).

The Hoka One One Clifton 3 ($129.99) is available in all Marathon Sports locations and at marathonsports.com.