Hoka Clifton 9 review – Running is fun again!

The new midsole makes the Hoka Clifton 9 a peppier, more enjoyable shoe; shame about the mega-tight upper

Hoka Clifton 9 review
(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)
T3 Verdict

The Hoka Clifton 9 feels different from its predecessor but in a good way. The new compression-moulded EVA midsole is bouncy and energetic, and the early-stage Meta-Rocker is spot on, as always. Apart from the tight upper, it's hard to find anything to criticise here; maybe the fact other daily trainers can be enough for less. Running is fun in the new Cliftons!

Reasons to buy
  • +

    New compression-moulded EVA midsole is animated and peppy

  • +

    Early-Stage Meta-Rocker is as good as it's always been

  • +

    Updates improve the overall running experience

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Standard width upper is very tight (wide option available)

  • -

    Hard to recommend it over cheaper daily trainers (e.g. Nike Pegasus 39)

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I've been lucky enough to receive an early review sample of the Hoka Clifton 9, and although I managed to give it a try before the launch, I didn't get around to writing this review until after. A crying shame as the Clifton 9 is an exciting shoe and somewhat of a departure from the previous iterations of the Clifton franchise. In this Hoka Clifton 9 review, I'll do my best to explain what this means and how the shoes compare not only to the Clifton 8 but other Hoka shoes as well as daily trainers from other brands (see also: T3's best running shoes guide).

Hoka Clifton 9 review: Price and availability

The Hoka Clifton 9 was announced on 15 February 2023 and is available to buy now directly from Hoka US, Hoka UK and Hoka AU for a recommended retail price of $145/£130/AU$260. For comparison, the Clifton 8 is sold for $140/£130/AU$240, so the new version sells for more or less the same price.

Compared to daily trainers from other brands, the Hoka Clifton 9 represents middle-of-the-road pricing. The New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v12 and ASICS Gel-Nimbus 25 sell for more (£160 and £175 in the UK), and the Adidas Solar Glide 5 and the Nike Pegasus 39 for less (£130 and £110, respectively). For the best Hoka Clifton 89 prices, check out the price widgets at the top and bottom of this review.

Hoka Clifton 9 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Hoka Clifton 9 review: What's new?

The Hoka Clifton 9 is a daily trainer – a runner's running shoe, as Hoka likes to call it –  and features a lighter and more responsive midsole. The Clifton 9 is ever so slightly lighter (9.5 oz./269 grams (men’s US 10.5D/UK 10) than its predecessor but has a taller stack height, thanks to the new compression-moulded EVA midsole mentioned in the first sentence. The upper has also been redesigned and is more stripped back, with a reflective heel panel and streamlined tongue. Overall, the night iteration improved the Clifton franchise without veering too much into the high-stack trainer category. The closest comparison I can think of is the Nike Pegasus 39.

Hoka Clifton 9 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Hoka Clifton 9 review: Fit

The early review sample I was sent of the Hoka Clifton 9 is a standard width. Hoka’s uppers aren’t famous for their generosity, but even so, the Clifton 9 feels super tight, so if you have wide feet, opt for wider varieties. I didn’t have the option to choose, and due to the tightness, I don’t think I’ll be using the shoes too much, which is a shame as I like the midsole and wonder how they would fare over longer distances.

My only issue is with the width of the toe box. I reviewed the standard Hoka Mach 5, which felt great, so I’m a bit puzzled why the Clifton 9 feels so tight. I appreciate people who’ll buy the shoes and can try them on before buying can buy the wide version, but I thought it’s worth noting the issue with the toe box. the heel area is superb, and the upper feels ventilated enough to keep your feet from swelling. 

The Hoka Clifton 9 has a 5 mm drop, with the men’s stack height being 32 mm under the heel and 27 mm under the forefoot. The women’s version is the same 5 mm drop but 29 mm under the heel and 24 mm under the forefoot. The moderate offset is great for helping you move forward without forcing you to go too fast. 

Hoka Clifton 9 review: Running performance

When Hoka asked me to run the London Winter 10K in the Clifton 9, I wasn't sure what to expect, but putting on the shoes made me feel optimistic about the race. The new midsole foam feels peppy underfoot, and apart from the super tight upper, I actually enjoyed running in the shoes (see the IG reel above). There is plenty of bounce, and I hope I'll see a Carbon X4 or a Rocket X2 using the new compression-moulded midsole.

The early-stage Meta-Rocker is as good as it's always been, helping you move forward smoothly. The rocker shape benefits runners who land on their heels the most; however, thanks to the accentuated toe spring, you can enjoy the rocking motion even if you land closer to the front of the foot. The heel lockdown is excellent, and I didn't feel any pressure on top of my foot, either. I felt no overheating in the shoes, which is also great.

The Hoka Clifton 9 feels more energetic and animated than the Clifton 8, which makes the shoes better suited for 'fun' runs you do just for the sake of it. It's not as cushioned as the Gel-Nimbus 25 – the impact force reduction of the new GEL is fantastic – but the compression-moulded EVA midsole has more energy return (at least, it feels like it does).

Hoka Clifton 9 review

(Image credit: Matt Kollat/T3)

Hoka Clifton 9 review: Verdict

The Hoka Clifton 9 is a slight departure from the Clifton experience we're used to – in a good way. The compression-moulded EVA midsole is bouncy and energetic, and the early-stage Meta-Rocker is good as it's always been. A bit of a shame the upper is so tight, although it's worth mentioning you can get the shoes in wide options, and I would recommend going with that if you have wide feet.

There are already tons of different colourways available, which is excellent, considering the Hoka Clifton 9 is the kind of everyday shoe most people will use to step outside the house and not just run. Of course, you might as well use it for running primarily, but still. The only small reservation I have is that although the Hoka Clifton 9 is far from being the most expensive daily trainer, there are cheaper options available that are as good as the Clifton, if not better (e.g. Nike Pegasus 39). The Hoka Clifton 9 is an excellent daily trainer option for those who like peppy running shoes.

Hoka Clifton 9 review: Also consider

Most of the shoes mentioned above are a good alternative to the Hoka Clifton 9, including the Fresh Foam X 1080v12, Pegasus 39, Gel-Nimbus 25 and Solar Glide 5.

Alternatively, the Hoka Mach 5 is a brilliant update over the fan-favourite Mach 4. It inherited the softer and more responsive PROFLY+ foam from the Mach Supersonic and added a stripped-back creel mesh upper, a lay-flat tongue and a rubberised EVA underfoot to provide runners with an agile yet stable ride. Choose this if you need even more propulsion. Read my full Hoka Mach 5 review for more info.

The Hoka Bondi 8 is similarly tight but has much more foam underfoot. This super-cushioned trainer is for people who prefer to cruise through their long runs. The new Glide+ foam, combined with the extended heel geometry, works well to put you on the right track. Read my full Hoka Bondi 8 review today. 

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.