Disclaimer: The following is just my opinion based on my experience with the shoe, which includes long training runs, a marathon, and a 50 mile race. Every runner is different. Among dedicated running shoes there is probably no 100% bad shoe, but probably a lot of shoes that aren’t right for you. As much as I love it, the Clifton isn’t even my Cinderella shoe! Before buying any running shoe, I recommend trying it on. The best running specialty stores (You’re shopping at a specialty running store, right? You’d better be.) will let you take it on a short run (on an in-store treadmill, or maybe even outside if it’s a really cool store), so do that too when possible.
1. Use both insoles.
The Clifton comes with two insoles, both of which are super thin and light. One is orange foam, one is white foam. I would guess that the orange foam is Ortholite and the white foam is EVA, but I’m sure you can find out for sure on your own if you’re interested. I probably could research specs and write that sort of review, but I don’t want to portray myself as some sort of footwear expert when I’m not. Yes, I run in almost all of the major brands, often multiple models from each line, but I’m not an actual expert. What I am an expert in, is my individual experience with a shoe. That said, my real point is that using both insoles is the way to go. The midsole of the Clifton is so marshmallowy soft that I felt like I was running through the shoe during the Marine Corps Marathon — all squish, no spring and the shoe felt like it was bottoming out. Adding the orange insole atop the white insole added just enough additional padding and support for me to get through my mostly-trail 50 miler without getting that bottomed out feeling from the shoes.
2. Wear thick socks.
I love Drymax Hyper Thin socks. I don’t love wearing them with the Clifton because I don’t love blisters. Other Hoka fans rave about the great fit of the Clifton’s upper. Are their standards super low, or is my foot super low volume relative to the average Hoka customer? Because I swim in these puppies! I’m not blister-prone, but with thin socks (socks that I wear blissfully without issue in other shoes), I suffer. My solution: thick socks to reduce the amount of sliding around my feet do in these shoes because of their sloppy fit. Extra padding is a nice fringe benefit, too. Sticking with Drymax, I rocked one pair of Drymax Max Cushion Run Mini Crew socks for the entire JFK 50 Mile Race. Anticipating disaster, I brought four pairs of different kinds of socks and didn’t need to change once. I’d always rather have something and not need it (like Immodium, am I right?!) than need it and not have it.
3. Don’t crank the laces down.
Yes, the Clifton has a sloppy fit. But don’t try and correct it by lacing it tightly. Over long distances, blood pools in the feet, causing them to swell. There’s absolutely no padding in the Clifton’s tongue. As soon as swelling sets in, those laces will be digging into your feet. Having endured that during the Marine Corps Marathon, I can tell you that it is extremely uncomfortable over the long haul. The pain lingered: a week later I still felt like my right foot had been stomped by a Sumo wrestler. Leaving the laces a little looser for the JFK 50 Mile Race didn’t cause me any trouble on the downhills (I wasn’t sliding all around within the shoe) and I didn’t feel like there was a lag between when I lifted my foot and when the shoe actually came off the ground — there’s a level of looseness that keeps under-lace soreness at bay while still keeping me adequately locked in.
Following the above tips left me with blister-free feet after my first-ever ultramarathon. Running long is all about the mental game and being able to roll with the punches, but anytime you can dodge a problem by dialing in your gear, why not do it?
Be on the lookout for a full review of the Hoka One One Clifton…eventually!