Hoka Clayton Review

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The Hoka Clayton builds on the success of the wonderful Hoka Clifton. The Clifton is one of the best selling shoes, and I feel the Clayton is remarkably close in its function and design. Both shoes have stunning cushioning for their weight, with the Clayton coming in about an ounce lighter than the Clifton, but with slightly less cushioning. Using the RMAT foam as the outsole material works rather well, and I think the Clayton shows Hoka's growing maturity with this advanced material. Their initial attempts to make a shoe using RMAT for the midsole produced a heavy and hard shoe that seemed remarkably pointless to me. However, they found that RMAT has great grip on a wide variety of surfaces, and makes an outstanding outsole as it combines this grip with better cushioning than a traditional rubber and better wear characteristics than an exposed midsole. They've used RMAT to great effect on the Hoka Mafate and my favorite hiking boots, the Hoka Tor Ultra. When you run in the Clayton it feels a lot like the Clifton (both the first and second versions), though I found the upper to be slightly less comfortable. My main quibble with the Clayton is in the shape of the toe box, but this is a problem with virtually every running shoe on the market. I have some minor concerns with the way the midsole extends out from the outside edge of the forefoot, as noted below under "structure". The Clayton is rather pricy, so if you're after something with similar cushioning, for less money and with less weight then check out the Asics Gel Hyper Speed. Overall the Clayton is an outstanding shoe, and I've rated it as "The Best of the Best." (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Hoka Clayton top
Hoka Clayton bottom
Hoka Clayton inside
Hoka Clayton outside

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The Clayton has the massive cushioning that made Hoka famous, and in a shoe that is remarkably light. The cushioning-to-weight ratio is nearly as good as the Hoka Clifton, which is about the best of the Maximalist shoes. You can get better cushioning-to-weight ratios, but only in much lighter shoes like the Asics Gel Hyper Speed, New Balance RC5000, or the amazing New Balance RC5000v2. The Hyper Speed has similar levels of overall cushioning to the Clayton, though the Hyper Speed has more cushioning in the heel and less in the forefoot.
  • Drop. The Clayton has about a 3-4mm drop which is close enough to zero-drop for me.
  • Structure. The Clayton has two types of foam, a traditional EVA foam used as the midsole, and a much tougher RMAT foam used as the outsole. The combination of these two foams does not interfere with your biomechanics in the way that would occur with a medial post. In the midsole cups the heel of the foot, which tends to create a little unobtrusive stability. The midsole does arise up under the arch, but I didn't find this will cause enough to cause any planter fasciitis issues. I found the taper at the front of the Clayton when the midsole thins between the ball of the foot and the toes to be quite smooth and natural (Hoka refers to this as the "rocker ".) One thing that did trouble me a little was the way that the midsole extends out from the outside edge of the forefoot. If you are a forefoot or midfoot runner, then this extension is a little uncomfortable and creates additional torsional stress on your ankle. Even though I tend to be a rear foot strike my forefoot lands on the outside edge, and I found this a little helpful. If you look at the picture of the Clayton from above you can see the bright green midsole extend out from the outside edge of the forefoot. I may try a little surgery to cut away some of this excess; if I do I'll post an update.
  • Flexibility. The Clayton is reasonably flexible for shoe of this thickness, and the practical flexibility is a little greater than my metrics might suggest. The softness of the midsole allows the ball of your foot to sink in and creates some effective flexibility for your foot.
  • Outsole. The Clayton uses RMAT as the outsole material. This is not as hard wearing as a true blown rubber outsole, but because it's a lot more cushioned than rubber, the overall cushioning-to-weight ratio is much better than you might expect in a shoe that has an outsole covering virtually the entire contact patch. The RMAT material also has remarkably good traction, far better than the traction you'd get in a traditional rubber outsole. Depending on your running surface, it's arguably comparable to the hard plastic nubs found in ultralight shoes like the New Balance RC5000v2.
  • Shape. The Clayton has the typical Hoka shape, which includes a horribly constricted toe box. A superficial inspection might make you think the Clayton is a little wider, but I think this is an optical illusion created by the wider midsole. I've noticed at Ultras the Hoka toe box causes a distinctive pattern of blisters, so it's critical to cut open the toe box of any Hokas. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is largely seamless, with moderate to poor breathability due to the number of overlays. There is a one seam in the midfoot where a small amount of padding is added to the rear of the shoe. There is far less padding in the Clayton than I'd have expected, and vastly less around the ankle opening than a shoe like the Hoka Clifton. I actually found the ankle opening to be slightly uncomfortable, even compared with unpadded ankle openings that you get in shoes weighing half as much is the Clayton.
  • Tongue. The Clayton has a classic tongue rather than a tongue-less sock style of upper. The tongue has a small amount of padding.
  • Lacing. The Clayton uses thin flat laces which stay tied. The laces have a slight bit of elasticity in them, improving the overall comfort of the shoe. (They appear to be the same lace that Hoka used in the Clifton.)
  • Heel Counter. I could not detect any Heel Counter in the Clayton, though the upper has an overlay in that part of the shoe that ensures it maintains its shape when you're putting it on.

2 200 Mile Update

I was surprised just how quickly my MilestonePod reached the 200 mile mark with that the Clayton. It's always a good sign when I don't realize how many miles I'm putting on a shoe, rather than having to force myself to wear a pair that I don't really enjoy. The RMAT outsole has stood up to the wear remarkably well, with not much more abrasion than you'd expect from a hard rubber outsole. The upper is quite thin with limited padding, but it never felt uncomfortable. I had to cut open the toe box early in my testing, as of the shape was crushing for my toes. With the toe box open, my toes were free to move naturally and my running was much better. The midsole has compressed, as you would expect over 200 miles. My measurements indicate that to the forefoot had compressed ~4 mm, and there is a slight indentation where the ball of my foot goes. By comparison, the heel has only compressed by ~1 mm. Personally, I suspect that this indentation under the ball of the foot is one of the better indications that a shoe is wearing out. As the cushioning under the ball of the foot collapses, it causes the foot to rotate inwards as you run.

This is the sole of the Clayton after 200 miles. The image has been heavily enhanced to highlight the texture and wear of the RMAT outsole. There is a little wear on the extreme back of the heal, and a little wear over the forefoot.

2.1 Midsole Trimming

During the testing period I have also been running in the Hoka Tracer which appears to be a much narrower shoe. However, I realized that the two shoes are exactly the same in terms of the volume that holds your foot, and only differ in their midsole shape. The midsole in the Clayton extends outwards to the side of the shoe creating what I can only describe as a small "snowshoe effect". I also noticed that when running in the Tracer and the Clayton back to back I could feel the difference that this snowshoe effect made, as it creates extra twisting force on my ankle as the outside of my foot lands first. I took an electric knife to the midsole, and iteratively removed more and more of the midsole. I found this allowed me to run rather more naturally than the original shoe allowed.

This is an enhanced image showing where I have trimmed the midsole to remove the "snowshoe effect."
helping-hand.jpg

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3 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

4 Visualizing the Attributes of the Hoka Clayton

How Hoka Clayton compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Hoka Clayton compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Hoka Clayton compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Hoka Clayton compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 6
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 8
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 7
Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review Bionic Highly Recommended $95 6.4 7.0 10.9 15 18 2 4.5 9
Hoka Bondi Review Bondi Highly Recommended $150 8.0 10.9 17.0 41 45 5 8.8 0
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 5
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 6
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 8
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 3
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 5
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 7
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 6
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 6
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin Review Endorphin Highly Recommended $125 11.1 4.1 6.4 14 13 -1 4.5 9
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 9
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 8
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 6
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 6
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 11 11 3 5.8 7
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 5
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 7
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 7
Altra Instinct 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 6
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 7
Saucony Kinvara 7 Review Kinvara Best of the Best $110 7.4 8.2 12.8 23 27 3 6.1 6
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 6
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 7
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 3
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
New Balance 980 Review NB 980 Worth considering $110 4.6 10.1 15.7 21 30 5 4.6 5
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 4
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 4
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 8
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 4
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 8
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 9
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 9
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 2
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 6
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 6
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 5
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 6
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 9
Brooks Transcend 2 Review Transcend Recommended $170 5.1 12.6 19.6 30 36 6 6.5 4
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 7
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 6
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 7

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.