Hoka Clayton 2 Review

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The Hoka Clayton 2 is an incremental change to the original Hoka Clayton 1 and is quite similar to the equally impressive 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 the Clifton and Clayton have stunning cushioning for their weight, with the Clayton 2 coming in about 1.5oz lighter than the Clifton 3, but with slightly less cushioning. The Clayton uses RMAT foam as the outsole material, and the current iteration of RMAT works rather well, showing Hoka's growing maturity with this advanced material. RMAT has great grip on a wide variety of surfaces, including even slick, wet rock. This is something I love in the Hoka Mafate and Hoka Tor Ultra boots, and while the Clayton is less likely to be used on torturous trails, the RMAT will make it more competent than you might expect. All this makes RMAT an outstanding outsole as it combines this grip with better cushioning than a traditional rubber and better wear characteristics than an exposed midsole. When you run in the Clayton 2 it feels a lot like the Clifton (both the first and second versions), though I found the upper to be slightly less comfortable, something that's only slightly improved in the Clayton 2. The Clayton feels rather like running barefoot on a softly cushioned track, without undue interference. The Clayton is not a shoe you notice when you're running in it, which is what you want. My main complaint with the Clayton (and most other running shoes) is in the shape of the toe box, which really needs to be cut open. My feet are a fairly typical width, and the Clayton fits me perfectly, other than my toes. 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 Nike Zoom Streak LT. The other problem with the Clayton is that many runners are finding it irritates the arch of the foot, sometimes causing blisters. This problem, combined with the toe box issue, and the rise of competitors like the Altra Escalante mean I've dropped the rating of the Clayton "Highly Recommended." (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.)

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1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The Clayton 2 has the massive cushioning that made Hoka famous, and in a shoe that is remarkably light. The cushioning-to-weight ratio is almost identical to the Hoka Clifton 3, 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 Nike Zoom Streak LT, 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. Surprisingly (to me at least), is the Saucony Kinvara 8, which has better cushioning than the Clayton for slightly less weight.
  • Drop. The Clayton has about a 1mm drop when loaded, down from 5mm when measured without the weight of a runner.
  • 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 improvement over the first version is that the midsole no longer extends out from the outside edge of the forefoot so much.
  • Flexibility. The Clayton 2 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. For wet asphalt, it's arguably comparable to the hard plastic nubs found in ultralight shoes like the New Balance RC5000v2, though on slicker surface the Clayton's RMAT will win every time.
  • Shape. The Clayton 2 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.). Even with my skin condition, I've had no problems with blisters once the toe box is cut open. However, I've had a number of reports of runners getting blisters on the arch of their foot. The Clayton 2 is very similar to most other Hoka shoes around the arch, but I did notice one significant difference. Virtually all Hokas, including the Clayton 2, have a midsole that rises up to cup the heel and some of the midfoot. When the midsole rises up near the arch, all other Hoka shoes I checked (and I checked quite a few) have an insole that rises up to cover the midsole. On the Clayton 2 however, the insole does not cover the midsole, and I suspect this is the cause of the 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, and there is an odd bit of sewing at the ankle opening (see image below.) There is far less padding in the Clayton 2 than I'd have expected, and vastly less around the ankle opening than a shoe like the Hoka Clifton. There ankle opening in the Clayton 2 has a very slight improvement over the original Clayton, but it's enough that I didn't find it uncomfortable.
  • Tongue. The Clayton 2 has a normal tongue rather than a tongue-less sock style of upper, and the tongue is slightly padded. With the flat laces which are closely spaced, I don't think runners will have an issue with pressure from the laces on the top of the foot.
  • 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 Update after 340 Miles

I try to write update on running shoes after about 200 miles, but I found I've done over 300 before I'd even written the overall review. Many runners have complained about the arch causing blisters, for which I dropped the rating from its previous "best of the best" to "highly recommended", but I've not had any issues personally. As you can see from the photos below, I had to cut open the toe box immediately due to its horrible shape, but this is a fairly pervasive issue with modern running shoes. I've been surprised just how well this shoe is held up to the miles. You can see a little bit of wear on the outsole, but that's fairly minor in the scale of things. I'd estimate that I've lost about 1 mm of outsole in the heaviest wear areas under the ball of my foot, and it's not overly localized, so this is not causing any unnatural foot movement. There is some compression of the midsole foam under the ball of my foot, but far less than I would've expected, amounting to probably only 1-2 mm, which means that there is a surprising amount of life left in these shoes. This is a little surprising, as the harder wearing RMAT outsole phone does not appear to make up a huge portion of the overall cushioning. Speaking of RMAT, I've been extremely pleased with the level of grip is outsole material provides, especially in the wet or other slick conditions.

3 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

Brand Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 9.1 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.5 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.7 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 7.2 3
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 8.0 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Topo Fli-Lyte2 Review Pending $100 6.7 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 6.1 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 6.1 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.4 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Nike RNDist2 Review Pending $120 8.0 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.4 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.4 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.8 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Review Pending $250 10.4 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.5 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Saucony Zealot3 Review Pending $130 8.9 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.5 6
Hoka Clifton Review Hoka ZZ Clifton Best of the Best $130 9.5 8.2 12.8 28 32 4 7.8 4

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
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, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review,

 Nike LunaRacer Review,  Altra Paradigm Review.