The Hoka One One Clifton 3’s are embarrassing to look at first glance. But, I promise you – the Hoka One One’s are good shoes and that padding is necessary. They’re still light – and your knees might thank you in the future. If you’re a generous person, like me, you’ll eventually realize you can’t just grind out miles without finally torquing your knees or something. I used to sport every hot minimalist shoe that was out there. I did a 30 mile run in those Vibram barefoot shoes.

Courtesy of

I eventually got to changing everything, even my diet because I wasn’t able to train for distance. I went back to the gym tossing around steel and iron. I don’t regret it – I enhanced my fitness and found new strength gains that would stay with me. But, the main take away was that those minimalist shoes aren’t a catch-all. They feel nice, close to the ground and allow you to train some of the smaller muscles often neglected in your feet. But the zero drop and the idea you have to land with your feet a certain way is not for everyone.

Image Courtesy of Denali Outdoor Blog.

Crossfit and other once en vogue training methodologies that were always a part of a complete training program helped to sell these shoes. But, Crossfit doesn’t seem as popular as it once was. Maybe I’m living under a rock – but when I go to the shoe store, I don’t need severely padded shoes with a crazy heel to toe differential, no – that’s changed. But I do see typically padded shoes that have inherited the wisdom of that minimalist era. A good example of that is the Hoka One One Clifton 3. It’s a light shoe – as light as a minimalist shoe. It’s a 2mm or 3mm differential too if that’s your thing. I enjoy a slight difference between the heel to toe.

Here’s a good infographic describing the feel of the Clifton. Apologies, it’s an older graphic but, for the most part, the review holds true today.

Courtesy of Best running shoe reviews.

These shoes are light, super cushioned, and have the right feel like those old minimalists did – it’s like running on clouds. At first, I didn’t know I’d be able to detect rocks and new surfaces. But, after some time and miles, you’ll feel everything. It even seems like that thick padding is thinner. Eventually, you break them in, and they still have plenty of life left. The most important aspect is that you can run as hard as you can and pound your feet into the pavement and your knees aren’t going to feel like they’re going to pop. For me, that’s worth it – especially knowing it has the heel to toe differential and light feel that so many loved about the minimalist shoes.

In review:

They’re light, extremely well-cushioned, and provide a smooth ride. They hug your ankle very well and don’t choke your foot or your toes. They’re comfortable but surprisingly tough and capable. The biggest drawback is their unorthodox appearance. That said, they’re worth a try.

Featured image courtesy of Hoka One One.