About the shoe – The Hoka One One Clayton is a lightweight, responsive road shoe as a part of their new PRO2LITE collection. What Hoka failed to recognize is that they just created a monster of a shoe that can go up and over nearly anything in its path, road or trail. Coming in at 7.3 ounces in a men’s size 9, these shoes are LIGHT. With a stack height of 20mm in the forefoot and 24mm in the heel, this shoe is in a category by itself in regards to how much you get underfoot for how much it weighs.
The Upper of the Clayton is a simple, yet effective design. The entire upper is a single layer of mesh with a no-sew lattice of thin, TPU overlay across the midfoot and forefoot. The overlay is heat welded onto the mesh and very pliable. It doesn’t feel stiff or thick at all, but at the same time feels secure and necessary. There is an extra layer around the front of the toe that adds some protection. I wouldn’t go punting boulders with this toe cap though, as it does still have a fair amount of give.
There is no dedicated plastic heel cup to the shoe, but instead is made up of the TPU overlay material. This material surrounds the entire heel of the shoe and adds some extra stiffness and rigidity. The midsole foam also wraps up around the heel about a centimeter and aids greatly in keeping my heels centered over the shoe. The combination of TPU overlay and midsole wrap around the ankle just about eliminate the need for a plastic heel cup. There is just a sliver of foam right at the Achilles which is just enough to keep my heel locked down.
I did have one big problem though. The ankle collar simply came up too high and hit the bottom of my ankle bone. It was tolerable on runs that were on even surfaces under 10 miles, but any undulating surfaces or long runs would leave quite a sore spot for the next few days on my ankle bone. My fix for this problem was to wear an orange Superfeet insole which raised my heel just enough so the it didn’t irritate me. If you have low ankle bones like me, this ankle collar might be problematic.
The Fit of the Clayton is spacious. Having narrower feet, I actually liked the way the Hoka Clifton 2 felt (which a lot of wearers had problems with being too narrow). This Clayton is definitely wider and higher volume in the forefoot. Having worn the first generation Clifton and Huaka, the Clayton is the widest by a small margin. The only time the extra width gave me problems was when I was going fast on technical single-track. My foot had a tendency to slide around a lot inside the shoe which forced me to slow down so I wouldn’t roll an ankle. At anything marathon pace or slower, the width wasn’t an issue. Having raced the Lake Sonoma 50 mile in these shoes, I was loving the extra space in the toes the last few hours of racing as my feet were wet and getting a little swollen. Length-wise, the Clayton runs very similar to the Clifton 2. A men’s 9.5 was just right, whereas a lot of older Hokas I would wear a 9. I had about a centimeter of space in the front which is what I prefer for trail use. If this shoe was strictly for road running/racing, a 9 would have been a little more exact.
Below my feet is a new midsole from Hoka called PRO2LITE. For me, this was the single biggest draw to the Clayton. PRO2LITE is a single piece of foam that transitions from soft in the heel to firm in the forefoot. How Hoka produces this, I don’t know, but I like it! I’ve always disliked climbing in Hokas as I felt I was losing a little energy return with the pillow-soft forefoot feel. This new midsole foam completely fixes the climbing problem, as this Clayton is firm and responsive. The soft heel still makes for a classic Hoka descending feel . This new midsole really is the best of both worlds and it’s very apparent that the Hoka designers put a lot of thought into this new technology.
Medial side of left foot
Since the shoe’s release on April 1st, there have already been numerous reports of a problem on one or both arches of the shoe closer to the ball of the foot causing blisters. I did not experience this problem, but if I purposely caused myself to overpronate or role inward, I noticed a pretty significant pressure under my arch. If you tend to overpronate a moderate amount or have lower height arches, I can totally see where the arch of this shoe could be an issue.
The outsole is another very unique aspect of the Clayton. There’s no true rubber outsole! No carbon or blown rubber outsole whatsoever, but instead is a roughly 4-5mm thick piece of their RMAT midsole foam. This is definitely an evolution of the older Huaka, as it also had large sections of exposed RMAT that held up very well. For those wondering, RMAT is a signature foam from Hoka that has rubber blown right into it to increase rebound and durability.
The end result of a full RMAT outsole is a surprising amount of grip. The way I like to describe how there is so much grip is pretty much the opposite way a soccer cleat or track spike works. Instead of the shoe digging into the ground for grip, the ground digs into the soft RMAT material, which really connects itself to the trail. This shoe has held its grip flawlessly on all types of trail except for mud. Mud was the one surface where this shoe failed pretty miserably as a shoe needs a toothy outsole to dig into that soft of ground. Another thing I liked about the RMAT outsole was how quiet it landed. It never had that slappy feeling or sound because of the softness and how well the outsole absorbed the shock of my feet hitting the ground.
Lateral side of right shoe
Durability – I obsessively logged every mile in this shoe and before this review, I ran 124 miles in the Hoka Clayton. 27 miles on the road and 97 on trail, with 21,000 feet of climbing in about 18 hours of total time on my feet. The pictures of the shoe in this review are when the shoe had about 110 miles on them, and to my surprise, the outsole wear was pretty minimal. Again, my left heel has about 1mm of the RMAT foam worn off, and the little dots are starting to disappear from the forefoot. Pretty good for a foam outsole if you ask me. I anticipate this shoe won’t be as durable as the beloved Huaka, but I also expect I’ll get 300-400 trail miles out of this shoe without much issue. As for the midsole foam, it actually feels better now with 120 miles on it than when it was new. It’s a little softer and has gained a bit of flexibility and really seems to be hitting it’s sweet spot now. The upper, aside from being slightly dirt colored, hasn’t changed a bit from the first run. No stretching or signs of wear whatsoever, which I am very pleased with, considering I have not had the best luck with Hoka uppers in the past.
Ideal Terrain for this shoe in my opinion, is a pretty wide range. It’s buttery smooth on any paved surface, but performed equally as well on open fire road and smooth single-track. Even on technical, rocky trail, the ride was very very good. If one had to pick just a single shoe for all running, this Clayton would be a serious candidate.
Overall, the Clayton is one of the most versatile shoes in the Hoka One One lineup. With the new PRO2LITE midsole and RMAT outsole, this shoe is one of the smoothest and most responsive feeling Hokas to date. The extra room in the forefoot was just a little too much space for me, but will be perfect for a lot of feet. At 150 dollars, the lightweight performance of this shoe doesn’t come cheap. As a daily trainer, the price is just a little too much for me, but as a workout and long race shoe, the Hoka One One Clayton is absolutely worth it.
These are some of the most direct competitor shoes in terms of weight and stack height as well as versatility.
Saucony Kinvara 7 $110
Asics 33-FA $110
New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro $115
Hoka One One Clifton $130
Next shoe up for review at Trails and Tarmac is the Salomon Sense Pro 2!
Author: Brett Hornig