When it comes to choosing the perfect pair of running shoes, the options can seem overwhelming. But fear not, for today, we’re diving deep into the world of Hoka running shoes to help you make an informed decision. In this comprehensive comparison, we’ll be pitting two of Hoka’s most renowned models against each other: the Hoka Challenger vs Clifton. Whether you’re a seasoned runner looking to upgrade your kicks or a novice seeking your first pair of premium running shoes, this showdown will provide you with valuable insights to ensure you find the ideal fit for your running needs. Join us as we lace up, hit the pavement, and put these two Hoka giants head-to-head in the ultimate battle of comfort, performance, and style. Breaking down the key differences, specs and more.
Hoka Challenger vs Clifton
- The Hoka Challenger is a hybrid trail and road running shoe. While the Clifton is a pure road running shoe.
- Both are neutral running shoes. Meaning they do not provide any support for over or under pronation.
- The Challenger weighs slightly more than the Clifton. With the Men’s model weighing 8.9 oz va 8.7 oz and women’s weighing 7.7 ox vs 7.3 oz.
- Both feature a 5mm drop. Which is considered moderate to low.
- The both are also listed as moderate in cushion. Although they both provide more cushion than a “typical” road or trail hybrid running shoe.
- Hoka Cliftons have a lower stack highest of 29 mm / 24 mm. Compared to slightly higher 31 mm / 26 mm stack height on the Challenger ATR.
- Challengers feature a 4mm lug for extra grip on the trail. While the Cliftons have no lugs.
- Overall the Challengers and Cliftons are two very similar shoes, and fit very similarly. With the biggest difference being the extra grip lugs.
Hoka, a name derived from the Maori word for “to fly over the earth,” is a renowned brand in the world of athletic footwear. Established in 2009 by two trail-running enthusiasts, Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud, the company swiftly gained recognition for its innovative approach to shoe design. Hoka shoes are distinguished by their distinctive maximalist cushioning, which offers an unparalleled combination of comfort and performance. This unique blend has made Hoka a favorite among runners, hikers, and athletes seeking footwear that empowers them to push their boundaries while minimizing the impact on their bodies. iBelow we’ll be looking more in depth into one of the bran’s most popular road runner and hybrid trail runners, in the Hoka Challenger Vs Clifton.
Upon first glance, the Hoka Challenger presents a striking resemblance to a typical road running shoe, notably sharing similarities with one of my favorite Hoka models, the Clifton. However, it distinguishes itself with the inclusion of lugs, ankle support, and a heel designed for downhill terrain. Despite this shared lineage, the experience when slipping into the Challenger is notably distinct from that of the Clifton. Comfort is evident, yet there’s a noticeable snugness that may prompt consideration for a half to a full size increase for those seeking a more spacious fit. As for arch support, it registers on the lower to medium end, with room for improvement in my personal assessment.
Venturing onto the trail, one quickly discovers numerous virtues in these shoes. They generously provide cushioning that adeptly absorbs the jolts emanating from the ground beneath. Their traction shines when navigating well-maintained trails. The standout feature of the Hoka Challenger lies in its seamless transition between trails and roads, enabling a smooth shift from a few miles of road running to the trailhead without sacrificing comfort.
However, the Challenger does have its drawbacks. If your excursions often lead you to technical, root-strewn, or rocky terrains, these shoes may not be your top pick. Their traction leans more toward accommodating groomed trails. Additionally, their ability to drain and dry out leaves room for improvement, especially if they encounter moisture on the trails – a contrast to other trail runners like the Hoka Torrent, which excel in rapid drying.
The Clifton stands as a stalwart in the realm of road running shoes, its popularity well-earned. A paragon of timeless design, it gracefully marries a touch of extra cushioning, enough to bestow a plush feel relative to its counterparts. However, in the grand spectrum of cushioning, it nestles comfortably in the middle, which is why I believe Hoka inevitably based the Challenger Hybrid model after them.
When you slip your feet into the Cliftons, they obediently adhere to their designated size, offering a toe box of moderate dimensions. Yet, if your foot tends to lean toward the wider side or if you prefer an airy feel, you might contemplate ascending half a size. Personally, I’ve found them to be a precise fit, unerring even after enduring a run under the scorching sun, a time when feet often swell.
For those well-acquainted with my prior Clifton reviews, my affinity for this model is no secret. The Cliftons deliver an ample dose of cushioning that strikes an artful balance, never veering into excess. The 5mm drop proves ideal for accumulating a multitude of comfortable training miles. Their upper construction marries breathability with robustness. My sole gripe centers on the rapid wear of the soles, especially if your running form starts to waver and you stray from the optimal stride. In such cases, you’ll discern conspicuous wear patterns emerging in a matter of just a few runs, a characteristic more pronounced than in certain other brands.
Below we’ll compare side by side image of the Hoka Challenger vs Clifton. And even in the left profile you can see how similar the two look. Aside from the noticeable added lugs showing on the front of the Challenger.
Hoka Challenger ATR Profile
Hoka Clifton Profile
Again in the next two photos we’ll see the similarities between the two models. That said, you can see the noticeably larger crash pad on the heal of the Challengers.
Challenger ATR Back View
Clifton Back View
Challenger ATR Top View
Clifton Top View
Below you get a real good view of the added 4mm lugs vs the standard road soles on the Clifton.
Challenger ATR Soles
I have a wealth of experience running in both of these Hoka models. The Cliftons are my go-to choice for logging extensive training miles, and I’ve even completed a 1000-miler in the Challengers. To say that I’m intimately familiar with both models would be an understatement. When comparing the Hoka Challenger versus the Clifton, there is much to appreciate about both of these shoes.
The Challengers offer a blend of cushioning and speed typically found in road shoes but are also versatile enough to handle trail running. They truly shine on well-groomed trails that are devoid of numerous rocks and roots. If you’re tackling a race that combines road and trail terrain, they are arguably one of the best models available for the task. On the other hand, the Cliftons are Hoka’s quintessential road runners, providing ample cushioning while maintaining responsiveness. They will remain my top choice for logging extensive road running miles.
So, which model should you choose?
I believe that if you’ve read this entire review, you’ll have a good sense of my recommendation. If you’re in the market for a dedicated road running shoe, the Cliftons are the clear choice. They have achieved classic status for a reason and continue to improve with each new iteration from the brand.
However, if you require a shoe that can perform equally well on both roads and trails, the Challengers are an excellent option. They have earned a permanent place in my shoe collection as a specialized choice. If you reside on the West Coast with access to smooth, well-maintained trails, you’re bound to fall in love with them.