Today, we’re going to be comparing the Hoka Mach vs Clifton.
The Mach 4 and the Clifton 8 are two shoes from the same company that each fall in the daily training shoe category.
What’s the difference between these two shoes and why do they both exist in the Hoka lineup?
Let’s find out…
Hoka Mach vs Clifton
Hoka Mach 4
In the Mach 4, we’ve got a 5-millimeter heel drop shoe with ProFly as the midsole. This midsole is actually a combination of two foams. The upper layer is a bit of a softer material and then the bottom layer is a rubberized EVA because on the outsole there’s no rubber coverage at all. Instead, you’re running directly on some of that midsole foam.
As far as stack heights go on this shoe, I think there’s a little bit of confusion as to what the stack heights actually are. I’ve been going with 35 millimeters of stack in the heel and 30 in the forefoot and that’s what some other outlets are reporting as well.
But yet, there are also some outlets that I tend to respect very much that are saying that this shoe is a 29-millimeter stack shoe. Nevertheless, in either vent, what we have is a very tall stack height shoe that does have that ProFly midsole material.
Up top, we’ve got an engineered mesh which I think is very comfortable. It’s not the roomiest of uppers and it’s not exactly like a foot-shaped toe box by any means. But there’s plenty of room in there so that you can use this shoe not only for your daily training and long runs but also for those recovery runs as well where your feet might be a little bit beat up.
There’s plenty of eyelets in the lacing system and so there’s lots of ways to really tailor in the fit and I think it fits really nicely.
The tongue is a mesh tongue which is very lightly padded. It’s not a minimal tongue but not a super puffy tongue. I think it strikes a nice balance for an everyday trainer.
Around the heel, there is a pretty aggressive Achilles flare and quite a bit of structure in this heel cup. It kind of mirrors the green stripe that goes along the back and it’s pretty rigid to help keep the ankle stable in the back.
There’s also the swallowtail design in the back of the midsole that’s we’ve seen in other Hoka shoes as well. It’s supposed to help with distributing impact forces if you’re crashing back on the heel.
All told, this comes in at a total weight of 8.0 oz. But depending on which source you’re looking at, it’s right in that low 8 oz territory for my US men’s size 9.
Now moving over to the Clifton…
Hoka Clifton 8
We have a lot of similarities in terms of what the specs are for this shoe. The Clifton 8 is being reported as a 29-millimeter stack height shoe identical to what some others are reporting for the Mach 4 and it still also has that 5-millimeter drop giving us 24 millimeters of stack height in the forefoot.
Instead of the ProFly foam setup, we’ve got the classic compression-molded EVA that Hoka has been using in their shoes for a very long time.
On the outsole, we have an updated pattern which I’ve been liking. It seems to be a little bit more streamlined and it seems like there’s a little bit less rubber in the outsole, which I like because I do feel like you don’t really need a ton of it to be able to protect this much midsole foam. However, it still provides plenty of grip and traction.
Up top, we have another engineered mesh, but this one is a little bit softer and a little bit stretchier. The mesh seems to be a little bit more breathable compared to the Mach 4.
On the tongue, we’ve got a very puffy tongue which is new for the Clifton 8. It reminds me of more of like a max cushion shoe or something that’s looking for just extra memory foam type of comfort.
I’m not a huge fan when shoes get puffy especially when they get puffy in the tongue because it usually just means that the shoe is going to be a little bit more snug and kind of takes up more space in the shoe because of that tongue but also means it’s going to be a little bit hotter.
Around the back, we have a very similar setup to what we saw in the Mach 4. It might even be the exact same setup. The chassis is the same but the upholstery is a little bit different.
Instead, we’ve got a little bit of memory foam, which means a little bit of extra plushness in the Clifton 8 compared to the Mach 4. But in terms of the stability and the structure in the heel cup, you’ve got the same thing.
There is no swallowtail at the back of the Clifton but it does have a little bit of extra junk in the trunk to give you a little bit more of a crash pad if you are a heel striker or if you’re coming downhill and you’re hitting back in the heel so that it’s a little bit softer of a landing.
Also, this entire package for the Clifton 8 comes in at 8.8 oz.
So, with the specs taken care of, what is it like to run in each of these road running shoes?
Types of Daily Trainers
Both the Hoka Mach and the Clifton are fantastic daily trainers and either one is going to be a great choice for your summer miles as you’re getting ready for those fall marathons.
I think the way that these two shoes fit is that they’re both daily trainers. But amongst daily trainers, there’s kind of a spectrum of use cases. So, on one side, you might have daily trainers that can kind of do everything. On the one end of the spectrum, you might have shoes that are daily trainers but heavily cushioned. These shoes could be good for your really long runs. They might also be good if you’re not looking to make your fastest run but you’re trying to set a long-run PR and you want a lot of cushion and comfort or maybe you want that daily trainer that also can be really great for your recovery runs.
Then, on the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got your daily trainers that can also be used for some speed work.
- Maybe you’ve got some fartlek or some threshold sessions.
- Maybe you’re going to do a 5k time trial.
- Maybe you’re even going to head over to the track…
…That’s the entire spectrum of daily trainers in terms of the universe of versatility that I think a daily trainer could potentially fill.
I think these two shoes fit kind of towards the ends of each end.
What Each Shoe is Good For
The Clifton 8 is a much more comfortable and plush daily trainer that’s really great for those longer runs. All of that memory foam type of material on the tongue and in the heel makes it just much more like a Grand Touring experience rather than more of a racecourse type of experience.
In the Mach 4, you’ve got that daily trainer that is a little bit more geared towards speed and can handle a little bit of faster paces. If you’re not looking to set long-run PRs but you are looking to get a little bit more speed variety in your workouts and runs over the course of a week, I think the Mach 4 is really for you.
That’s kind of the overall summary and that’s how I see both of these shoes fitting in the Hoka lineup.
I don’t think that most people need both of these shoes in their running shoe rotation. I think you should pick one or the other based on what your preferences are for your daily training.
Do you want your daily trainers to be a little bit more on the comfortable side? Or, do you want your daily trainers to be a little bit more versatile so you can take them out for those Fartlek workouts or those threshold sessions?
That’s how I would break that down for most people.
Let’s get into how I got to that and what I think each shoe is better at. But first, let’s talk about the run experience of the midsole foams itself…
Midsole Run Experience
I already mentioned that I feel like the Clifton is a more comfortable shoe. There is an Ortholite insert in terms of the insole, which really aids in that step-in comfort. But I also think that this compression-molded EVA just squishes a little bit more. It’s a little bit softer of material for each foot strike.
On the other hand, I think the Mach 4 is a little bit more firm. Yes, it’s got this ProFly system where the top layer is that soft material that you’re landing on, I do ultimately feel like this is a bit of a firmer ride.
So, depending on what you’re coming from or what you prefer, you might prefer having a little bit more road feel and more connection with the surfaces that you’re running on.
I also think that connection also aids to a feeling that the shoe is just a little bit more snappy and a little bit more lively.
Because of that, I prefer the Mach 4 in terms of the daily training. I just think that on a regular easy-run day, I’m probably going to be a little bit more excited to run in the Mach 4 than I would be for the Clifton 8. That’s probably because I feel like the Clifton 8 is much better for those days where I do want something more like a max cushion recovery shoe.
I’m not a huge fan of the thickest of the thick shoe genre. It’s just not my favorite kind of shoes to run in. I really like this new sub-genre that’s kind of sitting in the middle between daily trainers and max cushion shoes that are like the more cushioned daily trainer and that’s exactly where this Clifton 8 fits in.
If I’m just going to be out there for a long time and want to get some time on feet, or if it’s something where I just had a hard workout the day before and want something that’s going to baby my feet a little bit, the feeling of that compression-molded EVA in the Clifton 8 is just really nice. Overall, the Clifton just fits very forgiving.
But I do wish it were just a touch wider in the toe box giving my pinky toe just a little bit more room. When I want to do a recovery run, I probably had my feet in some speed shoes the day before, which usually means my pinky toes got beat up a little bit. So, if the Cliftons were just a little bit more forgiving right in the toe box, I just think it would make the shoe even better for that purpose. So, for recovery days, I do prefer the Clifton 8.
Which is Faster?
If I do have to go fast or if there’s going to be maybe a workout or maybe generally just an easy run but maybe a shorter portion of some speed in there, I definitely think that I’m going to be reaching for the Mach 4.
I feel like for everything from moderate pace or marathon pace all the way up to when I’m running strides and running closer to a mile race-pace effort, I feel like the Mach 4 does a really good job.
I’m not sure that I’d want to do really intense long workouts solely in the Mach 4, but especially for something like a fartlek where it might be getting up to threshold effort but it’s a lot of on and off, some tempo changes, or a lot of easy running mixed in with some harder running, that’s where I feel like the Mach 4 really excels.
The Mach 4 enjoys going fast. I feel like that rubberized outsole material that’s in the ProFly midsole does a really good job of giving me the support that I need. When I’m pushing into the ground and pushing off the hardest and the impacts are the most, I feel like the Mach 4’s firmer midsole is doing its job like a really stiff suspension on a car.
If you’re just driving normally, it might seem really stiff and harsh, but if you put on a really windy racecourse where you’re putting some forces into it, that’s exactly what it’s tuned for. It’s kind of what I feel when I’m running in the Mach 4.
So, this shoe can definitely handle easy days but it also can handle those times where I need to pick up the pace just a little bit. It makes it a very fun fast shoe for those days where I want to do easy training but maybe have some speed involved as well.
As far as the uppers go, I do think that the Mach 4 is a little bit more comfortable in terms of fit.
Both of these uppers are very similar when I look at them closely. It’s hard to really tell them apart other than the fact that the engineered mesh pattern is a little bit different, but I do feel like, for whatever reason, I just think that the Mach 4 fits me just a little bit better.
I don’t know if it’s because there’s just a tiny bit more room in the toes or that there’s one more eyelet in the lacing system than there is in the Clifton.
So, both of these uppers are really comfortable, but I just prefer the fit on the Mach 4 because it just seems to sit on my foot a little bit more naturally. I think the material on the Mach 4 is a little bit more structured and so it’s kind of like protecting the volume of the toe box a little bit better.
Again, I wish that the Clifton 8 had a little bit more room to differentiate it and better situate it in that cushioned daily trainer category.
With that being said, it’s time for me to pick a champion in terms of which daily trainer I prefer for my set of preferences.
Hoka Mach vs Clifton – Winner?
For me, it’s pretty easy. I really like the Mach 4 a lot better. I think the Clifton 8 is a fantastic shoe but I just think that the Mach 4, for me and the kinds of running that I generally like to do, suits me just a little bit better.
It’s really an impressive shoe that Hoka has released and it’s a very exciting and very good daily trainer.
Those are my thoughts on the Hoka Mach vs Clifton 8.
That’s all for today everybody and thanks so much for making it all the way to the end of this comparison. I hope you guys are staying safe out there on your runs and I’ll see you in the next one.
Where to buy the Hoka Mach and the Clifton