ALL RUNNERS want the best fit when it comes to their footwear, whether they’re serious marathoners logging dozens of miles per week or casual joggers who want to practice a healthy habit. Hoka is one of the most popular running shoe makers on the market, creating kicks that combine comfort and performance in ways that appeal to runners at every level of experience. Just look at two of the brand’s most-loved models, the Bondi and Clifton, which are both excellent options for entry-level runners to serious athletes. But which is best for you? Let’s dive into the pros and cons of each, and discuss who these running shoes are best for.
Our team of fitness editors and contributing writers are running shoe experts who have tested a combined 200+ pairs of running shoes throughout the years, and have been wearing both the Clifton and the Bondi for years (in various iterations). I’m a former NCAA D1 women’s college soccer player who holds a CrossFit L-1, and running is something I’ve enjoyed for years. I usually stick to short distances under seven miles, and have worn both of these Hoka models for running outdoors and on a treadmill.
We also enlisted the help of board-certified podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeons Dr. Brad Schaeffer, who specializes in sports medicine and stars on the popular TLC show My Feet Are Killing, and Dr. Mark Mendeszoon, of Precision Orthopaedic Specialties in Chardon, Ohio, to dive into the more technical aspects of these shoes.
Hoka Clifton vs. Bondi: Cushioning
“Both shoes are considerably cushioned neutral shoes,” Dr. Mendeszoon told Men’s Health. “The Bondi has more stacking through the midfoot and a higher stack, which can explain why its about $20-$25 more expensive than the Clifton.” They both use Hoka’s patented CMEVA foam.
“The Bondi and Clifton are two great examples of how our different compounds and geometries can come to life to provide different underfoot feels,” Rebekah Broe, Hoka’s Director of Product for Performance Footwear, shared with Men’s Health. “Compared to the Clifton, the Bondi has a foam that is the same durometer (hardness), but is a bit more dense which gives it a different, controlled ride. The Clifton’s foam is less dense and more resilient, meaning it will feel significantly lighter and bouncier underfoot,” she explained.
If you’re someone who wants to run at a ‘party pace’ (meaning an easy, feel-good pace) and maintain as much comfort as possible, the Bondi is a great option. However, the additional cushioning makes it a heavier shoe than the Clifton, so it might not be the best pick for a race day shoe.
Read more: Best Long Distance Running Shoes
The Clifton is still a fairly cushioned compared to other popular running shoes on the market, just slightly less so than the uber-plush Bondi. Instead, the Clifton is classified as ‘balanced’, which falls right in the middle of the brand’s cushioning scale. This means that while it still has fair cushioning, considerations were made for pace and weight.
Additionally, the Bondi has a 4 mm heel-to-toe drop, which means the shoe is best for people who strike forefoot or midfoot. This fairly low drop is also good for people who want to take the emphasis off of their knees and hips while they run. The Clifton has a 5 mm heel-to-toe drop, so there’s not much of a difference between the two models on that front.
Hoka Clifton vs. Bondi: Geometries
Both shoes deliver exceptional cushioning, but they do so in distinct ways. The brand’s perspective on the Bondi centers on it being the perfect choice for easy miles and recovery, prioritizing cushioning and stability over weight, according to Broe. “With the Clifton, it’s all about being able to crank out the miles day after day so we want to design for the ideal mix of cushioning and weight,” she says.
Considering how that translates to specific geometries, the Bondi features a taller profile, a slightly wider base, a deep Active Foot Frame, and a Metarocker that initiates a bit later. These design elements combine to create a plush yet highly stable ride. In contrast, the Clifton sits closer to the ground, offers greater flexibility, and is lighter in weight. (The Bondi is the heavier shoe at 10.8 ounces compared to the Clifton at 8.7 ounces. For reference, a running shoe under 9 ounces is considered a lightweight shoe, meaning the Clifton is considered a light running shoe, while the Bondi is not.)
Both the Bondi and the Clifton boast an early stage Meta-Rocker, which propels the foot forward during a run (instead of being left flat footed). I’ve seen people wear these to the gym, which I adamantly recommend against. Meta-rocker shoes are not made for lifting weights, period. Because these shoes are designed to rock you forward and are not flat-bottomed, lifting weights in them (heavy or not) is never a good idea.
In the most recent iterations of both shoes, both shoes also have fairly similar outsoles. You’ll notice that the Bondi has more tread on the bottom compared to the Clifton, but the only major difference I have experienced in my own testing is in terms of durability. In my experience, the Clifton outsole wears down more quickly than that of the Bondi, especially when running outdoors versus on a treadmill. “As the Clifton is lighter, they break down a bit quicker than Bondi,” explains Dr. Mendeszoon.
Hoka Clifton vs. Bondi: Responsiveness
Neither of these shoes are as responsive as some of their competitors, which have specialized foam midsoles for peak energy return. If you’re looking for the more responsive pick between the two, the Clifton is generally the better option. As discussed earlier, we classified the Clifton as a ‘balanced’ shoe, positioning it in the middle between responsiveness and plushness. On the other hand, the Bondi is considered plush, meaning responsiveness falls low on this shoe’s list of priorities.
When wearing the Bondi, you’ll enjoy a well-cushioned ride that feels comfortable and absorbs plenty of shock. “The Bondi midsole is wavy and billowed, which allows for better shock absorption,” according to Dr. Mendeszoon. You’ll notice the Clifton has a mix of cushioning with a bit of an energy return, thanks to its rockered style that encourages propulsion.
Hoka Clifton vs. Bondi: Stability
The Hoka Clifton and Bondi are both neutral shoes, which means there isn’t much happening in terms of support for overpronation or supination. If you’re trying to determine which of the two is more stable, I recommend choosing the Bondi. The Clifton has a slightly more narrow base, which I find feels less stable.
Regardless, if you’re someone who needs considerable stabilization from your running shoes, you won’t find it with either the Clifton or the Bondi. Instead, check out the Gaviota 5, the Arahi 6, or the Stinson 7. All three of these models feature Hoka’s J-frame technology, which offers medial support for those who overpronate.
Hoka Clifton vs. Bondi: Fit and Sizing
In my experience, both the Clifton and the Bondi (like all other Hoka models I’ve tried) fit true to size. However, both do run slightly narrow through the toe box compared to their competitors. The Clifton is available in wide sizes, and the Bondi can be found in both wide and extra-wide options.
Both the Clifton and the Bondi feature knit and mesh construction, respectively, providing a secure yet breathable fit. But don’t get it twisted: These are not akin to the Nike Free Runs. You’ll feel supported wearing both models, but not in a foot-hug sort of way.
What Type of Running Is Each Model Best for?
When it comes to deciding between the Hoka Clifton and the Hoka Bondi, the choice largely depends on what type of running you typically do.
Dr. Schaeffer suggests that the Clifton is a versatile choice suitable for the widest range of running styles. Its streamlined design and functionality make it an excellent option for faster tempo runs, intervals, and speed play, according to Dr. Mendeszoon.
On the other hand, the Hoka Bondi boasts a more pronounced cushioned feel and a wider toebox. It’s a bit heavier but offers superior shock absorption, making it ideal for longer, potentially slower runs where comfort and cushioning take center stage.
In summary, if you prioritize functionality, a streamlined design, and a shoe that’s great for various running styles and durations, the Hoka Clifton may be your top pick. However, if you lean towards cushioned comfort and need a shoe that excels on longer, more leisurely runs, the Hoka Bondi is an excellent choice. Ultimately, the decision comes down to your personal preferences and the type of running experience you value most.
So, Which Model Reigns Supreme?
If you’ve made it this far, you might be expecting what I’m about to say: neither model is truly better than the other. Both models are better (or worse) for different people and types of running. If you prioritize comfort and cushioning in a running shoe, the Bondi is your best choice. It’s also the best option for those who prefer a high stack height or enjoy heavily rockered shoes. Want a lightweight, race day ready shoe? This isn’t your best bet. Love something comfortable for easy or recovery days? This is your shoe.
If you’re looking for a shoe that covers the bases as a mix of responsive and cushioned so you can focus on pushing your pace, you’ll prefer what the Clifton has to offer. Since this shoe is a nice balance of being lightweight yet still has good cushioning, I love to wear them for walking long distances. For a shoe I can depend on when I’m standing on my feet all day, the Clifton is my personal preference.
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Caroline Lubinsky covers fitness shopping stories for Men’s Health. She’s a former NCAA D1 Women’s Soccer player and is a CrossFit Level 1 trainer. Her work has been featured in Garage Gym Reviews, Reader’s Digest, and more.
Fitness and Commerce Editor
Talene Appleton is a fitness and food writer and editor, certified personal trainer (NASM-CPT), and former professional dancer based in New York City. Passionate about both exercise and cuisine, she merges her fitness, nutrition and culinary expertise with the goal of motivating others to embrace balanced healthy living. Her work has appeared in Men’s Health, General Surgery News, The Food Institute, The Nessie, and more.
Dr Mark Mendeszoon is a board-certified podiatrist and foot and ankle surgeon at Precision Orthopaedic Specialties in Chardon, Ohio and owner of Achilles Running Shops in Willoughby , Ohio and Erie, Pa. He still enjoys working out, running and coaching runners of all ages.
Podiatrist & Foot and Ankle Surgeon
Bradley Schaeffer, DPM, is a board certified podiatrist and foot surgeon specializing in sports medicine, foot and ankle reconstructive surgery, regenerative medicine, and aesthetic procedures. He stars on the popular TLC show My Feet Are Killing.