Just as the title implies, I decided to take the plunge and see what all the fuss is about with this brand of shoe with the funny name. For the last couple of years I have jumped on the Altra shoe bandwagon and was hooked. I loved the whole premise of the shoes, with the larger foot shaped toe box, zero drop natural foot position and the cushioning options available. Altra shoes have been a rock star for off road trail runners and has been picking up steam on the road scene, but no where as fast has Hoka One One. I figured if I was going to jump ship and join the Hoka camp, now would be a good time since I am not officially training for a race for another couple of months.
Hoka One One is known for its tall soles with a plush ride that can, at times, feel like you are running on a bed of marshmallows in a light weight package. There are several models to choose from, and after a little research I decided to give the new Clifton 3s a try. I headed over to one of my local running stores to try them on. In my research, one of the big complaints about the Clifton 2s was how narrow they felt, but all the 3s reviews were saying they rectified the problem, so I figured I was good to go. I slipped on the shoes and right away they felt tight, especially on the outside edge of my feet. I tried going up a half size, which helped, but they still felt more snug then my Altras. In full disclosure, I have short wide feet and usually require a shoe that come in wide widths, however this was not the case for my Altras. At the time of this write up I did not see any wide width options from Hoka, but I could have missed it on their website. I hopped on the treadmill and right away I was hooked! I loved the feel and the cushioning was so absorbent, it truly felt like I was running on a bed of marshmallows. With a thirty day money back guarantee I figured they were totally worth the time to put some miles on them.
After only 20ish miles and one 10k PR I am going to return them. Why you ask? Well for me its the fit that concerns me. I really think it is just a matter of the width of my foot and the lack of width in the shoe, because if this shoe came in a wide version, I would be keeping it. I was noticing that the top of the toe box would rub the top of my two outer toes with every stride. With the longest single run of 6.2 miles in these shoes, the rubbing never became an issue, but I am envisioning what will happen when I am out for a 20 mile long run. I really want to minimize any issues during my marathon training and the potential for blisters or worse can be controlled with the right fitting shoes. I decided to give my Altras a quick try again, just to be sure I wasn't over reacting, and while there was a slight touch, it was nowhere near as bad as it was with the Hokas.
So in conclusion, if they offered this shoe in a wide and it fit with no toe box rubbing, I would make the switch, I loved them that much. I didn't feel like the shoe was to tall, and while the super soft ride felt great, I never felt like I was sacrificing performance. At the end of the day, you need to be comfortable in your shoes regardless of brand or style. Even thought things didn't work out with the Clifton 3s, I'll keep my eye on Hoka, and maybe down the road they will accommodate those of us with wide feet, but until then, I'll stick with my Altras.