Our verdict

In our view, Hoka has really nailed it with the Clifton 9 GTX, expertly waterproofing it while retaining the beloved features of the original version. It's still a lightweight daily trainer offering top-notch stability for neutral runners and a cushioned ride, all wrapped up in a comfortable-yet-durable upper. However, it's still tailored towards a performance fit, which may not be ideal for those with wide feet. Based on our experience, if you're looking for a waterproof running shoe mainly for road running, with the occasional gravel foray, this is a fantastic choice.

Pros

  • Exceptionally cushioned
  • Comfortable and long-lasting upper
  • Ideal for winter conditions
  • Only $15 more expensive than the non-waterproof Clifton
  • Still remarkably lightweight even with Gore-Tex
  • Excellent for easy and moderate-paced runs
  • Incredibly stable for neutral runners
  • Ultra-durable Durabrasion outsole

Cons

  • May be too narrow for many
  • Heel-to-toe drop significantly differs from Hoka's claims
  • Really stiff heel counter for being a daily trainer

Audience verdict

86
Good!

Who should buy

We highly recommend the Clifton 9 GTX for:

  • Fans of Hoka seeking a waterproof running shoe for wet conditions.
  • Anyone looking for a cushioned daily trainer enhanced with Gore-Tex.
  • Runners in the hunt for a lightweight, waterproof shoe that isn't designed specifically for trail running.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX

Who should NOT buy

While this shoe offers decent breathability through the tongue, we hold the view that it's not the best choice for summer runs. The toebox is completely sealed and lacks ventilation. For warmer weather, opt for the regular Clifton 9, which is also lighter and $15 cheaper.

Furthermore, if you're planning mountain adventures, our conclusion is that it's better to skip the Clifton. Although it can handle fire roads or smooth trails occasionally, there are several superior trail running shoes with Gore-Tex. Consider options like the Salomon Speedcross 6 GTX or the Hoka Speedgoat 5 GTX for a more suitable, trail-proof experience.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX

Breathability

Gore-Tex is a membrane designed to let air and water vapor escape from the shoe, while preventing liquid water from getting in—as we carefully explained in our guide about uppers. It does this using tiny ventilation holes that are smaller than water particles.

In practice, however, our lab analysis show that Gore-Tex shoes have almost no ventilation. Yet, the Clifton 9 GTX scored a 3 out of 5 in our breathability test. How did they do it? Well, Hoka crafted the shoe to let air out through the tongue, as shown in the video above.

However, be aware that this shoe might feel warm in the summer. The overall breathability score of 3 out of 5 reflects the general airflow, but the toebox tends to be warmer compared to running shoes with effective ventilation in this area.

When we moved the cut-in-half shoe over the light, it became clear that it blocks all airflow. There's simply no air movement, but we wanted to confirm this with the microscope.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX microscope

Here, our initial thoughts were confirmed. The knit looks incredibly thick and dense, with no visible holes for air to escape.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX

Hoka used a thick knit combined with a GORE-TEX Invisible Fit membrane in the Clifton 9 GTX, as we found out by inspecting the cut upper.

Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 3
Average 3.8
Compared to 234 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

One of the standout perks of GTX uppers is their ability to enhance durability, thanks to the additional layer they bring to the shoe.

The Clifton 9 GTX perfectly exemplifies this benefit. During our first Dremel test, where we used the tool at 5K RPM with a force of 3.2N, we noticed only minimal damage to the jacquard knit upper.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Toebox durability
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 4
Average 2.4
Compared to 168 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

But hold on, because the heel area outperformed the toebox in our rigorous back-to-back Dremel tests.

Scoring a perfect 5 out of 5, it's highly unlikely that any runner will be able to rub or wear down the heel area.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Heel padding durability
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 5
Average 3.2
Compared to 164 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

So far, we're really impressed with the Clifton 9 GTX's durability performance. Now, let's take a closer look at the outsole.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX outsole

The outsole design in the waterproof version is identical to the regular edition.

First, we were curious about the hardness of the Durabrasion rubber used by Hoka. Using our durometer on the Shore C scale, we measured a hardness of 79.1 HC. This result is right in line with the average, and slightly harder than the regular Clifton 9 (76.0 HC).

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Outsole hardness
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 79.1 HC
Average 80.5 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 285 running shoes
Number of shoes
52.1 HC
Outsole hardness
93.0 HC

Outsole durability

With its average rubber hardness, we anticipated typical durability from the Clifton 9 GTX.

However, our Dremel test revealed a pleasant surprise: only a minimal 0.5-mm indentation in the outsole. This positive outcome is a clear indicator of fantastic durability.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Outsole durability
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 0.5 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 146 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

With a solid 3.3 mm of thickness, you can confidently expect this shoe to withstand plenty of wear and tear. There's no need for any head-scratching here—it's clearly built to last.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Outsole thickness
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 3.3 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

One common worry we all share in the lab about Gore-Tex shoes is the potential weight increase due to the added Gore-Tex membrane.

Yet, the Clifton 9 GTX pleasantly surprised us, weighing in at just 9.6 oz (271g) on our scale. This is lighter than most cushioned daily trainers on the market, even with its waterproofing.

It's also a mere 0.9 oz heavier than the standard version, so we're thrilled to report that waterproofing adds less than an ounce to the shoe's weight. This seems like a more than fair trade-off for those who need this feature.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Weight
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 9.56 oz (271g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

As a modern daily trainer, we expected decent cushioning in the heel, and that's exactly what we found.

With a heel stack height of 37.2 mm, the Clifton guarantees a comfortable ride for all runners, particularly those who are heel strikers.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Heel stack
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 37.2 mm
Average 33.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
45.7 mm

Forefoot stack

In the forefoot, we measured a stack height of 28.6 mm, which is more than the average shoe.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX

This guarantees two things: ample cushioning for those long runs in the rain and no ground feel at all.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Forefoot stack
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 28.6 mm
Average 25.0 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
36.9 mm

Drop

This results in an 8.6-mm heel-to-toe drop, quite a departure from the 5-mm drop claimed by the brand. However, this discrepancy isn't unusual for us, as we often find Hoka's measurements significantly different from ours.

Why the difference? We measure every shoe according to the World Athletics guidelines, but many brands don't follow these standards. We've explained this in full detail in this guide.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Drop
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 8.6 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 304 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The insole, at 4.8 mm thick, is a bit thicker than usual but feels perfectly normal. We didn't have any problems with it and found it quite comfortable.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Insole thickness
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 4.8 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 300 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

Hoka has consistently designed the Clifton as a balanced shoe in terms of midsole softness, and the 9 GTX is no exception.

With a CMEVA midsole hardness of 23.9 HA, it doesn't feel too soft or too firm, just balanced!

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Midsole softness
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 23.9 HA
Average 21.4 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 232 running shoes
Number of shoes
8.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Midsole softness in cold

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

After placing the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes to simulate cold conditions, our Shore A durometer recorded a hardness of 27.8 HA.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Midsole softness in cold
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 27.8 HA
Average 26.5 HA
Compared to 231 running shoes
Number of shoes
12.4 HA
Midsole softness in cold (soft to firm)
51.3 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

That's only a 16.1% increase, a fantastic result for an EVA-based midsole. This is especially important since, as a Gore-Tex edition, this shoe is designed for winter running.

You definitely don't want it to turn into a brick under your feet in cold conditions, and thankfully, it stands up well to the challenge.

Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 16.1%
Average 25.5%
Compared to 231 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

The Clifton 9 GTX earns our nod for stability, ideally suited for neutral runners and those with mild stability needs.

Let's explore how Hoka accomplished this great level of stability.

Torsional rigidity

From our first strides, we noticed the Clifton was incredibly rigid, a feeling that our manual assessment confirmed. We gave it a 5 out of 5 in rigidity.

This kind of result is usually seen in carbon-plated shoes, yet the Clifton doesn't have one.

Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 5
Average 3.2
Compared to 283 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The heel counter is also quite stiff, scoring a 4 out of 5. Why did Hoka choose this design? It seems that they traded a bit of comfort for enhanced guidance in the stride, particularly beneficial for heel strikers.

Thankfully, the heel counter is exceptionally well-padded, so it shouldn't cause any problems for most runners. The only noticeable issue is that the heel counter extends further laterally and can pull slightly when lacing the shoe tightly.

Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 4
Average 2.8
Compared to 267 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Another impressive trick up Hoka's sleeve for boosting stability is the midsole width. Measuring a vast 120.9 mm, the Clifton 9 GTX offers an immense width that effortlessly absorbs those slightly off-balance landings.

What really amazes us is how the shoe manages to be so light despite its dimensions...

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 120.9 mm
Average 113.7 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

And the heel follows the same design pattern as the forefoot, measuring a hyper-wide 97.2 mm.

This, along with the stiff heel counter and the rigid platform, are the key reasons why the shoe feels incredibly supportive.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 97.2 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

In our 90-degree bend test, we had to apply 29.4N of force to bend the shoe.

Hence, the shoe is rigid torsionally, but we can consider it moderately flexible lengthwise. This design is practical, especially since Hoka intends for this shoe to be suitable for walking or even gym workouts if needed. 

Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 29.4N
Average 29.2N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Stiffness in cold

We conducted the same bending test to check if the underfoot stiffness changed after spending 20 minutes in the freezer. In this scenario, the shoe became noticeably stiffer, requiring 38.0N of force.

Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 38.0N
Average 38.3N
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.5N
Stiffness in cold
110.2N

Difference in stiffness in cold

That's a 29.1% increase, which is better than the average, but still a significant change. It will make the shoe feel stiffer in harsh, teeth-grinding cold conditions.

Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 29.1%
Average 35.9%
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Hoka consistently delivers performance-fit uppers, and the Clifton 9 GTX is an extraordinary example.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX upper

While it straddles the line of being average at 97.3 mm, those with normal and wide feet will find just the right amount of space—enough for comfortable toe movement but not too much to feel loose.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 97.3 mm
Average 98.4 mm
Compared to 305 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

The big toe area has an aggressive taper, measuring 75.7 mm with our external calipers. This design might not be the best for those with wide feet...

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 75.7 mm
Average 78.2 mm
Compared to 179 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The standard Clifton 9 comes with the classic Hoka semi-gusseted tongue. However, that's not ideal for a waterproof shoe.

That's why we were thrilled to discover in our lab that this model has been upgraded to a fully gusseted tongue. This is definitely great news!

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX Both sides (full)

Comfort

Tongue padding

The Clifton 9 GTX boasts 7.4 mm of padding in the tongue, ensuring comfort during even the longest runs.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX tongue

This is also a key benefit for those who prefer to tie their laces really tight, a common practice in wet conditions.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Tongue padding
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX 7.4 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 302 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

Hoka omitted the heel tab in this version of the Clifton, adding only a small tail to the heel. However, we can't really classify it as a pull tab, it's just a extended collar.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Heel tab
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX None

Removable insole

The insole is completely removable, allowing you to insert your own orthotics or maybe your favorite insole from another running shoe.

Hoka Clifton 9 GTX Removable insole
Test results
Clifton 9 GTX Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

We're big fans of reflective elements on winter-running shoes, as they're essential for those who often run in nighttime conditions. But what really excites us is 360-degree reflectivity, and that's exactly what the Clifton 9 GTX offers.

Test results
Clifton 9 GTX Yes