HOKA Mach 5 vs Clifton 9: How To Choose Between These Very Different Running Shoes

Mach 5 for speed training and racing or Clifton 9 for comfort, cushioning, and recovery. Compare features, comfort, style to choose the best HOKA for your run.


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For runners on the quest for their next perfect pair of shoes, it’s about finding that blend of comfort, performance, and style that can turn an ordinary run into an extraordinary one.

Today, I’m comparing two standout models from Hoka both of which have been reviewed on Trail & Kale: HOKA Mach 5 vs Clifton 9.

Both of these running shoes bring unique strengths to the table, designed to cater to different runner needs and preferences, and I’m going to be highlighting all of them for both shoes, in order to help you decide which to buy.

Whether you’re clocking daily miles, tempo sessions, or in search of cushioning for longer distances, this comparison aims to help you make an informed choice.

In-Depth Reviews:

Hoka Mach 5: The tempo shoe where speed meets versatility

Starting with the Hoka Mach 5, one of the best HOKA running shoes of all time this shoe is built for those who seek a blend of lightweight design and responsive cushioning.

It’s a versatile choice, perfect for runners who don’t want to compromise on speed during their training sessions.

Key Features:

  • Lightweight and Responsive: At 8.2 oz (232 g) for men’s size 9, it’s ideal for runners seeking a fast, agile shoe.
  • 5mm Drop from heel to toe: The same drop as the Clifton 9 – this is classic HOKA, and I love it.
  • Breathable Upper: Keeps feet cool and comfortable during runs.
  • Moderate Cushioning: Offers a balance between support and speed.
  • Versatile Performance: Excels for both tempo runs and interval training, and also in race conditions.
  • Priced at $140, it offers competitive value for runners looking for high performance without a high cost.

Ideal For: Runners who prioritize speed and versatility in their training sneakers, perfect for tempo runs, intervals, and even race day. Those who enjoy a more firm, responsive ride in general will be happy with these as their daily trainer too.

➡ To learn more about these running shoes, read my HOKA Mach 5 review, OR if this post has helped you make a decision, you can use the buttons below to jump straight to the men’s and women’s product pages at hoka.com.

Hoka Clifton 9: The daily trainer with ultimate comfort and cushioning

On the other hand, we have the Hoka Clifton 9, a model synonymous with comfort.

This shoe is designed for runners who desire exceptional cushioning and support, especially over longer distances, it’s also one of our top rated HOKA shoes for walking – it really is an affordable, versatile running shoe.

Key Features:

  • Plush Cushioning: Provides superior comfort and impact protection.
  • Lightweight: At 9.2 oz (261 g) for men’s size 9, they’re lightweight for such a cushioned shoe but heavier than the Mach 5.
  • 5mm Drop from heel to toe: This is classic HOKA, and I love it.
  • Breathable and Durable Upper: Ensures long-lasting wear and ventilation.
  • Stable Ride: Offers a balanced and secure feel with each step.
  • Versatile Use: Great for long runs, recovery days, daily training, and walking.
  • Priced at $145, it’s a touch more expensive, reflecting its premium cushioning.

Ideal For: Those seeking maximum comfort and cushioning for longer runs or recovery days, ensuring a plush and protective ride.

➡ To learn more about these running shoes, read my HOKA Clifton 9 review, OR if this post has helped you make a decision, you can use the buttons below tojump straight to the men’s and women’s product pages at hoka.com.

Which One Should You Choose?

If your training focuses on speedwork, tempo runs, or you’re training for a fast half marathon, the Mach 5’s lightweight and responsive design is likely to be your ideal match.

However, if you’re logging longer miles and prioritize comfort and cushioning to protect against impact, the Clifton 9 is going to be a better match for you.

It also makes for a fantastic recovery run shoe, and our top rated HOKA shoe for walking.

How the HOKA Mach 5 looks on my feet
How the HOKA Mach 5 looks on my feet

The Mach 5 offers a more responsive ride, catering to runners who want to feel fast and light on their feet.

The Clifton 9, with its plush cushioning, aims to deliver maximum comfort and support, ideal for those longer efforts or recovery days.

How the HOKA Clifton 9 looks on my feet
How the HOKA Clifton 9 looks on my feet

While both shoes are an investment in your running journey, the Clifton 9 comes in at a slightly higher price point of $145 (only $5 more on an already excellent value for money price tag).

Decide what’s most important to you: ‘speed training and racing’ or ‘comfort, cushioning, protection, and recovery’, decide which is more critical for your running needs and budget.

For me, I wouldn’t choose between the two, I’d simply buy them both because each one serves a different purpose and both have a place in my training routines – it’s why I still use them both to this day, and I could be training in any one of the hundreds of shoes I review each year.

HOKA Mach 5 vs Clifton 9 summary

Both the Hoka Mach 5 and Clifton 9 have carved out their niches, offering distinct benefits to different types of runners – and for good reason they are among HOKAs most popular running shoes.

By assessing your running preferences, goals, and what you most value in a running shoe, you can choose the best option to support your journey. Whether you opt for the speed and agility of the Mach 5 or the cushioned comfort of the Clifton 9, you’re investing in a shoe designed to make every mile more enjoyable, and push you closer to your running goals.

Let me know in the comments which model you’re leaning towards and why. Happy running! -Alastair

As the founder of Trail & Kale, and seasoned marathoner & ultrarunner, Alastair loves bringing our readers independent running shoe reviews and gear insights to help you run your best. Learn more about Trail & Kale here.


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