Road to Rotterdam with HOKA Mach 5 and Clifton 9

I train for the Rotterdam marathon with my two favorite shoes from HOKA.

Less than 15 years ago, HOKA made a striking entry into the running shoe market. While many established brands brought increasingly minimalist shoes to the market, HOKA models stood out for their ultra-thick soles and multi-colored uppers. Once designed by French founders and trail runners Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard who wanted a shoe that would also allow them to run fast down a mountain. Hoka One One was born, which roughly translated from Māori means “flying over the earth”.

Maximum cushioning

Despite the thickness of the soles, the shoe remained light and the sole provided maximum cushioning. This made HOKA a popular brand among ultra runners, but has since gained popularity with all types of runners. Other brands also launch shoes with thicker soles, but HOKA continues to lead the way when it comes to lightweight shoes with maximum cushioning.

A few years ago I bought my first pair of HOKAs, the Clifton Edge, a shoe that stood out mainly because of the protruding heel. My enthusiasm for the HOKA brand started with this shoe. Then followed two times a pair of Mach 4 and the Bondi X. For my trails I take the Speedgoat from HOKA out of the closet.

Training for a marathon

I am currently training for the NN Marathon Rotterdam on April 16. For my training I run on two new HOKA models. My schedule includes interval training, tempo training, recovery runs, long slow endurance runs, and long endurance runs with race-paced blocks. Depending on the workout, I put on the Mach 5 or Clifton 9.

I run my intervals, sometimes on the track, and tempo workouts on the Mach 5. A light shoe to experience speed and enough cushioning to have energy left in my legs after training. I was already very enthusiastic about the Mach 4, but the successor is even better for faster work. It would be a good competition shoe for a 10k or half marathon, but it lacks that little something extra that the carbon plate in the HOKA Rocket X will give you.

For recovery runs, but especially long slow endurance runs, the Clifton is the ideal shoe, with the Clifton 9 as the latest model in the series. The Clifton is HOKA’s classic neutral running shoe with thick soles and maximum cushioning, yet remarkably light. It is clearly not a shoe to experience a lot of speed, but after an hour or 2 of quiet kilometers it is nice to have the comfort of the Clifton 9 on your feet.

It becomes a bit more difficult to choose if there is an endurance run of more than 20 kilometers on the program with blocks halfway at race pace. Or rather competition power, because my HOKA shoe invariably has a Stryd power meter. In the end, the choice almost always falls on the Mach 5, because I find the proper execution of my pace blocks more important than maximum damping at many kilometers.

The technical details

The Mach 5 and Clifton 9 are both shoes for the neutral runner with a similar heel drop and weight. The big difference is in damping and responsiveness. Where the Clifton 9 has much more cushioning in the sole, the Mach 5 is more responsive.

HOKA Mach 5

Heeldrop*: 5mm
Weight men’s model: 232 grams
Women’s model weight: 192 grams
Shoe type: neutral

Average price: €120

HOKA Mach 5
HOKA Mach 5, for faster work

HOKA Cliffon 9

Heeldrop*: 5mm
Weight men’s model: 248 grams
Women’s model weight: 205 grams
Shoe type: neutral

Average price: €150

HOKA Cliffon 9
HOKA Clifton 9, for the long slow endurance run

* Heeldrop, also called offset, is the difference in sole thickness between the heel and the toe. It affects your foot landing. With a drop of up to 8 mm, you usually land on your front or midfoot.

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