My personal favorite trail running shoe of all-time is the Original Hoka One One Clifton (Circa 2014).
Over my lifetime, I’ve used a lot of different types, brands and styles of shoes. Some were excellent trail running shoes and were memorable like the Nike Air Terra and Adidas Feet You Wear from the early 1990’s. The Nike Zoom Trail from the mid 2000’s was and is still a favorite (probably my second favorite of all-time). But the Original Hoka Clifton from 2014 is my all-time favorite.
The Original Hoka Clifton is light, comfy, responsive, flexible and protective. It makes running fun. The only downsides are they are fragile (not lasting very long) and their traction is lacking on slippery terrain. Granted they are intended for the road not the trail so their sole is not designed for grip. As a road shoe, I interestingly find them less appealing feeling overly soft and mushy on the roads. Yet somehow the Clifton has a certain magic feel on the trail. Maybe there is a resonance or synergy between the shoe’s softness and soft trail surfaces. The combination just works.
Yes, Hoka has a trail version of the Clifton, the Challenger, but it is heavier and has a dead feeling compared to the Clifton. There are newer versions of the Clifton (2,3,4) that address some of the lack of durability issues of the original Clifton. Unfortunately, each newer version is heavier and takes away some of the magic feeling of the original. Another sorry tale (Saga of the Skechers GoRun) of how a shoe company ruins a great shoe with so called improvements in succeeding versions.
You can still find a few pairs of the original for sale at outlets and resellers, but soon they all will be gone. Until something else comes along, I will be cherishing running in my remaining Cliftons until they all wear out.
Fun Ginger Runner reviews of the Clifton from the original through version 4: