This article is part of our series Battle of the Brands, in which we compare category-leading products to their counterparts to determine which are actually worth your money.
When it comes to the best running shoes of 2023, there are two key players you’ll see across streets, gyms and races: Adidas Ultraboost and Hoka Clifton.
To see which of these viral sneakers is truly worth the hype, I tested them in a side-by-side comparison, alternating between each pair of running shoes for two weeks during outdoor runs, indoor full-body workout classes and everyday life to see what the real deal is.
Adidas vs. Hoka at a glance
An airy shoe with maximum ventilation, the Adidas Ultraboost is more for those looking for a trendy option rather than an ultra-supportive running shoe. It’s a fine light-support workout shoe, but for anything else you’re better off with Hoka.
These chunky shoes are ultra cushioned and provide maximum support and shock absorption, making them incredibly comfortable for everything from long walks to long runs. Their versatility, in our book, makes them worth every penny.
Primeknit upper, BOOST midsole made from thermoplastic polyurethane particles (TPU), Stretchweb outsole, Continental rubber tread
Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam midsole, engineered mesh upper and the shoe is made from vegan and recycled materials, according to the brand
Women’s 4.5 through 12, men’s 6.5 through 15
Women’s 5 through 12, men’s 7 through 16
16 (women’s and men’s)
Women’s 10 regular widths or 8 wide widths, men’s 19 regular widths or 11 wide widths
Spot clean with mild detergent. Or machine wash on cold with delicate detergent (but first remove the laces and insoles and put your shoes in a pillowcase). Then air dry (away from direct sunlight)
Hand wash with cold water using a mild soap and air dry (away from direct sunlight)
True to size
Has half-size options, the brand’s beloved BOOST midsole and Primeknit textile upper made from recycled polyester and Parley Ocean Plastic (reimagined plastic waste, according to the brand)
Comes in half sizes and wide width options, weighs 7.20 ounces, 5.00 mm heel to toe drop, EVA foam midsole and mid-level cushion, according to the brand
The Ultraboost 1.0 Primeknit upper is a stretchy and breathable yarn that’s made from at least 50% Parley Ocean Plastic (or plastic waste intercepted from polluting the ocean, according to the brand) and 50% recycled polyester. The BOOST midsole is the brand’s foam cushioning that’s made from thermoplastic polyurethane particles (TPU) and the Continental rubber tread gives fine traction.
The Hoka Clifton 8 style gives an update on its upper with an engineered mesh that’s breathable and encourages an airflow I could feel across my feet as I ran. The ultra-cushioned midsole is made from a compression-molded ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) that creates a smooth and responsive landing. The high-abrasion rubber also did just as well across different surfaces.
The first thing that stands out about slipping on this pair of Adidas Ultraboosts is the Primeknit upper. It gives you that cozy, built-in sock feel without the typical tongue potentially sliding down or needing to be adjusted. I admit, I wasn’t sure at first how I was going to feel late into the runs as my feet can swell or I need to tighten my shoes depending on the weather and my mileage. So I was curious if workouts in the extended tongue-to-lip combo would start to feel less secure. But it proved to remain just as incredibly comfortable, flexible and an adaptive fit with each and every wear. But one thing to note: The Adidas Ultraboost 1.0 did run big in my experience, so I’d recommend ordering a half size down for the ideal amount of wiggle room in the toe box.
When I laced up my Hoka Cliftons for the first time, they fit true to size and overall felt like a refreshing, springy, cloudy dream.
Cushion and support
A standout pair of running shoes give you the right amount of support throughout your high-impact activities. The Adidas Ultraboost 1.0 were incredibly comfortable, especially for long walking, I felt like I wasn’t wearing them and melted away down into the heel. But that was part of the problem whenever I started to really do meaningful movements. Because this shoe was so airy and cushy, it wasn’t giving my body the stabilization and overall support that I needed. When I would go to run, the base almost felt flimsy or insubstantial. The airiness is great for hot days and when walking on blistering pavements, but the flimsiness felt like it could move under my feet rather than support them, which wasn’t what my joints were looking for as their only backup as they repeatedly pounded against hard surfaces.
“When we talk about cushioning, there are two separate aspects: the stack height of the midsole [aka the foam material between your feet and the ground] and the softness of the cushioning,” Caroline Bell, head of shoe reviews for Fleet Feet, explains when we researched how to find the right running shoe.
And this is where Hoka’s chunkier base, made from a thick layer of EVA foam, excelled in my opinion. I could feel the difference in cushioning as this maximum padding made for a much more supportive run. Although some athletes prefer options with less foam or minimal support, there was just a huge difference for my joints each and every time I slipped on my pair of Hokas with how well they absorbed the impact of each step, run or jog.
And don’t let the Hoka’s signature chunk fool you. These shoes feel incredibly lightweight, period. But for me, that beloved bulky base is another surprise that makes Hoka a powerhouse. Despite what you might think based on appearance, that “hefty” base isn’t a rigid, heavy cement block that’s going to weigh you down. It actually strikes the perfect balance between cushion and grounded support. It gives you spring in your step as well as a stabilizing foundation without feeling like a slab of concrete or cardboard.
The type of running shoe you put some distance in comes down to personal preference and the level of support that you need for your body.
When I put on my Hoka Cliftons for the first time, they fit true to size — and as soon as I took my first step, I understood what the hype behind this brand was about. But then when I started running in them, the difference in the level of cushioning was reinforced with every step. Let’s put it this way: I was so blown away, these shoes made me realize it might be time to reconsider swapping out my previously preferred training shoes before my next upcoming race.
- Adidas Ultraboost 1.0: Women’s sizes | Men’s sizes
- Hoka Clifton 8: Women’s sizes | Mens’s sizes
But when you look good, you feel good. This is why the Adidas Ultraboost 1.0 stand out for its versatile lifestyle sneaker appeal and ultimate comfort for low-impact activities. But no matter how trendy you look, you won’t feel as great during — or after — a run if you aren’t wearing a pair of sneakers that has enough support for you.
And that’s why Hoka is a win for my body.