We have talked HOKAs before when we took a look at the Huaka a while back, but I have honestly never been so excited as I was to try their newest offering, the Challenger ATRs. Listed as a trail shoe and even sold that way in stores, I would honestly call these bad boys a hybrid, the best of both worlds. An all-terrain behemoth that destroys road and trail alike. It took everything we loved in the Huaka and stepped it up a notch, feeling more aggressive and also more plush, making it one of the smoothest riding HOKAs yet.
DESIGN AND ANATOMY CHANGES
My first thought when I pulled them out of the box was, wow these look aggressive. The visual lines feel like they are poised for attack which is pretty much dead on when it comes to the performance. There was a few additional things I noticed as well. First, it has a wider toe box than something like the Huaka drifting more towards the other HOKA road shoes. It’s also got a bit more cushion on the bottom and while the stack seems higher you still sit nice and snug. The entire shoe feels visually like it’s slightly wider from prior iterations of HOKAs which I was immediately taken width because I, like many others, have felt that older versions were a little narrow for my liking.
The initial try on confirmed all my findings. The toe box is definitely wider providing ample toe splay for me. It is still slightly narrower than others in the market, so definitely give them a try on if you have wider feet. The overall body width has been increased as well which does make it feel a bit more solid, but also not too much so they feel like big pillows attached to your ankles. The tongue is a bit longer as well which prevents any sort of slippage back into the body, something else that annoyed me prior.
The Challengers uses the same EVA foam as the Clifton model which leads to a little more stiffness in the – and then the upper is similar to the Clifton as well. The more we looked at it closely we found it’s really just a trail version of the Clifton and to accomplish this they have given it a little more grit and traction. You get all the benefits of a really great road shoe with extra protection for everything the trail can throw at you.
Overall, there were some massive improvements from prior HOKAs we have looked at. These things fit me really well and made me want to test them out, its been a while since I’ve had that “where can I take these things moment”.
THE RUN AND WHAT TO EXPECT
Like I said, I wanted to run these things into the ground and mission accomplished. These things have been put through the ringer and they have stood up to the challenge really well. I took them on both road and trail because they really are designed to handle both well and I logged short and sweet recreational runs as well as competitive trail races. I am happy to report that other than a little dust, dirt, and grime these things are still running like they did on day one, so from a durability perspective I give them very high marks.
In terms of actual wearability, the shoes felt quite good and fit true to size. I never experienced any slippage or any sort of hot spots throughout anywhere in the shoe. I know some people have reported heel slippage, but I really can’t speak to that as I felt like the Challengers were just extensions of my legs more than anything. Even the laces are a little higher quality than older versions which is great on the trails. There is also a smallish toe guard on the front, which I can personally attest to having helped in situations where your feet want to take off and grab rocks and roots at speed. Overall, they are roomier and I have to believe that for the majority of runners you will have plenty of room and the toe box will feel plenty wide now.
The actual stack height is probably one of the tallest I have run in and that worried me at first on trails, but my mind changed quickly as it just ate through the small stuff. I will warn those that like a little road feel that you will not get it here, that EVA foam just swallows everything up. I loved it though and it made them perfect for diverse environments; single track, fire roads, pavement, mud, etc. That extra comfort also lets you go farther so while they are great for shorter runs, they really shine when you go for distance.
My only negative is probably the fact that when you hit water these have literally zero water proofing from what I can tell. The nice part is though that it empties and dries really well so it doesn’t stay with you, but it won’t be keeping any of that water out. Honestly, its a minor thing, but if you live in very wet areas plan accordingly.
I said it before and I will say it again, the Challenger ATRs made me want to run and not only test them out for this review, but they made me test myself as well. Something about the design maybe, but from the moment I pulled them out of the box I really looked forward to trying them out. I think HOKA has done a great job continuously improving on their design, features and even aesthetics and while we really enjoyed the Huaka, the Challenger ATRs are that much better. Very high marks, give them a shot, go take down a mountain, whatever… because these will definitely get you there.
TECHNICAL STATS, PRICING & AVAILABILITY
Weight: 8.6oz (size 9)
Available: Buy Now