There are those shoes in your lineup that you develop an affinity for. It’s not about the brand, but it’s about the fit and the feel and the utility. There’s just something right about that one pair that makes your hand move in that direction when you reach into your closet. For me that shoe has been the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR since it was first released. The Challenger ATR 2 came out and it was okay, but some of the updates they made especially around the narrowing of the toebox turned my head in other directions. With the release of the ATR 3, I was excited to see if the magic had returned and I was not disappointed with the results.
The problem with the ATR 2 was primarily around the width of the shoe. It felt narrower and less roomy than the 1. The toe box felt tighter and toe splay suffered and people have the same issues with the Clifton between versions 1 and 2. The rest of the shoe in terms of the overlays, durability, aesthetic, etc all felt updated and improved, but something just didn’t hit right. The 3 has been tweaked even more in an attempt to fix that and bring fans back to the shoe.
The upper on the HOKA Challenger ATR 3 is using a new 3D puff print frame which is supposed to provide some minor support while still being lightweight enough to not affect the shoe. It works well, but durability is suspect and in fact, durability of uppers across the board seems to be diminishing. Time will tell on these though, there is nothing discernible I can point a finger at yet. Lacing system is strong as always, the tongue has a bit more padding from something like the Clifton, but nowhere near the level of padding on the Instincts. It’s a nice middle ground.
It is still composed of oversized EVA and side-by-side feels very similar to the 2. The mid-foot rocker definitely plays a larger role here, but I felt it helps with transition and this is where it feels the most like the Clifton 3. Nice big 29mm stack height, so lots of plushness here.
Not much has changed on the outsole itself. The big thing about the ATR and the reason I gravitate to it is because the shoe is a fabulous all-terrain runner. The 3s maintain this and they are just as solid on the road especially in any sort of inclement weather, terrain, or even temperature I will grab ATR 3 instead of something like the Clifton 3 even a lot of the time. It’s because the outsole lacks extremely deep lugs (~4mm) and they also don’t flare out at all. They are hard rubber as well, so I just find that makes them very durable more than anything. The outsole definitely works better on hard pack and on drier days. You don’t get a ton of trail grip when it’s very slippery or muddy, but it plows through dry conditions with ease.
Style & Aesthetics
The Challenger ATR 2 was a slight departure from the majority of the HOKA lineup when it came out and while I did really appreciate the colorways and overall styling, the ATR 3 brings the shoe a bit closer into alignment with other HOKA shoes. I tested the black and orange model as pictured, but there are three other colorways available and a solid diversity in those choices. Again, they do a great job trying to hit various personalities so there should be at least one model that feels approachable.
So how do they run that you’re probably asking yourself ? I mean I’m droning on about the materials and the style, but the big question in this is how much has improved from the 2. For me, it’s 100x better. These made me instantly chuck the 2s into a donation box and has brought it back into the forefront of my lineup. I now find during those early morning hours pre-run, looking over at a selection of shoes and gravitating towards them even when I know it’s time to test something else.
For short runs, they are an easy ride. They are non-aggressive I would say, so while you can dial them up there’s a lot of other places to go if you’re looking for a speed based trail runner (Speed Instinct or Speedboat for instance). The Challenger ATR 3 definitely succeeds at distance more than anything. It’s what HOKA is built on at after all. Over the course of many miles, that high stack mid gives you a lot of responsive cushioning and the shoe still maintains a sub 10oz weight despite that cushioning. The additional print overlays on this model provide some level of structure and support without influencing stride, so all in all it’s a strong shoe. The toebox has been remedied thank goodness and you now have a bit more toe splay which makes distance runs all that much more pleasant.
The HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 3 is a no-brainer if you are a HOKA fan and looking to run on trails and even on the road occasionally. It is everything that HOKA does well and if the ATR 2 left you feeling a bit remiss and even turned you away, then definitely come back and give the 3 a shot. The majority of the issues with the 2 have been remedied and for me it harkens back to everything that is right with HOKA. They have been experimenting a lot lately with more aggressive profiles, but this feels tried-and-true. It is definitely back in my lineup and I for one am very happy with the update.
Technical Stats, Pricing & Availability
- Weight: 9.5oz (size 9)
- Drop: 5mm heel/toe
- MSRP: $150.00
- Available: Now