One of our perennial favorites is back and has been updated, it’s the all new Challenger ATR 4 from Hoka. As always, everyone is always curious what changed and we’re here to put it through its paces. Can it really do battle with our newest trail loving Hoka, the Speedgoat 2?
The upper on the 4 has been redesigned and now uses a dual-layer mesh that should balance support, durability, and breathability. They have widened and extended the toe-cap coverage and also added an internal heel counter which should provide support on all terrains.
The mid is just a ton of EVA which as always makes for maximum cushion, but also features the same early stage rocker system that other Hoka models have. This aids in heel to toe transition and encourages better form.
The outsole is a mix of rubber and EVA and features 4mm lugs for traction. While 4mm isn’t huge, it is big enough for almost anything you can throw at it. There are better lug models on the market if you need better grip, but these work fairly well.
Style & Aesthetics
The Challenger ATR 4 comes in 3 colors for men and 3 for women. Visually it is pretty simplistic and while the color pallettes are nice together, they don’t have the aggressive styling of the Speedgoat 2.
To be honest, the initial reaction to the new Challenger ATR was mixed as people thought it looked very similar to other Hoka shoes and didn’t have enough personality, but then others were actually happy to see some changes because a lot of them frankly weren’t happy with the 3’s visual aesthetic. Moving past this, the conversation really turns to how is the performance against a shoe like the Speedgoat 2 and that is a challenging one. The original Speedgoat to be frank, was not great, but it was something new. The second addition of the Speedgoat nailed it and has become extremely popular among trail runners. It balances performance with comfort in a way many other shoes had never done. That begs the question, where does the Challenger now fit and even after all the testing we are on the fence.
To start off the feel of the shoe has changed a bit, the uppers dual layer meshed material almost has a plasticine quality and it’s not bad, just a little odd to be totally honest. That being said, It does do a good job protecting the shoe and from a durability perspective seems to be holding up quite well. The mid is comfortable as always and it still feels like a great multi-terrain runner which is something a lot of Challengers in the past have always been good at. You can wear these on the road, gravel, bark, fire road, singletrack, etc. and it’ll perform very similar to a road shoe. It also has a very similar weight profile, so you don’t sacrifice a lot. The only terrain where we don’t love these is in really nasty conditions where they could use a bit more grip, specifically on mud and rainy slippery days. We just want a little more traction from the lugs, but overall we grab the shoes quite a bit, just not in love with them yet.Now to the question of are they better than the Challenger ATR 3 and that is a much simpler answer. Absolutely. The toebox has been widened, the upper material is definitely more durable, the shoe looks better overall, and we would be way more likely to use these on a regular basis than we ever did with the 3s.
The problem from Hoka’s perspective is that we now put them side-by-side with the Speedgoat 2 and they’ll need to add a little more variety in between these two models.The Speedgoat is designed to be way more aggressive, but many elements of its design that we love are actually things that of been brought over from the Challenger. So it will be interesting to see what they do with the next version of the Speedgoat and how they differentiate even more because one is going to start to cannibalize the other. Even speaking with retailers, we are hearing the exact same thing happening in store. People just aren’t sure between the two and so they go with what they think looks better and honestly the Speedgoat 2 gets a lot more eyeballs. Don’t get us wrong, we love the shoe and the Challenger ATR 4 is just as good as it’s predecessors have always been, but you now need to consider trying the two models side-by-side.
Technical Stats, Pricing & Availability
- Weight: 9.0oz (size 9)
- Drop: 5mm heel/toe
- Type: Neutral Trail
- MSRP: $130.00
- Available: Now