I purchased my first pair of HOKA ONE ONEs in late 2013, after I could no longer ignore a few vocal friends screaming the shoe’s praises.

Up until that point, I had been skeptical of the max-cushioning and turned off by the way they looked. But as with any new popular running product, I couldn’t ignore it for long.

So I bit the bullet and ordered a pair of Stinson Bs. Within just a few runs, my understanding of what makes a good running shoe was flipped on its head.

I fell in love with the max cushioning, and HOKA ONE ONE in general. I used that pair of Stinson Bs, along with a pair of Rapa Nuis during the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100, and for the next several races that followed.

All that is to introduce my journey to the Challenger ATRs, the HOKA ONE ONE shoe everyone seems to be talking about.

I’m just going to come out and say it, I’m crazy about this shoe. And no, not just because I’m an Ambassador for the company.

The Challenger ATRs take everything I love about my first few pairs of HOKAs, and improves on all the old weaknesses.

So let’s get to it:

What I’m Looking For and How the Challenger ATR Stands Up

1007972-BGFL_1As with all shoe reviews, there are 5 things I’m focused on. Below I’ve outlined that criteria and how HOKA ONE ONE’s Challenger ATR holds up after several uses, including much of the Black Mountain Monster 24 Hour Ultramarathon.

1) Comfort

A shoe has to be comfortable. Not just for a 3 mile loop, but for several hours of running. The slightest discomfort will amplify over the miles, making a shoe not even worth trying.

How They Stand Up

The Challenger ATRs fully embrace that cloud-like comfort from HOKA’s signature max-cushioned sole. On top of that, the soft upper give it more of a road shoe feel than a trail shoe, which adds significantly to the comfort level. The shoe is modeled after the popular Clifton road shoe, and features many of those same awesome characteristics.

On my foot, my heel fits snugly in the back of the shoe, while a wider toe-box allows for toe room. I always purchase shoes a half size bigger than my normal everyday shoe, and that sizing adjustment works here.

2) Grip

Grip is a necessity for any good trail shoe. How a shoe’s lugs are designed will determine how well they cling to the trail.

How They Stand Up

The Challenger ATR is designed with a low-profile out-sole, ideal for dry and moderately technical trails. If you’re hitting up gnarly, muddy trails, you might find a little less traction than what you’re looking for, but the shoe is perfect for your average everyday run.

Because the out-sole isn’t 100% rubber, like many trail shoes, the Challenger ATR offers more flexibility from the sole. That gives it a nice ride, but caused me a little concern about the durability of the lugs. Thankfully, after heavy use the past 4 weeks, I haven’t seen any issue of abnormal wear.

3) How The Shoe Affects My Stride

A shoe should create an atmosphere in which you are running at or near your natural stride. Varying too much from that natural stride leads to injury and discomfort.

How They Stand Up

Under this category, a few things about this shoe stand out:

  1. It’s light-weight for a max-cushioned shoe: 8.6 oz
  2. Has a moderate heel-to-toe offset: 5mm
  3. Embraces HOKA’s signature Meta-Rocker design

All these positively contribute to the way the shoe affects my stride.

When I first tried on a pair of HOKAs back in 2013, the Meta-Rocker design caught me off guard. After a few runs, it clicked and I began to love the way it facilitated a fluid stride. The rocker design technology-meta-rockerwas developed to encourage a fluid gait flow without relying on a large heel-to-toe drop.

To put the 5mm drop into perspective, your average running shoe falls between 9-12mm. Anything below 6 or 7mm is considered to have a minimal drop, which I believe forces that more natural stride.

4) Durability

Trail running is tough on shoes. Sharp rocks slice through the upper, gnarly terrain eats away at the sole, and mud and dirt grind away at the seams. After just a few runs, it’s easy to tell if a company hasn’t designed the shoe properly for trails.

How They Stand Up

With the Challenger ATR, HOKA took the Clifton’s upper and made it significantly more durable. The upper is tough, but stretchy, and dries quickly after getting wet. This shoe isn’t as tough as something like HOKA’s rugged Mafate Speed, but I appreciate that. This is a light shoe built to easily withstand regular use on moderate trails.

5) Looks

Let’s be real, looks matter. If a shoe makes me feel goofy, I’m going to have a hard time wearing it.

How They Stand Up

In my opinion, HOKA ONE ONE has made some MAJOR improvements in the looks department since that first pair I purchased back in 2013. No longer do I feel like a goof-ball in the shoes, nor do I even think it stands out (other than looking so fly!) when I’m waiting at the stoplight or trailhead. I’m a big fan of the more streamlined look from HOKA, and the Challenger ATR is just that.

Final Thoughts

This has easily become my go-to trail and cross-over shoe. It’s light, comfortable, and gets me where I need to go.

If you’re looking for a new everyday trail shoe, or just a solid introductory HOKA shoe, the Challenger ATR is what I’d recommend. The max-cushioning and light profile is perfect for long runs and epic ultra adventures.


Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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One thought on “HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR Review

  1. I have been running in these shoes since December. I like them a lot but have several observations. Having run multiple long runs of up to 22 miles and as well as a marathon in them, I have found that while they feel very light and fast I often get blisters and black toenails. My second observation is the lugs are slippery on wet and snowy surfaces. Lastly, the uncovered midsole wears quickly and the overlays on the uppers have delaminated so they are not very durable. Comfortable and fast, yes. Durable, no.

    I like these shoes and hope Hoka makes them more durable in the future.

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