What’s the 5th Iteration of the Hoka One One Challenger All Terrain (ATR) about? I bought these shoes to tackle some trails and log in some miles over the winter months.
So I was looking for a well-cushioned shoe providing me with some stability, comfort, and traction on wet and muddy surfaces and allow a smooth transition from city pavement to the trails.
Basically, I was looking for an All-Terrain shoe that holds up fine against the winter(y) environment. Therefore, my decision brought me to the Challenger instead of the Speedgoat or the Torrent.
So after hitting 100 km, I thought it is time to share my first experiences on the shoe and how it is holding up to my expectations.
Nice durable, all-terrain suited mesh upper, which needed a short break-in run but didn’t leave me with much complaining after that. I am really enjoying it withstanding muddy trails and wet conditions, nothing too exciting, but it gets the job done.
Known for higher stack height, the Challenger ATR 5 fits just in the well-cushioned Hoka One One line.
It is extremely lightweight and creates and enjoyable ride for longer distances at different surfaces. So far, there is no downside with the cushioning of the midsole, feels great since the first run.
I expect to get many 100k more out of them.
The rubber distribution with small lugs is supposed to be situated where most runners need it.
To shave some weight, the midsole foam in the middle of the foot is directly opposed to the surface, which doesn’t look like a big deal at first. However, these parts are the first I see noticeable abrasion and tear after 100 km.
I totally understand why Hoka is doing it; I would’ve just wished for a tiny bit more rubber under the midfoot. Besides that, the outsole holds up well and feels great on easy trails and wet surfaces.
Staying with the outsole, the traction it provides is really enjoyable. Since I am accustomed to run on pavement and through cities, I didn’t use trail shoes too frequently in the past.
Compared to road shoes, these provide perfect traction for those muddy wet surfaces in the forest and still feel good on the way to get there.
I really like the traction of the shoe, and despite the exposed midsole material on the outsole of the shoe, it appears durable and stable.
Additionally, the cushioning really helps during longer runs. I took them for a 25k run – uphill, downhill, pavement, forest, sand, cobblestones, and didn’t experience any major issues.
The overall performance of the shoe is absolutely great, along with the comfort and fit. Although the shoe is already marketed as a wider shoe in the regular size, I still went for the wide version, and I am glad I did.
With my feet being used to have some more space coming from mostly running in Altra, I enjoy the room the shoe gives me, especially for the longer runs while still being stable due to the well-structured upper and good traction.
Lengthwise they fit true to size for me (10.5 US in all my Hoka so far).
Small downsides are responsiveness and flexibility, but this is nothing more but a disclaimer because I didn’t buy the shoes to have a race-like experience.
I surely tried them out and looked at how they feel with faster paces (4 min/km – 6:30/mile); of course, they can do it, but other shoes feel a lot nicer.
For me, doing a lot of low heart rate miles over the winter, they work perfectly.
After all the praise I gave Hoka One One for the Challenger ATR 5, here are some minor concerns or dislikes.
First impression and the first run, I just thought, “that’s a lot of shoe beneath your foot.” So my feet just needed a little time to adjust to the new experience.
I just want to let you guys know, don’t get discouraged if the shoe doesn’t appear perfect after the first couple of miles.
The only issue I am having so far is breathability. The overall, the breathability is good; the mesh upper keeps the foot well-aerated in most areas, but one.
The tongue is well padded, lacing is fine, comfort is great, but the tongue area on my foot is merely breathable at all.
Since it doesn’t bother too much during the winter, I wonder how this looks when it’s getting warmer outside. On the other hand, I bought the shoes for colder conditions so I probably won’t be running in them too much when temperatures are rising.
Last thought: I would love Hoka to swap the inner part rubber extension to the outer part of the foot, then the shoe is close to perfect.
The Challenger ATR 5 by Hoka One One really unites the needs of a recreational city-based runner who likes to try out trails but still needs a few kilometers to get there.
It totally suits my needs - provides traction, durability, and cushioning throughout different surfaces and distances with almost no points to complain.
Overall, the shoes really held up to my expectations. They truly give you the freedom to challenge all terrains (in all conditions).
My experience as a trail runner has taught me that very often the most widely distributed products are not always the best. Usually, you will find pleasant surprises in those that are less publicized and little known. But, this requires careful study and probable disappointments.
For this reason, I have recently decided to rely on a brand that meets a great consensus in the field of trail running, namely Hoka One One.
This year, I completely entrusted myself to this brand (except for a trial—more out of curiosity than conviction—of the Columbia Montrail Fluidflex FKT 2, recalling the excellent racing season in the Fluidflex 8-10 years ago).
I do not like maximalist shoes, so I welcomed with great pleasure the unusual attempt made by Hoka. I first bought the Speed Instinct 2 then the Torrents, which I also reviewed.
- Heel-to-toe drop: 5.0 mm
- Stack height: 31 mm (heel), 26 mm (forefoot)
- Dual-layer mesh
- Textured TPU toe reinforcement
- Internal heel counter
- EVA midsole provides signature HOKA ONE ONE® cushioning
- Outsole 4mm lugs
- Podular outsole design
- 100% Vegan
After a small injury, like many runners, I did not give time to recover. I decided to run with a taller and stiffer shoe and bought the Speedgoat 3, which was heavy and allowed little agility.
So I decided to try a shoe that is still maximalist but lighter and softer: the Challenger 5 ATR.
As usual, the care of the packaging is perfect with the very useful rigid cardboard forms necessary to put away the shoe after every use to avoid deformations.
I have love at first sight for yellow and the black, so my Torrent and the Challenger 5 ATR have color combinations that reflect my soul.
The shoes are beautiful! Aesthetically, these are the most successful of the Hoka line. It also has balanced cushioning that do not give a feeling of heaviness or too much delicacy.
The Challenger 5 ATR fits my feet well as the Speedgoat 3 and the Torrent. It is just in the same size.
Before buying, I highly recommend trying the shoes first, even if it is from a brand that you have tried before. Even if the challenger fits similarly to Speedgoat 3, it has a wider toe box.
Regardless, the dual-layer mesh of the midfoot helps to hold my foot snuggly in. Meanwhile, the heel cup should help stabilize the foot, but the height of the high pile works in the opposite direction.
Like the Challenger 4 ATR, the 5 ATR has the same heel to toe drop of 5 mm. I tend to appreciate this, or even a little lower, although the height of the Challenger 5 ATR stack seemed almost perfect.
With a measured weight of 266 grams per shoe, it is super light, especially considering the amount of cushion it offers.
The upper of the Challenger 5 ATR uses a double-layered mesh design. I liked the reinforcement on the toe of the upper. Compared to Hoka Speedgoat 3, this shoe looked much more breathable.
I also take the Challenger 5 ATR across the river (see photos), and the weaved upper allows these shoes to dry quickly.
Midsole and cushioning
With a stack height of 26 mm in the forefoot, the Challenger 5 ATR is undoubtedly among the maximalist footwear. The excellent compromise with weight and design does not make it embarrassing.
The midsole is really soft. This softness is reflected in a lateral and longitudinal collapse. This aspect certainly makes it preferable to use Speedgoat 3, which is much more rigid and safe on technical surfaces.
The Speedgoat 3 is much more agile and faster on terrains with roots and rocks and regular path. The Challenger 5 ATR has provided just enough grip on a variety of surfaces.
On clay, it offers its best side, but on roots and rocky terrain, you have to be very careful. Due to the design of the sole, the grip on wet rock and smooth mud are bad. The mud does not dry quickly.
On the asphalt, the cushioning remains excellent, but the energy return is very low even on a treadmill. It is not the most precise shoe (no shoe so strongly cushioned), nor as efficient as a shoe on paved roads (just like most trail-oriented shoes).
But, given its more maximalist design, I think the Challenger 5 ATR does a great job of balancing performance on a wide range of terrains and offers ample cushioning.
After 200 km, the upper has expanded, but the midsole is not the same as when I pulled it out of the box. It is more compact now even after letting it rest after runs.
- Spacious toe-box
- Aesthetics: a well-balanced shoe with good design and a wide mix of colors
- Expensive—too expensive, and it is incomprehensible that there are price changes for the same model only for the new colors
- The durability of the shoes after 100 km already shows signs of wear on the sole, not to mention the too-delicate upper. The photos show that both shoes have cuts and tears, perhaps due to deliberate perishability.
- The cushioning has collapsed: I was thinking of using this shoe for longer runs, but I discovered that the cushioning collapses a little too prematurely.
- Safety: I had two injuries during fast descents.
- Grip: I know very well how terrible the wet hard rock for a road to trail shoes, but running there on the Challenger 5 ATR will be a bit like surfing on the waves of the sea.
Conclusions and score
The Hoka One One Challenger 5 ATR remains a highly successful shoe from an aesthetic point of view. It has a good compromise between lightness and cushioning.
It is very versatile that you'll be at ease in various situations. But, it is not suitable for specific conditions and terrain. They could be the only trail shoe you have, but useless if you're looking for excellence.
I walk—not a gentle pootle, mind you. I get my diesel on and need a shoe that can take me from (minimal) roadwork to the trails and fields where I find my heaven—without any drama.
I also need a shoe that doesn’t cause me to pronate when I’m motoring. And, that’s how I found the Hoka One One Challenger 5 ATR, after rolling (inwards) around the countryside in a pair of oh-so-comfy Asics Gel Kayano 23s.
The Hoka is a Marmite creature (love it or hate it) due to its generous mid-sole. I have tried the comparatively minimalist foot-hugging Mizuno Hayate 5.
Unfortunately, the Hayate caused me to pronate outside a running shop like my feet were doing some sacred tribal fertility dance. Thus, I can tell you that I see only beauty in the fecund design of Hoka.
The Challenger 5 ATR guides my foot gently whilst taking off and landing with ease. There’s also enough energy return to get me excited for each adventure.
Is it a responsive shoe? No, but, then again, it’s not sold as one; it feels like a safe pair of hands. Regardless, there’s plenty of bounce if a song on your playlist puts a spring in your step.
Let’s circle back to the mid-sole for a second.
The heel height for men and women is 31mm, and the toe height for both is 26mm. The heel-to-toe drop is 5mm. I thought, after the Asics, that I couldn’t drop from 10mm, but I was so wrong.
There are several things about this shoe that make my heart beat faster. To start with, the laces are long and don’t need double-knotting.
I’ve taken my shoes through water and mud, uphill and down dale, on tracks and pavements. Amazingly, the laces have stayed where I’ve put them like an obedient Labrador sitting patiently for its owner’s return.
However, I like to wear uncushioned running socks (so not chunky monkeys), and side-slipping on a hill camber can mean that the shoe stays planted whilst my foot moves inside a bit. However, better that than being cramped up and blistering.
Are my feet narrow? No, but nor are they wide.
I already tried the Speedgoat 3 Mid WP. Unfortunately, I returned them because of the squish between the third and fourth toe (plus heel moving up out of the shoe with each forward step despite race-lacing).
Thus, I’m pretty sure my feet are of average width. But, there is room for me to splay my toes out when I walk, and this makes it a perfect shoe for ‘normal’ feet in normal conditions.
The aesthetics are pleasing. I have the Challenger 5 ATR in two colourways. I bought the second shoe as one pair is usually in the airing cupboard, recovering from plunder through the vast British countryside.
Why not hiking boots? Because I like the freedom the Challenger gives. This is an extremely light shoe (226g for men/218g for women).
After a 13-mile hike across all terrain (averaging a conservative 4 mph), my feet were fresh and would have carried on if I’d asked it of them.
A waterproof Challenger would be good because this is a trail shoe, after all. Additionally, we know what trails can be like! Maybe this is something for Hoka to consider for the sixth iteration.
With the clocks changing and the ability to walk after work being limited (for me) to local streets, the Challenger is fit and able. I can easily achieve an average walking speed of 4.44 mph over 5.6 miles around undulating roads.
In fact, I could push further, given the great metarocker action that sends the whole foot into a front-to-back rolling motion when you land with your heel.
I’ve found that employing this foot choreography switches off some muscles. Then, this engages others and takes pressure away from a patellofemoral issue that threatens when I’m walking particularly hard and fast.
Landing on my heels for a few steps when jogging does the same trick, but the shoe's forefoot is suitable for running too. Climbing up hills in the Challenger is a joy and woofing back down again feels very safe due to the excellent traction.
I struggle to think about what someone may not like about this shoe, but everyone’s needs and feet are different. Personally, my right foot is still able to supinate a bit, but I don’t have orthotics to correct it.
I haven’t done a speed walk on a hard surface over 6 miles to see what happens to my knees, but I don’t think that’s shoe issue anyway. It’s the mechanics of my body and the perils of my particular/peculiar walking style.
Oh, you can feel stones under your feet but not in a painful way. I was surprised to feel some nobbles but didn’t wince, curse, or have to slow my downhill flow.
It’s a shame that Hoka doesn’t let you properly try out their shoes before returning, as the only way to get to know a shoe is to go for a good long walk/run.
Regardless, give the Challenger a go! The mid-sole isn’t really so chunky, and who doesn’t deserve a bit of comfort?
To summarise, this shoe really puts the “All Terrain” in ATR, and it gets the Sarah Seal of Approval. Me likee!
Good to know
- The 5th iteration of the Hoka One One Challenger ATR offers a light design and fast performance on a wide variety of surfaces. A few updates have been made to the new version to give runners smoother and more consistent ride.
- One of the few updates is the new oversized EVA midsole. It provides the signature cushioning of the brand for a more satisfying running experience. It is lightweight and it aims to deliver smooth underfoot protection.
- The CMEVA foam midsole is also new to this version. It aims to provide impact protection and stability to the foot.
- The Hoka One One Challenger 5 ATR uses the same rubber placement used by the previous version but it has a new outsole lug pattern for a reliable grip even on wet running conditions.
- The Challenger ATR model is usually available in standard medium sizing, but the 5th version is the first version that is available in wide sizing.
The Challenger 5 ATR is available in standard sizing and the overall fit is very similar to the older version. The upper mesh hugs the foot comfortably and the wider toe-box allows the foot to splay. The women’s and men’s versions of the Challenger 5 ATR is available in both wide and medium width options.
In the outsole of the Hoka Challenger ATR 5 is the exposed midsole foam for better ground contact. The rest of the outer unit features rubber compound materials that are strategically placed in high-wear areas for durability.
Hoka One One Challenger 5 ATR features a podular design outsole which is meant to provide stability on uneven surfaces. Along with the podular design are the 4mm lugs that provide reliable grip on wet, soft, and hard surfaces.
Unlike the Asics Gel Venture 6, the Hoka One One Challenger 5 ATR has a maximalist design. It gives maximum cushioning to a wide range of runners.
The shoe features an oversized EVA midsole foam which is designed to provide reliable underfoot cushioning. It delivers the notable Hoka One One cushioning without adding too much weight to the overall design of the shoe.
Along with the oversized EVA is the Compression Molder EVA foam or CMEVA foam. The primary purpose of the midsole foam is to absorb landing impact and provide the foot stability while running.
The Challenger ATR 5 is also equipped with an Early Stage Meta-Rocker Geometry. The rocker shape of the platform aims to provide runners a smoother transition through the gait cycle. This element is also present in the older version of the ATR 5.
The upper of the Hoka One One Challenger 5 ATR uses a dual-mesh material. The same material is used in the older version, but the upper of the new Challenger ATR has been modified to give it a fresher look. The dual-mesh aims to deliver breathability, support, and durability.
A textured TPU toe reinforcement is also visible. It is designed to give added toe protection against sharp trail elements. It also offers durability to the upper unit.
The running shoe also features an internal heel counter. It holds the foot securely while running and it also offers support on all terrains.
The overlays in the midfoot of the Hoka One One Challenger 5 ATR provides midfoot security and further enhances overall foot lockdown.