Gear Review: Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Trail Shoe
Disclosure: the following product was donated for the purpose of review.
Weight: 1 lb 3 oz (pair of U.S. size 9)
Heel-Toe Drop: 5 mm
Cushion: Well-cushioned compared with other trail running brands
Upper: Breathable synthetic mesh
Lower: Oversized EVA midsole, rubber outsole, foam liner
Available Sizes (U.S. Mens): 8-14
Hoka One One leads the way in the world of cushioned footwear. I am an avid fan of trail runners for hiking, but I admit I was a Hoka One One newbie before this review. By appearance, the shoe’s sole is much thicker than other shoes.
Circumstance of Review
First off: my pair is still going strong at 250 miles. I found a few people online saying their shoes had begun to fall apart after 200 miles. This was a major point I wanted to test. General consensus on long trails is that you should expect a trail shoe to last around 500 hiking miles, bonus if more.
I wore them in hot, dry Canyonlands desert and then in slushy snow in high altitude. I wore them through woodsy packed mud and then on pavement and packed dirt. I got them soaked in water and then hiked on, although my conditions were not as wet as the AT.
Hoka One One is known for having cushioned soles, and the Challenger ATR 3’s fit right into that category. It feels like a cloud as soon as you try a pair of these on. This is an alternative to the minimalist footwear movement.
These shoes have saved my toes from sticks and rocks many times. The mesh on these is robust. There is also a thick, durable fabric around the entire toe box. Some hikers like an ultra-wide toe box, but I never felt cramped in these myself.
This is the first time I’ve felt totally comfortable not double-knotting my shoe laces. The elasticity creates a firm knot that doesn’t come undone by itself.
Wide Rubber Outsole
The thicker cushioning comes with a higher center of gravity, but the higher center of gravity is offset by a wider platform. One one hand, this gave me confidence while going down steep, smooth rocks slabs. On the other hand, foot placement can be a bit more limited compared with shoes having narrower platforms.
My foot width is somewhere between regular and narrow, and I personally always felt secure in these. The elastic laces and heel cup did a good job.
These shoes are durable enough to be a good hiking shoe, and also light enough to be a good running shoe. I’ve gone on many runs with these on pavement, and the lighter weight is great for quick strides.
The Challengers have good upper ventilation, but took longer than expected to dry while walking. I eventually realized the thicker insoles were absorbing water, took them out, and wrung them out as easily as a pair of wet socks.
As may be expected with a durable midsole and great cushioning, the shoes are a bit stiff. On one hand, you have excellent protection against whatever you may be walking or running over. On the other hand, sometimes you want your shoes to bend and adapt to the trickier terrain for a better grip.
If you haven’t experienced the world of cushioning, do yourself a favor and try the Challengers on next time you’re at a store that carries Hoka One One. Walking on a cloud inspires a more “natural-to-you” foot stride. Since receiving these shoes for the purposes of review, I have not felt a need to return to my standard hiking shoe. I believe the combination of sturdy foot protection along with being ridiculously lightweight would serve a long distance hiker very well.
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Good review James. James, I’m looking to replace some Teva Churns, it’s like a super breathable sneaker. Been very happy with those. But they stopped making them. You mention rock slabs, did you find these Hokas good and grippy on that kind of rock surface? You feel like the Hokas breathe/have good ventilation?
Woohoo! The HOKA Speedgoat II is what I plan on wearing for my AT thru hike next year. Thanks for doing this review!