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HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 3 Review

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3
Top Pick Award
Price:   $130 List | $64.83 at REI
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Pros:  Superior foot protection, really comfortable, surprisingly stable, light weight.
Cons:  Not very durable outsole, not very sensitive.
Bottom line:  Tons of comfy cushioning at a super light weight.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   HOKA ONE ONE

Our Verdict

With its 29mm of EVA foam cushioning underfoot, but without compromising weight or performance, the HOKA Challenger ATR 3 is our obvious choice for Top Pick for Maximum Cushioning. While for many years choosing to run in HOKA's meant accepting a clownish look and treading carefully with an unstable landing platform, the Challenger ATR 3 alleviates those concerns. The shoe looks relatively normal, and it is surprisingly among the more stable shoes we tested despite its stack height. This fact we attribute to the compressible foam cushioning and low 5mm heel-toe drop. Some people prefer to have a lot of padding under their feet when they run, and for those people we recommend the Challenger ATR 3.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Trail Running Shoes of 2017 - Side-by-Side Tests

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Score Product Price Our Take
81
$130
Editors' Choice Award
Our favorite shoe, high performance for everyone.
80
$130
Top Pick Award
Tons of comfy cushioning at a super light weight.
80
$125
Top Pick Award
Running fast on difficult terrain has never been so easy as with these shoes.
80
$120
Best Buy Award
Great as an everyday trainer, for ultra distances, or as all-around do everything shoe.
79
$110
A lightweight zero-drop shoe for the speedsters and minimalist runners out there.
78
$120
Super aggressive traction make this shoe suitable for the gnarliest of conditions.
76
$120
Not a flashy shoe, but performs well. Great everyday trainer.
74
$110
A very lightweight option that is designed like a traditional shoe.
74
$125
The lightest weight shoes for uphill trail running that we could find.
73
$125
Succeeds in its mission to crush the Leadville Trail 100.
72
$120
Good balance between protection and sensitivity, really durable!
72
$130
A mountain and skyrunning monster.
66
$120
Our least favorite Cascadia we have tested, wouldn't recommend to a friend.
64
$115
A beast who's best attribute is the ability to protect your feet.

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Thursday
September 8, 2016

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Updated Challenger ATR 3 vs. ATR 2


The new Challenger ATR 3 has seen some updates to the fit, fabrics, and sole. It retails for the same $130 as the ATR 2 and has generally the same look, including the same 5mm heel-drop. Keep reading for more details and to see a side-by-side comparison, with the new Challenger ATR 3 on the left and the ATR 2 that we reviewed on the right.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3
HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 2
 
  • Mid-Foot — HOKA was aiming for a more supportive fit through the mid-foot, utilizing a new, more intricate 3D Print design compared to the original no-sew hotmelt overlay of the ATR 2. This 3D Print material claims to "be more adaptive and forgiving," while simultaneously creating more support in the upper. We haven't tested this new version yet but are curious how this update will change the fit of the shoe.
  • Breathability — The upper is now constructed with a "slightly thinner and more breathable mesh," according to the manufacturer.
  • Rubber-Tipped Lugs — The new rubber lugs are 4mm in length, which HOKA hopes will help with the shoe's versatility. HOKA explains that a "toothy" lug trail design can be uncomfortable and awkward on the roads, but they hope their new lug design can provide both smooth conditions on hard surfaces and great grip on softer surfaces. Our testers has a hard time with this shoe on loose downhill terrain because, so we're excited to test out the ATR 3 and see how it stacks up!

Because we haven't yet tested the ATR 3, the rest of this review continues to reflect the ATR 2.

Hands-On Review


The HOKA ONE ONE brand has been synonymous with outlandishly large midsoles made of super thick EVA foam since their inception. While this trait made them famous and revolutionized the trail running shoe market, there have always been some major drawbacks to their design. For one, the huge stack height meant they were very unstable and not very well suited for off-trail terrain. They have not always fit very well, have been on the heavy side, and have historically been very expensive compared to normal trail running shoes. These were among our top complaints from past reviews of the Stinson ATR, and reasons why we couldn't highly recommend it.

Enter the Challenger ATR 2. With this shoe, HOKA has adjusted the upper to be far more snug and hold the foot better, which makes a difference in comfort as well as performance. The stack height is a little shorter but still offers the same cushioning one would expect. Stability is remarkably improved, and they weigh among the lightest that we tested. Whether you have injury concerns, biomechanical issues, or just love to run insane distances, having a ton of cushioning can be a very nice thing. For those interested in maximum cushioning, check out the Challenger ATR 2.

Running along a ridgeline on a rainy day in the Uncompaghre Wilderness near Ouray  Colorado. This was near the top of Wildhorse Peak on a 25-mile loop that served as ultra training. The Challenger ATR 2 handled the rugged off trail terrain well  and its light weight allowed us to run even at high altitudes.
Running along a ridgeline on a rainy day in the Uncompaghre Wilderness near Ouray, Colorado. This was near the top of Wildhorse Peak on a 25-mile loop that served as ultra training. The Challenger ATR 2 handled the rugged off trail terrain well, and its light weight allowed us to run even at high altitudes.

Performance Comparison


The chart below gives you an idea of how the Challenger ATR 2 measured up against the competition.


Foot Protection


We rated this shoe as the single best shoe in the review when it came to protection — 10 out of 10. See the chart below to find out how the rest of the shoes fared in the Foot Protection category.


The 29mm thick EVA foam midsole cushions the foot from nearly any blow, while also absorbing a significant amount of the impact from a normal running stride. This shoe does not have a rock plate, like other highly protective shoes such as the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4 or The North Face Ultra Endurance. The plastic film overlays on the upper do a reasonable job of protecting the mesh material from damage, and there is also a full width toe bumper. The stack height does a good job of minimizing blows to the sides of the feet, anyway. If minimizing the impacts from running is a priority, then you can hardly do better than this shoe.

Slightly less like clown shoes. The Challenger ATR 2 on the bottom  while still providing other-worldly cushioning  is a much more practical platform for off-camber running than the moon-boot like Stinson ATR that we tested (and didn't like too much) last year.
Slightly less like clown shoes. The Challenger ATR 2 on the bottom, while still providing other-worldly cushioning, is a much more practical platform for off-camber running than the moon-boot like Stinson ATR that we tested (and didn't like too much) last year.

Traction


While the 4mm lugs present on part of the outsole do offer decent traction, we had to rate this shoe on the lower end of the spectrum compared to the other shoes in the review.


We found it was roughly on par with the ASICS GEL-FujiTrabuco 4 Neutral or the La Sportiva Wildcat in terms of traction. What we don't like is the amount of the midsole exposed to the ground, which is a whole lot. HOKA claims that their "podular design" provides stability on uneven terrain, which happens because the sole is able to morph and bend around the terrain it is stepping on. In many ways this works similar to the X-pattern on the sole of the Mizuno Wave Hayate 2. We just prefer a single piece outsole design that covers the entire sole for durability reasons. 6 out of 10 points.

Comparing the outsoles on the Challenger ATR 2 (left) and the old Stinson ATR (right). The blue rubber on the left is the hard  rugged  and durable part of the outsole  while the green is exposed foam. This lighter shoe is designed more for trails than rocks and off-trail terrain.
Comparing the outsoles on the Challenger ATR 2 (left) and the old Stinson ATR (right). The blue rubber on the left is the hard, rugged, and durable part of the outsole, while the green is exposed foam. This lighter shoe is designed more for trails than rocks and off-trail terrain.

Stability


In the past, stability has been our principle complaint with the cushioning design of HOKA shoes. This was such a problem for us that we couldn't force ourselves to wear them very often due to the fear of rolling ankles and the need to be so much more careful and slow. But with the Challenger ATR 2, we have not had any of those problems. The 5mm heel-toe drop and the meta-rocker design helps the foot roll forward in a stable manner, and the 29mm of stack under the heel is actually a lot less than older versions, and not too much more than some other shoes we reviewed.


While we think this shoe is great for trail running, we still don't use it for other off-trail purposes, mostly due to stability. We awarded 8 out of 10 points for stability, roughly the same as the Montrail Caldorado.

The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 on the left  compared to last year's Stinson ATR (right). Notice the vast difference in stack height. We found the Challenger ATR 2 to be super cushioned and protective while not costing us stability  like the Stinson ATR did.
The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 2 on the left, compared to last year's Stinson ATR (right). Notice the vast difference in stack height. We found the Challenger ATR 2 to be super cushioned and protective while not costing us stability, like the Stinson ATR did.

Comfort


While these shoes felt significantly different than any other shoe in the review, we did find them to be very comfortable. As such, we gave them 9 out of 10 points, at the top of the scale, along with the La Sportiva Helios 2.0, Saucony Peregrine 6, and Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2 v3.


The extreme cushioning obviously adds to the comfort, but we also felt that the upper did a great job of hugging the foot in a stable manner. The heel cup and ankle padding, as well as no seams on the inside of the upper, added to the comfort of this shoe. The moment we first put it on, we could tell that this was a comfortable shoe.

The Challenger ATR 2 is one of many shoes that Hoka One One is now making that adapts what is good about their shoes to a less ankle-rolling style of platform. While still including their famous maximum cushioning  these shoes are lower to the ground  hug the foot better  and are much lighter than many older Hoka models.
The Challenger ATR 2 is one of many shoes that Hoka One One is now making that adapts what is good about their shoes to a less ankle-rolling style of platform. While still including their famous maximum cushioning, these shoes are lower to the ground, hug the foot better, and are much lighter than many older Hoka models.

Weight


Weight might be the most surprising attribute of this shoe — it is insanely light. At only 20.4 ounces for a pair of size 11 shoes, this was the second lightest shoe in the entire review, despite quite obviously being the largest. Only the La Sportiva Helios 2.0 was lighter, and the Altra Superior 2.0, a tiny shoe in comparison, was roughly the same weight. To be able to have the benefits of so much cushioning and also be the lightest — that is indeed an impressive design accomplishment, so cheers to HOKA for that.


Sensitivity


While not the least sensitive shoe in our review, it was pretty close. The Challenger ATR 2 was roughly on par with the Brooks Cascadia 11, a very stiff shoe with a solid rock plate, when it came to sensitivity, but slightly better than the La Sportiva Wildcat or our other Top Pick Award winner, the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4. With so much foam underfoot, it is no surprise really that there is very little in the way of trail feel, as these qualities tend to work against each other.


Best Applications


Due to its increased stability and low weight, this shoe is genuinely a contender for an everyday shoe. Of course it would be great for ultra races, especially 100 milers, as the impact on the legs really adds up over time. But we also think that it will serve on just about any trail run of any distance. The place where we still would not recommend it is off-trail, as the stack height and few lugs still impact how it performs on terrain like grass, talus, and off camber areas.

The Challenger ATR 2 are exceptionally light shoes for being so large and protective  giving the best of both worlds. They allowed us to run long hills that might not be possible in heavier shoes  like the Old Horsethief Trail to the Bridge of Heaven  which climbs about 4 500 vertical feet in five miles.
The Challenger ATR 2 are exceptionally light shoes for being so large and protective, giving the best of both worlds. They allowed us to run long hills that might not be possible in heavier shoes, like the Old Horsethief Trail to the Bridge of Heaven, which climbs about 4,500 vertical feet in five miles.

Value


This shoe will cost you $130. For comparison, the pair of Stinson ATR shoes that we reviewed last year cost us $160, far more than any other shoe in the review. Considering that these shoes are an improvement over the Stinson in literally every way, and could run circles around them, it is quite a steal that they are now $30 cheaper. This presents a great value.

Conclusion


The Challenger ATR 2 is our Top Pick for Maximum Cushioning because they have attributes that no other shoe in our review has to offer. They are remarkably better than any other HOKA shoe we have ever worn. There are a significant number of people in the trail running world that appreciate the added protection and cushioning, and this can be backed up by how many pairs of HOKA's we see out at trail races. For those people, we highly recommend the Challenger ATR 2. For everyone else, maybe it's time to give them a try, you might be surprised!

One of four high passes on the Bridge of Heaven - Bear Creek Loop trail that begins and ends in Ouray. This is one of the finest long trail runs in the San Juans  although you wouldn't know it by the views on this rainy day.
One of four high passes on the Bridge of Heaven - Bear Creek Loop trail that begins and ends in Ouray. This is one of the finest long trail runs in the San Juans, although you wouldn't know it by the views on this rainy day.

Other Versions and Accessories


HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 2 — Women's
HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 2
  • Women's version
  • Cost - $130
Andy Wellman

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 8, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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