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Review: Hoka Challenger ATR
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Tuesday 3rd November 2015


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Shoe Review: The HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR

HOKA ONE ONE shoes (www.hokaoneone.eu) have, judging by the recent Ironman World Championships shoe count, fast been gaining traction in the triathlon market.

From 1.6% and 1.9% of the field respectively in 2012 and 2013, the brand grew to 6.5% (6th place) in 2014 and increased again to 11.6% (3rd place) this year, in the annual count conducted by Dave Jewell of Shoe Ranger (www.shoeranger.com). Only Asics (17.5%) and Saucony (14.3%) had more shoes on the feet of athletes during the Ironman marathon in Kona.

Earlier this year I reviewed the Hoka One One Clifton (HERE) and was very impressed. I still am, running regularly in the same shoe. I ended that review by mentioning the Challenger ATR model, a lightweight 'Clifton-like' trail running addition with additional lugs for off road grip. That sounded interesting to me, and fortunately HOKA sent me a pair to test shortly after that. Several hundred kilometres later, how are they?


Given my previous experience of the Clifton shoe concluded with, "It's not even a very good shoe. It is a GREAT shoe. Seriously, this is definitely a contender for the best running shoe I have ever used", the Challenger ATR had a tough ask to follow. Being based around the Clifton it had a good basis to start from. It's also (beauty in the eye of the beholder, granted), a very good looking shoe. If that matters to you.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR

The ATR is also available in three colours (Men) two colours (Women), though I have to admit that the Black with lime green/blue trim of my version would also have been my first choice too. It's also a very practical colour for off-road work.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR
Challenger ATR: Men (Top), Women (Bottom) colour options

The Challenger ATR: what they say...

It's all but impossible to talk about the Challenger ATR without referring to the Clifton (reviewed HERE). Here are both of my shoes pictured below (Clifton top, Challenger ATR bottom), next to each other. As you can see, there is very little difference in the upper design and materials. Same number and placement of lacing holes and the same thin tongue as the Clifton. It has the same 29mm heel / 24mm forefoot providing a 5mm offset, so once again, Clifton users are going to feel very much at home here. As with the Clifton, I'm running in Hoka's 297mm/EUR47.33/UK12/US 12.5 size, and typically fit most brands as standard EUR47 (I gave up on UK sizing years back), so even the sizing appears consistent between the models and versus my experiences of other brands.

In terms of differences between the shoes, the upper (around the heel) is, perhaps, a little more supportive, but this is still far from a rigid shoe. The upper material is very flexible and soft, so if major rigidity and motion control is what you want/need - and I don't want that personally - then you'll want to look elsewhere. My non-scientific gut feel is that the mid sole EVA isn't quite as soft at the Clifton. Is there a subtle difference in the material? I'm not certain, though I suspect that the more rigid outsole of the additional lugs (below), contributes to make the overall shoe a little firmer. Don't take that as meaning it is an overly firm ride - during my first run in the Clifton I thought I was landing on a mattress, it was that soft!

Hoka One One Challenger ATR
Top: Clifton, Bottom: Challenger ATR

Pictured below is the primary difference between the shoes - the Challenger ATR features the addition of 4mm lugs in the front (green) and rear (blue) of the shoe more suitable for off-road running, providing both grip and longevity. On the Clifton (right), for the most part, the midsole is also the outsole.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR

Of course, with the additional outsole lugs you would expect the Challenger ATR to be heavier than the already featherweight Clifton, and it is. But, at 262g (compared to the 217g of the Clifton), it still feels light for the type of shoe it is, designed for off-road use and with additional durability. Big plus there.

Most of my running in this shoe has been on canal towpaths plus relatively light trails, grass and firm gravel. These, in my opinion, are the natural home of the Challenger ATR. If your off-road running is a little more extreme, then Hoka offer plenty more options in their range which may be a better fit for you - but I suspect that the Challenger ATR would be more than adequate for the vast majority of 'regular' runners.

I think it also does a very good job of being a good hybrid shoe too. While designed for moderate trail, it performs pretty well on the road too. While I wouldn't recommend you buy this model purely as a road only shoe (I'd choose the Clifton every time), if a typical run includes a combination of road / trail / towpaths for example, you need not be concerned that you are only 'surviving' the tarmac section until you get to the softer stuff. If I'm off down the towpath (a 2km road run away from my house to get there), I choose the Challenger ATR every time. If it's 'road only' or into the gym on the treadmill, then the Clifton does the job perfectly.

I've really enjoyed, and plan to continue enjoying, running in the Challenger ATR. As a fan of the Clifton, that shouldn't be a surprise but I'm happy that the shoe delivered as an ideal sidekick which really suits much of the terrain I run on. It's a touch firmer in ride than the Clifton, but once off the tarmac that seems to be a great balance. Which is the better shoe?! If I could only keep one, I would choose the Clifton. If I could have two pairs, I'd pick one of each. Fortunately, that's the combination I've got and I wouldn't change it. For me, the Clifton and the Challenger ATR are an ideal pairing for my own running shoe needs.

The shoe retails in the UK at £99.99, but even the quickest of search engine reviews will find it available currently at a relatively standard price from most retailers, ten pounds lower at £89.99. I think that is a very fair price for what has been a fantastic shoe. Search a bit more, and you may even find them cheaper than that. Then you will have found yourself a bargain.

Hoka One One Challenger ATR


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