Hoka One One was the first company to release an oversized foam midsole running shoe in 2010 and the trend has been gaining popularity ever since. Now most companies have some variation of a highly cushioned shoe. The founders of Hoka One One wanted to create a larger sweet spot, much like on oversized tennis racquets or skies. There have been statements both for and against these highly cushioned shoes.
While they might not be for everyone, there some benefits that the shoe companies are claiming. They claim that the extra cushion provides a softer ride, which you cannot disagree with. They also claim that the extra cushion lessens the impact on your joints and can reduce the amount of recovery time needed after long or higher intensity runs. Another claim is that the extra cushion provides an increase on energy return, meaning that the shoes will provide more of a spring than lesser cushioned shoes.
The first pair of Hoka One One shoes I reviewed were the Huaka in 2014 (no longer in production) (Click here for my review of the Huaka). Since then, I tested the Clayton (Click here for my review of the Clayton), Vanquish 2 (Click here for my review of the Vanquish 2), Clifton 2 (Click here for my review of the Clifton 2), and Clifton 3 (Click here for my review of the Clifton 3), which are all incredibly light and nimble. The original Clifton won multiple awards and the Clifton 2 won the Summer 2015 “Editor’s Choice for Best Ride” from Competitor.com. The Clayton won the September 2016 “Editor’s Choice” award from Runner’s World and the Clifton 3 won the 2016 “Best Update” award from Competitor.com. Hoka One One has proven that they know how to make some killer shoes so I wanted to branch out to their trail shoes and see how they stacked up, especially as my first 50k trail race is just a few weeks away and am still trying to decide which shoe I will use.
The Challenger ATR 3 is very similar to the Clifton 3 in terms of feel and the oversized EVA midsole provides that plenty of cushion. It is very light weight, tipping the scales at 9.5 ounces for a men’s size 9 and 7.9 ounces for a women’s size 7. There is a 5mm heel drop with a 29mm heel height and 24mm forefoot height (for the men’s version). Other similar features include an Early Stage Meta-Rocker that is made to propel you forward while promoting a natural gait. Your foot rolls smoothly from impact to off.
The Challenger ATR 3 can be used on either roads or trail, which is really cool. I have some trails about 5 miles from my house, so it is nice to be able to wear a shoe that can give me traction when I need it, but be able to handle the roads and sidewalks as well. The outsole comes with 4mm lugs that are perfect on the trail. On my first test, I took them out on some hard packed and gravel trails and over granite outcroppings. A few days ago, I went out for a really wet test run. It had been raining hard for a few days and was still raining while I was running. The trails were flooded and muddy. I never had any issues with slipping, which was crazy since I was going up and down very steep hills, through huge puddles, and over grassy meadows.
They added a 3D Puff Print Frame for additional light weight support on the front end of the shoe. It is designed to breathe easier and be more comfortable. I was running through puddles that were several inches deep and the Challenger ATR 3 kept more water out than most of my other trail shoes. Even when they were wet, I never felt that sloshing feeling that I do in some shoes. I was simply able to just keep going without worrying about my shoes. That is a sign of a great shoe.
One thing I would like to mention is that these shoes run small. I usually wear a size 10 in Hoka One One shoes, but needed to get an 11 if the Challenger ATR 3. I read quite a few other reviews that also recommended going a full size up.
There are two things that I wish they would have added to this shoe. I really like shoes that add a Velcro Gaiter Tab on the back of the shoe. It would be a cheap addition and would make this shoe almost perfect. The other thing that many other trail shoes have is a gusseted tongue to keep the debris out. I do have to mention that I have not had any issues and the tongue feels great. In fact, the overall feel of the shoe was amazing.
Easily transitions from road to trail
4mm lugs provide awesome grip in any conditions
Plenty of cushion for all types of runs and distances
5mm heel drop
Very light 9.5 ounces
Great price ($130 Hoka One Onewebsite)
Get a full size larger (fits small)
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I will be using the Challenger ATR 3 during my 50k at the end of the month. The cushion, fit, and overall comfort as well as the traction make this my favorite trail shoe. It is really surprising to me that they can pack all of those features into a shoe that is so light. I felt like I was floating down the hills as I was running, when I would usually feel the impact much more. Check them out at your local running store (click here for locations), at the Hoka One One website, or at your favorite online retailer. They are worth checking out, I promise. Let me know what you think.
Note: I received this product in exchange for a review. The review is my personal opinion of the product and I was not required to give a particular opinion of it. I am not a doctor, so please use all of the products that I review at your own risk.