Friday, December 1, 2017

Hoka One One Challenger ATR4 Review

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 increased energy return, meaning that the shoes will provide more of a spring than lesser cushioned shoes. 

I have reviewed several shoes from Hoka One One in the past.  Click the links below to read my reviews.

Hoka One One has been winning awards for many of their shoes.  The original Clifton won multiple awards while the Clifton 2 won the Summer 2015 “Editor’s Choice for Best Ride” from  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  The Challenger ATR3 is one of my favorite trail shoes.  I have done each of my three ultra-marathons in 2017 in that shoe and the cushion and comfort is amazing.      

Often thought of as a trail version of the Clifton, the Challenger ATR series works well on road and trail thanks to the oversized EVA midsole that provides a well cushioned ride.  The 4mm lugs to help with traction on the trails while the Early Stage Meta-Rocker allows a smooth transition from heel/midfoot to toe-off.

One of my favorite features of the Challenger ATR3 was that they drain extremely fast, so those creek crossing are not a problem.  No more running in a shoe full of water because your shoes don’t drain well.  Other shoe brands tend to have larger holes in the mesh upper to allow water to drain out but I have found that dirt made it through those holes too easily and I would have to take my shoes off to get the debris out.  Not with the Challenger ATR3 though.  I ran the last 38 miles of my 12-hour race in July in the Challenger ATR3 and could have gone for another 20 miles at least.  They were that comfortable.

I took my Challenger ATR4’s out for a few trail runs over different types of trail terrain.  I ran through puddles, over rock outcroppings, and down steep single-track hills.  The traction, comfort, and drainability have more than lived up to my expectations. 

The Challenger ATR4 is similar to the Challenger ATR3 in many ways.  It has the same oversized EVA midsole and Meta-Rocker design.  They both have the same stack height as well as heel-to-toe (heel drop) offset of 5mm.  The lugs on both shoes are 4mm and they are both light weight shoes.  The Challenger ATR4 is 0.5 ounces lighter than the previous version but I feel that the cushioning is a little stiffer in the Challenger ATR4 than the Challenger ATR3.

9.5 ounces
9.0 ounces
Heel Height
29 mm
29 mm
Forefoot Height
24 mm
24 mm
Heel Drop
5 mm
5 mm
Balanced (Middle of Plush and Responsive)
Balanced (Middle of Plush and Responsive)
$104.99 on sale

Hoka One One made updates to the Challenger ATR4’s upper, which has a simpler look.  They incorporated a dual-layer mesh that provides structured support while increasing the durability of the upper, which has been an issue with previous models for some people.

The toe cap has increased in size to provide better protection of your toes and an internal heel counter provides a supportive grip.  There is even a new heel loop that makes putting the shoes on even easier.

The lacing system has changed a little as well.  There are loops that almost look like Nike’s Flywire lacing system that allow you to get a better fit and lock your foot down.  This will help save your toes on steep descents, especially from getting the dreaded “black toenail.”   The toe box as a decent width so you don’t get foot pain, but the shape has changes slightly from the Challenger ATR3.

The Challenger ATR3 had a padded tongue where the Challenger ATR4, while padded, has less padding in the tongue.  It does tie more secure though and keeps debris out a little better than previous models.

The one thing to definitely take into account is that I am normally a size 10 in men’s shoes (with most other brands).  I was a size 11 in the Challenger ATR3 and needed to go down to a size 10.5 in the Challenger ATR4. 

In all of my testing, I never doubted the Challenger ATR4.  It’s extremely comfortable both on power hiking ascents and quick descents.  I was able to make very quick turns and handle some technical rocky sections with ease.  The puddles that I ran through were no match either.  I feel that the water from the puddles didn’t enter the shoes as quickly as previous models and when it did, the water drained out quickly.  Even after running over very rough outcroppings, and other difficult terrain, the shoes showed almost no wear after 50+ miles. 

Challenger ATR4 Pros:
Plenty of cushion for all types of runners
More durable than previous models
5mm heel drop
Very light 9.0 ounces
Great price ($130 Hoka One One website)

Hoka One One Social Media Links:

In my pursuit of completing my first 100k and 100 mile races in 2018, I will be doing a lot of trail training.  The Challenger ATR4 will definitely be in my shoe rotation as I feel that my feet can last longer thanks to the comfort, water management, and cushioning.  The light weight and decent price are two more pluses in my book.  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 and I would love to 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.


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