The Hoka Challenger ATR 3 is the third iteration of a very popular trail shoe that is bordering on classic status at this point.
Road and trail runners love this shoe due to a combination of lightweight cushioning (I mean, a ton of cushioning), minimal upper overlays, and a go fast feel due to Hoka’s metarocker technology.
In plain English, this is a extremely well cushioned shoe that feels very fast, as evidenced by the recent performances of Hoka sponsored runners such as Jim Walmsley and Hayden Hawkes who both favor this shoe for distances of 50k to 100 miles.
The Challenger ATR 3 is the type of shoe that one can wear for a fast paced half marathon on the roads, and then handle 50 miles on burly terrain the next day.
It really is the best example of an “all arounder” on the market and a shoe that definitely shouldn’t be missed. However, it isn’t a shoe that works for every runner and every foot type.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 General Info
The Hoka Challenger ATR 3 is a neutral trail running shoe designed to be lightweight and nimble on trails that aren’t too burly in nature. It also functions very well as a road-to-trail shoe due to its minimal lugs on the outsole.
Within the Hoka One One line the Challenger ATR is the trail compliment to the Clifton 3 road shoe, and it is definitely on the lightweight end of their spectrum.
Take into account that just about any Hoka One One shoe will feature far more cushioning and stack height than any standard running shoe on the market.
Comparable shoes on the market include the Altra Torin 2.5 and Paradigm, the Topo Ultrafly, and little else.
This is a maximal niche on the market that is occupied by few due to combination of lightweight cushioning and flexibility that is bar none.
If I’m ever suggestion a maximally cushioned shoe to a runner converting over from a standard stack height, the Hoka Challenger ATR 3 would be a first choice.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Sole Unit
The Hoka Challenger 3 uses Soft EVA with a 31 mm stack height in the heel and 26mm in the forefoot. The result is that this shoe feels like it has a ton of cushioning without feeling mushy.
The foot also sits in a sort of cradle, standard for most Hoka shoes, so that you don’t feel like you’re running on an unstable platform.
New for this third iteration, the Challenger 3 ATR uses a higher durometer midsole material than in past models which makes the shoe more resilient on hard surfaces as well as long term durability towards a running shoes 500 mile shelf life.
The ride of the Challenger ATR 3 is very well balanced and this is the kind of shoe that you can take on a moderately technical trail run while following up with a flat 20 miler on the roads.
Compared to other brands, the EVA cushioning of the Challenger ATR 3 is really incomparable.
Carbon rubber populates the high wear areas of the outsole and provides just enough traction for steep uphills and downhills.
While I wouldn’t recommend this shoe as adequate for muddy conditions, there are few shoes that I would condone.
Overall, the Challenger ATR 3 performs better than most in sloppy conditions, and I’d rather have the added cushioning than a poorly protected mud trail running shoe.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Upper Info
Early fans of the Challenger ATR (original version) were really excited about how open and airy the upper was.
The problem with his that the upper didn’t hold the foot on steep terrain. Also, holes began to form as early as 100 miles into shoe life.
This new upper offers a thicker dual density mesh as well as additional welded overlays which really hold the foot steady on steep terrain.
Additionally, the Challenger 3 ATR uses Hoka’s Clifton 3 last which is slightly wider especially in the forefoot.
While Hoka has been traditionally narrow in the forefoot this represents a positive design change for the company and I, personally, hope that they continue down this path.
The Challenger ATR 3 has a well padded tongue, flat elasticized laces, and a moderately stable heel cup. While I wouldn’t recommend this shoe for runners needing stability, it does fairly well with slight overpronation.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Conclusions
The Hoka Challenger ATR 3 is a must try trail running shoe. The combination of a ton of cushioning with a light weight overall package is really too much to ignore.
It helps that the new platform is really quite wide and creates stability and a moderate toebox. My personal experience in the shoe is that I loved it for moderately long runs on any type of trail.
However, I did have difficulty with feeling hemmed in at the toe box. Now, this isn’t a new issue for me, and I have yet to find a Hoka shoe that accommodates my wide forefoot that is touched with a bit of arthritis.
I’m hopeful that Hoka re-thinks this aspect of their shoe design in future and understands that shoes designed for trail/ ultra distances absolutely require additional toe box room.
The takeaway here is that you should definitely try this shoe, and please comment below regarding your own impressions and experiences of the Challenger ATR 3.
We thank the nice people at Hoka One One for sending us a pair of Challenger ATR 3 to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.