The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 ($130) is consistent with Hoka’s approach for the previous three versions, with a tradeoff of slightly less cushioning for even less weight.
Still, the Challenger ATR offers superior cushioning in a versatile trail running shoe that can also be counted on to handle roads and paved trails with ease.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 General Info
The Challenger (31 mm, 26 mm) is incredibly lightweight (9 ounces). Given the amount of cushioning the shoe offers, it is amazing how Hoka was able to balance that with how light it is.
I really came to appreciate the Challenger ATR’s breathable mesh upper, especially as the temperature turned much warmer during my late spring and summer runs.
When it comes to fitting, I wear either a 10 or 10.5 and I found the size 10.5 Hokas to fit me and my wide feet well.
The toe box (redesigned for the ATR 3’s and kept for the most recent version) is quite comfortable, letting my toes splay out without feeling like I was wearing shoes that were too large.
The fourth generation keeps much of what the previous edition offered runners: maximal cushioning with a light ride.
Notably, Hoka stripped down the upper in order to shave off weight off from the previous version. Some runners may feel that the uppers are not as strong or supportive as the previous model.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 Sole Unit
Let’s start out at the bottom.
The Challenger’s 4mm lugs are a good size for navigating basic trails, though they are probably too small to be much use along muddy courses. Near the midsole, the lugs are noticeably wider, allowing the runner more support when pushing off.
The Challenger ATR 4’s thick EVA foam midsole is quite responsive and firm, much more so than other Hokas that use the marshmallow midsole.
Hoka utilizes a curved midsole —a Meta-Rocker — for heel-to-toe transition. The Meta-Rocker goes a long way in giving the runner quick turnover, allowing him or her to be confident in speeding down the trails.
It’s worth noting that the Challenger ATR 4 does not have a rockplate.
The midsole capably handles loose rocks, roots and other trail challenges. However, this is one part of the shoe that indicates it’s not the best choice for challenging or technical trails, unlike its predecessor.
The ATR 4’s thin upper and diminished protection appear to be victims of the move to a lighter shoe.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 Upper Info
Our wet spring and early summer gave me plenty of opportunities to test the Challenger’s ability to deal with water.
Hoka designed the upper in this mode, using a double mesh upper and adding a new padded heel cup. Both elements work quickly to repel water and dry a soaked shoe.
I’ve found the mesh layer to be durable. Tucked in behind the mesh are midfoot overlays that are useful in keeping the foot secure.
The Challenger ATR 4 also offers a well-padded tongue and flat, easy-to-tie laces.
I would caution runners who feel more secure in supremely padded trail shoes that they may be in for a letdown in assessing this shoe.
While I believe there is ample padding — and sacrificing some cushion for weight is acceptable — I can understand why some Hoka fans would be disappointed.
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 Conclusions
So, how would I incorporate the Hoka Challengers into my training and/or racing?
I live less than a mile from the high school cross-country course so I appreciate having a trail shoe that handles roads well, allowing me to get to and from the course without having to drive or worry about my trail shoes.
I could see myself training in Hokas, especially if I want to do a mix of trail and roads.
When it comes to racing, I could myself using the Challengers in races where there is a combination of trails and roads.
The most recent 50-miler I did, for example, had long stretches of gentle to moderate trails but there were several spots in the out-and-back where we were on roads and Jeep roads.
If I do the same race next year, I would have no qualms about using the Challenger in this race. However, at the same time, I would be cautious about using this shoe if the course was expected to be muddy due to the 4mm lugs.
Another use for the shoes could be trail hiking. While I did not specifically try the Challenger on a hike, the cushioning, breathability and support would likely all combine for a shoe that would do well on a long hike.
That’s something I plan to do as a way to repurpose the shoes, once its running days are over.
We purchased a pair of Hoka One One Challenger ATR 4 from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.