Hoka’s newest version of the Challenger, the ATR 5, doesn’t have a lot of big changes from the ATR 4. In fact, it’s pretty much the same other than a minimal change to the outsole.
If you’re a Challenger runner, the guts are still what you love about the other incarnations. While it is a fairly pricey trail shoe (usually around $130 US), it’s versatile, and can be used on both road and trail.
Because I’ve been a Challenger-lover since my early days of trail running, I was happy that the guts of the shoe haven’t changed much.
It’s not a super heavy shoe (7.7 oz–women’s version), because the foam is lightweight and the tread isn’t incredibly toothy.
It’s very similar to the ATR 4, so it doesn’t really take any time to adjust to it if you’re just wanting to put the shoe on and run.
For the first run, I was able to put the shoes on, tuck my favorite insoles inside and go. There was no time needed to break the shoe in.
In fact, the 5mm drop felt comfortable and so similar to my ATR 4s that I nearly forgot they were new. Subsequent runs were the same.
I never felt like I needed to adjust to the shoe. Even switching from my road shoes to the ATR 5s was easy.
According to Hoka, the change in the outsole was mainly the distance between the lugs. They are closer together near the heel and further apart near the forefoot.
This is supposed to allow for a smoother ride on harder surfaces, but also better grip on more technical terrain (including wet conditions).
I can say I noticed that these were more comfortable on harder surfaces than previous versions–the bottoms of my feet didn’t get sore during any of my runs.
I have bony feet, so it’s amazing that they don’t get even a little sore and they didn’t feel fatigued. I easily ran through water and never felt like the shoes got heavy or waterlogged.
During the test period, my longest run in the ATR 5s was a 12 mile trail race. It included some more technical, steep climbs and downhills, dry and rolling single-track trail, road sections, wet stones, and gravel.
I purposely didn’t use my trekking poles during this race because I wanted to see how the shoes fared on their own, without assistance. I wasn’t disappointed.
If you’ve read previous reviews I’ve written, you know I like a shoe I can “trust” (I can be fairly tentative on steep downhills).
But I never felt unsafe on the downhills, and the grip on the climbs felt great.
The shoes also felt springy and light on the single track, rooty trails, as well as in the grass. They didn’t drag on the gravel or pavement.
This shoe is versatile, and COULD be used as a road shoe in a pinch.
I can imagine the sole would wear down much faster on pavement, but it is comfortable enough to use as a flat surface shoe, if necessary. So you won’t have to skip a run if you happen to forget your road shoes!
Ultimately, I was pleased with the Challenger ATR 5s. They were everything I’ve come to expect from Hoka.
I love when I can easily wear a trail shoe and not feel like my legs and feet are fatigued from lugging them around.
I recommend the ATR 5 because it is a versatile, supportive shoe that is great for multi-terrain trail runs. The only thing that would prevent me from purchasing them is the price.
But, overall, I enjoyed the Hoka Challenger experience, as usual.
The ATR 5 has a wide toe box that is reinforced with TPU or thermoplastic polyurethane. As I always do, I put the toe box to the test.
I never really felt it when I stubbed my toes on roots, or on any of the sharp sticks or rocks that I ran into on long runs. The uppers felt durable, and I noticed no snags or significant signs of wear in the mesh.
While I didn’t get to use the Challenger ATR 5 on tough mountain terrain, I could see it staying comfortable in mountain conditions.
It performs well on dirt trail. But it also works well for me on rocks, roots, boulders and steep climbs.
I would definitely wear the ATR 5s during an ultra distance race. I have worn previous models of them in past ultras, and the new model is no different for me!
I plan to wear them in an upcoming 50K, and I have no doubt it will be comfortable and perform well.
I felt that the ATR 5s were light and fast on wide trail where I could really open up. I never felt they slowed me down.
In fact, I think the light, springy soles were responsive, and I was able to reach top speed without feeling like my legs got fatigued.
Even on more technical single-track, the Challenger ATR 5s were ideal for me. THe curve of the sole allows for easy forward motion.
The combination of cushion and traction helped me push off of rocks and roots. And the grip is great for almost any terrain you’d find on a normal trail race course.
With the thickness of the sole, runners may expect the ATR 5s to feel heavy. But they are surprisingly light.
They are made to be true to size, compared to your normal running shoe size. I didn’t feel like there was any discrepancy between the sizing of my Hoka road shoes and these trail shoes.
They are comfortable wet or dry, and they feel great, even if I have to wear them for long stretches.
Also, this model is being made with a wide width option. Hoka hasn’t always had options for those with a wider foot, so the EE width is made for those who might need a wider shoe than the D width.
I know runners who have immediately decided not to try Hokas because they can be narrow. However, I think Hoka has tried to remedy this issue, and they don’t want to exclude runners with wider feet.
The ATR 5s were exactly what I wanted/expected them to be. Hoka didn’t make many changes in this edition, but the few changes they did make helped make the shoe even better.
I have already recommended them to other trail runners. The shoe is comfortable, light, grippy and durable. I had no problem using them on steep dirt trail, and then switching right to pavement.
I loved that I wasn’t disappointed by the ATR 5s, as I so often am when testing a new version of a shoe I’ve grown to love. So I am giving them a big, smiley face and two thumbs up!
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