I’ve run in Challengers previously and the 6 definitely has the same qualities as its recent predecessors.
It won’t get you to the top of a challenging mountain, but it will work well on roads-to-trails runs, especially as a trainer or for longer runs or races on mild to moderate terrain.
At just 9.8 ounces for men and 8.1 ounces for women, the Challenger is lightweight yet provides decent cushioning.
Unlike some other shoes, the owner need not worry about runs that require time on the pavement.
I really applaud the fact that the sixth version of the Challengers are made with more recycled materials than ever before.
The upper features a new REPREVE based recycled yarn in the engineered mesh. It’s comfortable to wear, and the ventilation is solid.
However, after going through a small stream, the shoes did not dry as quickly as other Hokas and other brands I’ve tested.
The lacing system also has the recycled touch. Hoka used recycled poly laces to integrate with the eyelets to lock in that secure fit.
I hope Hoka continues to innovate in this direction. The early experimentations illustrate that there is no negative impact on the shoes.
Let’s start out with the good. The Challengers offer protected overlays for the toebox and around the mid-foot area, which provide stability.
The tongue is well padded and serves as a protection against trail encounters. The design of the tongue can be described as partially or semi gusseted. Either way, the tongue stays in place and adds comfort.
The heel collar is very well padded, too. However, while it served as protection, the heel counter was fairly abrasive and hard.
On a few of my longer training runs, half marathon or so distance, I did experience some heel pain afterward.
Additionally, the toebox is getting more narrow on the lateral side. The toe bumper has medium thickness but its support is solid. There is plenty there to protect against roots, rocks, etc.
The tread is versatile for door-to-trail use but does have its limitations. When running on technical terrain, the 4mm, low profile lugs do not secure a good grip on rocks, downed branches or anything loose.
The traction is even worse when the surface is wet or moist.
This leads me to believe that the shoes will not be as durable as others in their range.
Of course, the runner will have a lot to say about that depending on what types of terrain they run with the Challengers.
Mild to moderate terrain will keep the lugs from getting beat up, and allow the runner to enjoy the Challengers for a longer duration.
I would give the Challengers an average grade on responsiveness. That seems to be the theme for the shoes — very middle of the road.
On a mild trail, the Challengers can pick it up a notch, thanks to being lightweight.
But navigating around branches, roots, mud or other trail obstacles, diminish the ability for the Challengers to respond quickly when the runner wants to go faster.
Again this fits into how I would largely advocate using the Challengers, specifically as a midweek training shoe on moderate terrain.
The runner would be able to get a good solid ride and could throw in some fartleks, strides or other minimal speedwork.
The ATR 6s would not be a shoe I would pick out for a short race where I intended to go all-out fast.
The Challenger’s midsole is 29mm of compression-molded EVA (CMEVA) which sits right at the midpoint between cushioned and firm. For road runners familiar with Hoka, the Clifton would be an apt comparison.
I did find the shoes to be comfortable for the most part, except the heels. Also notable is that the firmness keeps the shoes from feeling too soft.
All in all, the shoes are comfortable and their lightweight nature makes them a good option.
The value of the Challenger ATR 6 is the traditional versatility it brings. If you are looking for a solid shoe for heading to the trails for a moderate run, this fits the bill.
It will work well for everyday training, as well as races up to marathon or 50K on mild to moderate trails.
While the aforementioned improvements are a step in the right direction, they don’t elevate the Challenger in terms of the terrain it can handle. And that’s OK.
Hoka has other shoes that can provide the support necessary for more gnarly terrain.
Among its top qualities: it is lightweight, yet has plenty of cushioning and it feels comfortable after a brief break-in period.
There is no mistaking the Challenger for a shoe that will get you to the summit of a challenging mountain, or propel you to a blazing fast race or FKT.
Its value that it fits the bill for its intended purpose and its job and performs that task splendidly.
Here’s how the Challenger compares to some other models:
Hoka One One Torrent 2: The Torrent 2 is lighter, lower, and more agile than the Challenger. Additonally, its superior outsole makes it ideal for using on more challenging trails.
I’d prefer the Torrent for racing in the majority of races I would find myself in.
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4: The Speedgoat 4 is perhaps Hoka’s best-known trail shoe.
It is clearly better than the Challenger in basically every aspect: it has more cushion, better traction, better durability, superior protection.
It is an easy choice for technical trails but also performs well at the easier stuff. The Speedgoat is another option I would consider, along with the Torrent, for the majority of my races
Nike Pegasus Trail 2: The Nike has a wider toebox, and a softer cushioning. The Hoka cushioning is a little more substantial. The Hoka has better rock protection, but the Nike has better traction.
If you’re purely road-to-smooth-trail, the Hoka is better, while the Pegasus is preferred for more technical but it not quite as good as the Speedgoat.
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