The Hoka Challenger ATR 7 is a solid option for many runners, including those new to Hokas, runners seeking options for up to moderate terrain, and those training for races that offer a mix of paved, dirt and/or grassy trails.
If the vast majority of your runs are in technical terrain, skip the Challenger. While these shoes are an excellent option for mild to moderate trails, there are options much more suitable for technical running. Scroll down to the conclusion for one option.
The Challenger is possibly one of Hoka’s most popular trail shoes and one of Running Shoes Guru’s favorite for a few years now. It is meant to be run both on trails and on the road.
Straight out of the box, I knew something was different with these Hokas. It did not take me long to realize that Hoka worked its magic again.
As I held the Challengers in my hands, I could tell the weight was scaled back from the previous version. Hoka cut the weight from 9.6 to 8.9 ounces (size 10), while increasing the cushioning. The 5 mm drop (31mm heel, 26 mm front) remains the same.
The Challenger 7 is the product of a thorough redesign that kept what Hoka fans love about this model. The upper is different, now with a piece of engineered mesh that wraps from heel to heel.
Hoka also added a soft new foam to increase the stack height for a plusher feel and bulked up the rubber to the sole. The enhancements don’t stop there. Hoka also reimagined the bottom of the shoe. The Challenger 7 has smaller, tightly spaced lugs in the center with larger, more aggressive lugs on the outside.
These combine to improve the security of the footing on dirty, muddy or average technical terrain.
The improved lugs give a bit of a boost to the shoes’ protection. But still I would not recommend the Challengers for rocky or rooty terrain.
While I did not experience issues with protection during my 50-plus miles of testing, all of my miles were on what I would consider very basic trails. For those who regularly adventure into areas where trails are more challenging, there may be better options for your feet.
As with previous Hoka Challengers, there are no indications of breaking down after more than 50 miles.
I’ve run a couple of 100-mile races on crushed gravel surfaces in Hoka Challengers. And the shoes have performed well. While I won’t be doing the 100-mile version of that race this year, I know the seventh iteration would handle the race and course without an issue, just like its predecessors.
If you have the need for speed and responsiveness, the Hoka Challenger 7 is among the best options available for trail runners. The shoes are very responsive and energetic on basically any terrain, giving you the green light to pump up the volume on the flat sections and downhills.
In the seventh edition, the much lighter shoes will add to your speed without sacrificing on durability, comfort or even cushioning. In fact, some of the trail races I do could be attempted in a road shoe due to their course. The Challenger offers the best of both worlds for these events: the speed associated with many road shoes with the security of a lug system to get you through any minor obstacles.
My belief is that the Challenger’s midsole has slightly increased its firmness through each version. It’s not uncomfortably firm, just a tad more than the previous model. It still gives off a springy vibe, regardless of whether you are plodding down a gravel path, or doing a speed interval on a dirt trail.
I’ve always found the fit to be spot-on in Challengers. But if previous versions have felt off for you, then follow your previous experience and order a size up or down as you have previously.
Whenever a brand remakes a popular model, it risks losing some of its supporters. For fans of previous Hoka Challengers, this new model will surely be pleasing. The seventh version offers new construction,
materials and colors.
Runners will first notice the drop in weight then relish the cushioning they rely on. The shoe performs best as a road-to-trail option, or for easy to moderate adventures on dirt, grass or gravel paths. It’s responsive enough to keep you moving and can handle basic mud and water hazards.
Here is how the new Challengers compare with some other popular models: