The HOKA Challenger ATR 6 is a crossover road/trail hybrid shoe that tackles many types of trail surfaces with aplomb.
The Challenger ATR is a soft, comfortable and accommodating maximally cushioned, neutral-oriented shoe. It’s versatile enough to handle both smooth, semi-rugged and mildly sloppy trails, as well as roads and bike paths on the way to a trailhead.
If you ran in the previous versions of the Challenger, you’ll find the sixth edition has a similar fit, feel and ride.
The most notable change is a new, more pliable upper material made from recycled yarn . This really adds to the shoe’s smoother flexing demeanor. It also features a slightly updated lacing eyelet structure that helps keep your feet more secure on the run.
Like its predecessors, the Challenger ATR 6 is a good all-around running shoe that runs well on a lot of surfaces. It’s not exceptionally energetic for fast-paced workouts. However, it’s light and cushioned enough to offer smooth-striding consistency in most other applications.
The outsole features low-profile, 4mm lugs. These provide good traction running on dirt, gravel, over small rocks and roots and through shallow puddles. The lugs aren’t quite deep or aggressive enough for running over sloppy, muddy trails and dramatically technical terrain.
FIT, FEEL, RIDE
The HOKA Challenger ATR 6 accommodates a range of foot shapes and sizes, but is slightly wider in the mid-foot/arch and the toe box. (It’s available in two widths for men and women.)
Runners with narrower feel will have to snug down the laces tightly, but not to the point of being uncomfortable. The step-in feel is decidedly soft and comfortable. There’s an added plush sensation from the padded heel collar and cushy, partially gusseted tongue.
Out on a run, the Challenger feels soft and supple on all types of terrain. This allows the foot to move naturally without inhibition from foot strike to toe-off.
The rigid, internal heel counter keeps the foot securely in place. Add to this, the wider forefoot allows your toes to splay for optimal balance and toe-off on uneven terrain.
The HOKA Challenger’s low-profile lugs offer good traction on smooth dirt paths, mildly technical terrain and gravel roads. Add to that it can also feel as smooth as a road shoe on paved or concrete surfaces.
Although the soft midsole isn’t quite as energized or robust as some other shoes out there, our wear-tests suggest it should be a shoe that’s durable enough to get through about 400 miles of running.
WHO IT’S BEST FOR
The Challenger ATR 6 is a great option for road runners who occasionally run on trails or trail runners who primarily run on mild or moderate terrain.
It’s versatile enough to be the only trail shoe in your quiver. Or, it can be an ideal shoe for long runs on smooth terrain or dirt roads.
PROS: CHALLENGER ATR 6
This edition of the Challenger weighs slightly less than the previous version and is lighter than many road running shoes. Combined with the “rockered” (or convex) geometry, you’ll feel a light, rolling sensation that promotes quick-cadence strides — especially on firmer surfaces.
The softness of the compression-molded EVA midsole makes running in the Challenger ATR 6 similar to running in your favorite road shoes, although slightly softer and a tad less energetic. That will be especially appreciated if some of your training runs include a variety of trail and paved surfaces.
CONS: CHALLENGER ATR 6
The Challenger ATR 6 doesn’t have a lot of inherent structure in its midsole/outsole chassis, so runners who need or want additional stability might consider a trail shoe with more support or a more rigid outsole.
Although the Challenger can suffice on some more technical trails, it’s most at home on smoother terrain and not ideal of extra gnarly mountain terrain. That’s partially because it lacks a rock plate and offers limited protection with a from a minimally reinforced toe bumper.
SHOP CHALLENGER ATR 6
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Metzler has run races at every distance from 50 meters to 100 miles. He has wear-tested more than 1,500 pairs of shoes, is a three-time Ironman finisher. He occasionally participates in the quirky sport of pack burro racing in Colorado.
He’s the founding editor of Trail Runner magazine, is a former senior editor at Running Times. He was and editor in chief at Competitor Magazine.
As an author, he has penned “Kicksology“, “Running Colorado’s Front Range” and the co-author of “Natural Running: The Simple Path to Stronger Healthier Running” and “Run Like a Champion: An Olympian’s Approach for Every Runner.”