Stuff We Swear By: The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 Is the Most Versatile Trail Running Shoe We’ve Tested

Whether you're talking pavement or technical trails, the Challenger ATR 5 is up for it

October 12, 2020 12:04 pm
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 review
Hoka One One

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This is Stuff We Swear By, a series in which our editors expound on an item they use (and love) on a daily (or near-daily) basis.

Item: HOKA One One Challenger ATR 5

Description: The Challenger ATR 5 is a highly versatile trail shoe from California footwear concern HOKA One One, known for their line of ultralightweight, super-cushioned running shoes.

How I use it: Shoes go on feet. Feet go on roads/trails, propelled by legs. Sweat ensues.

Why I swear by it: Versatility, versatility, versatility. Like many of my fellow Americans, I have leaned hard into running as my preferred method of exercise in the COVID era, and HOKAs have been my go-to running shoe for several years now based on the fact that their extra-cushioned construction has been an absolute game changer for my beat-up knees. However, during the pandemic I’ve spent significant time in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, as well as in my hometown of Denver, Colorado, at the foot of the Rockies. The upshot is a great deal of time spent hiking as well, and I’m happy to report that The Challenger ATR 5 does double duty with no trouble whatsoever — between my usual bouts of road work, they have carried me to the foggy summit of Mount Osceola, through the Aspen-dotted trails surrounding Vail, and over the rocky, Martian landscape of Arches National Park in neighboring Utah. 

Their multi-lugged outsole provides excellent grip and has kept me sure-footed even over some pretty challenging technical terrain, and I feel like their weight (or lack thereof) has helped to keep my legs fresh far longer than they would have been had I been wearing bulkier hiking boots. Admittedly they don’t have the same ankle support that a pair of Danners or Merrells would, but I’m also no windburnt alpinist. For the casual hiker (particularly the casual hiker who also likes to run), they’re beyond serviceable, and being able to freely alternate between climbing and jogging is, in a word, rad. Nevermind the fact that it allows me to pack only one pair of shoes for trips like the aforementioned one to Arches, always a plus.

Getting back to the weight for a moment, the Challenger ATR 5 clocks in at just 9.4 ounces, which is in the middle of the spectrum for HOKA but still extremely lightweight compared to other shoes in the class. It is honestly impossible to overstate the mind fuck that is picking up a HOKA shoe for the first time. They’re so outside the realm of what your brain thinks a shoe is supposed to weigh that it takes a moment to process that you’re holding anything at all — one of my favorite things is to toss one to an unsuspecting friend and watch their facial expression when they catch it. The less the shoes weigh, the further I’m able to go in them. It’s science.

Finally, the Challenger’s construction has also proven winning for my needs. The upper features a dual-layer mesh that is exceedingly breathable and also dries super quickly when I inadvertently (or sometimes unavoidably) step into a stream or puddle on my excursions. And the toe is reinforced with burly TPU that has proven quite resistant to scrapes on rocks, etc. As someone who consistently beats the shit out of their gear, durability is a big deal for me — and I gotta say that after six straight months of near-daily wear and countless miles over all kinds of terrain, my Challengers don’t look a helluva lot worse for the wear.

Can’t wait for the Challenger ATR 6.

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