Hoka Challenger 7 - Women's Review
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Hoka Challenger 7 - Women's
|Price||$144.95 at Backcountry|
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|$129.95 at Backcountry|
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|$180 List||$64.98 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Strong traction, great underfoot protection, comfortable, more flexible than some, lightweight||Comfortable, great traction, affordable, durable, packs out to fit your foot shape||Great weight distribution, stable architecture, breathable upper, well-tractioned||Light, very protective, excellent mud shed, superior traction, surprisingly stable||Affordable, responsive, beginner-friendly, familiar fit|
|Cons||Huge outsole might not be for all runners, lacks sensitivity||Might be too cushioned for some runners, slightly less sensitive||Lace pocket is difficult to use, tight collar can bite into the ankle, pricy||Narrow fit, runs small, rigid construction, takes time to break-in||Less aggressive traction, runs slightly narrow|
|Bottom Line||A well-tractioned and high-performing moderate trail shoe that puts underfoot comfort at the center of its focus||A great all-around trail shoe that hosts some of our favorite protective features, all for a relatively affordable price||A great trail shoe that offers a streamlined fit with a grippy, confidence-inspiring outsole built to tackle the most technical terrain||Stable and deliciously sticky, this contender is just a crusher all the way around, built for training runs and long distances alike||An affordable shoe that is perfect for novice runners who want to take their trail legs for a spin|
|Rating Categories||Hoka Challenger 7 -...||Hoka Torrent 3 - Wo...||Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3||Dynafit Feline SL -...||Brooks Divide 3 - W...|
|Foot Protection (25%)|
|Comfort and Fit (15%)|
|Specs||Hoka Challenger 7 -...||Hoka Torrent 3 - Wo...||Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3||Dynafit Feline SL -...||Brooks Divide 3 - W...|
|Measured Weight (per shoe)||7.34 oz (size 7)||7.48 oz (size 7)||8.68 oz (size 7)||9.45 oz (size 7)||8.04 oz (size 7)|
|Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot)||29 mm, 24 mm||21 mm, 16mm||26 mm, 18 mm||Not disclosed||20 mm, 12 mm|
|Heel-to-Toe Drop||5 mm||5 mm||8 mm||8 mm||8 mm|
|Upper||Mesh||Mesh||Anti-Debris mesh with sockliner||Mesh, continuous nylon||Mesh|
|Midsole||CMEVA||EVA||Energy Save PU foam with Profeel Film rock protection||Feline SL midsole||EVA|
|Outsole||Durabrasion Rubber||Rubber||Salomon Contagrip MA||Sticky Pomoco Outer||TrailTrack rubber|
|Rock Plate?||No||No||Not disclosed||Not disclosed||No|
|Wide Version Available?||No||No||Yes||No||No|
|Sizes Available||5 - 12 US||5 - 11 US||4 - 13 US||5 - 11 US||5 - 12 US|
Our Analysis and Test Results
With a 29mm stack height and only a 5mm drop, the new-and-improved Challenger 7 is a shoe built for tackling unending mileage in comfort. The shoe lacks sensitivity but makes up for it by being a lightweight, moderately protective trail companion with strong traction.
The Challenger 7 is a plush trail shoe built for moderate terrain. Bearing that in mind, it offers far more foot protection than we expected. This shoe doesn't have a rock plate, but its underfoot cushion is more protective than nearly every other shoe in our lineup.
A 29mm stack isn't especially high, but the air-forward CMEVA base on the Challenger cushions the soles of the feet as you glide over sharp rocks and other abrasive terrain. The heel collar has been extended higher than average, which helps shield your feet from flying trail sand and debris. The overlayed mesh upper does a good job keeping sand and particulate matter out but doesn't do a great job repelling water. The toe cap is just right when viewed through the lens of comfort — it doesn't eat into toe box space, nor does it extend forward. It sits comfortably within the body of the shoe and is tough enough to prevent an occasional toe stub but not so tough that it will blacken your toenails as you rally down mountainsides.
The updated Challenger has well-placed lugs that don't feel out of place if you happen upon a paved road or bike path. This shoe was built for moderate terrain and absolutely delivers the type of traction you'll want for that. Hoka placed larger lugs toward the exterior of the shoe's base and more tightly spaced, smaller lugs towards the interior for ultimate control on uneven terrain. The lugs are all 4mm, which is a fairly standard lug depth for trail running shoes.
The Challenger 7 was also released with updated textiles throughout the shoe. The Durabrasion rubber outsole helps you control your body as you hit your paces. We love that the lugs extend up onto the toe cap and the rubber goes up the heel cup since this adds extra grip to help prevent accidental slips.
If you are looking for a shoe that offers a specific trail feel and sensitivity, the Challenger won't be it. We love this shoe, but if you want to feel every nook and cranny of the trail, you definitely won't share our feelings. The CMEVA midsole is ultra-comfy and way more luxurious than most trail rats prefer, and with it comes a distinct underfoot feel that some people won't like. If you like to rely on the soles of your feet for information regarding the trail beneath you, beware that the Challenger offers a very muted version of the trail's topography. You can usually feel that something is beneath your foot, but the cushioning is too thick to intuit what that something is.
Hoka-made shoes tend to feel incredibly stable, and the Challenger is no exception. The beefy heel cup and lateral edges provide strong support while the mesh upper holds your foot in place. The 5mm drop is comfortable and stable, allowing your heel to sit just higher than your toes. The Challenger, much like other Hoka trail shoes, makes your heel feel like it's settled into the place where it belongs. There is something special about how your heels can just nestle in for the ride, most notably the fact that it creates powerful stability. If a shoe with strong lateral stability and support is what you're after, we recommend the Challenger and other shoes by Hoka because of their unique fit.
Comfort and Fit
The Challenger 7 fits true to size and provides enough space where you'll likely want it. The toe box isn't the largest we've seen, but it is spacious enough to allow toes to splay. The toe box feels like a perfect middle ground between a svelte shoe and one with too much space, so we love it for that. The midfoot is snug without being tight, and Hoka makes a wide version to better accommodate a range of anatomies.
On the upper, the Challenger has padding where you want it and nothing extra where you don't. The plush tongue and heel cup are features that we love, especially as the mileage adds up. As you run in these trail shoes, the upper flexes a bit and ultimately molds to accommodate your foot's natural movements. It's a very personal feeling that we appreciate.
The comfort that the underfoot feel of this shoe provides is exceptional. We don't always want to dampen the feeling of the trail beneath our feet, but when we do, this is the shoe we reach for. Throughout our testing and trail marathon training, we found ourselves wanting to slip our feet into the Challenger 7 on days when our feet felt beat up. A trail shoe that can hang tough when it needs to while also keeping your feet comfortable is a great one to have in your quiver.
For a plush runner, the Challenger 7 is incredibly lightweight. Much like other runners made for moderate terrain, this one weighs a bit less because it doesn't have many protective features. The textiles come together to birth a lightweight shoe that offers more than just the bare minimum. Each women's US size 7 weighs 7.34 ounces, which is within striking distance of the lightest shoe we've ever tested. The Challenger earned high accolades in this category because it is lightweight, yes, but also because of how well the weight is distributed across the shoe. Even though the heel is beefy, it never felt heavy while executing our testing runs.
Should You Buy the Hoka Challenger 7?
As is often the case, you'll need to determine the style of shoe you want before we can flat-out answer this question for you. If you want a minimalistic running shoe that is designed to bite the trails and help you fly down loose scree, you shouldn't buy the Challenger. But the Challenger might be a good fit if your trail work takes you up and down fire roads, single-tracks, and other less techy terrain. If underfoot cushion and overall joint protection speak to you, the Challenger is one of our top recommendations.
What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?
If you want a comfortable shoe that allows you to feel the trail a bit more, consider instead the Hoka Tecton X or the Hoka Torrent 3. The Salomon Pulsar Trail is another good option if you want a plush ride but a more extreme heel-to-toe differential than the Challenger can offer. If you are uninterested in a maximalist style shoe, check out one of our forever favorites, the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 for ultimate sensitivity and epic traction.
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