The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 4 - Women's Review

This Top Pick for comfort boasts ample cushion with a lightweight design.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $130 List | $73.50 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Cushioned and comfortable, wider forefoot, traction for dry and flat surfaces, breathable mesh, good protection, lightweight
Cons:  Not the best for cold weather, tippy
Manufacturer:   HOKA ONE ONE
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 9, 2018
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 15
  • Foot protection - 30% 8
  • Traction - 20% 6
  • Stability - 15% 5
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 9
  • Weight - 10% 9
  • Sensitivity - 10% 5

The Skinny

Crammed with stacks of responsive cushioning, the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 4 continues to crush the comfort bracket. This Top Pick features a new toe box with a wider fit and enhanced stability. The dual-layer mesh is light and breathable, absorbing little water and drying quickly during river crossings. The outsole provides decent traction across most terrain but excelling in dry conditions. It doesn't do the best in soft or slippery conditions, like the Salomon Speed Cross 4, our Top Pick for Sloppy Surfaces. Nor does it stick to super slippery rocks like our Editors' Choice winner, the Inov-8 TerraUltra G260. However, the smooth bottom provides a nice transition from heel to toe that will have you rocking on for miles on both technical and flat surfaces.

While the Challenger ATR 4 is perfect for those in search of a super cushioned and comfortable trail shoe, it's not the most stable or sensitive. It has stacks of cushioning that doesn't give you a 'close-to-the Earth' feel. Because of the loads of cushioning in the heel, it's all little tippier than other contenders. All that said, the new wider forefoot makes it more stable than any prior Challenger model — giving it two huge thumbs up.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

The HOKA ONE ONE Challenger 4 is our Top Pick for Comfort because it's literally stacked with EVA foam that is responsive and bouncy! Running feels like running through a cloud forest, bouncing to and fro through the wilderness.

Performance Comparison


The new Challenger ATR 4 features a wider forefoot  a new lightweight and breathable upper  and an extended toe cap with traction. This Top Pick for Comfort will having your running for miles.
The new Challenger ATR 4 features a wider forefoot, a new lightweight and breathable upper, and an extended toe cap with traction. This Top Pick for Comfort will having your running for miles.

Foot Protection


With an oversized EVA midsole and awesome protective features, it's no wonder we gave the Challenger 4 a high score in this category. The most embellished and perhaps awesome feature of this shoe is the responsive EVA midsole that absorbs shock and bounces back with every step.


The midsole is stacked with 28mm of cushioning in the heel and 23mm of in the forefoot. It is responsive and wraps around trail trash, keeping feet protected along the way.

The toe thin toe cap is extended  while the outsole extends to the lip of the shoe  armored with points of traction.
The toe thin toe cap is extended, while the outsole extends to the lip of the shoe, armored with points of traction.

There is no need for a rock plate because of this ample cushioning that is airy and springy. The new extended toe cap helps prevent unsuspecting stubs on the trail while the new breathable upper is thin and porous while protecting against loose sand and particulates of soil.

The ample cushioning provides a smooth and well protected ride that will have you treading on trail for miles on miles.
The ample cushioning provides a smooth and well protected ride that will have you treading on trail for miles on miles.

That said, if you plan on running a long distance in the sandy environments, be sure to strap on a pair of running gaiters as the heel collar will allow sand inside. Additionally, it provides some water resistant but is certainly not waterproof. It will saturate in wet conditions, but it'll dry quickly as well.

The new upper is super breathable and quick to dry. In addition it does not retain much water. Our testers enjoyed these new features.
The new upper is super breathable and quick to dry. In addition it does not retain much water. Our testers enjoyed these new features.

Traction


Traction is average performing well on snow, dry, and hard surfaces alike; the outsole features multi-directional lugs that grab loose surfaces while the air pockets (that ultimately cushion as well) almost suction the Earth. The lugs are concentrated to the front of the foot grabbing the Earth with every cycle of the leg. Each lug features a high surface area that helps on flat surfaces, providing a smooth transition between contact and lift-off.


While we feel confident wearing the Challenger ATR 4 on most terrain, it didn't perform as well on steep soft surfaces like sand and wet mud. Its lugs aren't as long enough to really grab the surfaces. The mud also gloms up and sticks, not shedding easily.

The traction on this shoe is great for well packed winter trails and smooth terrain. While it fairs well on the technical stuff  we didn't think it was as well performing on super soft surfaces.
The traction on this shoe is great for well packed winter trails and smooth terrain. While it fairs well on the technical stuff, we didn't think it was as well performing on super soft surfaces.

As a result, we found ourselves sliding back every now and then. Overall, this is an all-terrain shoe that does best on harder surfaces, extending to the rocky and rooted terrain. That said, just because it didn't perform as well as other shoes with longer lugs, it certainly can tackle sloppy terrain…just not very efficiently.

Our testing team tests the HOKA Challenger ATR 4 over snow and dirt-packed trails.
Our testing team tests the HOKA Challenger ATR 4 over snow and dirt-packed trails.

Stability


Increasing its score for stability this year, this iteration of the Challenger 4 feels the most stable shoe so far. The new fit features a wider platform providing better balance overall, decreasing the height to width ratio in the midfoot. In addition, the uber thin upper wraps the foot for a precise fit. As a result, it earns a higher stability score this year.


While taking it on trails littered with rocks and debris, we were surprised at how the underfoot cushioning wraps around the bottom of the foot, providing some lateral stability. The overlays that attach to the lacing system also prevent the shoe from twisting and deforming on the trail. While we didn't roll our ankle while running in this shoe (as we had done in the past), we certainly did not feel as confident flying down steep terrain like we were with other shoes. Overall, stability continues to improve in the Challenger ATR 4, but it's not the most stable shoe out there.

The wider forefoot provides more wiggle room for toes. In addition  our testers thought this to be the most stable of all Challenger ATR models yet!
The wider forefoot provides more wiggle room for toes. In addition, our testers thought this to be the most stable of all Challenger ATR models yet!

Comfort & Fit


With a maximalist design and a 5mm heel-to-toe drop, this uber cushioned shoe scores the highest points for its fantastic comfort features. With an oversized sole stacked with EVA foam, we felt comfortable when flying over rocks and roots. The extra squish providing an excellent amount of cushion for miles! This is our go-to shoe for long days in the mountains; it's also a popular shoe for running marathon or ultra distances.


This year, the newly engineered Challenger ATR 4 offers a broader forefoot, accommodating toe splay and better stability. Some love these updates, while others are not happy. Those that prefer a wider fit may appreciate the extra room. However, those that like the narrow fit of the Challenger 3 may not be happy. As a result, there are different opinions on the new, wider fit, but overall, it's quite versatile for narrow to wide footed folk, depending on the fit you prefer. We appreciate that the heel cup is solid and the shoe doesn't slip while moving uphill. It also offers a little arch support.

The pull loop on the back of the shoe makes it easy to pull on and off. In addition  it can easily be clipped to a backpack or harness.
The pull loop on the back of the shoe makes it easy to pull on and off. In addition, it can easily be clipped to a backpack or harness.

Weight


We are super psyched about how lightweight and quick to dry this maximalist contender performs.


It's a great option for wet weather or river crossings because it simply doesn't absorb much water and dries quickly. With a dry weight of just 8.90 ounces, its one of the most lightweight shoes out there. In addition, it only held 2.57 oz of water in our submersion tests, which is next to nothing in comparison to other models.

The lightweight upper makes this shoe one of the quickest to dry and the second lightest tested! A huge step up from the previous model. Don't be afraid to plunge it on river crossings.
The lightweight upper makes this shoe one of the quickest to dry and the second lightest tested! A huge step up from the previous model. Don't be afraid to plunge it on river crossings.

Sensitivity


While the Challenger 4 provides decent sensitivity for a maximalist shoe, its one of the least comparably sensitive shoes in this review.


While the forefoot doesn't have as much EVA foam cushioning as the heel, it still has enough that you can't feel every rock or root. As a result, it doesn't score very high in this category.

Heather runs out some nice single-track in this less sensitive option.
Heather runs out some nice single-track in this less sensitive option.

Best Applications


Take the Challenger 4 to the tops of mountains or through the desert. Functioning best for a runner looking for long-term comfort in the form of a maximalist sole, this shoe is best for those that prefer a narrow to medium fit in the forefoot. The outer offers some water resistance and absorbs next to nothing - making it a great option for river crossings. It also dries quickly. It performs best on dry trails made of sand, dirt, gravel, or asphalt, so avoid it for super sloppy conditions. Take it with you on any distance!

Nicole runs it out on a varied trail early in the morning.
Nicole runs it out on a varied trail early in the morning.

Value


The $130 price tag isn't terrible, and this Top Pick is a high-value performer for those in search of a fantastic maximalist shoe. We didn't observe any wear and tear after 70 miles of running except for some lugs wearing down (which is normal). Overall, this is a great value for a comfortable Top Pick.

Conclusion


The HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 4 is a maximalist shoe featuring stacks of responsive and comfortable. This Top Pick will keep your feet happy and comfortable for miles upon miles!

Amber tests the new HOKA ONE ONE Challenger 4 on snow  mud  dirt  and more. This Top Pick for Comfort kept us happy on this six mile run.
Amber tests the new HOKA ONE ONE Challenger 4 on snow, mud, dirt, and more. This Top Pick for Comfort kept us happy on this six mile run.


Amber King