The HOKA ONE ONE Challenger 5 stands out for its responsive cushioning and all-around impressive performance during short, and ultra-distance trail runs. We chose to wear this Top Pick for comfort on a 20-mile run in the desert because of its protective nature. The double-mesh overlay kept particulates out of the shoe while the shock absorbance left our legs feeling like they could keep going. While it's not as stable as the Altra King MT 1.5, a Top Pick for Versatility because of its taller stack height, it certainly provides excellent stability in comparison to other maximalist contenders. The Challenger 5 is happiest on easy to moderate trails that aren't particularly slippery or soft. It performs well on hard packed snow and sweltering trails in the desert — an excellent option for those with a regular fit seeking a cushioned shoe.
HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5 - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Responsive cushioning, new durable upper, breathable, protective construction
Cons: Less stable
Manufacturer: HOKA ONE ONE
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Loaded with responsive EVA foam, this Top Pick for Comfort is a favorite for its smooth ride that'll take you smoothly over moderately technical terrain. It's quite protective and offers a surprising level of sensitivity. While it's not the most stable trail shoe out there, it feels pretty stable on the trail for a maximalist contender because of its broader base and 4 mm heel-to-toe drop.
The Challenger ATR 5 offers an average level of protection on the trail. The new updates reduce the amount of cushioning underfoot, but still offer the same level of protective performance. Both the upper and outsole, together, offer this protection.
The upper of this shoe features a double-layered mesh that keeps out fine particles and matter. It has a stack height in the heel of 28 mm with 23 mm in the forefoot. While it doesn't have an additional rock plate to protect from underfoot hazards, the cushioning is more than enough. This shoe is not waterproof, but because the upper overlay is composed of synthetic material, it can resist a few drops of water.
While running over sharp rocks, you can expect the super soft and responsive cushioning to wrap around hazards so you can't feel it on your foot. When running in the desert, it kept our feet free of the tiniest particulates. The only sand and silt we saw made its way in through the collar of the shoe. The toe cap isn't particularly rigid, so big stubs can happen. Though, it is reinforced and offers protection from small unsuspected stubs.
When running in the snow, it saturates pretty quickly. While the overlay is synthetic, it'll resist some water, but if it sits long enough, it'll absorb. As a result, we recommend it for drier, moderate to easy running terrain. Given its level of protection that keeps feet seemingly fresh, it's perfect for short to long runs. Some people love it for ultra running as well.
This year's rendition is a little more sensitive than the previous version. In general, the Challenger ATR 5 isn't a very sensitive shoe because of its ample amounts of cushioning found in the midsole, especially in the heel. This shoe does not have a rock plate.
With the integration of a little less cushioning in the heel and forefoot in this update, it's made the shoe more sensitive. While running the Perimeter Trail in Ouray, CO, we could feel natural undulations of the trail that we hadn't been able to feel before. Inherently, this makes the shoe a little more protective in that we can detect if lateral stability isn't on point, allowing us to correct positioning.
That said, we still couldn't feel sharp rocks or smaller hazards that we'd be able to detect with ultra-sensitive options like the Altra King MT 1.5s or the Inov-8 TerraUltra G260. Overall, this is a less sensitive trail runner that promotes comfort and protection, with just enough sensitivity to know what's underfoot.
Traction is best for less technical terrain, offering the best performance on smooth to mildly technical surfaces. The flatter lugs are not designed to take on super soft surfaces that may include mud or snow. They can deal with rocks, roots, and dirt but should be left home if the surface is going to be super sloppy, steep or technical.
In the newest update, HOKA changed the lugs at the back of the heel. Now they are closer together to prevent slippage while going uphill and downhill. We didn't notice any slippage unless the trail was muddy or wet.
Also, the lugs are concentrated on the forefoot to offer better traction and propulsion forward with each step. In the center of the outsole, there are absorptive lugs with a large surface area that do great on smoother surfaces.
However, because the lugs aren't particularly long or distributed far away from each other, like the Salomon Speedcross, our Top Pick for Traction, they don't perform well in mud. In snow, they do okay as long as there is no ice.
Of the different maximalist options out there, in our research, we've learned this is one of the most stable cushioned contenders. With all of the airy cushioning offered with the Challenger ATR 5, it still feels surprisingly close to the trail. The stack height is at a perfect 4mm, offering an excellent level of cushioning in the heel, but not too high to make it feel less stable for the height. However, in comparison to other trail shoes, it's not as stable as your heel is high in the air, where most trail runners have a heel that is relatively close to the ground.
People either love or hate maximalist shoes simply because of stability on the trail. Some people feel like they are high in the air, and can't feel the trail. It's no doubt that it does take a little getting used to the experience. The Challenger ATR 5s do a better job with this than ever before. With a lower stack height than in the past, you don't feel as tall. Also, the shoe has a relatively wide area in the front that allows for some toe splay which helps with balancing off-camber movement that might cause a rolled ankle. The overlay mesh wraps the foot nicely, providing decent lateral stability and a fit that doesn't move around in the shoe.
While this is an improvement from the previous model, it's still not the most stable contender out there. If you're somebody who has issues with lateral stability and needs something that won't roll easily, this is not a top recommendation. While it does well for it's a category of shoe, there are most stable options out there. As a result of this performance, its recommended for less technical trails that lack ankle-rolling rocks, and is better for faster, moderately technical terrain.
Comfort & Fit
We love this shoe because it boasts a comfortable midsole, loaded with EVA foam. It's extremely responsive providing great lift-off with each step. This ample volume provides great protection and will have you running for miles on miles. This responsive cushioning earns it a Top Pick.
Other shoes also boast quite a bit of cushioning throughout the midsole but isn't as responsive or springy. This responsiveness is what makes this shoe stand out. The overlay is also breathable, offering airflow on hot days. This feature makes it an exceptional choice for warm days. It also works well with a thicker pair of socks in the winter.
The redesigned lacing system has welded overlays that fix an issue present in last year's model where the shoe creased at the toe. Now the mesh is continuous and comfortable for short to long days on the trail.
The laces are also far enough apart that they can cinch down, which is an excellent option for those with a narrow foot. We also like that the collar isn't ultra-padded but is thinner and soft on contact points, which is vital for all-day wear.
Similar to the previous model, it offers a wider profile that promotes a regular fit. Some of our wide-footed friends noted that at the widest part of their foot, there was a little bit of friction. There isn't any arch support, but the interior of the shoe pinches into the inside of the arch which offers a little bit of support. The heel cup is nice a deep with a supportive collar that protects the Achilles.
For all the ''stuff'' loaded into this maximalist shoe, it's lightweight. It is just 9.10 oz for one size nine making it a great option for any distance of run you wish.
This well-cushioned shoe is happiest on easy to moderate trails with moderately technical terrain. It's higher stack height makes it a little less stable than most trail runners and should be avoided if you're planning on hiking or running over trails that are full of rocks. Its ample breathability promotes utility all year-round. This maximalist shoe is best for trail treaders with a regular fit looking for a little cushioning underfoot.
We put about 80 miles on this shoe during our testing period and haven't noticed any durability issues. The welded overlays seem that they may last a long time with a more rigid upper that is resistant to wear and tear. Online, there have been reports of the outsole coming apart and the mesh busting through after about 50 miles, but we haven't observed these issues. Overall, the $130 is pretty standard, and for a niche shoe that offers decent performance, we'd say that value is on point.
This Top Pick for Comfort offers a responsive and cushioned midsole that is surprisingly sensitive for a maximalist contender. Absorbing potential trail hazards, it's fairly protective. If you're looking for more cushioning to aid in absorbing shock while running, this protective and comfortable option may be for you. It's a fine choice for easy to moderate trails with a moderate level of technicality. Given the higher stack height, it's a little less stable and not recommended for the most technical trail options out there.
— Amber King