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HOKA Challenger ATR 6 Review

This appealing and maximally cushioned shoe can handle high miles on all types of terrain
HOKA Challenger ATR 6
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Price:  $140 List | $139.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Very light, maximally cushioned, comfortable, relatively affordable, more stable than past versions
Cons:  A tad narrow, tread could be stickier and more aggressive, not sensitive
Manufacturer:   HOKA ONE ONE
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 6, 2022
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#16 of 19
  • Foot Protection - 25% 9.0
  • Traction - 20% 7.0
  • Sensitivity - 15% 3.0
  • Stability - 15% 6.0
  • Comfort - 15% 7.0
  • Weight - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

The HOKA Challenger ATR 6 is one of our favorite maximally cushioned trail shoes because it offers features that appeal to everyone, including a broader landing platform that helps increase stability on uneven terrain. This shoe remains very similar to the previous model, with only minor changes to the look and design of the upper, combined with a much wider midsole under the heel. It is comfortable, lightweight, and offers supreme cushioning to help reduce the impacts of repetitive stress on your body. We think this version, in particular, serves as an excellent crossover shoe, suitable to both urban trails and bike paths, as well as for long ultra-distance trail races and training, and is a choice of footwear that most users will appreciate.

Editor's Note: The HOKA Challenger ATR 6 review was updated on March 6, 2022, with recommendations on what we would buy and more help to compare competing products.

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HOKA Challenger ATR 6
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Very light, maximally cushioned, comfortable, relatively affordable, more stable than past versionsUnbeatable fit, very comfortable, fantastic underfoot protection, doesn’t absorb much water, ankle collar keeps out debris, very stableUltralight, supportive, uncharacteristically agileWell cushioned, comfortable fit, sticky rubber grips rock very well, decent priceAffordable, comfortable ride, versatile crossover option
Cons A tad narrow, tread could be stickier and more aggressive, not sensitiveExpensive, hard to get on foot, must wear above the ankle height socks, hard to stuff laces into garageLoose-fitting heel pocket, lack of trail feelingHigh heel counter, not the lightestSoft upper is unstable, lacks energy, inconsistent traction
Bottom Line This appealing and maximally cushioned shoe can handle high miles on all types of terrainThe cream of the crop for trail running shoes delivers fine-tuned long run performanceAn ultra-supportive trail runner with an agile feel that is unlike any other HOKA shoe we've ever testedA very well cushioned shoe that is optimal for heel strikers and makes for a great option for everyday training as well as ultra distancesA comfortable, consistent, and approachable shoe for those looking to crossover from roads to trail running
Rating Categories HOKA Challenger ATR 6 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 HOKA Torrent 2 Salomon Sense Ride 4 Brooks Divide 2
Foot Protection (25%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Traction (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Sensitivity (15%)
3.0
6.0
5.0
8.0
6.0
Stability (15%)
6.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort (15%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Weight (10%)
8.0
6.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Specs HOKA Challenger ATR 6 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 HOKA Torrent 2 Salomon Sense Ride 4 Brooks Divide 2
Measured Weight (per pair) 19.8 oz (size 9.5) 21.5 oz (size 9.5) 18.3 oz (size 9.5) 20.7 oz (size 9.5) 21.5 oz (size 9.5)
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 30 mm, 25 mm 26 mm, 18 mm 23 mm, 18 mm 27 mm, 19 mm 25 mm, 17 mm
Heel-to-Toe Drop 5 mm 8 mm 5 mm 8 mm 8 mm
Lug Depth 4 mm 4 mm 5 mm 3 mm 3 mm
Upper Unifi REPREVE recycled mesh Anti-Debris mesh with sockliner Unifi REPREVE recycled mesh, TPU Synthetic mesh Mesh, TPU
Midsole CMEVA foam Energy Save PU foam with Profeel Film rock protection HOKA Profly: dual-density foam Optivibe Brooks BioMoGo EVA foam
Outsole Trail Outsole Contagrip MA Rubber Rubber Contagrip MA rubber Brooks TrailTack rubber
Rock Plate? No Yes No No Yes
Lacing Style Traditional Quicklace with garage Traditional Quicklace with garage Traditional
Wide Version Available? Yes No No No No
Sizes Available 7 - 15 US 4 - 13 US 7 - 15 US 7 - 14 US 7 - 15 US

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Challenger ATR 6 is designed to be an all-terrain runner (ATR) and, as such, has a tread pattern that is middle of the road in terms of trail running shoes. The tread grips well on trails but isn't so soft or aggressive that it will just rip off or wear down if you run on pavement, and thus this shoe is ideal for both. Even though other HOKAs have far more aggressive and stickier lug patterns, we still love the Challenger for trail running. We think the shape and comfort level of the Challenger makes them more enjoyable for running longer distances — the hallmark of the HOKA brand. These shoes are medium width and comfortably hold the foot in place without crunching the forefoot or toes when running downhill. They come in many colors and a wide version if you have extra wide feet or want to give your foot extra space to expand on the back half of a hundred.

The newest version in blue on the left, with the very similar older...
The newest version in blue on the left, with the very similar older 5 on the right. These shoes fit and feel very much the same, with the biggest changes present in the upper material, as well as the wider platform underneath the heel.

Changes to the Newest Challenger ATR
With the latest update naturally comes several changes, detailed below. Overall, however, the shoe feels very similar to the last version, so people who liked that shoe will likely recognize something familiar. Nothing drastic has been altered, and overall the effects are positive, in our opinion. The main changes are:
  • Significantly wider foam base under the heel, which increases stability, especially when heel striking or running downhill
  • Different tread pattern design, but similar effect with the same rubber and 4mm deep lugs
  • Different upper design with a tighter woven mesh material - the fit, however, feels pretty much the same
  • A more heavily reinforced toe bumper

Performance Comparison


The Challenger ATR 6 is a very comfortable shoe that is excellent...
The Challenger ATR 6 is a very comfortable shoe that is excellent for ultra distance or other long runs, as well as daily training. They absorb much of the impact of running, helping your legs stay fresh, and are incredibly light considering their size.

Foot Protection


HOKA shoes are well known for very thick foam midsoles that protect the foot from almost any impact while also providing shock absorption to reduce impact stress on runners, especially over long distances. The Challenger ATR 6 uses CMEVA foam, which is compression molded and feels sturdy underfoot, and earned one of the highest scores in our testing. Gone are the days of the super squishy and bouncy HOKA shoes.


The 30mm of underfoot foam certainly translates into a supreme amount of foot protection, and it's no surprise that these shoes rank up there with the best in this category. Stepping on rocks, roots, or any rough terrain won't phase your feet for a second while wearing these shoes, which is one of the best reasons to buy them. On the other hand, the upper offers a standard amount of protection for a mesh trail running shoe and has plenty of exposed fabric that can tear should it become caught on anything. If you frequently run through thick underbrush, you may want to consider wearing gaiters for extra protection.

These shoes are some of the most protective underfoot that you can...
These shoes are some of the most protective underfoot that you can buy, although this of course comes at the expense of sensitivity as well. They not only protect you from rocks, but also absorb a certain percentage of the repetitive forces of running.

Traction


The sole of these shoes has a relatively even mix of rubber traction covered in lugs and exposed foam that is flexible enough to bend and mold itself to the terrain. In our experience, this exposed foam may nick or tear a little bit here or there but is still surprisingly resilient and durable. The lugs are 4mm deep, and most are rectangular with a large amount of surface area, which tends to help with grip on hard surfaces but reduces the bite into soft or slippery surfaces. Thus, it earned an average score in this metric. The rubber is HOKA's compound, which strikes a pretty good balance between stickiness and durability.


The traction on this shoe is more than adequate for virtually all trail running and only becomes a bit of a hindrance if you are running through extreme mud, snow, or doing a lot of off-trail running, in which case you'd be better off with the a different shoe. It's also designed to be durable enough to run a fair amount on pavement without wearing off too quickly, making these a good option for urban trail runners.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Sensitivity


It will likely come as no surprise that these shoes rank near the bottom of the pile for sensitivity. The super thick, dense foam underfoot simply doesn't allow much through to the foot — by design. If you are after trail feel, we highly recommend you opt for a different shoe, as these HOKAs are explicitly designed to protect the foot and body from the ground and repetitive impacts. The lack of sensitivity is one of the trade-offs of choosing a maximally cushioned shoe.


Stability


Stability has long been the biggest downside to maximally cushioned shoes such as HOKAs, with their very tall stack of foam underneath the foot. In general, the further your foot is above the ground when it lands, the less stable the shoe is. However, HOKA has continued to improve these shoes to be more and more stable. The improvements include a firmer foam compound that is more reliably consistent when landing, as well as a reasonably low 5mm heel-toe drop; however, relative to other shoes in this review, the Challenger still scored below average.


Compared to past iterations, HOKA has expanded the size of the under-heel platform in this shoe, enhancing the feeling of stability. While the fit of the heel within the upper is the same, the foam itself expands outwards below the foot. This feature by no means ensures stability on par with low riding, zero-drop shoes, but it does improve on past HOKAs and has helped the shoe feel less tippy.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Comfort


We find this to be a very comfortable shoe, with an average width in the forefoot, adequate space for the toes, and a heel on the wider side, but not so much that it is loose and sloppy. Of course, everyone's feet are different, so you may not feel as comfortable in it as we did. Still, for those with wide feet, HOKA has you covered with a wide version. The shoe is also very well made, with a very smooth, nearly seamless inner and no pinch points or sources of chafing or rubbing that can cause blisters.


If we have to be nitpicky, we could say that the platform or insole feels slightly odd-shaped under the foot as if it isn't completely flat — it feels sort of hollow like a bathtub. We felt this with the last version, and these most recent iterations of this shoe fit and feel pretty much identical. It is a minor thing to point out and doesn't stop us from thinking this is one of the best long-distance options you can buy. Our feet felt great wearing them on 20+ mile training runs.

These shoes are comfortable on all sorts of terrain and for long...
These shoes are comfortable on all sorts of terrain and for long distances. We tested them by running in the snow in winter a lot, and they stayed very comfortable even when our feet got wet.

Weight


These shoes weighed in at 21.8 ounces per pair of men's size 11 on our scale, a tiny smidge heavier than the last versions. This minimal added weight can probably be attributed to the larger foam volume underfoot.


These rank up there with some lighter shoes in this review. While they are nowhere near as light as ultralight and low to the ground models, they are easily among the lightest of everyday trainers, which is remarkable to think about since they are so large and offer such excellent protection. We also consider this when searching for an ultra shoe, as even an ounce or two can make a massive difference in terms of fatigue if you are running 50 or 100 miles.

These are some seriously lightweight shoes, a couple of ounces...
These are some seriously lightweight shoes, a couple of ounces lighter than other Hoka's in our review. Considering their size, the low weight is remarkable, and it can't be overstated what sort of an energy advantage this can give over the course of very long distances.

Should You Buy the HOKA Challenger ATR 6?


The HOKA Challenger ATR 6 is a great maximally cushioned and versatile shoe designed to be equally as effective on mellow terrain as on gnarly mountain trails. Despite its urban capabilities, we actually prefer it for rougher trails, and especially long-distance running, as it has a more comfortable and stable design. We highly recommend this kick to those who want maximal cushioning and a comfortable, long-lasting ride.

Feeling light and nimble running across volcanic slick rock in the...
Feeling light and nimble running across volcanic slick rock in the Challenger ATR, with the happy running dog Rishi in tow.

What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?


These are some of the more affordable HOKA shoes and now are roughly average in terms of price for a pair of trail running shoes. Historically, based on our own experience and by talking with others, these are shoes that can handle many miles and will stick with you through your longest training sessions while giving you maximum support. The Scarpa Spin Ultra is another ultra-comfortable shoe that we recommend that offers good protection on longer distance runs. But if you prefer your runs to be short, quick, and punchy, you may prefer a lighter and more minimal shoe. The Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 is a good option for those who like zero-drop designs and a more aggressive tread.

Andy Wellman
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