HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 Review
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
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HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6
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|$179.95 at Backcountry|
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|$160.00 at Amazon||Check Price at REI|
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|Pros||Very light, maximally cushioned, comfortable, relatively affordable, more stable than past versions||Unbeatable fit, very comfortable, fantastic underfoot protection, doesn’t absorb much water, ankle collar keeps out debris, very stable||Excellent traction, protective and sensitive, light, comfortable, durable||Good protection and sensitivity, stable||Precise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debris|
|Cons||A tad narrow, tread could be stickier and more aggressive, not sensitive||Expensive, hard to get on foot, must wear above the ankle height socks, hard to stuff laces into garage||Expensive, tongue comfort affects some||Not particularly breathable, fit is small||Narrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightest|
|Bottom Line||With a wider landing platform, this thickly padded shoe is more stable than we would expect||A perfectly fitting, comfortable, and very protective shoe that just begs to be worn on long run days||The best zero-drop trail runner demands no compromises, and has all the features for any type of terrain or distance||These shoes offer loads of protection but little in the way of breathability||A precise fitting shoe that translates well into high performance, as long as your feet aren’t too wide|
|Rating Categories||HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6||Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3||Inov-8 Terraultra G 270||La Sportiva Bushido II||La Sportiva Kaptiva|
|Foot Protection (30%)|
|Specs||HOKA ONE ONE...||Salomon S/Lab...||Inov-8 Terraultra...||La Sportiva...||La Sportiva Kaptiva|
|Weight (per pair)||21.8 oz (size 11)||22.4 oz (size 11)||20.9 oz (size 11)||21.9 oz (size 9.5)||22.3 oz (size 11)|
|Heel-to-Toe Drop||5 mm||8 mm||0 mm||6 mm||6 mm|
|Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot)||30 mm, 25 mm||26 mm, 18 mm||22 mm, 22 mm||19 mm, 13 mm||17 mm, 11 mm|
|Upper||Unifi REPREVE recycled yarn||Anti-Debris Mesh with sockliner||Breathable Mesh||Air mesh/thermal adhesive microfiber/high-frequency welded ripstop overlays/TPU toe cap||Sock-Like knit|
|Midsole||CMEVA foam midsole||Energy Save PU foam with Profeel Film rock protection||Powerflow Max||4mm LaSpEVA/compression-molded MEMlex/1.5 mm dual-density compressed EVA||Duel-density EV|
|Outsole||Trail Outsole with 4 mm lugs||Contagrip MA Rubber||Graphene Grip||FriXion XT V-Groove2 rubber with Impact Brake System||FriXion XF 2.0|
|Lacing style||Traditional||Quicklace with garage||Traditional||Traditional||Traditional|
|Wide version available?||Yes||No||No||No||No|
|Sizes Available||7 - 15||4 - 13||7 - 15||38 - 48.5||38 - 47.5|
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. We love them for trail running, and while other HOKA's such as the Speedgoat 4 have far more aggressive and stickier lug patterns, we think the shape and comfort level of the Challenger actually makes it more enjoyable to run longer distances in — 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 lots of colors and a wide version if you have extra wide feet or just want to allow your foot extra space to expand on the back half of a hundred.
With the latest update naturally comes a number of 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
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. 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. The upper, on the other hand, 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.
The sole of these shoes is comprised of a roughly 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 a bit into soft or slippery surfaces. 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. 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.
Stability has long been the biggest downside to maximally cushioned shoes such as HOKA's, 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. This includes a firmer foam compound that is more reliably consistent when landing, as well as a fairly low 5mm heel-toe drop.
For this recent update, HOKA has greatly expanded the size of the platform under the heel, which has enhanced the feeling of stability, according to our testing. While the fit of the heel within the upper is the same, the foam itself expands outwards below the foot. This by no means ensures stability on par with low riding, zero-drop shoes, but it does improve on past HOKA's and has helped the shoe feel less tippy.
We find this to be a very comfortable shoe, with an average width in the forefoot, adequate space for the toes, and a heel that is 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 as well, and these most recent iterations of this shoe fit and feel pretty much identical. This is a very 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 weighed in at 21.8 ounces per pair of men's size 11 on our scale, which is a tiny smidge heavier than the last versions. This minimal added weight can probably be attributed to the larger volume of foam underfoot.
These rank up there with some of the 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 everyday trainers. This is remarkable to think about since they are so large and offer such great protection. This is also something to consider when searching for an ultra shoe, as even an ounce or two can really make a huge difference in terms of fatigue if you are running 50 or 100 miles.
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 are designed specifically to protect the foot and body from the ground and repetitive impacts. This is one of the trade-offs of choosing a maximally cushioned shoe.
These are some of the more affordable HOKA shoes, and now rank roughly average in terms of price for a pair of trail running shoes. Since we think they are one of the better shoes you can buy, they present solid value. Historically, based on our own experience and by talking with others, these are shoes that can handle many miles, which adds to the overall value. They won't look pretty when they are done, but what shoe does?
The HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 is a great maximally cushioned shoe designed to be equally as effective on mellow terrain as on gnarly mountain trails. Despite its urban capabilities, we actually prefer it as our favorite HOKA 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.
— Andy Wellman