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Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 Review

This appealing and maximally cushioned shoe can handle high miles on all types of terrain
Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6
Photo: HOKA ONE ONE
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $130 List | Check Price at REI
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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  ⋅  Jan 26, 2021
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 16
  • Foot Protection - 25% 9
  • Traction - 20% 7
  • Sensitivity - 15% 3
  • Stability - 15% 6
  • Comfort - 15% 7
  • Weight - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6 is our favorite maximally cushioned shoe because it offers features that appeal to everyone, including a wider landing platform that helps increase stability on uneven terrain. This shoe, updated in late 2020, 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.

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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 stableGood protection and sensitivity, stableStable, low to the ground, great tractionG-grip graphene enhanced outsole is very durable, super comfortable, low to the ground and responsive
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 garageNot particularly breathable, fit is smallA little heavy for a trail shoeNot as sticky as previous versions, not super protective underfoot or in the upper
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 performanceThese protective tanks will keep going over rocky ridges and scree fields but aren't great for hotter environmentsThis is a very stable shoe with a sticky outsole that's perfect for putting in miles over varied terrainA very comfortable, low riding shoe that has excellent and durable traction
Rating Categories Hoka One One Challe... Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 La Sportiva Bushido II Saucony Peregrine 11 Inov-8 Roclite 290
Foot Protection (25%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
Traction (20%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Sensitivity (15%)
3.0
6.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Stability (15%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Comfort (15%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
8.0
Weight (10%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
Specs Hoka One One Challe... Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 La Sportiva Bushido II Saucony Peregrine 11 Inov-8 Roclite 290
Measured Weight (per pair) 21.8 oz (size 11) 22.4 oz (size 11) 21.9 oz (size 9.5) 22.5 oz (size 9.5) 21.6 oz (size 11)
Heel-to-Toe Drop 5 mm 8 mm 6 mm 4 mm 4 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 30 mm, 25 mm 26 mm, 18 mm 19 mm, 13 mm 27 mm, 23 mm 17.5 mm, 13.5 mm
Upper Unifi REPREVE recycled yarn Anti-Debris Mesh with sockliner Air mesh/thermal adhesive microfiber/high-frequency welded ripstop overlays/TPU toe cap Reinforced mesh Mesh upper with ADAPTERWEB foot cradle system
Midsole CMEVA foam midsole Energy Save PU foam with Profeel Film rock protection 4mm LaSpEVA/compression-molded MEMlex/1.5 mm dual-density compressed EVA PWRRUN PowerFlow
Outsole Trail Outsole with 4 mm lugs Contagrip MA Rubber FriXion XT V-Groove2 rubber with Impact Brake System PWRTRAC Tri-C Sticky
Lacing Style Traditional Quicklace with garage Traditional Traditional Traditional
Wide Version Available? Yes No No Yes No
Sizes Available 7 - 15 4 - 13 38 - 48.5 7 - 14 7 - 15

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.

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 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

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. 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.

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 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.

The outsole rubber is pretty sticky on all surfaces, and we found...
The outsole rubber is pretty sticky on all surfaces, and we found that it grips rock very well, while also providing enough traction on soft and slippery surfaces.

As you can see, the lugs are mostly flat on top, with a lot of...
As you can see, the lugs are mostly flat on top, with a lot of surface area. This design improves grip on hard surfaces, and also resists wearing down super quickly. This lug pattern does a good job on trails as well as pavement or bike paths.

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 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.


Stability


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.

While Hoka's have long been one of the least stable shoes available...
While Hoka's have long been one of the least stable shoes available on the market, we can't say enough about the improvements that have been made - we even felt like side-hilling and running over uneven terrain were no different in this shoe, the Challenger ATR 6, than with many others.

A big increase to the stability comes from a much wider landing...
A big increase to the stability comes from a much wider landing platform underneath the heel. The thick foam here tapers outward away from the heel, so the platform is much wider, adding to lateral stability, especially when landing.

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 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 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, 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.

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.

Value


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?

As a shoe that can handle a lot of miles, either at once or over a...
As a shoe that can handle a lot of miles, either at once or over a lifetime, the Challenger presents a great value.

Conclusion


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.

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.

Andy Wellman