Hoka Challenger ATR 7 GTX Review: An All-Terrain Runner

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Over the past 15 years, I’ve run plenty of road races. On the flipside, I’ve always really enjoyed my trail runs, and have had amazing moments out in a more natural setting. This Hoka Challenger ATR 7 GTX is being promoted as a running shoe that meets at the intersection of road and trail. Conversely, I do see it as a nice in-between runner that could work on the various surfaces I hit every single day. Furthermore, the tread and lugs may not be the most aggressive, but I’d still classify it more as a trail shoe then one for the road. That said, I travel multiple surfaces to get to my favorite trails, so I’m excited to see how they work with my running routine. In other words, it’s time to take these bad boys on some runs to really see where the sweet spot falls for me.

Technical Specifications

  • Engineered Mesh – Provides lightweight breathability with recycled content
  • GORE-TEX Invisible fit with recycled content – Delivers enhanced moisture management with improved fit and faster drying
  • Compression molded EVA Midsole – Cushioned for non-stop comfort
  • Durabrasion Rubber Outsole – Extends the rubber longevity
  • 4mm Lugs – Provides improved traction on uneven terrain.

Features

  • Waterproof
  • Breathable
  • Made from recycled materials
  • Versatile all-terrain shoe

Upper Of The Hoka Challenger ATR 7

The engineered mesh for the front portion of the shoe is completely seamless. We all have feet that are quite unique, of course, and Hoka puts forth a shoe that can appeal to many a foot. By being seamless, it allows for each and every individual foot to mold to the shoe and to move freely.

In addition, the mesh is also lightweight and quite breathable. That’s a really key feature which pays good dividends. Structural and strong while allowing for airflow is what makes for a good running shoe. Hoka has added the Gore-Tex invisible Fit for increased protection no matter the weather. The focus is on using recycled content incorporated in there which I can appreciate. A lot of shoes get worn down quickly, so any little environmental advantage pays good dividends in my eyes.

The extended heel tab is good. It allows a bit of extra padding and protection. Plus, I tend to jam my feet into my shoes, and that extra bit of handhold allows me to do that a little easier.

Midsole

The uppers play their role, the soles have a specific function, but the midsole is what can be a difference maker for the wearer. I put a fair bit of mileage on my shoes each year, and support is playing a bigger and bigger role with every year that passes.

The EVA Midsole of the Hoka Challenger ATR 7 is supportive, yet soft at the same time. They have been compression molded with an increased stack height over the previous model for a plusher feel. Additionally, it is also a little bit lighter. Technology and design advancements are always being tweaked and improved. That is certainly evident with these Challengers as they’ve really stepped it up form the previous versions.

Outsole

Being able to confidently wear a shoe that I can wear out my door is ideal. I have to traverse on concrete sidewalks and asphalt roads to get to my favorite gravel path and single track trails. I’ve managed to do that. My initial concern was how the slightly bigger lugs would feel on the harder surfaces, but it’s been just fine. I can hardly tell the difference between these and the road runners I sport.

The Durabrasion rubber outsole provides strength and durability, and extends rubber longevity. In turn, the 4mm lugs are great for providing traction on most surfaces while not being overly thick on the man-made ones. The traction is good as I’ve really taken them on just about anything nature has thrown at me.

Taking the Hoka Challenger ATR 7 On Trails, Roads, Gravel, Or Whatever.

First and foremost, I’ve enjoyed the plushness of this shoe. The technical term is “stack height”, and I feel they’ve done it well. I still recall when I saw my first Hoka at a trail race in 2011, and the thickness was met with lots of reaction to put it mildly. We were in the throes of a minimalist and barefoot movement, so the Hokas were a 180 degree juxtaposition. With that said, it took me a few years as well to dive into a thicker soled Hoka, and I am definitely a convert.

The Hoka Challenger ATR 7 GTX are probably the perfect shoe for me. I have ran my fair share of road marathons, as well as the occasional Ultra running adventure. Over time, I have made a real effort to run as much on softer surfaces as possible. Age and continual pounding has taken its toll on me. Therefore, you will always catch me on that single track trail that’s been created right next to our neighborhood concrete paths.

I decided to go to Elk Mountain near Evergreen Colorado to test the capability of these Challengers on a multitude of trail conditions. Just about everything you can imagine out there, I came across. Trail conditions ran the gamut from asphalt, snow, mud, hard-packed dirt, ice, sand, to everything in between. Throw in the fact that I experienced rain, mist, snow, and a rather dense and chilly fog. It was truly a thing of beauty. Feeling alive is something you hear about, and this may be as close to that as I could come.

These Challengers showed up about a month before a self-imagined, self-planned, self-directed local race some of my nutty friends and I put together. The concept for this race is rather wacky for sure. Participants run laps up and down a local sled hill with 34′ of elevation gain on each lap that’s 1/3 mile long. Hence, 3 laps equals 1 mile. Most folks think we are absolutely nuts, but we create a fun atmosphere through our little running community. Everyone had their own purpose, but the big goal was 100 laps for what equates roughly to a 50k ultra.

The terrain gave us a little bit of everything. hard packed dirt, washed out gravel, and the last one which gave everyone a real challenge, soft sandy beach sand. A perfect match for my Hoka Challengers. I was dealing with an injury, so I limited my effort to 40 laps. Neither here nor there, I felt good on my feet during my runs as well as supporting all the others.

Final Thoughts On The Hoka Challenger ATR 7 GTX

Perfect fit meets comfort while also providing the confidence to tackle pretty much anything nature can throw at you. The Hoka Challenger ATR 7 GTX is a certifiable athletic piece of perfection. I have not found a flaw as I’ve put a good hundred miles on them. Fit is personal, and I expect you to try them out for yourself. Furthermore, as a road warrior and trail wizard, the Hoka Challengers are that exact fit to meet in the middle of hard and soft running surfaces. The value, dollar for dollar, is a good one. $160 these days is middle of the road, but the bang for the buck is much better. Therefore I’d definitely say to give them a shot for yourself. For more details and purchase please visit www.hoka.com.

Niels Oomkes: I am a multi-sport endurance athlete, and love to get out into the great outdoors to push the body to its limit. Most of my weekend expeditions, adventures, trips, or vacations are planned around running, biking, snowshoeing, camping, or anything else that will allow me to enjoy nature's exquisite beauty.
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