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Hoka Challenger ATR 7: The OG Door-to-Trail
By Matthew Klein

As more road runners have gotten interested in trail running, an increasing number of road/trail hybrid shoes have come to market. One of the longer-standing members of this category is the Hoka Challenger series. Like many hybrids, the Challenger ATR is more of a trail shoe than a road shoe, but still has the capacity to handle both. This makes it more of a door-to-trail shoe, but also gives it better tolerance to more aggressive trails. The most recent version continues this trend while dropping a large amount of weight and maintaining its cushioning level. Now being in the lightweight trainer / potential race day shoe category, the Challenger ATR continues to evolve while still maintaining its place as one the OG hybrid shoes. 

Shop: $144.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 8.9 oz, g (men's size 9), 7.7 oz, 218 g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: Not Provided (Max Stack Height)
Drop: 5 mm
Classification: Door to Trail / Hybrid Lightweight Training Shoe


The Hoka Challenger ATR 7 is a snug-fitting door-to-trail / hybrid road/trail shoe for those who want a high level of firmer cushioning in a lightweight package. The ride is highly rockered with firmer CMEVA cushioning and a well-lugged outsole. The upper is snug with an engineered mesh that locks down the foot fairly well. Those with narrow feet wanting a lightweight trail door-to-trail shoe that can still handle a variety of trails should check out this newest and lightest of the series.

: Craft CTM Ultra 2, Salomon Ultra Glide 2


The Hoka Challenger ATR 7 fits me true to size in my normal men's US size 10. The fit is snug, especially in the forefoot. The toebox feels tapered and narrow, opening into a slightly snug forefoot. The midfoot is normal to slightly snug with a moderately thick and gusseted tongue. This transitions into a slightly snug heel with a moderate amount of heel collar cushioning and a stiff heel counter. The heel collar cushioning slightly protects the heel from the counter. Those who like stiff counters will like this shoe, while those sensitive may not be able to tolerate this heel. The security is solid thanks to the gusseted tongue, sidewalls, and inherently snug fit. I have not had to lace-lock the shoe at all even while traversing unstable terrain. This is a shoe that requires socks even though the front half of the shoe is quite comfortable against bare skin. There is a seam between the heel and midfoot that can be scratchy and the tapered toebox has given me a blister with longer efforts. Thus, I would recommend at least thin socks with this shoe.


The Hoka Challenger ATR 7 features a lower drop, rockered, maximal, moderately firm ride underfoot. The midsole is compression-molded EVA, which on the road feels firm but slightly soft on trail. The weight has dropped almost an ounce from the previous version and despite the shoe's large volume, it feels light on foot. The ride is highly rockered with a large centered heel bevel, a stiff forefoot, and a large amount of toe spring. The toe spring does hold the toes in some degree of extension, so those with limited range of motion at the toes should be cautious. There is almost no flexibility in the forefoot (as mentioned above), so those who can handle a little toe extension but can't handle flexible fronts will be fine. There is a 5mm listed drop which is not as noticeable thanks to the large rockered sole.

The midsole performs best on trail where the lighter weight and slightly softer ride make the shoe feel like a nimble tank. While not aggressive enough for the races I would run (shorter 5k-half marathon trail races), those wanting a longer distance non-plated but stiff racing shoe will do well here. The Challenger ATR 7 feels best with steady longer efforts and daily training runs. It feels a little large for faster efforts, but does extremely well when a consistent pace is needed. The outsole features large lugs that grip well on a variety of trail surfaces. They are not quite aggressive enough to handle slippery mud, but fire roads, uneven dirt, rocking terrain and gravel, these do great. Surprisingly, despite a large amount of road use, the outsole durability has been quite good. I have 24 miles on my pair without any major wear in my usual spots, so I expect an above-average number of miles out of the Hoka Challenger ATR 7.


The Hoka Challenger ATR 7 is a stable neutral shoe. As with many Hoka shoes, there are significant medial and lateral sidewalls that travel from the heel all the way to the midfoot on the lateral side and the forefoot on the medial side. The base of the shoe is wider with a midfoot that is filled in, which combined with the rockered ride adds to the inherent guided ride. The stiff and far forward heel counter further adds structure to the rearfoot. The ride is highly centered in the midfoot with some mild medial guidance at the forefoot. The heel is mostly centered, but has a centered, slightly medial heel bevel. This creates a little more lateral flare laterally, which made the heel feel slightly clunky to me until I starting landing a little farther forward. So overall the guidance is good, but a repositioning of the bevel may be needed.  

Thoughts as a DPT: The Importance of Transverse Plane Toe Motion Availability in Distance Running Footwear
By Matthew Klein

The title is a fancy way of saying "Why adequate room for the toes is necessary in distance running footwear" (I just wanted it to sound fancy). I have gone back and forth on the toebox of the Challenger ATR 7. While I understand this may fit some people with narrow feet fine, it does limit this shoe's availability to that group and those who want a snug fit.

For everyone else, this is a limiting factor as the ability of the toes to have some movement availability side to side is important to both shock absorption at the forefoot as well as stability. Increasing the surface area in general improves stability, so having toe boxes keep the toes in a more narrow position may theoretically reduce stability of the forefoot. Limiting a series of joints from moving can be helpful for some pathologies, but the toes being able to spread is one of the mechanisms by which the forefoot performs shock absorption either during initial contact for forefoot strikers or midstance and terminal stance for everyone. Restricting and limiting motion for those with normal mechanics may be problematic as it theoretically may place more pressure into bones, nerves and other tissues in this area if worn for longer than those structures can recover.

The challenge with my above comments is that it is what many of us in the medical industry are taught, but there is a lack of evidence to support the above. There is evidence that narrow toe boxes can alter the anatomy of the first toe joint (metatarsophalangeal joint) and even young people can experience react bone reactions (Montiel et al., 2021). Further evidence has suggested that narrow toe boxes increase pressure on the medial digits, rounded toe boxes decrease it in healthy non-runners (Branthwaite et al., 2013). Outside of that, we are missing large-scale kinetic and kinematic studies that further investigate this.

What this means is that we really don't know and the true answer will depend on the individual. If narrow-toe boxes are causing you issues, then you may want to look for footwear with more rounded ones. If you do well with a more snug fit, like the lockdown and don't have any issues, then you might be fine. It is easy to make blanket statements, but the truth has much greater variety when it comes to the individual.


Branthwaite, H., Chockalingam, N., & Greenhalgh, A. (2013). The effect of shoe toe box shape and volume on forefoot interdigital and plantar pressures in healthy females. Journal of foot and ankle research6(1), 1-9.

Montiel, V., Valentí, A., Villas, C., Valverde, C., & Alfonso, M. (2021). Hallux anatomy: Much ado about shoes—An attempt to prove that constrictive V-shaped toe-box shoes deform the hallux. Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery, 1-8.


The Challenger ATR 7 is a solid trail shoe for those who want something that is narrow fitting and max cushioned. I have several suggestions for not only this shoe, but the series in general. I understand using a centered heel bevel, but to have it slightly medial makes no sense. People tend to land on the posterior lateral side, so any bevel should be angled slightly laterally based on normal heel landing mechanics. My other question is why the toe box is narrow. Although we have not reviewed the previous versions, I have tried several of them and consistently experienced this. While this will work great for those with narrow feet, the rest of the population may struggle with this over long distances. The toe box could use a little more room, but the snug fit throughout the rest of the shoe is great for security. 


The Hoka Challenger ATR 7 drops a large amount of weight, making it an excellent shoe for those with narrow feet or needing a snug fit who want a highly cushioned, highly rockered door to trail ride. The lugged outsole manages to maintain its grip on most trail surfaces while not being too aggressive for short road efforts. The lighter weight means less to carry over long distances, which it is excellent at doing except for the narrow toe box.

While the drop in weight is great, I am confused as many Hoka shoes are now within this weight range. This creates a large amount of overlap and redundancy. The Torrent, Zinal, Tecton X are also right within this weight range. This is not a criticism of the Challenger ATR 7, but of Hoka's need to create better distinction between its faster trail shoes. The ATR 7 is the most max stack height of the group and the most snug, but like the newest Rocket X 2, I think some of the other trail racing shoes need foam upgrades that drop the weight. If the Challenger ATR 7 can drop below 9 oz, with some midsole tweaks the others can be even lighter as well. I assume this is already in the works (I hope) but if not, I want to further encourage Hoka to create distinctions between these models to make it easier for consumers to decide which one suits their needs best.


Fit: (Snug fit throughout with solid amount of security. Tapered toe box that will work better for those narrow feet)
Performance: B+/A-
 (Lightweight, maximal, highly rockered ride. Works well on trails and for door to trail efforts)
Stability: A- [Stable Neutral] (High sidewalls and wider sole make for a centered ride throughout the length of the shoe)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Solid drop in weight while maintaining cushioning. For a long-distance shoe, a wider toe box is needed for adequate toe splay and I would highly consider reducing the toe spring to a more neutral toe position.)
Personal: B (I really like the ride of this shoe on trail, but the tapered toe-box makes it difficult for me to continue to reach for this shoe compared to other options)
Overall: B+


Shop: $144.95 at Running Warehouse

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***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Hoka for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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