Hoka Speedgoat 5 in red vs HOKA Challenger 7 in teal

HOKA Speedgoat 5 Vs HOKA Challenger 7 How To Choose

How does one choose between two of the very best trail running shoes for trail running and hiking – HOKA Speedgoat 5 vs HOKA Challenger 7? With a ~30mm stack height in the heel, massive amounts of pillowy midsole cushion, and a rainbow’s array of colorways, and grippy outsoles, both the HOKA Speedgoat 5 and HOKA Challenger 7 are head-turning shoes with similarly excellent performance. This article sets out to compare the two. But for a quick and dirty answer, we give the following shortcut

  • HOKA Challenger 7 is lighter weight and performs better on trails, hard pack, man-made surfaces, and moderate terrain
  • HOKA Speedgoat 5 is grippier and performs better off trail, in mud, snow, and on rock scrambles or steep terrain

In the past few years, HOKA has increased drastically in popularity among hikers, backpackers, and of course, trail runners — presenting a serious challenge to the trail dominance of models like the Altra Lone Peak. Users love HOKA’s increased comfort and protection against the rocky, rooty ground, upper and outsole durability that comes in above other trail running models, and the moderate drop that works for nearly everyone’s foot strike.

There are a lot of models to choose from with HOKA, but primarily, we recommend deciding between HOKA Speedgoat 5 vs HOKA Challenger 7. It can be hard to choose between these two, especially given how similar they look at first glance. However, there are some key differences (including pros and cons) between the two models, which we’ll review in this article.

This guide should help you choose between HOKA Speedgoat 5 vs HOKA challenger 7, and what to expect from each pair of shoes, both good and bad.

If you’re shopping for trail runners, we highly encourage you to check out our complete guide to the best trail running shoes of the year.

HOKA Speedgoat 5

Price: $155
M’ Weight: 10.3 oz | W’s Weight: 8.5 oz
Heel-Forefoot-Drop: M’s 33-29-4 | W’s 31-27-4
Lugs: 5 mm | Rockplate: No
Width: Average | Overall Fit: True to size
Wide Sizes Available: yes
On Trail/Off trail? Either

HOKA Speedgoat 5 is the trail runner we love most! We find it to be very comfortable and grippy in all situations, and the fifth edition is a big improvement over the fourth, making it lighter and more breathable. Alan and Jaeger were both hiking in Speedgoats as their trail running shoes of choice for going over snowy passes on the Wonderland Trail in 2022.

With a heel stack height >30, this is the tallest and most cushioned pair of trail running hiking shoes on our list, but aside from the excellent comfort that it provides, you would hardly notice it to be thick and clunky. Rather, we find walking in it to be pleasant, and that our steps are accurate and precise. Speedgoats have a 4mm drop, which we find to be a sweet spot. Adding to the comfort is a widened toe box , though the entire footbed is narrower than Altra Lone Peak’s, so those with average width feet won’t slosh around as much in technical terrain.

The tread might be our favorite part of this trail runner. 5mm of Vibram Megagrip with traction lugs do an excellent job on dirt, rock, mud, grass, and anything else you might walk on. We rarely ever slip or slide when wearing Speedgoats. Our only complaint is that the tread wears out a bit faster than average, and worn tread is the most likely reason you would need to replace a pair. We expect this trail running shoe to last a few hundred miles, less if you’re constantly on scratchy/rocky terrain.

As hiking shoes go, the mesh upper is very comfortable, quick drying, breathable, and doesn’t rub or chafe at all. The toe cap is reinforced and has yet to fail us. The laces are simple, but seem to grip themselves well and never come undone. We love the extended heel tab, which makes sliding in and out a breeze.

HOKA Speedgoat 5’s are an incredible, effective, comfortable trail runner, at home on or off the trail, no matter how gnarly the terrain.

HOKA Challenger 7

Price: $145
M’s Weight: 8.9 oz | W’s Weight: 7.3 oz
Heel-Forefoot-Drop: M’s 31-26-4 | W’s 29-24-4
Lugs: 4 mm | Rockplate: No
Width: Average | Overall Fit: True to size
Wide Sizes Available: Yes
On Trail/Off trail? On Trail

Pros: Lightweight. Perfectly cushioned. Wide toe box. Excellent on trail.
Cons: Modest traction.

Alan has previously described the Hoka Challenger 7 as the Goldilocks of trail running shoes for hiking. This is because it’s perfectly cushioned, lightweight, durable, long lasting, and such a comfortable and well-rounded pair of hiking shoes.

We would describe the cushion as solid and comfy, large but never too large to get in the way. It’s basically our dream cushion, perfect all-around. If we could switch every other pair of trail running shoes’ cushion out for Challenger 7’s, we probably would.

Compared to other trail runners on our list, Challenger 7 has a slightly less aggressive tread and with 4mm, instead of 5mm lugs, and flat spots under the midfoot for improved energy return. But it’s still incredibly effective and more than grippy enough for crushing long mileage days on most trails. Adding to that is its low total weight per shoe. Lighter trail runners, even if only by one ounce, help hikers walk faster.

Like its more aggressive sibling the Speedgoat, Challenger 7 uses a quick drying, super breathable mesh with a reinforced toe cap. It meets and exceeds our highest expectations in terms of comfort and durability. Plus, we love the extended heel tab for ease of on/off. Taking off the ol’ hiking shoes to let your feet breath during lunch is highly recommended.

Fit is fairly straight down the middle as trail running shoes go, and it includes a wide toe box which we love. Wide sizes are also available.

The Challenger 7 is an exceptionally great trail runner for hiking on most trails, and we feel it is the hypothetical best pair of hiking shoes for the typical hiker on a typical hike.

How to Choose Between HOKA Speedgoat 5 vs HOKA Challenger 7

Is the HOKA Speedgoat 5 or HOKA Challenger 7 a better fit for you? Ask yourself these questions before choosing between the two.

1) What Terrain will you be on

Do you hike or run mostly on trails and moderate to flat terrain? If so, choose the Challenger 7! Is your next big adventure going to have super steep sections, loose shale, mud, snow, or all of the above? If so, choose the Speedgoat 5!

2) Breathability and mesh uppers

Is your region humid, warm, and do you expect your feet to get wet? If so, we recommend the Challenger 7 because it has better breathability and dries faster. Do you expect to your feet to be brushing against rocks or otherwise in need of a bit more protection? In that case, choose the Speedgoat 5, which is slightly more rugged with a reinforced toe cap and double layered mesh upper.

3) Shoe Width and comfort

Do you prefer wider fit and prioritize comfort? If so, we recommend the Challenger 7. Or do you need a slightly narrower and more secure fit to prevent feet from sliding around and to increase accuracy of footfalls? If so, choose the Speedgoat 5.

4) Weight vs durability

Do you want the lightest shoe for going fast and efficient? We recommend the Challenger 7. Are you willing to add a bit of weight for a more durable shoe with a tougher upper mesh and reinforced toe cap? If so, choose the Speedgoat 5.

5) Overall Application

There’s no right answer. Both shoes are well rounded and highly functional. If you prioritize breathability, comfort, width, and low weight, choose the Challenger 7. If you prioritize traction and durability, choose the Speedgoat 5.

Speedgoat Vs Challenger – Comparing Tread

HOKA Speedgoat 5 traction (top) compared to HOKA Challenger 7 traction (bottom)

As you you can see, the HOKA Speedgoat 5 (top) has a more aggressive tread, which is better suited to handling steep, loose, and technical terrain. The 5mm lugs span the entire legnth of the outsole in a chevron pattern for maximum traction. The HOKA Challenger 7 has a less aggressive 4mm tread, and even includes an untreaded section in the midfoot. This sacrifices some grip to increase energy efficiency.

Speedgoat Vs Challenger – Comparing Heels

The HOKA Speedgoat 5 (left) and HOKA Challenger 7 (right) have a very similar rear chassis with a ~30mm stack height, and an extended heel tab for easy on/off. We find the heel cup to hold the foot nicely, and that the entire heel area is comfortable and well-designed.

Speedgoat Vs Challenger – Comparing Interior Side

The interior sides of the HOKA Speedgoat 5 (top) and HOKA Challenger 7 (bottom) are also similar. Both have mesh immediately above the foam sole, and the Speedgoat’s is marginally more protected with a front toe cap that wraps around the front edges. In our experience, neither shoe has had durability issues on the interior sides.

Conclusion | Choosing between HOKA Speedgoat 5 vs HOKA Challenger 7

If we had to sum it up in just a few sentences? These are both excellent shoes for hikers looking for a trail shoe with a lot of cushion, a moderate heel-to-toe drop, and a more standard width and fit.

Both shoes fall right in the middle of durability for lightweight trail runners, with the HOKA Speedgoat 5 likely lasting longer due to their more rugged construction and heavier weight.

The HOKA Challenger 7 is lighter and more moderate shoe for hikers on trails, and are more comfortable over long distances than the Speedgoats 5s.

The Speedgoats are ideal for hikers hitting more challenging, rugged terrain. Their aggressive lugs and Vibram outsoles can stand up to slippery or muddy trails, and the narrower fit helps keep them secure over loose or steep terrain.

It’s important to remember that the best pick for your upcoming trails might not be the same as the next person, and/or might be different from trip to trip. The Challenger is a fantastic, comfortable all-around shoe, but the Speedgoat is the shoe that Jeff “Legend” Garmire chose for his Colorado Trail record this past summer, opting for the more secure fit, higher durability, and rugged traction for the 100,000 feet of elevation gain and loss over nearly 500 miles. Honestly, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a pair of each and alternate between them as needed, deciding on a trip-by-trip basis.

We hope this helped you choose between two great options, and if you have any other questions about how to decide between these shoes, or other top picks, drop them in the comments.


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