HOKA Challenger ATR 6 Review | Great All-Purpose Trail Shoe
A light & capable all-terrain trail shoe, with great cushioning, foot protection and a mid-width fit
Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 hiking shoes might be “just right.” That is, the HOKA Challenger ATR 6s may be the best all around shoe for many hikers and backpackers. First, the shoe is exceptionally light and comfortable, but without the enormous stack height of some shoes. Its moderately lugged sole provides more than enough grip on muddy and loose trail while not sacrificing great performance for good footing on trail and firmer surfaces — the conditions encountered on most hikes and backpacking trips. And their medium width is not too wide and sloppy for technical trails, while not being too narrow and confining for good trails.
The Challenger ATR 6 seems to be a trail adaptation of Hoka’s wildly popular Clifton road running shoe and we think that’s a good thing! Hoka added a more aggressive trail sole the shoe and made some durability tweaks — but without ruining the lightness and comfort of a great road running shoe. Note: If you don’t need the huge traction they provide in mud and other very loose terrain, deep lugs can be a liability on firmer and better footing. That is, a shallower lugged shoe is generally lighter, and provides better performance on good to OK trail and rock — more typical hiking and backpacking conditions. In fact, we’ve found a number or shallower tread “road-running” shoes make excellent trail shoes — being light, super comfortable, and providing more than adequate trail grip and durability.
Read our complete guide | Best Hiking Shoes
We tested the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 in a variety of conditions. A couple of AT section hikes in late fall and early winter-like conditions including early snow. And we’ve used it for our hiking and running training this fall. Here the shoe excels where we can run from our home on roads and then easily transition to trail running and hiking on our dirt and rock training trails
Vs. the HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat?
We’ve also been testing the HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoats, so check out our full review HOKA Speedgoat 4 Review | Great Technical Trail Shoe.
Key Specs | HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6
Design: Low-rise, cushioned trail running / hiking shoe. These specs are for the non-waterproof version
Features: Multi-purpose outsole (trail/road) with mid-depth lugs, cushioned sole with moderate stack in forefoot, 5mm heel-to-toe drop.
Weight: 9.6 ounces (Men’s 9) | 8.8 ounces (Women’s 8)
Type: Trail runner, low-rise hiking shoe
Stack Height Heel: 30mm (Men’s)
Stack Height Toe: 25mm (Men’s)
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 5mm
Outsole: Unspecified (zonal rubber placement)
Overview of the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6
The HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 is the newest iteration of one of HOKA ONE ONE’s most popular trail shoes. Our best guess is that it’s an excellent trail adaptation of Hoka’s wildly popular Clifton road running shoe. Hoka added a more aggressive trail-oriented sole to the shoe and made some durability tweaks — but without ruing the lightness and comfort of a first-rate road running shoe. They only weigh 9.6 oz!
As such, the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 is a do-it-all shoe with a snug, secure fit, well-designed lugs for trail use, and the cushioning that HOKA shoes are known for (but not too much of it!). The cushioned midsole helps protect from the uneven, rocky ground. The shoes have a 5mm heel-to-toe drop. Fit is middle of the road — neither too wide nor too narrow. We feel they hit the sweet spot for foot comfort on a good trail without being too loose and sloppy for sections of more technical or off-trail travel. Even after long days on the AT we found they were still comfortable with sufficient toe/forefoot room.
Other Model Options
The Challenger ATR series also comes in a GoreTex version.
At 9.6 oz the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6s are one of the very lightest (non-minimalist) trail shoes. And that helps on a long trail day where every extra ounce on your foot is lifted many thousands of times. You’ll be equally happy about this on both multi-day backpacking trips and long day hikes.
All-Terrain Sole | Best for Most Conditions:
The sole on the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 provides has an ideal combination of low weight, good grip, and durability. Intelligent “zonal rubber placement” of wider, mid-depth lugs on forefoot and heel provide grip and durability while not being so aggressive as to reduce performance on good trail and drier conditions. (Note: The found the rubber on the Challengers to sufficiently grippy in wet conditions). The low wear/low mid-sole/arch area is free of rubber to save weight without unduly affecting durability. We’ve had good luck with shoes designed like this, even on rugged technical trips like the Escalante Overland Route (entirely off-trail technical canyoneering and desert travel)
Super Comfortable, Mid-width Fit:
No these shoes aren’t super wide like Altras and for many hikers that’s likely a good thing. We feel they hit the sweet spot for foot comfort on good trail without being too loose and sloppy for sections of more technical or off trail travel. Even after long days on the AT we found they were still comfortable with sufficient toe/forefoot room.
Breathable & Fast Drying:
These are some of the best shoes for keeping your feet dry and comfortable. We found the uppers breathed very well reducing moisture buildup during the day and they dried quickly.
HOKA shoes are known for their highly padded and shock-absorbing midsoles and the Challenger ATRs are not an exception. But they are a bit more modest with a lower stack height than either the HOKA Speedgoats or EVO Mafate shoes. This makes them lighter and has a better trail feel. And the lower stack height and slightly wider cut make the shoe more stable and less prone to ankle sprains.
Moderate Heel-to-Toe Drop:
The 5mm Heel-to-Toe Drop on the Challenger ATRs are unlikely to cause undue ankle and calf strain. But also, the drop is not so much that it feels like you’re walking in high heeled dress shoes (ugh!). In fact, of all the mid-drop shoes we’ve tried these, had the least noticeable drop.
We generally don’t use gaiters. As such, we find the gusseted ton a help to keep debris out of the shoe. And it avoids the inevitable and annoying “tongue slides down one side or the other of your shoe,” with a conventional tongue.
Stack Height Might be a bit Much for Some Hikers:
While being on the lower end of stack height in the HOKA trail-shoe line, this stack height might be a bit much for some hikers. They Challenger ATRs are definitely taller with slightly less “trail feel” than a lower stack height shoe like the Altra Lone Peak.
Not Zero Drop:
In general, we prefer zero-drop shoes and are definitely not fans of high-heeled shoes. That being said, the 5mm drop on the Challenger was barely noticeable and did not impact natural hiking stride.
Not Insanely Rugged:
While the durability of the Challenger ATR is good for an ultralight trail running shoe — it does not have the super thick long-wearing sole and large toe and heel counters of a heavier and more durable shoe. If you want a shoe with more durability you’ll likely need to pick one that is both heavier and more expensive.
No Rubber Outsole in Arch
As we said, the Challenger ATRs are “Best for most conditions” encountered by most hikers. But on very technical terrain the lack of rubber in the midsole could prove to be an issue if, in fact, you’d want to use that mid-sole area for traction. Again, a not often encountered situation and you’ll likely know if this is something that would like to come upon one of your trips.
Compared to the Competition
Shoes for hiking & Backpacking
The field of highly padded, mid-stack-height, trail running shoes is hugely competitive with many options. That being said Hoka was one of the fist to enter/create this category of trail shoe and they have a number of strong offerings including the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6. And again, we find that light, low top trail runners make the best shoes for backpacking and hiking.
Altra Lone Peak
The Altra Lone Peak, possibly the most popular lightweight hiking and ultralight backpacking shoe, is the Challenger ATRs stiffest competition. Of course, the Lone Peak features Altra’s much-lauded wide toe-box which had its fans and also its detractors. The Lone peak has a slightly lower stack height and zero drop that gives it a bit more stability and trail feel but also does not provide the cushioning and foot protection of the Challenger ATRs. The Lone Peak is also an ounce heavier but provides a full rubber sole. While we’ve only had good experiences, Lone Peak’s reputation for low durability has been an issue with some hikers. It remains to be seen if the current or future models of the Lone Peak can improve on that reputation.
Brooks Caldera 4
The Brooks Caldera is a plush model from the more standard lineup over at Brooks. The major difference is that the Caldera has a significantly higher stack than the Challenger ATRs and weighs a smidge more. Otherwise in spec’s they are very close to the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATRs. They have a similar heel to toe drop and they cost about $10 more. They do have a full tacky rubber sole. So if you actually needed traction midsole, advantage Caldera 4s.
HOKA ONE ONE Speedgoat 4
HOKA’s closest competitor to the Challenger ATR will probably be another HOKA shoe. The HOKA Speedgoat 4 is a level-up in specialized trail shoes. With deeper and more aggressive lugs, the Speedgoat is made for tackling more rugged, technical terrain. These shoes have excellent traction on wet trails and slightly lower 4mm heel-to-toe drop. They weigh 10.8 ounces, about an ounce per shoe more than the Challengers.
Conclusion | HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6
The HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 6 ‘s are a light & capable all-terrain trail shoe, with great cushioning, foot protection, and a mid-width fit. They perform well on both good trail, and more challenging and mucky conditions, and well as technical off-trail use. They have a balanced mid-volume fit. We feel they hit the sweet spot for foot comfort on a good trail without being too loose and sloppy for sections of more technical or off-trail travel. Even after long days on the AT we found they were still comfortable with sufficient toe/forefoot room. Their moderate 5mm heel to toe drop and moderate stack height will likely please most hikers. Finally, as if it needs to be said, they provide the comfort, shock absorption and foot protection/comfort that HOKA has made their reputation but in an incredibly light, 9.6 oz shoe.
Read our complete guide | Best Hiking Shoes