Preferences are ever-evolving, and Hoka One One isn't afraid to test the waters or terrain for that matter. The newest installment in their Challenger series, the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3, is designed as a versatile all-terrain road and trail runner that may turn heads of those who are used to a more common design style.
They implement particular features in this installment to ensure the shoe does, in fact, offer these multi-terrain capabilities, and with effectiveness. With their featured large, marshmallow-like midsole, and out of the ordinary method of shoe design, it's quite possible that this is achieved. The inclusion of reinforced overlays and rubber tipped lugs isn't something I'll be complaining about either. In fact, these features gave me much less to complain about. See the full results below.
Due to the inclusion of these lugs, the shoes perform best, and extremely well on dirt or trail terrain where you can really dig in. On my last testing session, I was was a bit hesitant going out after it had been raining the night before, but I got through the dirt trail just fine. The large aggressive lugs really do come into play here.
These running shoes have superior cushioning and favorable shock absorption from under-foot hazards. It's Meta-Rocker Geometry technology acts as a rocking chair and gives a smooth heel to toe transition. This feature is also great for a natural running gait.
Additionally, it has the Active Foot Frame technology, which is an indentation of the midsole which your entire foot rests inside that renders much better stability and really helps in keeping the foot comfortably placed. I'll say it again, this is a really comfortable shoe.
These offer a significant advantage to their playing field with their highly breathable, yet protective and durable upper. This relationship is due to the integration of reinforcing overlays over the mesh material that wraps the upper. The mesh is durable in itself, but the overlay adds another layer of protectiveness and firm support without adding too much coverage.
It's a modest addition that does a lot without sacrificing too much of the overall breathability, so in the end, the shoe is left well ventilated without hindering the protection it offers your feet. I do appreciate a well-protected upper, but it also must always be breathable to some extent. I was glad to find that balance here.
The large midsole is made out of EVA rubber so it's lightweight in comparison to the size. I wouldn't call these lightweights, and they are on the higher end in weight, but considering the benefits, you get from the added cushioning and size of the midsole its worth having the extra protection, especially if you're on a rough trail.
These are not waterproof but the shoe isn't overly porous. They do have ample ventilation which is kept in check by an overlay, so it still performs well on trails where you are likely to encounter puddles and other water sources.
Although It's not the most breathable shoe, it does provide well-balanced results. Of course, I'm not looking to step into puddles on runs. You may not be either, but it does happen and when your feet are able to retain their overall dryness it's a great thing. Just don't go completely submerging them.
If you like a looser fit, you may want to go with something less cushioned, or half size up, but if you can handle snugness, the incorporation of cushioning will really have you feeling like you're walking on a cloud. It doesn't stop there as the midsole itself comes into play. Made out of responsive EVA rubber, and coupled in a large marshmallow design, you get a very responsive and comfortable ride with minimal shock transferred up to the legs from the ground strikes.
It's unfortunate that these have very limited color options to choose from as of their release, with only two color choices for each men's and women's versions. Thankfully, although limited, the color options do look nice and Hoka One One will be releasing new style options soon.
The reinforced overlay encases the more sensitive mesh material on the upper, thus further increasing the overall durability. You won't have to worry about your shoe breaking under the pressure here. They're made to last, and they do.
It's nice to have a breathable shoe that is also protected, because you don't get the full-on effect of those annoying protruding branches on the trail when they smash into your feet, but your feet can also breath when you need it most. I like a bit of overlay material, especially on a trail runner and never go with shoes that lack in this area completely. I love the great balance here.
It is a bit more firm and doesn't bend as easy as, say, a shoe with flex grooves would. That is compensated with the amount of energy returned from the oversized EVA midsole technology mentioned above. Coupled with the effect of the integrated midsole rocker technology you're able to get that motion in order to deliver an ample return spring.
This midsole serves a purpose on the trail as well as you get a very comfortable ride without having to worry about the inconsistencies of the path that will be thrown at you as the cushion-like midsole really separates your feet from the ground. So you see here why this makes for a good road shoe, but a superb trail runner.
You can find much more affordable, cheap shoes out there, but if you want quality, don't cheat yourself. If you need an effective performance shoe, the value here is balanced with the price tag. In terms of their value, you get a shoe that does extremely well on the trail and rough terrain does good on pavement, has great grip and traction, and is super comfortable.
It would be good to wear them around for a bit before going on any hard runs. They have a particular feel so it's advisable to get used to them before committing to the run to get maximum effectiveness and know what you're getting into.
It's said that the higher the drop, the more risk of knee injuries you will face as you strike the heel more and that transfers pressure upward. With the amount of cushioning in the midsole, and lower drop you have an overall easy ride for your feet and knees, which is very important for being out on the trails and striking the hard pavement.
• Meta-Rocker Geometry Midsole Technology that supports natural running gait, and gives a smooth roll from impact to toe-off
• Active Foot Frame Outsole Technology for Increased stability, and adaptability for a wider range of feet and running styles
• Breathable Upper with reinforced overlays
• 3D Puff Print Frame
• Rubber Tipped Lugs provide multi-terrain traction
On the pavement, even wet pavement, they out-performed or were up to par with many running shoes in terms of traction and energy return. This is due in part to the inclusion of the rubber-tipped lugs, and larger, wide set midsole which meets the ground surface to more effectively grab, keep the foot placement secure, and respond to the push-off pressure.
Their performance was up to par on paved ground, but what sets them apart, in my opinion, was their effectiveness in handling the trails. They can be used for both trail and road, but are a much higher performing, effective shoe when you hit the hard, less predictable terrain. If you want to really capitalize on the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3's, that's where you want to take them.