Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 Reviewed

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.

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Pros & Cons
  • Their fit is very secure and comfortable - great for those who dislike the loose wiggle room on less cushioned shoes.
  • Responsive cushioning via the large Eva midsole renders the impact on knees very minimal
  • Although the upper is breathable, has enough of a protective overlay to handle moist areas well without that moisture penetrating the layers.
  • Large rubber-tipped lugs on the outsole enable great performance on muddy trails
  • Cons
    • Launched with only two color options available for each men's and women's via their website
    • They fit a bit tight  - A size up may be in order for those with wider feet
    • Not very lightweight.
    • Not very affordable.
    • Key Features
      The outsole of the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 is equipped with a pronounced 4-millimeter rubber tipped lugs to effectively grab the earth beneath your feet. It's worth mentioning that the rubber does something special for gripping pavement as well. This is where the multi-terrain capabilities stem from but make no mistake, it's not where they end. It's hard to appreciate the effectiveness of these features without having them directly under your feet.

      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.
      Featured is a large midsole formulated to perform well on rough, mountainous terrain. As you may assume, there are many benefits to having a cushioned midsole under your feet. The responsiveness gives the capability of effectively taking on the paved road as well. Being as wide as it is, you get ample stability and I didn't have the issue of landing awkwardly as I sometimes do with more narrow shoes.

      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.
      This is a favorable component on the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 and should be with any running shoe if it's going to rank high among runners. It needs to provide a balance of support, breathability, and protections and if not designed well, will leave a large portion of the foot vulnerable.

      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.
      With the exaggerated, large piece of cushioned rubber material attached to the bottom of the shoe, you would think this shoe would weigh a ton, or quite a bit more then it actually does. Fortunately, this is not the case.

      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.
      Breathability should never be overlooked, especially in a running shoe, although too many trail shoes tend to, some more than others. Fortunately, the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 gives us what we want in this aspect, unless you want a fully sealed waterproof shoe.

      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.
      One word - Supportive. Yes, these are very comfortable. With the amount of cushioning and their snugness, you get a fit that is very pleasant on the feet. Although some may find the snugness feels a bit tight, it actually enables the cushioning and upper to conform to the feet.

      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.
      The release colors options are subtle, although not dull but don't go to the extreme with vibrant colors that pull your eyes. If you like a shoe that pops to a high degree with common aesthetics, you may not like the overall look, but if you like a shoe that doesn't scream "Look at me!" & still pulls off a great visual with a not so common look, these are it.

      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.
      With the consistent pounding and hard testing put on these, it's amazing to see them holding together without anything more than mud engraved in the mesh and lugs, and of course, the laces no longer "look" the same, but everything's still in place. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 are indeed a mountainous running shoe, and they prove to hold up very well.

      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.
      Your feet are well protected. They come equipped with a thick, cushioned midsole that keeps your feet from anything the terrain can send your way. The aforementioned overlay integrated onto the upper also provides a degree of protection while the bumper on the tip of the shoe will keep you from stubbing your toe.

      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.
      Particularly in the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3, the degree of responsiveness delivered is due to the design of the midsole. Being large as it is and made out of EVA material, you get a bounce back and spring like no other. Although you don't get a large amount of spring from the overall flexibility factor of the shoe.

      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.
      Made for road and trail, these will do well on both but in my experience excel on the trail where the inclusion of features such as the 4mm lugs really come into play most effectively to their purpose of gripping and grabbing the ground as needed. However, You will get a good response from the road due to the size of the exaggerated midsole that Hoka One One is known for.

      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.
      These aren't the most affordable shoes, although they are not costly either. You can secure them for $130 directly from Hoka One One's website. When considering how well they perform this is a price range that can be expected and you won't find any great, diverse shoes for much less.

      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.
      With the inclusion of large aggressive lugs on the outsole you get adequate traction, even on the roughest of terrain. You no longer have to stay on the trail. Feel free to strike the road as their multi-terrain capabilities are enhanced due to the super responsive, enlarged EVA midsole that ensures a smooth, energy-laced ride with sufficient traction. Whether you're on solid pavement, or muddy trail the ATR 3's will perform and these aforementioned incorporations to them leave you with the ability to grip and grab all that comes your way.
      What the shoe lacks in flexibility is made up for with the addition of the rocker midsole technology. What this is is a curvature of the midsole allowing for a smooth transition from heel to toe off, similar to that of a rocking chairs leg design, which effectively offsets the stiff nature of the shoe. Although a bit firm, once you break them in you will notice the overall flexibility becomes reasonable.

      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.
      You are looking at a heel to toe differential of 5 millimeters which is somewhat lower than the typical running shoe which comes in at around 10 millimeters. This lower set drop means you will be running with your feet in a more natural ground strike position, with less emphasis on heel striking.

      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.
      Key Features
      • Marshmallow Super thick, Light, & Wide Midsole for shock absorption & maximum comfort

      • 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
      Bottom Line
      To sum it up, the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 delivers an impressive performance through the rough, slick and paved terrain. Overall they are a brilliant running shoe and I would confidently recommend them to those who want extra responsive cushioning and more underfoot protection on their runs.

      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.
      Where to Buy
      Holabird Sports Link
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      Moosejaw Link
      See Deal
      rei.com Link
      See Deal
      Road Runner Sports Link
      See Deal
      By Brian Price
      Last updated:
      Where to buy
      Best offer on: Jul. 29. 2021

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