Saturday, March 4, 2017

Hoka One One: Challenger ATR 3 Review

As a runner, you’ve probably heard this brand more than a thousand times. Hoka One One (pronounced O-nay O-nay) is a brand we’re accustomed to when we say maximum shoes…well MAXIMUM CUSHION to be exact. They revolutionized the shoe industry by embracing the idea that maximum cushion shoe offers less stress and impact to the body.

I’ve you’ve been following my blog, you might notice that I say a lot about this shoe. This is one of my go to shoes when it comes to racing and most of my long training runs. The maximum shoes may not be for everybody (so does the minimal shoes), but I’ll leave the debate on the other side of the table. There’s really no right or wrong answer in my opinion, everybody is different…it’s just a matter of preference, so stick to shoes that work best for you.

Last December, Hoka launched the third version of their famous trail shoes, the Challenger ATR 3. Dubbed as the twin brother of the Clifton 3, both shoes resemble a lot of similarities in terms of the ride and plenty of cushion. If you fell in love with the Clifton 3, I bet that you’ll love the ATR 3 even more. The ATR 3 is designed to tackle the rough terrains but is also suitable to tackle the smooth pavement of the urban jungle.

The Challenger ATR 3 was released before the end of 2016 and it created a lot of buzz in the running community. The idea behind the creation of ATR 3 is to address some minor issues on the ATR 2. The ATR 3 has a slightly wider toe box that eventually resonated into a wider platform giving the runner a more stable ride and more ground contact. The upper has changed a bit making it more durable thru the use of 3D puff print that is integrated on the mesh without sacrificing the weight of the shoe.

The ATR 3 is a neutral shoe that weighs 9.5 ounces for men (size 9) and 7.9 ounces for women (size 7). The heel to toe drop is 5mm for both men (29mm/24mm) and women(28mm/23mm). In terms of fit, I have to exchange the regular size 10 that I normally wear, the sizing for the ATR 3 runs smaller so I suggest that you go ½ size up. The size 10 ½ felt much better and offered much more room for my toes to lay naturally and a good clearance from the top. This has been echoed as well by some runners on their reviews and comments.


As I previously mentioned, the upper is one of areas that Hoka did improve on. Despite the addition of 3D puff print around the perimeter for added durability, this didn’t affect the overall weight of the shoe. For a trail shoe that weighs 9.5 ounces (with a balance cushioning) is truly remarkable. You might also think that the addition of the 3D puff print overlays will counter the effective breathability of the shoe, nope not all! It still lets air to circulate so that your feet can breathe and prevent overheating. Addressing the ATR 2 issue of a narrow toebox, the ATR 3 is a tad wider to give your feet a pleasant feel to lay naturally and not overcrowded. This will give you more balance and stability especially on uneven terrains.

Hoka’s toecap may not be as beefy and rugged like the Salomon Speedcross 4 but it’s still firm enough to give you that protection you need when you hit the trails and light enough when you hit the pavement. Hoka incorporates the traditional lace which is flat and stretchy, I found it very pleasing since I tend to develop a hot spot and it provides some room to stretch when my feet start to swell. The tongue is very well padded similar to the Clifton 3 for added cushion and comfort. That padded area is carried over the heel cup area to give you a constant feel of the shoe, providing a good hold and preventing your heel from slipping out of the shoe.


Finding a good balance for the sole is something that makes this shoe standout. Use it on road and it mimics the feel of the Clifton 3, use it on trails and you’re on a different level. The plushness of the midsole area is the biggest factor most trail runners will truly appreciate as it handles the impact of the uneven terrains bearable and forgiving. I ran a long section of gravel areas on my Ultra last Saturday and I couldn’t thank this shoe enough. I never experience the feel of tripping and losing my balance. The main outsole of the ATR 3 is very similar to Clifton 3, it is made of Compression Molded EVA (CMEVA) material that offers a nice cushy (not mushy) ride that offers a “cloud nine” feeling throughout the entire surface of my feet. To make this durable, they added a crash pad with 4mm lugs. The lug’s chevron pattern on the mid-forefoot gives you the grip on steep terrain to propel you forward and the horizontal pattern at the heel area helps in braking as you bomb the downhill. The wider platform is noticeably visible on the medial side under the arch providing more stability and balance.

Hoka still bears the meta rocker technology (that is one of their trademarks anyhow) but it’s very subtle compared to some Hoka shoes like the Vanquish. The meta rocker is simply the (slightly) tapered portion of the front and back part of the sole, making the sole to curve upright (like a rocking chair, if that makes sense). This helps when transitioning from landing to toe off. The subtleness of the meta rocker makes more sense since most trail grounds are uneven and having more “ground” contact is much better.

The Ride

Hoka designed this shoe to be versatile, meaning it can be used on either roads or trails. I first tested this on Hidden Falls right after weeks of heavy downpour. The trails being wet, muddy and slippery offered some challenges but the shoe was just amazing as it gripped on the ground. There were also outcroppings and gravel section that I traversed and the shoe just performed like there’s a glue underneath it.

My second test was on the road, I was really curious how this will perform on pavement and sidewalks. I have to say though that this is much better than Clifton 3 in my honest opinion. The “feel and ride” were almost identical but one thing that I noticed was that it’s cushier on the heel area. I tend to heel strike especially when fatigue sets in and having that extra soft landing is a big bonus for me.

Now for the big test: I used the ATR 3 on my first Ultra marathon (the Salmon Falls 50K) last week (2/25/17). That was my first ultra and I got more than what I bargained for, the trails offered almost everything I can think of. Mud, creek crossing (almost knee high), grassy meadows, hard pack soil, roots, loose soil, gravel, uphill (lots of it) and downhill. My biggest concern was the creek crossing and getting the shoes wet. I was really surprise that it didn’t take long for the shoes to dry out and it easily dissipates water as I ran. I didn’t have any problems in tackling those terrains with these shoes. The traction is surprisingly good despite the lugs are only 4mm. Overall, the shoe didn’t disappoint! It was an amazing run and having the right shoes made it even better.

My Verdict
Hoka nails it! Don’t be surprise if you see these shoes on most ultras this year. I will definitely be using this on my next ultra, hopefully the 50 miles. The ATR 3 is almost a complete package that every trail runner is looking for. I have tested quite a few trail shoes, the lightness, aggressiveness and plushness of the ATR 3 is quite amazing and is hard to beat. I highly recommend that you give it a try if you’re in the market for new trail shoes.

The ATR 3 sells for $130 which I think is a decent price for a shoe this great. every penny spent on this shoe is worth it. You can purchase the ATR 3 directly on their website or at retail stores near you.


You can check out my other reviews of Hoka shoes down below:
·      Infinite
·      Clayton
·      Clifton 3

Let me know what you think so feel free to comment on the section below.

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