Challenger ATR 5 vs Speed Goat 3 | Initial Impressions – Average Hiker
Challenger ATR 5 vs Speed Goat 3
Trail Runner History
My ATR/Speedgoat initial Impressions are listed below, along with my post thoughts after extended use backpacking and hiking. I had spent several weeks researching new trail runners, and had finally settled on the Women's HOKA Challenger ATR 5's instead of the HOKA Speedgoat 3's.
As a committed Salomon user over the past decade, I was hesitant to try something new, but after years of hiking and beaten up feet I needed a change.
I used Salomon's on my PCT hike and they were a game changer for me, but the shoe construction changed in 2009. While I still think Salomon makes a great shoe, It is just not the right shoe for my current needs. I now prefer more cushion to absorb shock, and a little more arch support.
Trail Runner Expectations
The Plantar Fasciitis, I've written about, has probably been the biggest change in my foot's needs. A mild case in my left foot has resulted in the need for more arch support. With the current state of my feet, what I want in my shoes now is listed below.
- Good arch support – I have average arches, but more support on the foot with plantar has definitely helped the pain when I backpack.
- Large toe box – My feet are prone to blister easily. Plenty of room for my toes to spread, while keeping them dry and cool reduces the blisters.
- Breathable – not waterproof – Waterproof shoes are definitely much warmer, and if they do get wet they take too long to dry. I also walk through water – rivers, creeks, etc., without removing my shoes and need them to dry quickly.
- Tough upper material – A double mesh upper is important, and it needs to be durable. When shoes get wet the upper will rip easily on rocks and rough ground.
- Good grip – A sticky grip is important. In long distance hiking I can't control the weather, so wet and icy terrain is not uncommon.
A couple of years ago I was introduced to the HOKA brand at my local running store.
I frowned, and raised an eyebrow, when they were presented to me. They looked like orthopedic shoes with their big, THICK treads. I was tall enough. There was no way I was going to retain my already questionable balance with 1-2 inches added to the bottom of my feet.
But then I put them on and walked.
They were SO COMFORTABLE, and I only swayed a little. I had discovered my next pair of everyday shoes.
A few months later I decided to check out the HOKA trail runners since my original HOKA's had worked out so well. After a lot of research via blogs and reviews, I narrowed my choices down to Hoka's Challenger ATR 5's, and the Speedgoat 3's. I then checked my zip code, and found that the REI in my neighborhood carried both models.
Speed Goat 3 vs Challenger ATR 5
The Speed Goat was a good shoe, but it was tight, and my foot immediately heated up in the shoe. The tight fit of the Speed Goat made it more suitable for trail running. I knew blisters would be a problem. The toe box was also not as tight as I like.
My feet have always gotten extensive blisters in the first week or two of a hike, no matter the shoe size, socks, liners, foot balm, foot breaks, etc. I've tried every solution to no avail. My feet always toughen up and form callouses over time, but the first few weeks of a long distance hike are brutal.
The Challenger ATR 5 had a looser fit than the Speed Goat, that I would describe as more of a casual fit. The grip had a little less bite, but the lugs were still sufficient for what I needed. What really mattered was that the shoe was not nearly as snug, and much more comfortable, with a much larger toe box. I had found my new long distance hiking shoe.
There are a few things that still had me questioning the shoe.
- With the thick sole, balance was a question.
- The uppers on the shoes were not as tough as my Salomons, but hopefully they would be durable.
- The grip was not as sticky as the Grip on the Speedgoat, or on my Salomons for that matter.
Regardless, I was excited because they were very comfortable, and I looked forward to providing an update when I got back from the Colorado hike.
HOKA Challenger ATR Follow-Up
The pair of HOKA challengers above now have about 400 miles on them. They are the ones I took to Colorado. I'm now on my third pair. They have been put to the test in the Rockies, the deserts of Arizona, and the Appalachians on the East Coast. I made the right decision.
- Comfort – no other shoe I've worn provides the cushion and comfort over long mileage days. There is no comparison.
- Blisters – Night and Day. The large toe box has mostly eliminated them.
- Plantar – I still have it, but it is much improved and almost gone with the Protalus inserts I use.
- Arch Support – Perfect amount for my foot.
- Uppers – more durable than anticipated. I have been pleasantly surprised.
- Tread – They treads wear down fast, and I would like them a little with a little more bite. The Speed-goats are better in this regard. I hike in areas with some technically challenging scrambles, so have to replace the Challengers more often than I would like.
- Price – The Challengers never seem to go on sale, but I guess that speaks to the demand for the shoe. I have a feeling that when version 6 is introduced the 5's will disappear overnight!
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