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Challenger ATR 5 vs Speed Goat 4 | Initial Impressions – Average Hiker

HOKA Challenger ATR 5
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Challenger ATR 5 vs Speed Goat 4

Trail Runner History

My HOKA One One Challenger ATR 5 vs. Speedgoat 4 initial impressions are below. Ultimately, I decided on the Challenger ATR 5’s instead of the Speedgoat 4’s, but by the end of the Colorado Trail, I had switched from my Challenger ATR 5’s to the HOKA One One EVO Speedgoat’s.

The trail runner I’m using now is the HOKA Men’s EVO Speedgoat. The main reasons include…

  • Traction – Grip and “stickiness”
  • Comfort – A tighter and more stable fit

Interestingly, although I own both the women’s HOKA EVO Speedgoat’s and the men’s HOKA EVO Speedgoat’s, I prefer the men’s shoes. Not only are they more stable because of the firmer uppers, but the upper on the men’s shoes provides more protection on the toe and sides of the shoe.

There are many good trail runners this year. I narrowed down the field and listed my opinion on the 10 Best Trail Running Shoes.

HOKA Women's EVO Speedgoat's

Men’s EVO Speedgoats are currently my go-to shoes for longer trails. I like the durable uppers, increased traction, and the long-haul comfort on hard-packed trails and road walks.


Trail Runner Expectations

I’ve always struggled with Plantar Fasciitis, and over the last few years, it has become more painful. 

Comfort is one of the main reasons behind my reevaluation of the hiking shoes I wear.  With the current state of my feet, what I want in my hiking shoes is listed below.

  • Good cushion and support – I tend to come down on the middle of my foot, and with increased pain from Plantar Fasciitis has come the need for more cushion in my midsole.
  • Roomy Forefoot – 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 much warmer, and if they do get wet, they take too long to dry. I walk through the water – rivers, creeks, etc., and don’t remove my shoes, so I need them to dry quickly.
  • Tough upper material – A double mesh upper is essential, 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. I can’t control weather while long-distance hiking, so I prefer 5mm lugs and sticky rubber on my shoes’ outer sole.

HOKA Challenger ATR 5 Decision

When I began reviewing the Challenger ATR 5’s and the Speedgoat 4’s, a few things had me questioning the Challenger decision. 

  • With the high stack-height, stability was a question.
  • The shoes’ uppers were not as durable as my Salomons, but hopefully they would be durable. 
  • The grip was not as sticky as the Speedgoat or my Salomons’ grip, for that matter. 

Regardless, I was excited because the Challengers were noticeably more comfortable than other shoes I had worn.

Why I Did Not Choose the Speedgoat 4’s

The primary reason I did not choose the Speedgoat 4 was because of the fit. The uppers on the Speedgoat 4 were tighter than the Challengers, and when I tried to size up, the shoes pinched my feet just above the toes.

HOKA Speedgoat 4's

Decision to Switch from Challengers to Speedgoat EVO’s

Since first writing this article, my shoe of choice has changed. Challengers worked out well for me until my hike on the Colorado Trail this year (Colorado Trail – 2020).

The Colorado Trail is approximately 486 miles. If you add the Collegiate West, which I also completed, the trail is a little over 500 miles. The trail is challenging and rocky, climbing to over 13,000 feet at its high point and accumulating about 98,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.

About 250 miles into the trail, I found myself beginning to slide and even fall due to losing my footing in some cases. Unfortunately, the tread and lugs on my Challengers had almost completely worn off when I reached Creede, CO. I had expected at least 400 miles out of the HOKA Challengers, so this was a little frustrating.

Outside of Silverton, CO, I had a nasty fall that could have resulted in severe injury or worse, so I decided to switch out the shoes. Initially, I was going to get new Challengers, but I purchased Men’s EVO Speedgoat trail runners instead.

HOKA Challenger ATR 5 & Men’s EVO Speedgoat Follow-Up

The Challengers above served me well in terrain on the Arizona Trail, Appalachian Trail, and the New England Trail, but I switched to the Men’s EVO Speedgoat on the Colorado Trail.

I still have my Challenger ATR 5’s, but I use them for daily exercise and casual walking. The EVO Speedgoat is a comfortable shoe, but the Challenger is still my MOST comfortable shoe.

5 Best Hiking Shoes - HOKA Challengers

Challenger ATR 5 Pros

  • Comfort – no other shoe I’ve worn provides cushion and comfort over long mileage days. The Challenger is still my most comfortable shoe for moderate terrain and transitioning to road walking.
  • Blisters – Night and Day. The large toe box on both the Challengers and EVO Speedgoat’s has largely eliminated my blisters.
  • Plantar Fasciitis– I still have it, but it is much improved and almost gone with the Protalus inserts I use in trail runners.
  • Comfort – Nothing I’ve worn yet beats the Challengers’ comfort with their large amount of foam and stack height.
  • Uppers – were more durable than anticipated and held up fine for my everyday needs.

Challenger ATR 5 Cons

  • Tread – The treads wear down fast and don’t have the grip I need. The Speedgoat’s are better. I hike in areas with some technically challenging trails, so I need my shoes to grip well.
  • Stability – The higher stack makes the Challengers less stable than other shoes I have worn, but it is not so great as to offset the benefit of the Challengers’ comfort.
  • Price – The Challengers never seem to go on sale, but I guess that speaks to the demand for the shoe.

Men’s EVO Speedgoat Pros

I switched to the Men’s EVO Speedgoat shoe in size 9.5. The toe box is roomy, and the heel of the shoe is snugger than the Challenger.

I’ll be completing a review of the EVO Speedgoat. If you subscribe to this blog on the Home page, you will receive all new posts.

  • Tread – The tread is much more “sticky” on the EVO Speedgoat than on the Challenger. The EVO Speedgoat has a 5mm lug compared to the Challenger’s 4mm lug, along with a slightly smaller drop. This, combined with the Vibram sole and smaller lug strip down the shoe’s middle, offers noticeably more stability and traction.
  • Support – I like the snug fit in the heel of the shoe and the tighter Kevlar infused uppers. The shoe firmly supports my foot while giving me the room I need in the toe box.
  • Comfort – The Men’s EVO Speedgoat is a comfortable shoe. I’ve now used it on east coast terrain and Utah’s Canyonlands and have had no hot spots or foot fatigue.
  • Durability – The upper on the EVO Speedgoat is much more durable than the Challenger and provides a tighter fit.

EVO Speedgoat Cons

  • Like the Challengers, these are expensive shoes, and unfortunately they also seem to not go on sale until the new version is released.
  • Colors – This is not important, but the color selection does not appeal to me, and the women’s shoe is not much better.

Best Prices – Men’s EVO Speedgoats

I purchased these trail runners for this review. This website uses affiliate links for some of its products, for which I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. If this review has been helpful, please consider making your purchases through the links above. Thank you

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2 thoughts on “Challenger ATR 5 vs Speed Goat 4 | Initial Impressions – Average Hiker”

  1. Hey there. So I run on soft sugar sand. I live in Florida. It’s NOT sand on the beach. It’s trails of sand. Trying to find THE BEST shoe for this. I’ve been using the Challengers for years. I like the cushioning. I don’t need sticky bottoms because…well….sand 😉

    I find the Challengers don’t last that long in terms of the uppers. I have a bunion, and they rip right along the edge there. It really sucks because as you mentioned, these aren’t cheap shoes and my feet seem to kill them- QUICKLY !! Plus I sweat A TON here in Florida. I have to wring out my insoles and my shoes take 2 days to dry 🙁 It’s so gross !!! I alternate among about 6 pairs of the Challengers. I still have a pair of the 4s, I have about four pairs of the 5s and 3 pairs of the 6s as of now. I rotate them to make them last longer too…… do you think the Speedgoats would 1) last longer, and 2) be better for sugar sand running ??? Or could you recommend a different sneaker altogether ?? Thanks !!

    1. I don’t do a lot of beach running in deep sand, but a lot of the trails I use have quite a bit of gravel and dirt. My feet also get hot, but I don’t use porous uppers because grit and sand in my shoes drive me nuts.

      I use the Men’s HOKA EVO’s and the Women’s Speedgoats right now. I’ve found the uppers on the Men’s EVO’s more durable than the Challengers and Speedgoats. The men’s are also a little roomier (which might help with the bunion rubbing?) They are both good shoes and comfortable, although surprisingly I find the EVO a little softer in the heel.

      I also like the Salomon Sense Ride’s a lot, but they are a little stiffer than the HOKA’s and slightly more narrow. My foot has less fatigue in them though. They are great for hiking.

      I hope this helps. Good luck!

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