The HOKA Challenger ATR 5 is a comfortable and durable shoe for hiking and backpacking. My feet have always been an issue; these shoes helped with comfort and support.
I began the hike with a mild case of plantar fasciitis and fully expected my usual onslaught of blisters. However, except for one blister on the side of my heel, my feet remained unblemished, and there was significantly less pain.
As an update – on my next hike on the Colorado Trail, the tread wore down more quickly than I expected, and I did not have as much grip as I wanted, so I switched to EVO Speedgoats.
Table of contents
I discussed my shoe decisions in this post. The HOKA Challenger ATR 5 was primarily based on the criteria mentioned in those initial impressions. The shoe met the requirements below and exceeded my expectations in some areas.
- Good arch support
- Large Toe Box
- Breathable – not waterproof
- Tough upper material
- Decent Grip
The one requirement I did not mention but is probably the most important was comfort.
In this area, the HOKA’s excelled.
Over the ten days, I wore the ATR 5’s, I hiked over rugged terrain – rock, dirt, mud, and road walking (my favorite). Climbing was strenuous, and I spent at least one day in mostly rainy conditions, with the shoes staying wet most of the day.
Constantly wet shoes are a good test of the upper fabric. When I get tears in my trail runners, they have been soaked for long periods.
Wet terrain is also a good test of the treads. This was the one area where these particular shoes were challenged a bit.
HOKA Challenger ATR 5 Performance
My ATR 5’s were size 10.5. This is about half a size larger than the 10 I usually wear. However, I wore a size 9-9.5 when I hiked the PCT, so my feet have definitely “grown.” Then again, maybe I’ve just “grown” overall.
In the case of these ATR 5’s, I bought a half-size larger to provide more room in the toe box. The Protalus inserts I used were a size 10. I was a little nervous about too much movement in the shoe by varying the size of the inserts and shoe, but I wanted to try and extend my arch support a little more.
Good Arch support
Using a 10.5 size shoe and size ten insert worked out perfectly. I averaged around 18 – 20 miles a day on non-town days. I expected foot fatigue and soreness around mile 15 but was thrilled not to experience it. It has always taken my feet a couple of weeks to adjust to the pounding in past hikes. However, that was not the case on this hike.
I started the trial with a mild case of Plantar Fasciitis and thought this and the blisters would be issues. I’m happy to say my feet were not sore, and I only had one blister, which was not a problem. Hell, I would have been thrilled with only five blisters!
Large Toe Box
This was probably one of my favorite things about these shoes. I did not get one single blister on my toes. I’ve NOT gotten blisters on my toes. The boots were well-ventilated, had plenty of room, and dried out quickly when they did get wet. I attributed all of these things to my lack of blisters.
Breathable – not waterproof
I’ve not worn waterproof shoes in years. Once waterproof shoes get wet, they stay wet, taking forever to dry. They also get hot in desert environments or any hot environment. This has always been a breeding ground for blisters on my feet.
My Salomons are still my favorite shoes in wet conditions. They dry out quickly, and the tread sticks quite well in rocky or slick conditions. The HOKAs was right up there, though. They dried out fast and did not get hot. The difference between the two brands was comfort and tread. While the HOKAs were more comfortable, the Salomon’s had better tread. Due to the Plantar, I decided to go with comfort.
Tough Upper Material
I was a little concerned about the durability of the uppers, but I had no issues for the ten days I was hiking. Even when continuously wet, they did not rip on a rocky trail. Honestly, though, I would have needed a longer hike to test this aspect of the shoes. Initial impressions were good. As seen in the picture above, they did not look much worse for wear after two weeks of solid hiking.
The tread was the one area where the shoes could have been a little “stickier, ” but they were fine for 99% of this hike.
I fell twice, and both times were on the day it rained. Both falls occurred when I was hiking downhill, and my shoes slid out from under me. Honestly, both downhills were muddy, rocky conditions and appeared “easy,” so I may not have been as focused as I should have been.
The shoes also stuck quite well on wet rock, wood bridges slanted sideways, and dry, rocky positions. This also speaks to my focus on the muddy conditions.
HOKA Challenger ATR 5 Comfort
This was the one item I left out in my initial assessment. I mentioned they were very comfortable but did not appreciate how comfortable they were until hiking. I’ve always experienced foot fatigue and aching at the beginning of a hike.
I had very little foot fatigue at the end of the day.
I had minimal aching, even in my arches.
My feet fully recovered the following day and had no stiffness.
I had no blisters associated with the shoes. I think the one blister on the side of my heel was slight slippage between the insert and the shoe.
All of these things were significant to me.
I was impressed with the performance of my HOKA Challenger ATR 5’s. The extra cushion greatly impacted my hike, especially in the early days. Of course, I still love my Salomons, but the comfort of the HOKA’s exceeded even that of my Salomons and Asics. They are hands down the most comfortable trail runners I’ve worn and will be the shoes I use on my next hike.