I’ve been on the HOKA bandwagon for about a year now. The Clifton has been my go-to for the marathon. The Challenger ATR 2 is basically the trail version of the Clifton. I wore them for a local race, HAT 50K.
The HOKA Challenger ATR 2 is exactly what I anticipated: versatile, lightweight, lots of cushioning, and a relatively minimal upper. The upper construction is very similar to the Clifton 2, but HOKA used a closed mesh for added protection on the trails. There’s a nice amount of padding around the tongue and collar. I wore these for 31 miles out of the box without a problem. The extra padding on the tongue allowed me to tighten up the laces without feeling a whole lot of pressure on the top of my feet. I almost always have to use some tricky lacing technique to keep my trail shoes from slipping, but I had no issues in these. The meta rocker design (one of my favorite HOKA features) gives these shoes a really smooth transition from landing to toe-off. The outsole is constructed with firmer rubber lugs on the heel and forefoot with a soft molded foam in the center. It’s enough traction for the trails but not too much that you’d want to avoid the road. In fact, it was the perfect choice for HAT 50K, where you get a little bit of everything.
It’s hard to complain about a shoe that you totally forget about during a 50K race. However, I will note that these shoes didn’t drain well. After my first stream crossing, the shoes felt much heavier and the sloshing seemed to last forever. I also found an insane amount of sand and pebbles in my shoes after the race.
The HOKA Challenger ATR 2 is a really solid running shoe. They performed well on road, grass, dirt, technical trail, rocks and just about every terrain you can think of. HOKA considers this a trail shoe but I would call it a road-trail hybrid. If you like the Clifton 2, you will enjoy the Challenger ATR 2. For $130, you can own a pair and run just about anywhere.