As with most people stepping into a pair of Hokas for the first time, you immediately think, “I’m wearing moon boots!” Well, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve had the pleasure of wearing the new Challenger ATR4s to run some trails in and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
I do currently own a pair of Speed Instinct 2s so this wasn’t my first Hoka experience. The Challengers are, possibly, the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever run trails in. With a nice secure heel cup and roomy toe box, they certainly feel comfortable around the foot. You’d think with a larger soul they would be heavier but not only are these shoes noticeably light, they breathe really well too.
The lacing system was ok as well, nothing that hasn’t been done before and as the saying goes ‘if it ain’t broke…’ I made sure I ran some single track, hills, gravel roads and rocky climbs to truly evaluate how these shoes handle different trail scenarios. The thick soles allow for the absorption of sharp rocks which is reassuring and definitely makes running over these terrains less daunting.
Having not owned the previous model I can’t offer a comparison but if you’re looking for a comfortable pair of trail shoes with a roomy toe box, secure fit and are lightweight, the Challenger ATR4s won’t disappoint.
So this was a tough review for me. Now that I can probably be (rightly) classified as a *coughs* middle-aged runner, switching brands is often a near impossible task. Having run the last four years with successive models of another leading shoe brand, the prospect of lacing up anything else is terrifying. Particularly when my previous attempt at Hokas had coincided with me discovering I was a serial heel-striker and headed for 18 months on the sidelines.
Now that I am over the extended physio and rehab diversion, I felt excited donning the snazzy new pair of Arahi’s and heading out for my usual weekly workouts. Although I reckon I am probably not a typical Hoka devotee, I’ve managed to stretch my usual asphalt trevails to include at least some parklands and hilly stuff over the past few weeks.
In short, I really like these shoes a lot. My uneducated reaction to Hokas the first time I tried them was that they were like running on marshmallows, but now that my gait is fixed I can appreciate fully how comfortable these shoes are (disclosure: I replaced the supplied insoles with my own to lift my arch and counter my tendency to pronate). They fitted me perfectly without any tightness across the toe-box (I have broad feet) and supported my heels and achilles, where my previous injuries lie.
These shoes are light and very comfortable, providing stability on uneven surfaces and absorbing impact when I tried (as best I could) to run harder than my normal roll around the local tracks. I’ve just about worn them in fully now and I look forward to lacing them up for each training run, my experience in changing shoes usually includes a few blisters and sores while I get used to the new ride but this time I have thankfully somehow avoided this new shoe feature.
If you’ve not tried Hoka before, the Arahi could be a nice entry point given their utility on road surfaces as opposed to some of the more heavy duty trail shoes in the range. They are certainly working for me and I can’t see me switching brands again for a good while.
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