When I first really got into trail running, (especially 50k races,) Hoka One One became my trail shoe of choice. They certainly aren’t for everybody, but that could be said for any shoe a runner puts on their feet for hours at a time. Many shoes have stepped up their game over the last few years, but it takes trust and faith when lacing up for battles against the roots, rocks, and slippery mud of the trails. Hoka One One is in my top three, both on and off the trail. The Challenger 7 provided me with the perfect excuse to get back out to the woods after a dreary December and January.
Though looks don’t matter much for trail running as far as I’m concerned, the Hoka Challenger 7 is a beautiful shoe. I’ve never found any of my Hoka One One shoes to be ugly, with their vibrant colors and slick design, but of course we all have our own personal preferences. I received a pair of these in a color combo called “Mist Green/Trellis” on the website. This is my favorite shade of teal with the tread and accents in a bright, sunny yellow. They are so pretty I almost don’t want to get them dirty. Almost.
These shoes, per the website, were “built at the intersection of road and trail.” Trail shoes should work on all surfaces, but many don’t. In my opinion, trail shoes often feel stiff on pavement, which is a bummer if you want to tackle both on the same run. The Challenger 7 has the cushion of a road shoe and the 4mm lugs of a trail shoe, so it’s a true “all terrain” vehicle for adventures on trail to pavement to gravel to everything in between. They are both street-approved and trail-tested and ready to take on the miles everywhere you go.
Hoka One One has combined a simple engineered mesh upper and compression molded EVA foam in the midsole. There’s an added proprietary rubber on the bottom and a new outsole design. As far as the sole, where you really need the grip to hug the trails, these have been inspired by gravel tires. There are smaller lugs in the center of the shoe and larger ones around the outside edges, which should help quite a bit with traction, especially “in the wild” of uneven ground.
The Hoka Challenger has an extended heel pull which is really nice if you are someone who feels like your shoes rub on your heels. They are easy to get on and off which is a nice bonus if they get especially dirty.
Hoka One One has also increased the stack height which should give the wearer a super plush feel with every step. The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) gave this shoe the Seal of Acceptance, which isn’t really surprising since so many doctors tell their patients with foot problems that Hoka One One shoes are beneficial to foot health and often prescribe them for walking.
Some people find Hoka One One shoes to feel heavy, and they definitely aren’t known for being the lightest of the bunch. However, these quality shoes are lighter than the last iteration, even with the increased stack height. The materials across the upper, midsole, and outsole have been improved as well.
In the past, I’ve found Hoka One One shoes to run a bit larger than many of my other running shoes, so I’m never 100% sure what size to get. In most shoe brands, I typically get one shoe size larger than my normal every day size, but sometimes I only get a half size up in Hoka One One shoes. I opted to get the Challengers in the full size up, and I gambled correctly. These feel pretty true-to-size in comparison to other trail runners. They are nice and snug but still not too narrow, especially through the toebox, which is an area I prefer a little wider.
As always, Hoka One One has come out with a winner in the Challenger 7. They look good, they feel good, and I can wear them pretty much everywhere. Hokas tend to last longer than other brands too, and I can be hard on my shoes. With Spring and Summer sun ahead, I plan to wear the Challengers a lot.