Sunday, February 7, 2016

Hoka Challenger ATR 2 review

I fall in love with shoe brands often to the exclusion of others. What happens is: I'll wear the hell out of a shoe I like, go through a second pair. Then an update, which is never as good as the previous version. Then a search for something else. 

I've been an Altra groupie since I discovered the Instinct 3.0s - and wore the hell out of several pairs.   I bought a pair of Lone Peak 2.5s - like them quite a bit, despite the fact they feel a little unwieldy on more rooty and rocky trail and aren't fit for much road running (a little slow feeling).

Altra just came out with the Instinct/Intuition 3.5s. Of course, they made aesthetic and structural changes that aren't a step forward, and arguably are a half a step back.  

So as I am mildly dissatisfied with my 3.5 Instincts, and not 100% into the Lone Peaks on all trails, I am vulnerable to any attractive footwear on the market for some transaction.

I walked into REI and saw a pair of the new Hoka Challenger ATR 2s... 

I loved the ground feel and cushioning of the originals - and the uppers were nice and light, and breathable. It was a good shoe in the first version, but still had some major flaws. 

The originals were too loose for me - I wear a 13, they felt like a 13.5. I didn't feel well locked down in them, and they weren't stable on more challenging trails. Plus, the inserts on the originals didn't stay in place because of the loose fit - comically looking similar to this after one hot and sweaty run. 

I put a pair of the CATR 2s on, and walked around in the store.  Sweet.  They felt like they fixed the sloppy fit of the original CATRs - these were snug enough, not too snug. The toe box was ok - definitely not Altra sized, but still comfortable. This review (loubrenner.06) reassured me that they'd loosen up in the toebox after a few runs.  The outsole seemed similar to the originals, same tread, possibly a little firmer but not by much.

I figured I'd take them - since I would wear them around, and could return them next week when I had to make a shipping pickup at the store if they weren't right.  

A day around the house and on the treadmill felt great.  No slippage, no tightness or hotspots, no foot discomfort.  Today, I took them for a 10 miler on trails, and they were terrific.  Just like the first review - very snug and comfortable. No irritation or rubbing. I felt confident on downhills - the stack height didn't come at the expense of groundfeel. They did nice on multiple surfaces -- ice, mud, rocks, roots and road. And the outsole is very close the original - firmer in a good way, but still pretty cushioned (I'd say a 5.5-6.0 in the 2s, a 6.0-6.5 in the originals, with a 10 being the softest). I'll check back here in 50-75 miles after they are nice and broken in, but so far so good.

Edit: Ginger Runner does a great review - points out the big change that I missed - tongue!  He nails the ortholite insert change. His view on the volume change is different than mine - but relevant to those who were happy with v1.


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