HOKA Speedgoat 4 vs HOKA Challenger ATR 6
How to Choose Between these Altra Contenders
At first glance, both the shoes in this comparison post might look ridiculous. With a 30mm stack height in the heel, massive amounts of pillowy midsole cushion, and a rainbow’s array of colorways, the HOKA Challenger ATR 6 and Hoka Speedgoat 4 are head-turning shoes. At least, they were when they first hit the market.
In the past few years, HOKA ONE ONE has increased drastically in popularity among hikers, backpackers, and trail runners — presenting a serious challenge to the dominance of Altra models like the Altra Lone Peak. They love Hoka’s increased comfort and protection against the rocky, rooty ground, upper and outsole durability that comes in above other trail running models, and the moderate drop that works for nearly everyone’s foot strike.
There are also a lot of models to choose from with HOKA—among them, the popular Challengers and Speedgoats. It can be hard to choose between these two models, which look very similar at first glance. However, there are some key differences (including pros and cons) between the two models, which we’ll review in this article.
This guide should help you decide which model is best for you, and what to expect from each pair of shoes, warts and all.
What About those Altra Lone Peaks?
And we’ve included an addendum on how they stack up against the Altra Lone Peaks.
HOKA Challenger ATR 6 ($130)
Weight: 9.6 ounces (Men’s 9) | 8.8 ounces (Women’s 8)
Stack Height Heel/Toe: 30mm / 25mm (Men’s)
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 5mm
What We Like: Comfortable, versatile shoe with extreme durability
The Hoka One One Challengers are our picks for top hiking and backpacking shoes. The Challengers are a lightweight, versatile shoe that gives the wearer an incredible amount of stability and out of the box comfort. Their 5 mm drop is a happy medium, which suits both hikers used to zero or high drop shoes. Though they don’t feature the same wide toe box as the Altra Lone Peaks, the slightly snugger fit provides more stability and confidence in foot placement. Furthermore, this model comes in wide, if you truly need extra room.
PROS Wider fit and less aggressive outsole is more comfortable for longer periods of time, and will likely be more than enough for the most commonly encountered terrain. These shoes dry fast, and the rubber grip on the forefoot and under the heel provides good traction on most terrain. These shoes are lighter weight than others with comparable cushion, and are incredibly breathable.
CONS The lack of rubber under the middle of the foot can be a detractor when the trail gets steep or slick, and the more moderate outsole wears out more quickly than other, more aggressive trail shoes.
BEST FOR: Athletes who don’t fit into extremely narrow shoes, but want a more snug fit. Hiking, backpacking, and trail running on a variety of trails, with big miles as the objective. Ultralight backpacking
Read our full review: HOKA Challenger ATR 6 Review
HOKA Speedgoat 4 ($145)
Weight: 10.8 ounces (Men’s 9) | 9.6 ounces (Women’s 8)
Stack Height Heel/Toe: 32mm / 28mm (Men’s)
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 4mm
What We Like: Excellent traction and comfort.
HIGHLIGHT: Jeff Garmire chose the Speedgoats for his record on the Colorado Trail. He set the FKT (Fastest Known Time) in just 9 days and 8 hours. We predict the Speedgoats guiding more backpackers and runners to records. Furthermore, their benefits extend to any wearer, not just the elite.
PROS: Technical fit is secure on steep, challenging trails, and the outsole and deep lugs provide even more security. The ultra-cushioned midsole helps prevent bruising and pain after long stretches of rocky trail, and the foam was updated this year to be more responsive, which means more efficiency with each foot strike.
CONS: This is a shoe for more aggressive hiking and trail running, and people looking for a more moderate shoe might find the outsole and taller stack to be overkill on moderate trails. The tighter fit can add up after a full day of wear, and some might find it constricting, especially compared to wider models.
BEST FOR: Trail running and hiking on any trail. Ultralight backpacking and putting up big miles
Read our full review: HOKA Speedgoat 4 Review
Is the Speedgoat or Challenger a better fit for you? Ask yourself these questions before choosing between the two.
Do you hike on mostly moderate terrain, or is your next big adventure going to have steep trails, loose shale, mud, or all of the above?
Your Choice: If you hike and run on more moderate terrain, go for the Challenger. More technical? We recommend the Speedgoat.
Do your feet sweat a lot? Is your region humid and the trails damp, and you need a very breathable mesh upper? Or maybe your feet stay dry and you would rather have a more durable upper?
Your Choice: If your feet sweat a lot, choose the Challenger with its lighter, more breathable mesh upper. Need something a bit more rugged? The Speedgoats are still breathable, but not as light as the Challenger.
3) Shoe Width
Do you like a wider fit, or are you worried about your feet sliding around on tricky trails?
Your Choice: Hikers who like a slightly wider fit should choose the Challenger, and hikers who want a snugger, more secure fit will be happier with the Speedgoats.
4) Durability vs Weight
Would you rather have a more aggressive, durable shoe that weighs a few ounces more, or are you looking to go light and fast?
Your Choice: If you want something more rugged, the Speedgoat is your best bet. The lighter weight, more moderate option will be the Challenger.
5) Overall Application
Your Choice: Overall, if you’re going to be hiking on mostly moderate terrain, we’d recommend the Challenger as the best all-around shoe. The shoe is wider, more comfortable, and lighter Hikers hitting more steep, loose, or technical trails will be happier with the Speedgoats for their snugger fit and better traction.
What about other highly cushioned shoes?
The shoe that comes to mind immediately is the Altra Olympus.
This is the popular brand’s closest competitor to a HOKA shoe. The Altra Olympus is heavier than both the Speedgoat and the Challenger, and since the Olympus is zero-drop, you’re standing taller through both the heel and toe—a full 5mm taller in the toe than the Speedgoat. The Olympus has a wider toe box than the Speedgoat and Challenger, which contributes to both long-term comforts as well as stability on the trail but keep in mind you’ll be standing taller in these than in either HOKA model.
Altra’s durability has been called into question in recent years, including instances of the uppers wearing out, and the outsole wearing down. Hikers who want maximum midsole cushioned and the wide toe box could definitely be happy with the Olympus.
Other HOKA Options
We’d be remiss if we didn’t at least briefly address how the Speedgoats & Challenger ATRs compare to the wildly popular Altra Lone Peaks.
- Zero Drop: This trendy style might appeal to some, but many hikers will be perfectly fine with a mid-drop shoe. A 4-5mm drop has a more neutral feel than zero-drop and is and less likely to cause Achilles and calf strain.
- Wide Toe Box: The wide toe box of Altras lets your feet splay out, but on more technical or steep terrain, your foot starts sliding around in the shoe. The mid-width fit of the Challengers is likely a better all-around shoe, and the slightly narrower fit of the Speedgoats is better for technical terrain.
- Lower Stack Height: More stability and better trail feel. But also less cushioning.
- Weight: Heavier than Challengers, similar weight to Speedgoats
- Durability: None of these will have the durability of a hefty hiking-specific shoe or boot. They are all very light trail runners with a lifespan of 200 to 500 miles depending on terrain and who is wearing them. Some of our testers have had good luck with Altra durability (but others have had issues with Altra durability in the past few years, but are regularly getting 500 miles out of HOKAs).
Conclusion | Choosing the Challenger ATR or the Speedgoat
If we had to sum it up in just a few sentences? These are both excellent shoes for hikers looking for a trail shoe with a lot of cushion, a moderate heel-to-toe drop, and a more standard width and fit.
Both shoes fall right in the middle of durability for lightweight trail runners, with the Speedgoats likely lasting longer due to their more rugged construction and heavier weight.
The Challengers are a more moderate shoe for hikers on moderate trails, and are more comfortable over long distances than the Speedgoats. The Challengers don’t have rubber under the middle of the foot, which means less traction on steep or challenging trail sections.
The Speedgoats are ideal for hikers hitting more challenging, rugged terrain. Their aggressive lugs and Vibram outsoles can stand up to slippery or muddy trails, and the narrower fit helps keep them secure over loose or steep terrain.
It’s important to remember that the best pick for your upcoming trails might not be the same as the next person. The Challenger is a fantastic, comfortable all-around shoe, but the Speedgoat is the shoe that Jeff “Legend” Garmire chose for his Colorado Trail record this past summer, opting for the more secure fit, higher durability, and rugged traction for the 100,000 feet of elevation gain and loss over nearly 500 miles.
We hope this helped you choose between two great options, and if you have any other questions about how to decide between these shoes, or other top picks, drop them in the comments.
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