Shoe Review: HOKA Challenger 7
Whether you’re hiking through single-track or cruising along on smooth pavement, you can tackle the terrain with confidence in the multi-purpose HOKA Challenger 7.
The HOKA Challenger 7 features a new and improved lug pattern for smoother strides on the road. The 4 millimeter lugs still provide plenty of grip and traction for moderate trail runs, too. More cushion and a lighter weight make for a dreamy running experience.
Fleet Feet reviewers put the HOKA Challenger 7 to the test to get a feel for how it fits and performs on various surfaces. Here’s everything you need to know.
HOKA Challenger 7
7.3 oz (W), 8.9 oz (M)
Stack height (heel/toe)
29 mm/24 mm (W), 31 mm/26 mm (M)
Trail and road
HOKA Challenger 7 Offers Versatile Performance
The HOKA Challenger 7 provides a comfortable running experience that’s just as smooth on the roads as on the trails. Thanks to a plush EVA-foam midsole and a lugged rubber outsole, you’ll feel comfortable taking on various types of terrain.
The latest version of the HOKA Challenger features the same 4 millimeter lugs as the previous version, now with a redesigned pattern to provide a smoother road running experience. Smaller, tightly spaced lugs take up the center of the outsole while larger, thicker lugs sit around the edges of the sole to add stability.
“The HOKA Challenger 7 is firm, responsive and adaptable to various terrain, making it an excellent choice for those who want to mix road and trail running,” Nate says. “The tread is grippy enough to keep me upright over icy trail sections without feeling clunky on the pavement.”
In addition to redesigning the lug pattern, HOKA increased the stack height to add more protective cushioning underfoot. Despite the added midsole foam, the shoe is almost a full ounce lighter than the previous version (thanks to a new, lightweight upper), creating a more agile feel.
“I typically run on the road during the week, then hit the trail for longer stretches over the weekend. I love that I can grab the Challenger for either one,” Kate says. “The tread is grippy enough for the dirt, mud, root and gravel-covered trails, but the shoe is also light enough to feel comfortable on the roads for the rest of the week. It feels nimble on the trail and comfortable whether I’m out for a walk, hike or run.”
What’s the difference between road shoes and trail shoes? Learn more here.
Recycled Materials Create Breathable Upper
The HOKA Challenger 7 has been revamped with a brand-new engineered mesh upper that fits and breathes better than previous versions. The new upper is made with more recycled materials, too, so you can feel better about your impact on the environment.
“The upper is comfy and fits my foot just right,” Kate says. “I like the slightly padded heel collar, which adds an overall feeling of comfort. The heel flares away from my achilles to prevent excess contact and rubbing, which always makes the fit more comfortable for me!”
HOKA did away with the heel pull-tab at the back of the shoe and extended the heel collar, helping you quickly slide in and out of the Challenger 7.
“This may seem small, but the extended heel tab makes this shoe an absolute dream to slip on easily,” Nate says. “Plus, I didn’t think about the mesh upper or tongue at all while running, which is always a good thing.”
When reviewing the HOKA Challenger 6, Fleet Feet testers noticed the shoe ran a little narrow. Not so with the Challenger 7, which reviewers felt fits true to size.
HOKA Challenger 7 vs Challenger 6
The latest version of the HOKA Challenger remains true to form as a versatile shoe that performs well on moderate trails and paved roads. The Challenger 7 features a cushier midsole, a new lug pattern in the outsole, and a more breathable upper. It’s also about an ounce lighter than the Challenger 6.
Reviewers lauded the tweaks to the Challenger 7.
“The HOKA Challenger 7 is comfortable from the first step,” says Alex. “It feels light and peppy while still offering plenty of cushioning. The shoe feels stable, and the lugs on the outsole can handle wet leaves and slippery mud without being distracting on the pavement.”
What is the HOKA Challenger 7 Best For?
The HOKA Challenger 7 is a do-it-all trainer that can handle easy- to medium-paced road miles and moderate trail miles with ease. It doesn’t offer as much tread and protection as HOKA’s more rugged trail shoes, like the Speedgoat 5, and it’s not as peppy or lively as their top-tier road-racing shoes, like the Carbon X 3, but the Challenger 7 is a dependable choice if you’re looking for one shoe to tackle the majority of your miles.
“The HOKA Challenger 7 is great for all terrain, as the name implies,” Kate says. “It’s lightweight and cushy to offer protection from the pounding of the road, plus grippy and sturdy enough to handle rocks and roots on the trail. It feels soft and protective, but still firm enough to be responsive and nimble. I’d recommend the Challenger 7 to anyone who runs or hikes on trails and wants something light and cushioned enough for the road as well.”