True to Hoka’s DNA, the Challenger Mid is all about underfoot comfort. Its 5-millimeter heel drop—the smallest in the test—allows your feet to remain in a neutral position while hiking, which helps stave off foot fatigue. A supercushy cuff prevents ankle rubbing, and a Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable membrane kept us dry and comfy up to 50°F (a mostly leather upper makes the boot feel a bit stuffy in higher temps). Thanks to a roomy toe box, our toes never felt squished.
Support & Stability 4.7
The leather upper with mesh and foam accents holds its shape well, so our feet didn’t shift inside the boot in undulating terrain. The Challenger Mid’s outsole has EVA pods in the midfoot, where most boots leave an air gap, to provide extra underfoot stability. This little design trick kept our arches from feeling like they were failing after long days, and helped us feel secure under 30-pound packs.
Cube-shaped, 4-millimeter lugs in a sticky proprietary rubber outsole granted us staying power during a 3,000-foot ascent (and equally intimidating descent) in Utah’s Ferguson Canyon. But when it comes to slick mud, a boot with deeper lugs would make for more confident steps.
Because of the soft EVA midsole’s propensity to compress over time or under heavy weight, it started to show signs of packing out after only 40 miles. But the Nubuck leather upper is as tough as it looks: We tackled a late-winter hike in Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon that included miles of bushwhacking through thick scrub oak and the boot came out unscathed.
m’s 7–15, w’s 5-11