Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Hoka One One Napali ATR Review - A Light, Fast and Affordable Trail Running Option

by Jeff Valliere

Hoka One One Napali ATR
9oz. US Men's Size 9/7.6oz US Women's Size 8
31mm heel/26mm forefoot (5mm drop)
$99.95 Available now at Running Warehouse here

Initial impressions

My first thought was "a Challenger ATR with a new upper".  I have to admit that at first glance,the Napali ATR came across to me as a bit boring due to it's fairly plain looking upper with simple pattern and subtle colorway.  But, I more often than not prefer subtle over loud and obnoxious, so the Napali ATR quickly grew on me.  It is light in the hand with an identical outsole and midsole of the Challenger ATR, a shoe that I really like, but have had trouble with outsole durability.  How does the Napali match up?

The upper of the Napali ATR is very plain and simple, with very few overlays or flashy graphics.  If not for the midsole and Hoka logo on the heel, one might mistake this shoe for a department store brand.  Don't be fooled however, as the upper is well built, structured and breathable, has a true to size/comfortable fit and does a great job securing my low volume foot.  
Though the Napali ATR is overall a light shoe, the materials of the upper are a bit on the stiff side and do not really seem to be breaking in much (or at all) over time.  Though comfortable and effective, the upper is not luxurious by any stretch.  Even though I have been running in the Napali ATR in cooler temperatures, I feel a good bit of draft, so breathability seems to be good and suspect warmer temps will be no problem.

The toe bumper is semi flexible, providing some protection from minor rock stubs.
The heel collar is well padded and a perfect height, with a light, but supportive and structured heel counter.  The laces are flat and on the thin side, but interact nicely with the punched eyelets for a properly snug fit on the first try without the need to re-adjust.
The tongue is on the thin side, but is adequately padded as to not feel any lace pressure.  I did find that the tongue folded over a bit on either side and I had to smooth and adjust with my finger to straighten out the folds before cinching the laces.
Though I found fit to be true to size, the Napali ATR runs just ever so slightly shorter than the Challenger ATR 3 with just a bit less wiggle room and less overall volume in the forefoot.  I did not find it to be problematic, but some might benefit from sizing up a half size.


The EVA midsole of the Napali ATR is identical to the Challenger ATR in regard to composition, density, thickness and feels exactly the same.  This midsole offers an impressive combination/balance of plush all day cushioning with fast and responsive race day capability.  

With a stack of 31/26 mm, the amount of cushion here is enough to keep legs and joints fresh after the hardest sessions of pounding fast miles or hard downhills.  With cushioning this thick, rock protection is excellent, as I am unable to feel even the hardest hits on the sharpest rocks. 

The early stage meta rocker in this shoe is very apparent when wearing, as the curvature of the outsole helps to pitch your position somewhat forward and inspires faster running.


The 4 mm lugs that are bonded to the EVA in the heel and the forefoot are made of a durable carbon rubber that provide excellent grip on a wide range of surfaces.  The lugs are low profile enough that they are hardly noticeable when running on roads or smoother surfaces, yet provide ample grip on steep technical trails, loose dirt, snow, mild mud and rock.
Durability of the outsole however is my primary concern with the Napali ATR (as has also been the case with the Challenger ATR).  I find that when used on rocky, steep and technical trails, the carbon rubber tread prematurely becomes unbonded from the foam portion of the midsole/outsole.  If running on more moderate, less technical terrain, this outsole degradation will likely not become apparent for some time (or at all depending), but I notice it happening after 20 or so miles.
The outsole of the Napali ATR provides a reasonably wide and stable platform.


In a nutshell, the Napali ATR  is an affordable, well cushioned, lightweight, supportive all day trainer that could also double as a race shoe for any distance due to it's responsive feel, low weight, secure upper, great traction and overall comfort.

I was able to run in the Napali ATR on roads, dirt roads, technical trails with snow, some ice, mud and on rock.  Traction is consistent with the Challenger, which is surprisingly good considering how little rubber is on the outsole and that the lugs are only 4mm.  As I mentioned earlier, the durability of the lugs when used primarily in rocky, technical terrain is a concern, so would recommend this shoe for more moderate trails (look to the Speedgoat 2 for greater outsole durability).

Though I find the upper to feel somewhat stiff and cheap in appearance, it really is effective in keeping my foot in place, is well ventilated, durable (so far) and is comfortable, causing me no issues.  At $99.95, the Napali ATR is a great entry level shoe that will be sure to please.

Jeff's Score:  9.3/10

- .3 for stiff upper materials (again, no real issues, but would be nice for overall feel/comfort)
- .3 for outsole durability concerns.
- .1 for tongue requiring care to adjust folding


Hoka One One Napali ATR vs. Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 (RTR review here):  The Napali ATR is a few grams lighter and aside from the slightly less flexible upper, is essentially the same shoe for $30 less.  I honestly would have trouble justifying the extra $30 for the Challenger.

Hoka One One Napali ATR vs. Hoka One One Speedgoat 2 (RTR review here):  For rough trails and greater durability, the Speedgoat 2 is superior, but for more moderate trails and for the budget conscious, the Napali ATR would be a fine choice.

Our review of the Napali road runner, also $99.95 and essentially a Clifton 3 with a different upper. 

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 2d Masters in 2015. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the Colorado 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several. 
For Jeff's full full run bios see our Reviewers Bio Page here.

The Napali was provided at no cost.The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

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Steve How said...

Hi Jeff,
Thanks for another great review! When comparing with the Challenger ATR in the article? I assume you are comparing to the ATR3? Any hougjta on how the Napali compares with the ATR4? Thabms

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Chong,
Jeff does not have the ATR 4 yet. Another reviewer is working on it but is unfortunately injured. I will ask her to comment about initial fit and runs compared to ATR 3. At the link our preview of the ATR 4. The ATR 4 will drop in weight to 9 oz same as Napali have fewer overlays than 3 and a more extensive toe bumper.
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links to all shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews. Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated

Anonymous said...

Hoka need to make the tongue gusseted.

Anonymous said...

Which Challenger ATR are you comparing against the Napali ATR? Without a number, assuming #1?

Jeff Valliere said...

Anonymous, thanks for reading. I was comparing with the ATR 3 in the comparison section. In the comment about fit, I was referring to the ATR 3 and apologize for the omission, thanks for the catch. Any other references to outsole or midsole are consistent with any Challenger ATR, given neither the outsole or midsole have changed. Thanks again!

Xavier said...

I never thought I would say this but this is actually a Hoka I would like to try out. The price tag also increases the appeal.

Steve How said...

Thanks, Sam! I tried the Challenger ATR4 and found the midsole not as soft and pillowy as ATR3. Seems like Napali ATR is also not an export model and not available in Asia where I reside. Looks like I may need to get my hands on remaining stock of ATR3

Unknown said...

Every hoka I have tried on other then the Clifton 2 have been to small in a size 13. Speed goat 3, torrent, Clifton3. How do these Compare in size?