Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Hoka Challenger 7 GTX Review- Plush Riding, Waterproof, Door to Trail Comfort

Article by Jeff Valliere

Hoka Challenger 7 GTX ($160)

Introduction:  The Challenger 7 GTX is essentially the same as the Challenger 7 (see our review here), with the same plush midsole, versatile outsole, stack height and door to trail/light trail intent.


Extremely versatile, living up to its ‘all-terrain’ billing

Versatile: leaning more road than trail

Impressively light at 9.7 oz  / 275g (US9) for a waterproof Gore-Tex shoe, a big stack of 31/26 AND with a trail worthy outsole

Well balanced on road and easier trail, extremely smooth rocker at all paces with as a bonus some front flex with the best rocker in a Hoka to date

Energetic, soft cushion

Very friendly to heel striking and slow paces and can also move along faster

Outsole not in the way at all on smooth firm hard surfaces and adds stability to the soft midsole


“Regular” fit might feel narrow to some with no wide option in GTX version available 

Could use traction designed for a GTX shoe, it would be nice to see a more winter capable outsole


Official Weight:  men’s  9.7 oz  / 275g (US9)

Sample Weight: 10.25 oz / 293 g (US10) 

Stack Heights: 

men’s 31mm heel / 26mm forefoot :: women’s  29mm heel / 24 mm forefoot

Available now: $160

First Impressions/Fit/Upper: 

The GTX version is very much like the non GTX version overall, but the upper of course features a Gore Invisible Fit liner that, while it adds nearly an ounce to the shoe, still feels remarkably light for such a well cushioned shoe.  I find that fit to be true to size and that overall they feel quite secure in the heel, with a secure midfoot lockdown and just enough room in the forefoot for my narrow, low volume foot.  The addition of the Gore liner adds a bit of extra structure, protection and security, but is still very light and flexible feeling shoe and upper.

The forefoot leans on the narrow end of the spectrum and the Gore upper has less give than the normal version (and there is no option for a wider size), but I find toe room to be adequate and appreciate the added security.  Aside from the Gore liner, there are a few subtle differences, with the GTX having a more beefy toe bumper, as well as a pull loop on the heel.


I am very impressed at how well this shoe performs in technical terrain compared to previous versions and even a touch better than the non GTX.  While I certainly would not categorize the 7 or 7 GTX as a shoe made for technical trails, I found that my foot was adequately locked down to move confidently through technical terrain with no excess movement. 

I have run them several times down an exceptionally steep, rocky, technical trail that requires a fair amount of long leaps with precise landings onto elevated rocks and water bars where there is no room for error and I had little trepidation (any trepidation was more related to stack height and traction as you will see below).  

The Gore Invisible fit liner runs high in the shoe and around the tongue creating a nice bathtub effect to not allow for any waterproof protection weakness around the tongue.

Waterproofing is excellent, as I have run in snow, slush and puddles with no seepage.


The midsole is the same as the regular Challenger 7, both adding 2 mm of stack over previous versions. The compressed  EVA midsole foam feels enhanced, as it is very light and springy, while even lighter than previous versions.  I have found performance to be exceptional, with a very deep, well cushioned feel, bordering on soft, yet it is firm and supportive enough to not feel mushy, performing well on a wide variety of terrain.  I find them to be very responsive and energetic on just about any terrain and any gradient, encouraging speed on the flats, downhills and have great uphill capabilities, feeling very springy and inspiring to push up the hill.  

While the stack height has increased by 2mm, I find the 7 and 7 GTX to be more stable than the previous version, which is quite welcome in technical terrain and at higher speeds.  That said, while running quickly through rocky, technical terrain, I am aware of the height which makes me a bit more cautious.  On moderate to less technical terrain though, I feel confident enough to really let them rip.


The Challenger 7 GTX version has the same outsole as the regular 7, which I had mixed feelings about.  I will say that given the intent of the Challenger 7/GTX, being more geared towards road to trail and less technical trails, the outsole performs as designed in dry, good conditions.  

I found that in mixed conditions, where I have to negotiate a mix of snow, ice and slush covered streets, trails that are sometimes muddy, sometimes dry, rocky, sometimes wet, intermittent short patches of ice/snow/slush, the 7/GTX really struggles.  While I do not have high outsole expectations of the regular Challenger 7, I think it would not take much to tweak the compound and perhaps mimic the Speedgoat 5 “traction lugs” to increase grip, thus adding quite a bit more versatility.  

As it stands now, I think the lugs on the Challenger 7/GTX are a bit too shallow, close together and are not in an effective shape/design as they could be trail use and especially for wet/wintery conditions for which the upper of the GTX version is specifically intended.


I am impressed with the ride and versatility of the 7 GTX.  They are smooth, quick, energetic and amazingly well cushioned.  I think they ride well on the road, not a speedster, but can easily maintain a quick training pace or even some up-tempo bursts.  

Where the 7/GTX really shines is on buffed out trails, where they feel very quick, energetic and perfectly at home no matter the pace.  While not made for technical terrain and not my first pick for that, I find they do reasonably well there and handle it with much more stability and security than previous versions (though with traction being the limiting factor for me).


The Challenger 7 GTX is a great wet weather shoe for door to trail and long distances on moderate to easy trails with enough security and stability to cruise some technical terrain without feeling too nervous as I have been with previous versions.  My biggest wish for this shoe is that I would love to see a more robust outsolewith lugs more similar to the Speedgoat with more bite, especially for this GTX version that is otherwise so well suited for inclement weather.

Jeff V’s Score: 9.1/10

Ride: 9.5  Fit: 9 Value: 9  Style: 9 Traction: 8 Rock Protection: 9.5

😊😊😊 ½


Hoka Speedgoat 5 GTX (RTR Review)

I tested the studded version, but the normal GTX version would be the same, but without studs.  I would pick the Speedgoat 5 GTX any day over the Challenger 7 GTX for its improved, more versatile traction that can handle wet, snow, some ice, mud, etc… way better.  If you are choosing a Gore Tex shoe, presumably you will be taking them out in poor conditions and want better traction.

Scarpa Ribelle Run Kalibra G (RTR Review)

The Scarpa does not have a Gore liner and is not as waterproof in wet, slushy conditions, but does well in the snow for which it is more intended.  With built in gaiter, dual direction BOA dial, insanely good traction, amazing comfort and excellent cushion, the Kalibra is a better pick for poor weather and bad footing, especially in the cold and snow, but the Challenger would be better for road miles in the wet.

La Sportiva Cyklon Cross GTX (RTR Review)

Also a Gore-Tex wrap, the Cyklon is as waterproof and also has a built in gaiter, BOA, superior traction, but is very firm underfoot and not nearly as well cushioned as the Challenger.

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

The Hoka Challenger 7 GTX is available now including from our partners below

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