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Trail running shoe decision


Every time I’ve had asked the REI team questions in the store they have been great in providing helpful information and helped make decisions.

With the current situation, I hope you could help me through this tool. 

It’s time to replace my Hoka OO challenger ATR 4 shoes. They have been great and really enjoyed running all kinds of trails in them.

The first option was then the ATR 5 and I started reading more information about them and they sound like a better version of the 4s. However, I also ran into great information about the Salomon Sense 3 and I’m already a fan of their hiking boots. So now I’m trying to make a decision.

I know I like the ATRs, but if I’m looking to increasing distance and performance on more technical trails (uphill, loose rock and sand), should I be looking more into the sense 3s? Which one provides better support for plantar fasciitis? If at all. And if there’s one better than the other for running in the heat, mostly dry conditions. Although I always take them with me for trail run when traveling. 
Is it common to have two pairs for different types of run/trails? Is that better or worst? 

I just was wondering if you could provide any insight on this, or maybe I’m just overthinking it 🧐

Thank you so much! 

4 Replies

Hello @Fatimonster 

Thanks for reaching out! I am glad to hear you have had good success with your Hoka's in the past and am happy to help you find a new pair of shoes. Here are some things to consider when comparing the new ATRs and the Sense. 

There are three notable differences between these shoes. 

1. The Sense will have a rock plate. This is a stiff material in the midsole of the shoe to prevent rocks from pushing into your foot and aid in helping stabilize you on rocky terrain. 

2. The Hoka is classified as "maximum cushion" while the Salomon is "moderate cushion." If you like the cushioning the Hokas have provided you, you will need to keep this in mind. There will still be a fair bit of cushion, but it will be less with the Salomons. 

3. Overall fit will vary by brand. The Salomon Sense will tend to fit a bit narrower and could result in you needing to size differently. Not being able to try these on in a store could make this a bit tricky right now. 

Feel free to shoot us any other questions you may have. Happy trails!

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.

Hey @Fatimonster!

@REI-BryanV gave an excellent run-down of the Sense. I just want to add that if you really enjoy the feel of your Hokas, you might look at the Hoka Speedgoat 4.

This shoe is made with Vibram Megagrip on the outsole, which is Vibram's rubber that's specially optimized for maximum grip in both wet and dry conditions. It's not going to fit exactly like the Challenger, but that float/cushion is experience will be more similar to what you're currently wearing than the Salomon Sense, which is more responsive. 

It's well to note that many people do wear different shoes for road and trail running, especially if you're going for a more aggressive/technical shoe option like the Speedgoat. The reason is that technical trail runners are going to have longer lugs for traction, and a softer rubber which will wear quickly on a concrete/asphalt surface. Think of the difference between a winter car tire and a summer or all-season tire--your winter tires are softer, optimized for colder temperatures and therefore, wear much more quickly during the summer. It's exactly the same with road and trail shoes. The Hoka Challenger is considered a "light" trail shoe because the rubber is less grippy and the lugs are more shallow, so you could wear it on road or trail. 

I hope our answers help! See you on the trails!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Hi 🙂 @Fatimonster 

A lot of this comes down to your feet - shape, size, arch, and especially width.  I have very long, very thin feet (size 14 AA), and so have very specific tastes in many shoes.

While I have not worn the Hoka shoes, they do have a reputation as being quite cushioned, and use the cushioning to soften the trails.  From what I have seen, they also run a bit medium to wide.

I had a pair of Brooks Cascadias - very nice shoes, and the rock plate was very protective on the super rocky trails here in Northern Colorado.  They were a bit wide, and forced my feet outward to the point that I was heel swiping my ankles.

I went Salomon as they have a reputation for being narrow and grippy.

XA Pro 3D - seems a bit wide for me - meaning they are probably neutral for most.  Very protective sole initially, but became packed out after maybe 1000 or so miles (training for a couple of trail ultras and marathons).  Now I use them for smooth trails only, as it is pretty painful after a few rocks as a forefoot striker.

SpeedCross 3 - Great for slick/muddy/snow and ice covered trails (bought as a winter shoe).  Fit is perfect for me, meaning they are probably a bit on the narrow side for most, but I wish all of my shoes fit this well.

SenseRide - Just bought these a few weeks ago.  Seem to be narrow enough for me in the forefoot, good protection in the forefoot.  Will be wearing these all summer for (hopefully) a few ultras and a couple of trail marathons.

If you are after a high mileage shoe, the S/Lab series gets rave reviews, but they don't make them in a 14 so I can't try them.

One other note - the arch in the Salomons feels very high right out of the box, almost uncomfortable.  For me, this has settled down in all 3 pairs after about 20-30 miles into a very snug fit, as opposed to packing down quickly.

I always have separate shoes for road/smooth trail/rough or technical trails. The feel is very important to me, and the cushioning is very different among the 3.


@Fatimonster you've gotten great advice so far! The only other thing I'll suggest would be to consider setting up a free virtual outfitting appointment at a time that's convenient for you - our employees can ask you questions and help you hone in on a good shoe for your feet!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.