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Finlay McAndrew  •  Running Gear •  27.06.2023 •  5 min read

HOKA Speedgoat 5 vs HOKA Challenger 7 Review

Two of our most popular trail running shoes at Run4It are the HOKA Speedgoat 5 and HOKA Challenger 7. While many runners opt for both options for their trail adventures, some prefer to stick to one pair of trail running shoes. Even though there’s a lot of crossover in terms of what terrain the Speedgoat and Challenger trail running shoes are suited to, there are distinct differences between them. This article breaks down the key technical variations and what types of running they’re best suited to. Hopefully this will help you pick the right HOKA trail running shoes for you.

Key features comparison

Grip comparison

The major difference in the outsole grip is that the Speedgoat 5 (pictured below on the bottom) features Vibram Megagrip with Traction Lug and the Challenger 7 (pictured below on the top) features a proprietary outsole rubber. Even though HOKA’s proprietary rubber is very good, this means the Speedgoat outsole rubber is stickier and more durable.

Grippy outsoles of HOKA Challenger and HOKA Speedgoat trail running shoes shown side by side

While there’s actually more lugs on the Challenger outsole, the 5mm lugs on the Speedgoat are 1mm longer. You’ll also notice there’s more lugs in the midfoot on the Speedgoat and they have a distinct shape. This stepped and spiky shape increases the surface area of the rubber and means that more rubber is in contact with the terrain. 

What does this mean for you? If you’re running on really technical terrain and steeper slopes, the Speedgoat 5 grip is incredible. It performs very well on loose rock, grass and softer surfaces. The Traction Lug design excels on wet rock and is one of stand out features. However, on firmer ground, the Speedgoat outsole is more noticeable than the Challenger outsole. By this, I mean that it feels a little bit stiffer and less forgiving. The Challenger outsole feels amazing on hard packed trails, grass and soft ground. Even though Megagrip is extremely durable, the 4mm lugs on the Challenger should last longer on hard ground. 

Cushioning comparison

The Speedgoat 5 and Challenger 7 trail running shoes both feature a CMEVA midsole. They’re also pretty similar midsole stack heights too. The Speedgoat is a 32-28mm and 29-25mm and the Challenger is a 31-26mm and 29-24mm for men’s and women’s respectively. 

Lateral view of HOKA Challenger and HOKA Speedgoat trail running shoes side by side

Even though they’re very similar, the Challenger cushioning (pictured above on the top) feels slightly softer underfoot. This may be down to the fact that there’s less outsole rubber, particularly in the midfoot area. As a result, the Challenger cushioning feels slightly more comfortable on hard ground, especially on the road. However, the Speedgoat (pictured above on the bottom) still feels very protective and offers excellent cushioning for long runs, such as ultra distances. 

Even though there’s no rock plate in either model, the thickness of the midsole protects your feet from sharp objects. As the Speedgoat midsole is more flexible than the Challenger, the Speedgoat adapts more effectively to uneven terrain. At the same time, the Challenger potentially feels more stable on flatter trails. If you look at the back of the shoes, you’ll see that the sides of the midsole walls sit up higher. This makes the Challenger (pictured below on the right) feel more supportive than Speedgoat (pictured below on the left) and should benefit runners who need a bit more structure on flatter ground. 

Heel of HOKA Challenger and HOKA Speedgoat trail running shoes shown side by side

It’s hard to notice any differences in the rocker between the two models. If you don’t know what HOKA’s MetaRocker is, it simply means the midsole is curved. While the rocker geometry varies across HOKA models, you’ll normally feel like the midsole rolls your feet forward. This is very effective at lowering the stress on your calf muscles and making downhill running feel easier. 

Upper comparison

Even though the Challenger 7 is lighter than the Speedgoat 5, 39 grams for men’s and 35 grams for women’s, the Speedgoat upper (pictured below on the right) feels much lighter. This is probably down to the fact that the Speedgoat features a more premium upper fabric that feels more sock-like. 

While the Challenger upper (pictured below on the left) feels more supportive in the midfoot, the Speedgoat isn’t lacking any midfoot hold. I particularly like the fact that they fit in such a similar way, as it means I can alternate between each model with no issue whatsoever. If you look at the top of the toe box on the Speedgoat, you’ll notice the section below the laces. This material is stretchy and means that the toe box can adapt to foot swelling over the course of a run. 

Toe box of HOKA Challenger and HOKA Speedgoat trail running shoes shown side by side

There are other subtle differences between the uppers too. The Speedgoat tongue is much thinner than the Challenger and the Speedgoat also features a more protective toe cap. These small features are what make the Speedgoat upper more suited to the demands of technical trail runs. 

The final point on fit is that you may want to opt for your US running shoe size in both the Speedgoat 5 and Challenger 7. That’s because the US to UK conversion is different to the norm and the same US size will give you the most similar fit to other running brands. For me, that means going for a half a UK size bigger than my normal running shoe size. 

Final thoughts

Hopefully it’s clear from this review that there are some clear technical differences between the HOKA Speedgoat and HOKA Challenger. In summary, the Speedgoat is better suited to technical terrain and the Challenger is optimal for light trails and door-to-trail running. In fact, the Challenger 7 effectively feels like a Clifton with more grip. 

Both models feel very cushioned and protective on hard ground. This means that the distances you’re running shouldn’t influence your decision too much. You should consider:

  • How uneven is the terrain 
  • How wet and slippery the surfaces will be
  • Will you have to run up and down steep slopes

If you’re on flatter ground and it’s not that wet, the Challenger 7 should feel great and you may enjoy the slightly more forgiving underfoot feel. However, if you’re trying to maximise grip and ensure you don’t slip, the Speedgoat 5 is definitely the better choice. The more technical Speedgoat upper also has benefits on technical ground. 

You may also decide that both of these HOKA trail running shoes have a place in your shoe rotation. If so, you should feel confident alternating between them as the fit and feel is so similar. Additionally, if you run in the HOKA Clifton, Bondi or Arahi road running shoes, you should find both the Challenger and Speedgoat very comfortable in terms of fit and feel.

the Speedgoat is better suited to technical terrain and the Challenger is optimal for light trails and door-to-trail running.

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