As a runner, weightlifter, and gym fanatic who loves the thrill of high intensity interval training (HIIT), I perform much of my training at my local gym. My workout routine goes something like this: lifting heavy weights, some form of cardio or HIIT (treadmill, jump rope, Stairmaster), a cool-down walk, ab workout, and the grand finale: stretching. With the variety of activities I do, I'm always torn on my shoe choice.
Wearing a shoe too flat could collapse my arches during runs, while bouncy kicks make it less stable to perform some leg day exercises. That's what prompted my search for a versatile shoe for the gym that could take my runs to new speeds while allowing me to perform heavy lifts on any given day.
After searching high and low, I stumbled across Hoka's Challenger 7 ($145) and decided to give the sneaker a go.
Sizes available: 5-12, in half sizes and two widths
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 5mm
My thoughts on the Hoka Challenger 7 as the ultimate gym sneaker
So far, I've tested these shoes for a month and am nothing short of impressed—especially since it's technically a trail sneaker. The sneaker boasts a plush, rubber outsole that offers stability and is responsive to my foot mechanics, making the shoe versatile for walking, running, and lifting. No matter if I'm going for a jog on the treadmill or performing dumbbell deadlifts, the shoe is constantly responding to shifts in my stance while helping me keep balance.
Even on my gym's somewhat uneven rubber flooring and bouncy treadmills, the shoes keep my feet grounded even in wobbly and unstable workout conditions. For example, I can complete standing shoulder presses, military presses, and hop on the Stairmaster without feeling off balance.
What I love most about the shoe is that it features a foam midsole. Striking the balance between firm and cushion-y, the midsole provides additional stability, supports my arches, and prevents them from collapsing without overworking my feet—which is why I gravitate toward them on running, weightlifting, and HIIT days. What's more, the foam cushioning comes in handy during my jump rope sessions, treadmill sprints, incline treadmill walks, and jogs, absorbing all of the shock, so that my knees and shins can stay pain-free. After a month of use, I haven't experienced or noticed knee or shin splint pain, which used to be noticeable with other workout shoes I've worn.
In terms of fit, the shoe did fit snug upon first wear, and the mesh material cradled my bunion. After breaking them in—which took between three and four wears—the shoes offer a more loose fit and no longer rub against my bunion. The mesh is breathable and airy, keeping sweaty feet and funky odors away. Also nice? The shoe has an extended heel pull that allows me to easily slip the shoe on and off.
As a weightlifter, runner, and HIIT fanatic, I couldn't be more impressed with the Hoka Challenger 7. It keeps me stable (likely thanks to its extra grippy-ness designed for the outdoors), supports me during low- and high-impact activities, and "challenges" me to up the ante on my speed during sprints. I've even achieved a personal best performing dumbbell bench presses in them. All this to say, the Challengers are my most versatile kicks yet, and you won't be disappointed if you decide to snag 'em.
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