Altra Lone Peaks | Long Term Review

Altra Lone Peaks | Long Term Review

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I've deliberately held off writing a review of the Altra Lone Peaks until such a time as I felt I had been able to test them thoroughly in just about every condition and season possible. After a little over nine months of hard use I'm ready to share my thoughts on these crazy looking shoes.

The Altra Lone Peaks are a foot-shaped trail running shoe designed to be uber comfortable and to allow your feet, specifically your toes, to have room to splay out while running. They look kind of weird because of the wide toebox and the retro styling, but when you slip them on your feet you'll appreciate the difference the extra room up front makes.

They are "zero drop" or more simply put have no height difference between heel and toe, promoting a minimalistic or barefoot posture. I use the term minimalist in the sense that they do not raise the heel and therefore add no cushioning to the foot, but weighing in just a hair under 10oz makes them no ultralight shoe.

Upper

The upper of the Lone Peak is almost entirely made of a coarse mesh over the top of a finer mesh (used to stop debris passing through the shoe too easily) save for the enormous toe guard and some small areas of striping. The mesh makes it a very cool and breathable shoe to wear for extended periods of time and the small areas of striping provide support at the mid-foot and heel where you need it - otherwise the shoe would be an unstructured floppy mess. The mesh is described as being quick drying and for the most part I would agree, but only the mesh...

I've worn socks with my Lone Peaks 99% of the time, but on the rare occasions that I've slipped them on barefoot I have not experienced any irritation or friction from internal seams. In fact the construction of the shoe is so well made that it is one of the few trail running shoes that I've owned that is a joy to wear without socks.

The Lone Peaks come with a thin, removable, foam insole that provides just enough cushioning with out feeling spongey. I quickly noticed wearing these that there is absolutely no arch support at all, the footbed is completely flat, something that becomes even more apparent when you remove the thin foam insert.

In wet conditions, like fording a creek or hiking in heavy rain, the foam insole is like a sponge soaking up the water and holding it inside the shoe. While the mesh upper is able to drain and dry relatively quickly (not as good as my Columbia Drainmakers or Inov-8 Roclites mind you), the insole is terrible.

On several multi-day hikes with bouts of rain I have had to take my LPs off and allow them time for the insoles and footbeds to dry out. Removing them and placing them in the sun helps, but it's a slow process and not one I like having to make in order to "fix" my shoes. I should have just thrown the insoles away, but I like the extra layer of comfort they provide.

Midsole

The midsole of the Lone Peaks is made of three layers of different materials sandwiched together. The first layer (directly under the footbed) is made from what Altra calls A-Bound "a thin layer that reduces the impact of hard surfaces while still maintaining ground feedback."

The second layer is a stone guard layer used to protect the foot from stones and pointy surfaces. The last layer is made of a rather firm EVA, no doubt used to soften the overall experience. Despite a chunky 7mm sandwiched midsole, the LPs are not a soft and cushiony shoe when worn, far from it. They're soft enough to provide reasonable ground feel, but firm enough to protect the feet - the balance is really just right.

Sole

The sole of the LPs is referred to by Altra as a "TrailClaw" outsole. I don't know exactly what that is supposed to mean, but the sole of the LPs with the very distinctive yellow foot is one of the most unique that I have ever seen.

At the back of the sole is a small protruding section that Altra calls a "Trail Rudder". I've tried to give this unique feature the benefit of the doubt, hoping that it would provide some clever benefit that no other manufacturer had thought of until now, but have to report that I had very quickly begun to nickname it the "Mud Flicker" and reached a tipping point on a recent hike where I decided to cut them off with my knife!

The widely spaced lugs are great on loose, dry surfaces that you'd find on most trails and make short work of hard flat surfaces also. They also help to avoid small rocks getting stuck in the treads.

However, on numerous occasions when I've worn the LPs in wet conditions (most recently on a section hike of the AT) the outsole has completely failed to provide any traction on wet rocky surfaces. Their grip in the wet on slick rocks is so bad that at one point I had to slow down and slide on my butt down several large rocks because I had lost all confidence in their ability to stop me from slipping.

I don't know if this can be attributed to the material used or the widely spaced lugs, but whatever the reason these are not shoes I would recommend for wet or slick rocky conditions. I'd like to see some razor siping added to the soles to provide better traction, more tightly spaced areas of grip on key sections of the sole or just improved materials.

Pros

  • Wide anatomically shaped toe box (please other manufacturers DO this!)
  • Breathable mesh upper (quick drying)
  • Zero drop, minimalistic form factor
  • Oversized front stone bumper
  • Just the right amount of ground feedback vs. cushioning
  • Retro cool looking (I like 'em)

Cons

  • Spongey insole and footbed soaks up water and holds it
  • Lack of traction on wet rocky surfaces
  • Weight. Not heavy, but could be lighter

Conclusion

As I mentioned earlier, I've worn my Lone Peaks for a little over nine months in varying conditions and have been very happy with them. I've worn them for trail running, regular running, hiking, and walking. I've worn them in just about every type of weather condition we experience in North Carolina - hot dry, wet humid, freezing cold, and even snow.

The Lone Peaks are probably the most comfortable trail running shoes I have ever worn, due mostly to the wide foot-shape toe box and the soft mesh upper. If Altra could improve the grip and traction on wet rocky surfaces these would be truly great trail runners. I have not had a chance to try the Altra Instinct, but hope they have addressed the outsole grip issue with them.

So, despite a few minor flaws, remember that Altra is still a very young footwear manufacturer, the Altra Lone Peaks are great trail running shoes. I still get a smile when I put these on, lace them up and take my first few strides - how many shoes do you own that make you happy to just get out and run? Yeah, thought so.

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Disclosure: A very long time ago, Altra provided Brian's Backpacking Blog with a complementary pair of shoes for the purpose of testing.

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