Altra Lone Peaks | Long Term Review

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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  • http://www.HikeLighter.Com/ John Abela

    Hey Brian,

    Interesting review. I have never owned a pair of shoes from Altra. I tend to find that a shoes traction is very high up the list of “must perform” and probably the primary reason I stick with the inov8 x-talon 212 shoes, because the lugs it has are truly amazing.

    So, basically these Altra shoes are normal shoes in every way, except that they are a zero drop, right? In which case, that is pretty sweet, because most of the zero drop shoes out there have very little padding of any kind, whereas these seem to have some nice padding. That could very much be a rather sweet niche market for them, and for us hikers that like zero drop shoes yet want some actual padding.

    The inability for it to drain water quickly should probably be a bit larger concern for those who hike a lot in wet conditions.

    And yeah, that stupid little flap thingie on the back must be a nightmare in mud… sitting there flinging up mud onto the back of your legs all day. No thank you to that.

    Thanks for doing a long-term review. Too many hiking gear reviews these days are ‘just out of the box’ reviews. I myself am trying more and more to only do reviews after I have a lot of miles on gear before I review it.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Lack of traction in wet conditions was a big surprise to me and as you say is a very important factor in my choice of shoe.

      Draining well is also another important consideration. I like to go through water instead of try to skirt around or over it, other shoes make this extremely easy and combined with the right socks it makes the old-school wet feet hazard a thing of the past. Clearly Altra has a way to go in this regard, despite the mesh upper being close to perfect.

      The Trail Rudders – gone! Not much more to say on that. Thanks for the vote of confidence in long term reviews. I personally do not enjoy reading “out of the box” gear reviews that also use stock manufacturer photos – it’s a pet pieve you could say and makes me doubt the reviewer’s usage of the product.

      It’s a double edged sword sometimes though. Manufacturers want to get reviews of the gear out as quickly as possible, they provide samples to certain bloggers to help enable that (we can’t all buy gear constantly) and I don’t have a problem with people getting free stuff. To be honest, after all the effort and time I put into a review it would have been cheaper in the long run to buy them myself and not have to…

      Getting reviews out quickly, without thorough testing and pushing gear to it’s limits is just not my thing. I’m extremely fortunate that a core group of prominent manufacturers understand this and see the value in having gear properly tested in real trail conditions. I’m probably one of the last people you’ll see reviewing the Lone Peaks, most bloggers cranked out their initial reviews months ago and left it at that. I still think my feedback is valid and hope Altra take it in the intent it was meant – to improve their products and make their shoes even better.

      I have a significant backlog of amazing gear that I am in the process of testing. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep up with it all, but I’d rather do it my way and (hopefully) add value, than pop out blog posts on a daily basis just because.

      BTW – big fan of your site and your content. I’ve enjoyed reading about your “journey with gear” over the years :-]

  • http://www.hikelighter.com/ John Abela

    Hey Brian,

    Interesting review. I have never owned a pair of shoes from Altra. I tend to find that a shoes traction is very high up the list of “must perform” and probably the primary reason I stick with the inov8 x-talon 212 shoes, because the lugs it has are truly amazing.

    So, basically these Altra shoes are normal shoes in every way, except that they are a zero drop, right? In which case, that is pretty sweet, because most of the zero drop shoes out there have very little padding of any kind, whereas these seem to have some nice padding. That could very much be a rather sweet niche market for them, and for us hikers that like zero drop shoes yet want some actual padding.

    The inability for it to drain water quickly should probably be a bit larger concern for those who hike a lot in wet conditions.

    And yeah, that stupid little flap thingie on the back must be a nightmare in mud… sitting there flinging up mud onto the back of your legs all day. No thank you to that.

    Thanks for doing a long-term review. Too many hiking gear reviews these days are ‘just out of the box’ reviews. I myself am trying more and more to only do reviews after I have a lot of miles on gear before I review it.

  • Andrew Skurka

    How is the durability? I have seen some good mesh, some horrible.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Andrew, I’m glad someone asked this. Don’t mistake “soft and comfortable” with delicate and fragile – I’ve ben wearing the LPs up and down the East coast on and off trails and have not experienced a single tear in the mesh upper. I can’t say that of my Columbia Drainmakers – mind you I subjected them to a GORUCK Challenge…

      I have to believe that the double layer approach (coarse on the outside, finer on the inside) provides an additional amount of strength and durability to the upper. I’m surprisingly pleased with the mesh on these, but will add that they snag low brush and thorny plants like a son of bitch!

      The LPs have some great features, I’d be happy if other manufacturers just took note of the extra wide toebox and followed suit.. I’m talking to you > Inov-8, Salomon, Scarpa, Columbia.

  • Andrew Skurka

    How is the durability? I have seen some good mesh, some horrible.

  • Jouni

    Hi Brian,
    I have owned pair of Lone Peaks for few months and so far they are the most comfortable trail running shoe for bushwalking that I have ever tried. I have trained with Merrel Trail Gloves but find them too minimalist for trekking. I am planning take mine to India / Ladakh for upcoming 30 day trek.
    Interesting to read about your experience with Lone Peaks. Choice of shoes (fit) is so important factor and same time what may be a fantastic pair for me may be complete inappropriate for some else.
    I am hoping that my search for the ultimate trail running shoes is over…. time will tell.CheersJouni

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Jouni, I’d love to hear how the Lone Peaks work out for you in India, would you mind checking back in when you are done? Shoe reviews, and most other gear reviews for that matter, are highly subjective simply because what fits and works well with my feet may be utterly horrible for you or someone else.

      There are so many factors at play. I’ve also noticed that certain features on shoes, such as breathability, and a well formed footbed, will significantly reduce the chance of blisters for me. That may not be the case for others.

      At best a shoe review should give you some additional and subjective data points to help inform your buying or testing decision – I hope that by waiting for several months to write this I have provided more insight into their overall performance.

      Have a safe trip, and good luck with your LPs!

  • Jouni

    Hi Brian,
    I have owned pair of Lone Peaks for few months and so far they are the most comfortable trail running shoe for bushwalking that I have ever tried. I have trained with Merrel Trail Gloves but find them too minimalist for trekking. I am planning take mine to India / Ladakh for upcoming 30 day trek.
    Interesting to read about your experience with Lone Peaks. Choice of shoes (fit) is so important factor and same time what may be a fantastic pair for me may be complete inappropriate for some else.
    I am hoping that my search for the ultimate trail running shoes is over…. time will tell.CheersJouni

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Andrew, I’m glad someone asked this. Don’t mistake “soft and comfortable” with delicate and fragile – I’ve ben wearing the LPs up and down the East coast on and off trails and have not experienced a single tear in the mesh upper. I can’t say that of my Columbia Drainmakers – mind you I subjected them to a GORUCK Challenge…

    I have to believe that the double layer approach (coarse on the outside, finer on the inside) provides an additional amount of strength and durability to the upper. I’m surprisingly pleased with the mesh on these, but will add that they snag low brush and thorny plants like a son of bitch!

    The LPs have some great features, I’d be happy if other manufacturers just took note of the extra wide toebox and followed suit.. I’m talking to you > Inov-8, Salomon, Scarpa, Columbia.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Jouni, I’d love to hear how the Lone Peaks work out for you in India, would you mind checking back in when you are done? Shoe reviews, and most other gear reviews for that matter, are highly subjective simply because what fits and works well with my feet may be utterly horrible for you or someone else.

    There are so many factors at play. I’ve also noticed that certain features on shoes, such as breathability, and a well formed footbed, will significantly reduce the chance of blisters for me. That may not be the case for others.

    At best a shoe review should give you some additional and subjective data points to help inform your buying or testing decision – I hope that by waiting for several months to write this I have provided more insight into their overall performance.

    Have a safe trip, and good luck with your LPs!

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Lack of traction in wet conditions was a big surprise to me and as you say is a very important factor in my choice of shoe.

    Draining well is also another important consideration. I like to go through water instead of try to skirt around or over it, other shoes make this extremely easy and combined with the right socks it makes the old-school wet feet hazard a thing of the past. Clearly Altra has a way to go in this regard, despite the mesh upper being close to perfect.

    The Trail Rudders – gone! Not much more to say on that. Thanks for the vote of confidence in long term reviews. I personally do not enjoy reading “out of the box” gear reviews that also use stock manufacturer photos – it’s a pet pieve you could say and makes me doubt the reviewer’s usage of the product.

    It’s a double edged sword sometimes though. Manufacturers want to get reviews of the gear out as quickly as possible, they provide samples to certain bloggers to help enable that (we can’t all buy gear constantly) and I don’t have a problem with people getting free stuff. To be honest, after all the effort and time I put into a review it would have been cheaper in the long run to buy them myself and not have to…

    Getting reviews out quickly, without thorough testing and pushing gear to it’s limits is just not my thing. I’m extremely fortunate that a core group of prominent manufacturers understand this and see the value in having gear properly tested in real trail conditions. I’m probably one of the last people you’ll see reviewing the Lone Peaks, most bloggers cranked out their initial reviews months ago and left it at that. I still think my feedback is valid and hope Altra take it in the intent it was meant – to improve their products and make their shoes even better.

    I have a significant backlog of amazing gear that I am in the process of testing. It takes a lot of time and effort to keep up with it all, but I’d rather do it my way and (hopefully) add value, than pop out blog posts on a daily basis just because.

    BTW – big fan of your site and your content. I’ve enjoyed reading about your “journey with gear” over the years :-]

  • Shawn Amison

    How are these in comparison to the Merrell Trail Gloves? I have those exact same Merrell’s and can say that I love them, and traction on wet and muddy terrain seems to be good for me. Just curious what your experience has been compared to these Lone Peaks.

    Great review by the way. Love the long term style of judging gear and how it holds up over several months.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Shawn, the traction on the Merrells is in an entirely different class than the Lone Peaks. My Merrell Trail Gloves stick like glue even in the wet, just as long as the ground surface is solid and firm – the Lone Peaks simply slide. The only edge that the Lone Peaks have is on dry, gravel, or loose ground where their deeper tread comes into play. For wet, the Trail Gloves rule.

  • Shawn Amison

    How are these in comparison to the Merrell Trail Gloves? I have those exact same Merrell’s and can say that I love them, and traction on wet and muddy terrain seems to be good for me. Just curious what your experience has been compared to these Lone Peaks.

  • Brian Menin

    I’ve been considering a pair of these myself, especially since they are a local company to me. But after reading your review, I’ll probably stick with the Baffin Trail to Rapids I review here: http://www.industryoutsider.com/?p=1455

    It’s ironic that they fared so poorly in the wet, since I know there are plenty of water crossings in our local mountains, where the company does their R&D.

  • Brian Menin

    I’ve been considering a pair of these myself, especially since they are a local company to me. But after reading your review, I’ll probably stick with the Baffin Trail to Rapids I review here: http://www.industryoutsider.com/?p=1455

    It’s ironic that they fared so poorly in the wet, since I know there are plenty of water crossings in our local mountains, where the company does their R&D.

  • andyr354

    Thanks for this update. I have had the Instinct street versions for a while and love them. Now to spend more cash and get the matching trail version LOL.

  • http://twitter.com/willrun4fun Willrun4fun

    Thanks for this update. I have had the Instinct street versions for a while and love them. Now to spend more cash and get the matching trail version LOL.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Evan-Lomas/100000279430614 Evan Lomas

    Brian,

    I noticed that you have used the LP’s and the merrels trail gloves. Well, I went to sports Chalet and tried on the trail gloves because you told me they are pretty wide. Sad to say, maybe i have the widest feet on the planet! Thy were so tight on the sides and across the top! I can barely fit into most shoes and it’s always a stretch. I believe I am a size10, 2E.

    I am just wondering, how does the width of the LP’s fair against the merrels trail gloves? and also, is there enough room to put your barefoot science insoles in the shoe and still have an easy time wearing them?

    Help!

    Evan

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Evan, I wear the Trail Gloves ever day now during my Crossfit workouts and they are still fine (width wise) for me. However, the LPs are practically “baggy” by comparison and have much more width than the Trail Gloves. Yes, I am able to use my Barefoot Science inserts in the LPs and still have a comfortable fit.

      If you have trouble finding a bricks and mortar retailer to go and try shoes on in person (which is always best) consider Zappos.com or PlanetShoes.com that each let you ship shoes both ways for free. I’ve often ordered several sizes of the same shoe and returned the ones that didn’t fit – no cost for shipping!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Evan-Lomas/100000279430614 Evan Lomas

        This is exactly what I was looking for, thank you Brian. I have always trusted your advice.