Altra running shoes have intrigued me for a few years now but it’s been quite hard to find in the U.K until recently so the new Lone Peak 2.0 is my first foray into their footwear and I was keen to see how they would perform on Autumnal British footpaths and mountainsides.
Altra shoes are characterised by two key features which are found right across the range. Firstly there’s the wide ‘FootShape™’ toe box which is designed to promote toe splay and ‘natural foot function’. Secondly, all of Altra’s shoes feature a 0mm heel-to-toe differential to promote a forefoot strike. This also means they will take a little bit of getting used to for those who have not previously run in low-drop shoes. Numerous manufacturers utilised features like these to varying extents during the height of the minimalist movement a couple of years ago but they have become less common in recent times as the dust has settled and trends have changed. In spite of this, Altra have stuck to the key principles which helped them gather a loyal following and I think this is admirable.
Altra state on their website that Lone Peak range was designed for ‘the gnarly terrain of the Wasatch 100′, which is a hundred mile ultra race held over the Wasatch mountain range in Utah. They have a 26mm stack height and Altra describe them as being ‘moderately cushioned’. The outsole is relatively aggressive with a multi-direction tread pattern with lugs that are about 4-5mm deep. The L.P 2.0 is an update of the popular version 1.5 and according to iRunFar, the changes are a slightly snugger fit around the midfoot, an extra 2mm of midsole and a redesigned upper.
Another couple of distinctive features I should mention are the gaiter trap and trail rudder. The gaiter trap is a velcro flap that is designed to secure Altra’s trail gaiter without the need for a strap underneath. I don’t often use a gaiter but this is a clever idea and I like it. The trail rudder is a protrusion of outsole with an extra couple of lugs on it to apparently provide additional control whilst descending. This is a feature that has been retained throughout three versions of the Lone peak so somebody must like it but I’m rather skeptical about whether it really does anything.
The Lone Peak 2.0’s have quite a chunky appearance and the look of the square toe box won’t be to everyone’s taste but the black / red / white colour scheme is smart and well finished. The shoes have a very nicely padded heel collar and a soft, almost seamless interior which is a very nice place to put your feet for a few hours. I found that they ran true to size and the toe box is cavernously roomy as you would expect, allowing plenty of room for splay. I did a (non scientific) width comparison with a few other shoes as shown in the pictures and was a little surprised to find that they aren’t actually as wide as they look so I think the roominess of the toe box must be largely down to the square shape. The toe bumper is a little softer than I would like and whilst I think it would help prevent the upper from tearing on rocks, I don’t think it’s sturdy enough to provide much toe protection.
You can’t see it from the outside but Altra have included some extra structure underneath the mesh upper between the laces and the midsole to provide security around the midfoot. In spite of this, I found it quite tricky to get the laces tight enough to make the shoe feel as though it was properly locked down. In my efforts to do so, I utilised the uppermost lace hole and noticed that the tongue could do with being about 5-10mm longer as it’s tricky to get the lace knot to sit over the top of it when all of the lace holes are used. As always, note that my feet are ‘average’ volume and ‘D’ width and I suspect that the wide-footed will love the lone peaks but those with narrow feet may find them too baggy.
When I set out in the Lone Peak 2.0’s, the first thing I noticed was the soft feel of the midsole and the overall comfort of the shoe. They really do feel lovely on your feet and you can tell straight away that they would be a great for long runs. I don’t tend to be particularly fond of soft midsoles but the material that Altra have used seems to offer a nicely forgiving level of cushion whilst retaining a decent energy return.
Protection levels are high and the midsole / rockplate combination and wide, stable platform allows you to plough over bumps, roots, and small rocks without a care in the world. I personally really enjoy ‘dancing’ over rough ground in skinnier shoes but this can become hard work after a few hours and I can certainly see how a more cushioned shoe like the Lone Peak would be beneficial for the long-haul. These are the heaviest shoes I’ve worn in a while and whilst i’m not crazy about this, I can’t say that I found it to be much of a distraction. In fact, I probably found the weight less noticeable than with the Inov-8 Race Ultra 290’s, which is a bit odd as they are actually slightly lighter than the Lone Peaks. My experience is obviously rooted in lightly cushioned, firm shoes and this will give me a different perspective to some people but the protection and cushioning levels in the L.P’s are such that I really can’t imagine why you would ever need an even more cushy (and inevitably heavier) shoe like some of the Maximal offerings out there but each to their own I guess.
The outsole has a very large surface area and the lugs are pretty aggressive so grip levels on dry-soft ground are really good. The Lone Peak’s do struggle in deep mud or on wet ground were they start to slip around quite a lot and the voluminous upper seems to soak up quite a lot of water. Grip levels on slick, wet rock can also be a little dubious where the hard-ish outsole compound has problems adhering.
The L.P2’s feel great on terrain that is smooth or moderately steep / technical where the cushioning and roomy fit kept my feet feeling fresh and happy after higher mileage outings. It’s a different story with really rough, steep or ‘off trail’ terrain, where they can feel a little clumpy and the fit just isn’t as secure as it needs to be. In these conditions, I noticed my feet moving around a lot in the shoe, especially when traversing steep slopes where the L.P’s had a tendency to rotate around my feet, leading to discomfort and a loss of control.
This may simply have occurred to me because I’ve tested both shoes recently but the Lone Peak 2.0’s strike me as an obvious competitor to the Race Ultra 290 as they are long-run shoes of a similar price range from another company with a portfolio of products that claim to promote ‘natural running. The Inov-8’s will appeal to those who want a fit that is slightly more secure, a firmer ride and need the 8mm heel to toe differential whereas the Lone Peaks will be a better match for runners who like a soft rider and a zero drop platform. When used for long outings on semi-technical trails where both shoes are most at home, I think I enjoyed the Lone Peaks more overall due to the cushy ride.
I’ve had the Lone Peak’s on-loan as test samples for about 3 weeks and have managed to put about 30-40 miles on them including a couple of gnarly runs which gave them a decent amount of punishment. This isn’t anything like enough use to give a full durability report but they are showing very little signs of wear so far and the upper has no tears or fraying seams. The outsole also virtually as good as new, despite a small amount of road use.
The Lone Peak’s are a pleasure to wear on long runs over smooth or moderately technical ground where the soft midsole and fit combine to produce an extremely comfortable package. Wide-footed runners will love them and they are also great to wear for non-running purposes like hiking or hanging around on a camp site etc. They are obviously not supposed to fit like a fell shoe and it would be a mistake to make them super-snug but I’d still like to see Altra make further efforts to improve the security around the midfoot for future versions. Never the less, I enjoyed running in them and if you are looking for a zero drop, cushy,trail shoe for long runs and you like a wide toe box, you should definitely check them out.
This shoe was provided on loan as a test sample. See here for my gear review policy.
The Altra Lone Peak 2.0 is available now from Castleberg Outdoors (who offer international shipping).
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