Altra Lone Peak 4 Review

The Altra Lone Peak is a trail shoe that has earned its place in the pantheon of all-time-greatest ultrarunning shoes. From Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers to every level of 100-mile ultrarunners, the Lone Peak has become a standard for long-haul foot comfort and durability. In the Altra Lone Peak 4 ($120), Altra seems careful to keep true to the Lone Peak heritage, with only a few improvements and updates.

What runners and hikers have come to love about the Lone Peak could also prohibit its future progress. As with any beloved running-shoe model, changes here could cause a backlash of allegiance. Personally, I’ve long been a fan of the Lone Peak, and what follows is a somewhat constructively critical perspective on ways that the Lone Peak has improved as well as a discussion of the shoe’s features that remain stagnant.

The Altra Lone Peak 4. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Altra Lone Peak 4 Upper

Runners obviously and obsessively love the Lone Peak because of the fit, and Altra makes few changes here. Improved lacing and a stay-put tongue add to a heel cup that hugs better than ever, and I can honestly say that this is the best-fitting Altra upper I’ve ever worn (besides the Superior 3, which is almost identical). For lack of a better comparison, when I put on the Lone Peak 4 in the morning after waking up with stiff feet, it feels like the bedroom slippers I’ve just removed. Soft, custom shaped, and well cushioned, this is a shoe I would love to wear for everything all the time. More on that later…

Altra has enjoyed such a loyal following with the Lone Peak that it almost becomes difficult to criticize each model without inviting some backlash. While the Lone Peak 4 employs a much more durable ripstop-mesh upper material, one of the areas that designers have tried to improve upon is the poor drainage of past models. Altra uses open mesh and minimal overlays in areas around the pinky and big toes as well as the heel to improve drainage, yet I found the Lone Peak 4 to stay fairly soggy after creek and river crossings. I think this mostly has to do with the durable and absorbent nature of the ripstop material, which never showed signs of significant wear in almost 300 miles of testing. However, this isn’t a model I’d wear for an ultra in soggy conditions.

Ultimately, I’ve seen very little wear throughout this upper that I have definitely put it through its paces. The wear I’ve noticed is along the medial side of the heel collar, which seems to be an issue for a variety of runners. The heel collar has gotten thinner and more flexible, which is welcomed, but the wear is surprising. Regardless, the Lone Peak 4 offers long-haul comfort that has no comparison. This is by far the best Lone Peak upper amongst all past models, especially when it comes to technical terrain and steep downhills. In past Lone Peak models, steep downhills meant sliding forward and jamming my toes into the front of the shoe. But, with the 4, the midfoot and heel feels locked down enough to keep everything in place on even the steepest terrain.

The Altra Lone Peak 4 lateral upper.

Altra Lone Peak 4 Midsole

The Lone Peak 4 continues to maintain a reported 25mm stack height, of course with the zero-drop aspect of Altra shoes. Initial runs in the Lone Peak 4 felt responsive and forgiving, but runs after putting 50 miles on the shoes felt somewhat dead and exposed. I am a midfoot/forefoot runner and I noticed the deadening of the Lone Peak’s midsole very quickly, which led to sore feet after long runs.

Curiously, Altra has continued to use its A-Bound midsole compound on this model, which seems to deaden quickly, especially in the forefoot. In the past, I’ve lauded this midsole compound for its comfort and resiliency, and I’m puzzled as to why the midsole in the Lone Peak 4 seems to flatten so quickly. Especially with the development of Altra’s EGO midsole foam, there really isn’t an excuse to use an unresponsive midsole material. For instance, with the Altra Escalante road shoe, I’ve enjoyed a ton of miles in a lightweight, low-stack-height, zero-drop shoe. That midsole has maintained resiliency over 150 miles despite being basically a road-racing flat.

I have appreciated the new StoneGuard, which is a piece of TPU plastic that is segmented to work more like a human rather than a solid piece of plastic throughout the shoe. The way the new Altra StoneGuard works is that it is grooved and flexes with the protection that the runner needs rather than seeming to ricochet off of rocks as in past models.

The Altra Lone Peak 4 medial upper.

Altra Lone Peak 4 Outsole

Altra made a lot of changes to the outsole of the Lone Peak 4 using its MaxTrac outsole, which seems to both wear prematurely and provide marginal traction. In wet conditions, the MaxTrac outsole is downright scary at times, especially over wet rock. Compared to other Altra models, I’ve been very disappointed with the outsole rubber’s durability. This outsole seems to add a great deal of weight to the Lone Peak 4, which causes the shoe to weigh in at well over 11 ounces for my men’s size 10 U.S.

The Altra Lone Peak 4 outsole.

Altra Lone Peak 4 Overall Impressions

When designing one of the most beloved trail running shoes currently in existence, I can understand how one would become reluctant to change any aspect of the shoe. The Lone Peak is a model seen on the feet of many runners at the start of any ultra, but has it really improved? With this iteration, Altra has designed the best-fitting Lone Peak ever while letting other aspects of the shoe become obsolete. Most notable, the midsole material is completely lacking compared to its competitors, and Altra already produces superior midsole foams that would make the Lone Peak the best trail shoe in their line-up. What they risk, understandably, is the alienation of ultrarunners and thru-hikers who have come to worship the Lone Peak as an essential piece of gear. But, what’s good for an ultrarunner versus what’s good for a thru-hiker are two separate ideologies. Obviously, a runner’s intention is to go faster.

Altra would do well to look to their own designs and materials to create a Lone Peak encompassing what truly makes it great (the fit and StoneGuard) with what could make it incredible (updated midsole foam and a more effective outsole). I’m looking forward to where this company is going, and I think their road-shoe line has responded better to market changes than their trail shoes simply because ultrarunners are resistant to change and clamor for the same product repeatedly, and we are to blame for this as a consumer base. Altra, as a company, has been embraced for their rejection of technology that was unsupported and seemed antiquated, and to progress they need to embrace this mission rather than pandering to the purists in our tribe.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What do you think of the Altra Lone Peak 4 overall? And for those who’ve worn previous Lone Peak models, what do you think of the updates which have been made to this version?
  • What do you think of the reviewer’s praises and criticisms of the Lone Peak 4? Do you like the upper’s fit? What do you think of the StoneGuard’s protective abilities? How do you feel about the midsole? And do you also have problems with outsole traction in wet conditions?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

The Altra Lone Peak 4 view from the top.

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 18 comments

  1. Alex

    Thanks for the timely review. I’ve owned every Lone Peak from the 1.0 through the 3, but I don’t think I’ll bother with the 4.

    The poor outsole performance you describe is particularly puzzling given that Altra has come out with excellent outsoles on both the Olympus (OK, that one’s a Vibram product, but it provides amazing traction, more than it looks like it ought to be able to) and more recently on the TIMP. With the exception of the upper fit (which is a bit sloppy for some people), it seems like the TIMP is what the Lone Peak should have become as a trail running shoe. Perhaps Altra should focus on putting the best running-oriented features of the Lone Peak 4 into the TIMP, and then transition the LP into more of a dedicated hiking shoe (or at least do this with the mid-height model).

    As far as the EGO foam goes, I like my Escalantes too, but EGO is so plush and easily distorted that I worry a trail shoe using it would require either a truly stiff rock plate or a serious amount of stack (with attendant stability issues). That said, I’ve been pondering buying a pair of Paradigm 4’s to try out higher-stack EGO. As a road shoe they wouldn’t be great for all trail conditions, but certainly for dryer trails it might be worth a try. Now I’m kind of talking myself into this…

  2. Uselessinoz

    Completely agreed – the foam (A-bound) in all Altra’s sucks. Period. And it has since the beginning of the brand. Just like Tom said, after about 50-100 miles in these shoes (and others as well, like the Olympus and Paradigm) they feel completely flat and are useless. It’s too bad that they continue to use this foam since I really like the design and zero drop, but will not, and have not for a while now, buy another pair until they use a better foam. Perhaps try the Ego foam as Alex stated above.

    Clearly Altra isn’t listening to its consumers. I’ve been reading complaints about the durability and longevity of the foam (and the shoe in general) since Altra first hit the market. Maybe now that they are owned by TNF things will change in the future??

    The drainage on Altra’s is very poor. I don’t understand why more companies don’t to what Sketcher’s (I think) is doing. Putting small holes in the bottom of the sole to increase drainage. This seems like an obvious and simple solution.

    Maybe people should stop buying Altra and then they will notice. $120+ is a lot for a one time use shoe.

    I would really like to see them respond to this issue. I’d like to go back to wearing Altra’s, but until they use a more durable foam, I will stick with Topo and Nike.

  3. Kim Neill

    I agree with Alex. I have 3 pairs of the Timp, in a various stages of aging. It’s what the LP should have been. If Altra would consider combining the two (and doing away with the offset lacing of the Timp), they might produce a perfect shoe. I borrowed a pair of LP 4 to test, and then decided to get a pair. Personally, I think the LP4 has really great traction–and that is a huge consideration for me. I wore earlier versions of the LP, but skipped the 3.0 and 3.5 because I did not like the narrower cut and extra squishy feel of that version.

    I have not had the wear and durability problems on any of my Altras (since the beginning of Altra) that many people report. I run/hike on rough, rock, mountain trails of central Idaho. I also never pay full price for Altras–buying them instead with coupon codes and at sales (yes, even the newest styles). Altras at full price are too expensive. My favorite Altra is still the Superior, which I will continue to use in my rotation.

  4. Kim Neill

    Alex, the newer Escalante Racer is much different than the regular Escalante–more firmness and perfect fit. Just in case you want to try them. It feels more like a road version of the Superior.

    1. Alex

      Interesting – I might have to give the new Escalante (1.5?) a go.

      Also, FWIW, I do not have the durability issues with Altras that many people report. I routinely get hundreds of miles out of them, and usually end up tossing them (in still-wearable condition) into the charity donation bin when a newer model is released. I currently have well over 100 miles on my Duos, a model that people have been complaining about being fragile since they were released, and the shoes are in great shape. Just getting nicely broken-in now.
      The only time I can remember an actual hole in an Altra upper was when I wore an already year-old pair of Olympus in a 50K that featured continual drenching rain, such that we literally ran the entire race in ankle-deep mud. That finally made the upper give way. But that’s pretty extreme treatment, IMO.

      1. Lightning

        “I routinely get hundreds of miles out of them, and usually end up tossing them (in still-wearable condition) into the charity donation bin when a newer model is released.”

        What you say could be 200-300 miles. That’s a low standard, and only 2-3 weeks of training for a lot of folks. I’m disappointed when a shoe only gets 500 miles (unless it was only $40 or otherwise cheap).

    2. Tom Caughlan

      Thanks Kim-
      This is exactly the shoe I meant to mention in regards to the midsole foam; the Escalante Racer. Its the only Escalante I own and I didn’t realize it at the time of writing.

  5. Michele

    I’m in Love with my LP4’s. As with that being said.. I’m sadly disappointed in the outsole it is a earring away sooooo quickly. Granted my trails are rocky and dusty but still. The LP 3’s outsole lasted a bit longer. Vibram please?
    I’ve over 250 miles on them since I got them and I will say that I am just now finding them flattening out in the midsole and I’m starting to feel the rocks on my longer runs. It’s a great shoe in many aspects . Wore it for the Overlook 50k crossing and no issue with drainage or feeling waterlogged like I did in the LP2. I have to wear a men’s 11 so I’m not worried about weight this shoe is light and I loved it right out of the box. Tied the laces 1 time and I’ve been good to go. I wish the shoe was made to last longer.
    I love my times as well, but those could use a new outsole pattern. The outsole wore away really fast and they squeaked when they got wet.. I can be annoying to run with but the squeak made it really annoying to run with me and myself for any amount of time hahha!

  6. robert

    I have 84 miles in the LP4 and love them. I also have the Timp, King MT1.5 and Superior 3. No issues with traction on wet rocks or roots, actually better traction than the Kings. (Blue Ridge mtns running) These are the best fitting Altra yet with the flexible heel. I’m not seeing any adverse wear conditions other than the toe bumper coming unglued – std with every Altra I’ve owned. I do use an Altra stone guard when running fast on extremely rocky terrain, I like the extra protection. I’m heavy at 190lbs, no issues with the midsole – I air my shoe after every run and swap out insoles every 50 miles. I like the heel rudder and extra width in the heel. I’ve also relaced using the center lace holes and the tongue strap which creates tension like the strap on the King – nicely locks down the midfoot. I average around 400 to 500 miles before relegating to casual wear. Really happy with the Lone Peak 4.

    1. Chris

      Robert, quick question. What insoles do you swap them out with? I am not a fan of the stock insoles sometimes but still can’t seem to find good insoles with the right shape to stop them from shifting/sliding around.

  7. Jakub

    Is there a reason in 2018 to use stitching in the toe box and on the sides of the shoe? I could be missing something, but all my blisters from Adidas and NB shoes used to come from stitching areas. Anyone with the same experience? And any hints as to why some companies (like Altra) insist on stitching their shoes? Thanks!

  8. Mathias Jahl

    The fit is fantastic, well done, Altra! I was very unhappy with the 3.5, and this is way better. But: as soon as I took the shoe out of its box, i was thinking: “Well that outsole is really heavy.” You can really feel the weight, while the midsole seems to be rather lightweight.

  9. Helen Scotch

    I’ve been delighted with the LP4 having worn every iteration since the 1.5. I think the 3.5 went way off track with the upper and overall fit. I have found the traction to be excellent so I was surprised at that part of the review. I tested it on every sort of terrain from wet rocks to steep dusty lava rock and was very happy with it. I’ve found drainage just fine but have not run far in very wet weather. I have wide feet with rather expansive bunions so I tend to wear through shoes quicker than most and I expect no difference with this shoe looking at that area of the upper. But I will continue to wear it, patch it until it’s totally worn, and invest in a new pair. I’m sure I’ll find something I want Altra to improve on but so far I’m thrilled with this shoe vs the 3.5.

  10. Xavier

    I can only speak from experience with the Superior line but the same midsole has always been a weak spot. My newest 3.5 have just over 300km and the midsole is already feeling flat, it feels like a different shoe compared to when new. It’s very disappointing that it feels dead so quickly at such low mileage, and I weigh between 150 and 160lbs, which should be an acceptable range for how these wear out.

  11. Sam Bosworth

    maybe it’s just because I’m poor but I got 1500 miles plus out of my two pairs of Lone Peaks last year-only two pairs I bought all year. I almost prefer them between 500 and 1000 miles. Enjoyed the first 700 miles in Lone Peak 4 and love em

  12. TrailScientist

    I’ve been running in the Lone Peak 4.0 for a few months now and I’m really impressed. I also have the Escalante for road running and that’s the shoe that got me into Altras. I’ve done nearly 2000km in them and I don’t want to give them up. Maybe I’ll have to try out the 1.5. If anyone has had the original Escalante and now has the 1.5, how do you like them?

  13. kevan

    I have had the LP$ for a few months now and have very mixed feelings. They are great for dry runs but soak up so much water – as soon as you run through dew they are sodden and become heavy. Do not dry out quickly and my feet get cold. So not so great for the British weather. Would like to persevere with them as they work so well in dry conditions and are very comfortable.
    Can anyone recommend a trail Altra alternative with same grip, comfort but less likely to turn into a cold sponge?

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