Altra Lone Peak Review

[Check out our Altra Lone Peak 5 review for the latest on the Lone Peak family of trail running shoes.]

The Altra story is a compelling one. Two friends are selling shoes at the family running specialty store, Runner’s Corner in Orem, Utah, and they start zero dropping traditional running shoes to see if they could prevent injuries. Word of mouth spreads and soon they are firing up the bandsaw to zero drop shoes for friends of friends. The pair initially tried to pitch their zero drop idea to established shoe companies and were mocked, but little did they know that Born to Run would be released around the same time. In the summer of 2009, Altra was born with a focus on developing anatomically correct footwear with zero heel-to-toe drop, a concept that has caught on a great deal over the past several years.

The Lone Peak ($110) is Altra’s only trail shoe, designed to withstand the rigors of the Wasatch 100. This zero-drop, 11.3 ounce beast provides the only zero drop shoe on the market that is protective and not minimal.

Upper
When I first put on the Lone Peaks, it felt like they were too big. My forefoot and toes had so much room initially worried that I needed to size down. Apparently this is a common response to wearing the Lone Peaks for the first time, as most of us are used to having our toes crammed into a traditional running shoe toe box. After a wearing the Lone Peak around for a few days, I started to relish the extra room the foot-shaped design afforded me.

The Lone Peak features a soft, dual-density mesh upper with an asymmetrical lacing system that provides a stable, but not too snug fit. The heel cup is soft and fits well, and the heel collar is wicking and non-abrasive. Synthetic overlays throughout the upper are well placed and sewn on, rather than welded on like many new trail shoes we see out today. The overlays provide additional support throughout the upper, what Altra calls their A-wrap, but also have an aesthetic purpose. The thin rubber toe bumper appears to be the rugged peaks of the Wasatch Front. The rand on the medial and lateral sides of the shoe is made of the same durable rubber material and features a similar mountain silhouette. The stitching appears big and durable and reinforcements are placed in all the necessary areas of the shoe. Altra boasts that the Lone Peak can last 1,000 miles and they’ve certainly built an upper along those lines.

The Altra Lone Peak’s lateral upper.

From an aesthetic standpoint, these shoes look pretty cool in my opinion. I felt like I was wearing some original Adidas Response Trails and I got many compliments from other runners.

Midsole
Altra uses a two-layer midsole using a softer EVA (A Bound Midsole) on top and a firmer more resilient EVA (zero drop) on the bottom. Sandwiched between the two layers is a thin Stoneguard rock plate that is flexible, yet effective. This concept is different from conventional trail shoe construction which places the rock plate between the midsole and the outsole. I was surprised to learn that the shoe contained a rock plate after my first few runs in the Lone Peak featured some very sharp and rocky sections. You certainly can’t feel the rock plate, but my feet felt well-protected and my foot plant never lacked confidence throughout my runs.

The Altra Lone Peak’s medial upper.

The cushioning of the Lone Peak is soft and responsive, but has a firmness underfoot, as well, which seems to provide a quick transition and toe off. Stability is achieved by a low overall stack height and the wide platform of the shoe. There isn’t a noticeable arch in the shoe and the only feel of an arch is from Altra’s Off Road insole which features a small arch bump without providing support. There are no additional stability devices such as a medial post.

Outsole
The Lone Peak’s outsole is made of a sticky carbon rubber which Altra calls their Trail Claw Outsole. The surface area of the outsole is quite large and it doesn’t feature any cutouts. The lugs are largest under the forefoot and provide a good deal of traction running uphill. These large lugs are widely spaced and do seem to shed mud and clay well enough. The traction properties of the Lone Peak are not extreme by any means, but certainly enough bite in most conditions.

The most curious aspect of Lone Peak’s outsole is the Trail Rudder, which is aimed at providing stability on steep or loose downhill sections. I tested this feature to the best of my ability and my final verdict is that I don’t notice it aiding or hindering on any terrain. Many runners will likely choose to simply cut it off which is easily accomplished.

Overall Impressions
The Altra Lone Peak is very simple, well-cushioned, zero-drop shoe that is built to last. I have no doubts, after well over 100 miles of tough trail running in my Lone Peaks, that these shoes would last 1,000 miles as Altra claims. The upper seemed to shed any dirt or debris quite easily and my Lone Peaks barely show any sign of wear. I did run through a few creeks and found that the porous mesh shed water fairly quickly.

My favorite aspect of the Lone Peaks is the cushioning which seems resilient, but not thick. The placement of the rock plate between the two foam layers adds a necessary and appreciated level of protection, but the Lone Peak stays very flexible throughout foot plant and toe off.

I did my best to follow Altra’s booklet full of guidelines for transitioning into the Lone Peaks when you start wearing them, but I couldn’t help myself. They are just too fun to run in.  Mind you, these aren’t minimalist trail slippers, but more like a smooth riding Continental from the 70s with great shocks. Comfortable, durable, and ready for all day on the trails. I would recommend that one heeds more caution than I did, and do not head directly out the door for 10 miles on the trails unless you are used to zero drop shoes. I spend several days weekly in a 4mm drop, but zero drop is an entirely new level. I found myself appropriately forefoot striking for much of the run and returned with some sore calves. But, if I was looking for a zero drop everyday training shoe, the Lone Peak would get the nod. I also used the Lone Peak as a fantastic recovery shoe and the combination of the wide toe box and zero drop are a joy to wear around after a hard day on the trails.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • If you’ve worn the Altra Lone Peaks, what do you think?
  • What about Altra’s other models?
  • Overall, what are your thoughts on the concept of a cushioned, protected zero-drop trail shoe?
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.

View Comments (60)

  • I chatted with the guys at Altra at the Chicago Marathon Expo. Nice guys and very passionate about their product. At that time (Oct 2011) they only had one demo of the Lone Peak but I did try out the Instincts and found them to be very comfortable.

    Any insight on why they (Lone Peaks) ended up weighing quite a bit more than advertised? On the website at pre-launch they were listed at 9.9 oz for size nine but you and the folks at Runningwarehouse.com have them at 11.3 (that's a fairly big discrepancy).

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    • Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the outsole. IMO it is the perfect outsole for an all-around trail shoe. I examined it at close range and found the lugs to be the perfect height for just about any terrain, and more importantly - not many areas for rocks to get stuck. Obviously this tread was designed by folks that have logged some serious mountain trail miles!

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    • I've been wondering the same thing. Mentioned this issue on a forum back in Nov. when they came out and Golden, one of the founders of Altra, commented:

      "We had some of our production run come out a little over an ounce

      heavier than our sales samples, test pairs, etc. Apparently some of

      those went to running warehouse as mentioned above, which is why they

      are showing the weight they are there. We are looking into this right

      now. The majority of shoes we've had have been in the high 9oz

      range."

      It seems to me though that most of them are coming in at this higher weight. I think it makes sense if you look at the Instinct compared to the Lone Peak. My LPs are a full 100 grams heavier than the Instincts and when you count the outsole, extra overlays with what I think is a little too heavy duty of a material for the job, and their off road insole is 10 grams heavier than the strenghen Instinct insole. It seems to me that these would all add up to being fairly glose to 100 grams. If it was only 50 grams heavier than the Instinct, then to me that would be an acceptable trade-off for what you get.

      All in all though, I'm loving the Lone Peaks for gnarly terrain and if the weight was just a little lower, they would be pretty hard to beat.

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  • Nice stuff. I guess there will be more products in this range coming, since not everyone can run 100 milers on really thin minimalist shoes, while everyone can benefit from a low drop, even in long distances, given there's enough midsole in the shoe.

    Hope to see them in Europe soon. Or I'll try to get my hands on them when I'm coming to WS this June...

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  • I've been using the size 14 Lone Peak for about 200 miles on our muddy trails in Oregon. I love the shoe the only complaint I would give them is around the ankle they fit loose which allows rocks to get into them or I have to wear gaiters.

    Great review on the shoe!

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    • I have troubles with sizing!! Most sizing charts don't list ACTUAL insole measurements... This may sound kindof weird but can you please tell me the length of your foot and the size 14 insole in centimeters? I've been researching this for a week now, I need some owner info!! Cheers!

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  • I've had their Instinct for a while and wear it all the time now. Very comfortable, love the toe room and zero drop. I then went back and got the Lone Peak.

    When you're trying them I'd be patient with the padding on the upper because that contributes to a slightly loose fit, but it seems to be packing out and becoming more snug with wear. Because they are well-padded, you can crank the laces a bit more than usual to get the fit you need.

    I look forward to running in them more, so far so good!

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  • Hi Tom,

    Thanks a lot for the review.

    You say here that the shoes are flexible, but I have actually seen in a youtube video review that they look pretty stiff. I am concerned about that (I like all the rest about the shoe). Could you (or other users) could give us a little more detail on that?

    Thanks again!

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    • I've held a fresh and a worn Lone Peak and the worn shoe is ridiculously more flexible than the new shoe. No, the Lone Peaks never gonna flex like a "barefoot shoe," but it's more flexible than first impressions.

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      • I thought the same as you when I first held my pair. But all reservations were gone as soon as I took my first running step on the trail. They become much more flexible.

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  • Tom, thanks for the great review. After reading many reviews on these shoes lately and knowing that just about every trail shoe I wear is too tight in the forefoot area for me,I think a pair of Lone Peaks are in my future, I already do my road training in 4MM drop shoes, so the transition should be easy. I'll be wearing them at Hardrock for the true test ;-)

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    • Don't think too easy. I transitioned from 4mm to the Instinct and thought it would be easy but my toasted calves said differently. If I may suggest, I would still transition at a moderate rate into the Altras. But you will not be disappointed with the Lone Peaks.

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      • A little trick to help with transition to a lower offset shoe is to wear a low heel drop shoe as your daily "walk around shoe". I started wearing a pair of Kinvara's as my daily walk around shoe and noticed adaptations to my achilles w/o the "shock-and-awe" of running.

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  • I just got a pair of these about a month ago. I've been running in two pairs of shoes with a 9mm and 12mm drop. I've tried to transition gradually and have experienced the cautioned calf tightness, even taking one full week off. That said, these shoes are a blast to run in. I'm planning, once I'm fully acclimatized to use these as my main training and racing shoe, with my alternate being a 4mm drop shoe (I just picked up a pair of Saucony Peregrines for that role).

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  • I'm all for running shoe innovation but my achilles hurt from just looking at that low heel! I envy you guys that can run in the minimalist (and less) shoes. Forty years of heel-striking is a hard habit to break.

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    • Bob, I've been running for 37 years, most in the typical shoes with the higher heels on roads. With that I ended up with chronic Patellar Tendinitis from heel striking. About 4 years ago I started to transition and am now running many of my miles in the 4MM Saucony Kinvaras, the PT is finally gone (or quiet) after about 20 years of knee pain. I think the runners of the 60's and early 70's knew what they were doing when they ran most of the time in thin racing flats.

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      • Steve: We're of the same era. I've run some miles in those old-style thin racing flats. The early 70's blue Onitsuka Tigers come to mind - and I don't mean the Mexico 66 model with a padded heel. They hurt my arches & Achilles so I compensated by adding arch cookies, foam pads and heel cups. I would probably benefit from finding the discipline to seriously transition to landing on my forefoot but half-hearted attempts to date have resulted in (minor) injuries I hate the idea of taking time away from my current training.

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        • Anyone remember the Keds Breakaways? Yep, Keds made serious racing flats in the early 80's (circa ~ 83).

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    • Bro, running in Altra's will help the achilles. I run road and trails in Altra now and i no longer have achilles strains or soreness.

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      • Zero drop will eventually be good for the calves/achilles, but it works them quite hard initially. Anybody who has made the switch can attest to that, myself included. I've got a friend who transitioned too fast and has ended up with achilles tendonitis.

        Zero drop and/or minimalist shoes suddenly engage different bones, muscles, and tendons in a manner that is dramatically different from the way people who have been running with a heel-strike have been doing. Subsequently, going from normal running shoes to 10 miles in zero drops such as these in one day is the equivalent of going from couch potato to 10 miles in one day, and then being shocked when you get injured.

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        • Josh, agreed, and I'd even add that different shoes with (allegedly) the same drop can feel or work the foot differently. I've been in Saucony Kinvaras (4mm) for about a year and a half with no issues for the roads (*used the 10mm NB MT101 for the trails mostly), and just started in the 4mm drop NB MT110s for my trails. I'd have thought that having done most of my miles for quite a while in the 4mm Kinvaras would make using the 4mm MT110s a zero issue for transition. Not so! My achilles have gone on strike, so I'm going to have to rotate them in much more slowly.

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  • I used them in a 50K to take an overall win... so I was instantly sold! Really tough shoe while remaining flexible and comfy. Good review!

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  • Great shoe. My achilles were aching from most of the zero drop shoes of 2010-2011, but now this sucker has some stack height which for me makes a huge difference (at age 41). Rugged and durable, I've put 300+ miles on 'em and can see putting hundreds more. Can't say enough about 'em. Definitely requires a transition period if coming from anything other than a zero drop shoe prior to wearing this one. Even though it's rugged and has serious cushioning, it's still gonna make your achilles drop all the way to the ground (as nature intended) and it takes time to strengthen that area if you've been cheating for years. But it's a much easier transition to the Lone Peak than to something like the Merrell Trail Glove.

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    • Well stated!

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  • Another great shoe review - thanks!

    Can you please include a link to Altra's website and provide some details about cost and availability?

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    • Matt,
      I've added the Altra link and price ($110). They're currently on the market, hence no mention of availability.

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      • Thanks Bryon!

        These might be my next shoes, after I finish the transition from my old Salomons to the 4mm Brooks Pure Grit (which I am loving and bought after reading the iRunFar review...)

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  • I have a pair and I really like them.

    My only complaint is that I'd like to see the lugs be just a bit deeper. I've had some sliding on wet rocks.

    But they are outstanding for the sharp Texas rocks at Bandera!

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    • Greg,
      Deep lugs should do much to help on wet rocks. If anything you'd want a flatter outsole with more contact area on the rock. That said, the only thing that really helps on wet rock is really sticky rubber.

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      • Not around where I live. The only thing that is effective on wet, slimy, limestone has been midsole foam! Ironically the best shoes on these types of situations have been my non-trail shoes! Hoka Bondi B or even my Lunaracers. I think having a very porous material i.e. midsole foam is the best in these situations; sticks like a sponge! Sticky rubber really isn't the solution; it helps but not as much as people think it will. I agree that more surface are contact is better so lugs isn't the answer either. If a sticky rubber material could be developed that is slightly porous as well you'd have a killer trail eating machine!

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  • Have them, love them. I have full figured feet and these are a dream.

    Though...to nit pick, I would love an upper similar to the NB 110s, and I have a hard time keeping these laces tight. Mine (10s) are also around 11 oz our so thought I'd love them more if they were lighter.

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    • Jared-

      NB makes something called a bubble lace that might help you. (http://www.shopnewbalance.com/BUBBLE)

      Came on my new MT110's. Have only got around 100 miles on 'em thus far, but they seem to stay put really well.

      Josh

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  • I am a big fan of both the Instincts and Lone Peak. In fact I wore the Lone Peak for a rim2rim2rim run this past Thanksgiving.

    The shoe is fantastic in all areas mentioned. The only caution I would give is that on very gnarly / rutted trails the large forefoot area has a tendency to catch and tip my foot sideways. Truthfully I suppose you could just say that there is a learning curve for your body to get accustomed to having a wider footprint.

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  • I'm on the fence. I need a good pair of trail shoes for long trail runs and races. I'm waiting for irunfar's review on the new trail Hoka Mafetes. And maybe even a good comparison between the two, both are designed for long trail runs with plenty of cushioning and a minimal drop. I'm probably over-thinking it.

    BTW I have the Altra Instincts and have put 1,000+ miles on them (80% trails) and they are for the most part amazing, they are just now starting to fall apart, so I believe the claim on longevity.

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    • John, I also run in a pair of Instincts i bought last summer. Go for the Lone Peaks. They are even more comfortable than the Instincts! I've never enjoyed myself so much in a pair of shoes as I have the Lone Peaks. I literally love them.

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  • I have been wearing the Instincts since October and think I can finallly say that they have greatly reduced if not totally cured the morton nuromas I had in both feet. The extra wide toe box provided my forefoot the ability to move a little more which I credit with the miracle.

    I immediatly went out and picked up a pair of Lone Peaks. I have only ocmpleted several short runs in them but am already very happy. I will be running the Holiday Lake 50K in them next weekend.

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  • I haven't weighed my Lone Peaks, but they feel noticeably heavier than other shoes I've owned in the 9-10 ounce range. The Lone Peaks felt very large at first but seem to fit a lot better now. They still seem to be a little wider in the heel area than I would like, but I have narrow feet. Despite this, my feet don't really slide even on sideways sloping trails, and I have never gotten a blister from wearing them. I never experienced the calf tightness that others have mentioned. However, I did experience some tightness/pain on the top of my foot, but that has gone away. The Lone Peaks don't feel as fast as some other shoes I've owned (especially at shorter distances), but they are super comfortable and are great for a long cruise. Overall, I think this is a great shoe and would recommend it to anyone. If you like the concept of zero drop but don't want to do your long runs in a minimalist type shoe, then the Lone Peak is the shoe for you.

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  • I chatted with a rep from Altra at last July's Ragnar Relay NW Passage and fell in love with the Instinct that day. I bought a pair the day they became available at my local running store and after many months of crossfitting (but not running) in them, I still love them. They are the perfect crossfitting shoe in my opinion!

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