If you are familiar with previous models of the high-cushioned, medium-traction, and lightweight Altra Mont Blanc, then you will be pleased to know that all the same great features are now coupled with the dual-dial BOA Fit System. In the Altra Mont Blanc BOA ($210), the BOA system is a remarkable and hallmark addition.
The new version still combines the Standard FootShape Fit — which houses space for the feet to breathe and function properly, Balanced Cushioning throughout to maintain equal distance from the ground to all parts of the foot — zero drop and natural foot movement, Altra EGO Max for a midsole that gives rebound and long-lasting support, and lastly a Vibram Litebase outsole that maintains superior traction with less overall weight.
On top of those great features, the Altra Mont Blanc BOA boasts the dual-dial BOA Fit System, which replaces a traditional lacing system with BOA’s TX4 soft, textile lace connected to a fine-turning dial that tightens and loosens with a simple turn and lock-down feel. The BOA allows for micro-adjustments at two key locations on the upper for a super comfortable and highly individualized fit.
In sum, a BOA PerformFit Wrap — which stands for “boot opening adjustment” — aims to secure heels, stabilize midsoles, and empower athletes to find their best fit for performance. BOA’s claim that the Fit System “enables faster, more powerful directional changes through a seamless connection between equipment and athlete” is something I can applaud and support from my experience with the Altra Mont Blanc BOA and Specialized cycling shoes — a uniquely personalized precise position for enhanced performance.
The Altra Mont Blanc BOA not only has a great look, but also a decent overall feel. The price is steep, but the shoe hails to excel, and does excel — on the steep. It has a 30-millimeter stack height, zero-drop platform, and weighs in at 10 ounces (284 grams) actual weight for a men’s size 9 — with a lighter feel than what the numbers indicate.
Altra Mont Blanc BOA Upper
The Altra Mont Blanc BOA may seem like a completely new shoe at first glance, but it is the same shoe as the Altra Mont Blanc underfoot. The changes that come with the new PerformFit Wrap system are manifold, and to some may be deemed as welcomed improvements. The PerformFit Wrap upper system is lightweight and extremely breathable, with a gentle sock-like feel.
There is one major stitch seam running diagonally from the lateral midfoot to the medial forefoot, connecting the mixed white mesh and padded tongue top to the burnt orange padded tongue bottom. This nylon material then seamlessly covers the forefoot. This integrated piece of material creates the bottom of the wrap, sitting atop the foot.
On the medial side, four overlapping nylon-mesh fingers wrap over the bottom material to complete the PerformFit Wrap upper. Each finger is a different size and functions as an anchor point for the BOA stainless steel wires. The dual-dial system puts tension on the wires thereby allowing the fingers to wrap over the foot for the desired snugness and personalized upper fit. I enjoyed playing with the tension of the BOA system to find the security I needed to climb, hop, or descend. It took several goes to dial in a system that worked for the midfoot to forefoot and for the midfoot to the heel without too much clamping down or being too loose in other areas.
In general, I felt secure and fast in the Altra Mont Blanc BOAs, once I was dialed in the system. I felt like I still had ample room in the toebox, without excessive bite at the lateral bases of the big and pinky toe. With the fine-tuning mechanism, I felt both the heel lock and heel support worked well for me. Across all terrains, I didn’t experience any major instability issues. I was adequately cupped in with the added padding on both sides of the heel cup. I make note of this because a chief complaint of the original Altra Mont Blanc was the lack of stability and excessive shifting in the heel construction.
The upper is a uniquely integrated system that provides tremendous stability. It is light in ways that may not withstand extended miles in the mountains over time, as it lacks a certain sturdiness. After spending many miles on parts of the Oregon Pacific Crest Trail that were rocky and scree-laden, in addition to other small runs on volcanic rocky trails, a major recommendation is more reinforced protection surrounding the toes.
An extended toe bumper would add weight, but if this shoe wants a claim in the mountains, more forefoot protection is warranted. The upper not only looks neat, but it also is easy to personalize, breathes well, provides ample support, and — in combination with the midsole — ignites the speed and agility engines in my feet.
Altra Mont Blanc BOA Midsole
Altra nailed their midsole design. It simply feels good underfoot. The Altra Mont Blanc BOA is engineered with the plush shock absorption of the Altra EGO Max foam, similar to the original Altra Mont Blanc. And as I wrote in my Altra Timp 4 review, “It heightens the trail experience by adding spring to the stride and by increasing the overall comfort and responsiveness. I enjoy the midsole’s capacity to hit the ground, disperse the contact force, and then transfer the landing energy to a bounce release.”
If anything, I feel fast. I feel nimble. I feel like I can run all day without fatigue in my lower limbs. The midsole foam is a wonderful balance of responsiveness, pliability, and cushion for exacting and pleasing performance.
Another attribute that I find useful while running over rockier paths, is the broad heel base and support. Not only does this add balance to the shoe itself, but also it also adds stability for gait mechanics in these environments.
Altra Mont Blanc BOA Outsole
“Each gram matters!” If you want to see a quick performance- and technology-inspiring video, check out Vibram’s Litebase research and design website. The addition of the Vibram Litebase outsole to the Altra Mont Blanc BOA was a savvy decision by Altra’s shoe designers. Since the new upper adds a couple of ounces to the overall weight, the shoe had to maintain its minimal outsole without compromising the integrity of the underfoot feel praised in the first edition of the Altra Mont Blanc. It truly is “Lightness without compromise.”
The design and result of a trimmed-down outsole, 50% thinner, seeks to keep the characteristics of Vibram’s original rubber grip, durability, and traction with a 30% reduction in weight. I run and test a lot of trail running shoes that use Vibram technology as their gold star outsole material. When I know I have Vibram on my soles, I feel confident about my overall traction and the shoe’s ability to withstand wear and weather.
The Altra Mont Blanc BOA has many small chevron-esque lugs running in parallel on the forefoot and in triangular formation from the heel to the midfoot. The shoe flows through the gait cycle nicely with this design. I am interested in really testing the outsole and lug placement in wet and winter weather — it has definitely been a great summer mountain runner. I realize it would add weight, but slightly deeper lugs may make it slightly keener for tougher conditions.
Altra Mont Blanc BOA Overall Impressions
I hadn’t previously run in an Altra trail shoe that I deem race ready or durable enough to run far and fast on technical mountain terrain. Altra has delivered that trail shoe with the Altra Mont Blanc BOA. The engineering of the Altra EGO Max midsole and lightweight Vibram Litebase outsole, married with the fully integrated dual-dial PerformFit Wrap, makes it to the starting line and the finish line on my feet.
It is also a worthy long-distance and nimble trainer. The midsole technology hits the mark on cushion, energy return, and ground feel responsiveness. I am excited to see where this shoe and the BOA system go from here in the trail running universe, even though here is a nice place to be in these new Altra Mont Blanc BOAs.
Call for Comments
- Have you run in the Altra Mont Blanc BOA? How have you found it?
- Have you tried any other Altra trail running shoes that you preferred?