Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Altra Lone Peak Review: First Impressions Out-Of-The-Box

Altra Lone Peak
When I review products, I try to concentrate on a shoe and give it some real time so that I can make a fair assessment, though I tend to get excited about a company I like, such as Altra or Skora, and want to try everything they make all at once.  That said, I try to be honest and unbiased, although I also tend to want to review stuff that I know I will like.  Lately, I posted a review of the Altra Instinct and had a lot of good things to say after a long period of wearing it this summer. It has a roomy toebox, a zero-drop platform, durable outsole, and secure midfoot/heel.  The aesthetics are unique and may not be to everyone’s taste initially, although Altra recently introduced a new black colorway which takes it to a new level, in my opinion.  Also, the Instinct’s looks reflect the shoe’s functional, logical design. Given how much I liked about the Instinct, Altra’s trail offering, the Lone Peak, was next on my agenda.  This review is almost a follow-up to my Instinct review in that the Lone Peak, while a unique shoe, has many of the same characteristics as the Instinct and is very similar in terms of fit and ride. It seemed like a good idea to follow up right away with some initial thoughts and technical, in-hand observations about the shoe.  I will undoubtedly have a long-term report to post after a winter of trail running in the Lone Peak, but here is the lowdown after a few days and a few runs.

Construction: The Lone Peak is a relatively simple shoe, and reminds me of a New Balance 574 in that it’s upper is mostly constructed of cut and sewn materials; you won’t find heat-molded overlays or anything to fancy here.  I like that look; I can actually imagine someone assembling this shoe my hand.  The materials themselves range between a few different synthetics and a durable rubber around the toe.  The mesh base is similar to the Instinct, but seems a bit more rugged. It cleaned up well for me after an afternoon where I did a 5 mile trail loop, raked leaves in my yard for 3 or 4 hours, and chased Leo around.  In fact, they are extremely breathable and I stuck my leaf blower nozzle right down in there when I was done, and it efficiently blew all the dust and dirt right out of them.  I imagine water would drain out just as efficiently.  There are no materials that would wick up moisture, either, so I would say these should stay dry and true-to-weight on your foot.

Weight: As for weight, the Lone Peak is not a minimalist, lightweight shoe.  Rather than compare it to the very lightweight trail offerings in the minimalist camp, I would actually say this is more of a roomy, natural-runner friendly, zero-drop version of something like a Brooks Cascadia or a Montrail Mountain Masochist.  It has a gnarly, protective outsole, a built-in rock plate, and durable upper materials.  It just happens that you can run much closer to the way nature intended in the Lone Peak.  The Cascadia, for comparison, is 12.2 oz. vs the Lone Peak’s 11.3 oz. Other similar offerings in the fully protective, cushioned trail runner category compare similarly in terms of weight.  The North Face Singletrack and New Balance MT915 are also in the 11.1-11.3 oz. range.  The Saucony Peregrine is a little lighter at just under 10 oz., but while protective it does not have a rock plate.

Fit: The fit of the Lone Peak is very typical for Altra, but atypical for running shoes generally.  It has a secure, comfortable heel cup, a deceivingly secure yet not restrictive midfoot wrap, and a very "foot-shaped" roomy toebox (which is where the Altra really differs from most shoes).  The result is a secure fit when on the trail, but a comfortable fit in the long run. While I have not put on serious miles in the short time I have had my pair, I’ve not experienced any sore spots. The zero-drop last does put you up on your forefoot/midfoot, like all Altras and all zero-drop shoes, of course, so you may find yourself feeling the shoe on your foot in a way you might not be used to with a traditional, heel-raised trainer. 

The Lone Peak comes with a set of cushioned insoles labeled the “off-road” footbed.  As far as I can tell it is identical to the “support” footbed in the Altra Adam and the Instinct.  However, unlike the Instinct or Adam, the Lone Peak does not come with a second, flat pair of “strengthen” insoles.  This was my only real initial disappointment with the Lone Peak.  I guess I am spoiled by the other Altra offerings in that I prefer the flatter insole option and the variety and choice.  That said, not too many shoes come with multiple insoles.  The included “off-road” footbed is cushioned, and has only a minimal arch curve. It provides no true support, but I feel the arch curve when I wear them.  When I last ran in them, I swapped out my flat “strengthen” insoles from the Instinct and will likely have those in most of the time. If you are new to zero-drop or more minimal shoes, you will likely find the out-of-the-box comfort and fit of the included insole familiar and comfortable.  I enjoy it when walking in the Lone Peak, but as I said the flatter the better when running for me.

Traction and Protection: The Lone Peak has a rugged, lugged outsole with a unique “tail” they call the “trail rudder.”  The rudder hangs off the back of the shoe and doesn’t get in the way, but I am not convinced it has much of an effect on the shoe’s performance.  Maybe in an extreme, loose surface environment it would.  Of course, it doesn’t bother me and it does have an alternative benefit…it is easier to kick these shoes off without using your hands.  You can use them like a sort of built-in boot pull, which may come in handy when wet or muddy.

The outsole itself is composed of a soft, sticky compound.  It is a full-contact, flat outsole that maximizes surface contact with the trail.  The toe area, as expected, is very wide and very stable.  In that area, the Lone Peak has its largest collection of wide, deep lugs.  The lugs seem spaced well enough to shed mud but are frequent enough to secure your stance even in the loose stuff.  I found it to dig in well on the leafy, wet trails near my house.  I like the paw/foot print in yellow rubber on the sole, it adds a little camp and fun to the shoe.  I’m not certain if the yellow surface is a different compound, it feels much the same as the rest of the outsole to the touch.  The Lone Peak also has an embedded rock plate and should offer protection from the sharpest stuff, much like the other plated trail tanks I identified in the weight discussion above.


Overall you will likely find the Altra Lone Peak to be a secure, protective, grippy tank of a trail shoe with the added benefit of being a zero-drop, foot-shaped shoe.  I am clearly an Altra fan-boy, but I am only such a dedicated fan because I really believe in their approach to shoe design.  While Altra may not have the large-scale flash and finish of the big boys in the industry, they make good shoes that are friendly to the runner and encourage a natural midfoot stride.  I did not hit too much on my running experience in this review, as I have only had them a short time.  Consider this a technical analysis and the “experience” review will come later on.  So far, so good in that category, but will update you on reliability, long-term comfort, and performance as time goes on. 

I would put the Altra Lone Peak up against anything in that 11-13 oz. trail run category.  It has the protection and cushion of many of the industry leaders like my old pre-minimalism favorite, the Brooks Cascadia.  The Lone Peak weighs a good bit more than some trail racers, like the Montrail Rogue Racer or the New Balance MT101 or upcoming 110, but it offers tank protection with a minimal penalty. For short races, I may prefer something lighter, but for something like the Stumpjump 50k I felt like I could have used something like the Lone Peak. To have my shoe be a midfoot-strike friendly design would have been a huge benefit over my slightly heel-lifted and narrower Saucony Peregrines.

You can find the Lone Peak locally in Southeast Michigan at Elite Feet in Brighton, so check them out and have Ken or Mike let you run them out on camera so you can see for yourself the benefits of running zero-drop.  I also just learned that Paul will be carrying the Lone Peak at Fourth Avenue Birkenstock in Ann Arbor.  If you are not local in Michigan, you can find a dealer or buy your Altras directly from Altra at www.altrazerodrop.com.

(full disclosure... while I paid retail for my Altra Adams and Altra Instincts referenced in this review, my test pair of Lone Peaks was provided by Altra)






10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very good review. Like the images w/ explanations.
Al

Zak said...

Thanks very much! I appreciate your comment.

Tanner Phillips (Tanana Phillips) said...

Great review but please do update with your view of how they take to the trail as compared to other more minimal shoes...is the extra protection a fair trade off for the added weight in the long haul?

Zak said...

I absolutely will...I'll be doing a whole series of second posts after having run in them. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Zachary,

Just read your review on this shoe, and had a few questions. Do they run true to size, have a roomy toe box (I have wide flat feet), how do they transition to the road, and how do they shed water?

Thanks man and happy running!

Zak said...

I am working on a wear-tested follow up review, so I will give you a preview and am happy to answer your questions! I do believe they run true to size, I am an 11 in just about everything and the 11 in the Lone Peak fits me just right. It is maybe a half size longer than the Altra Instinct, but given the very broad toebox, bath fit me fine in an 11. As for that toebox, yes, they have a very, very wide toebox. The whole shoe looks fort of boxy, to be honest, but I found a decent snug feel in the heel and was able to easily snug up the midfoot wrap as well. The toebox is easily the widest of any she I have ever tried. As for the road…I would not use these for an extended road run, as they are very grippy, and very stiff. They are a rigged tank of a shoe, albeit they are relatively light. That said, they are fine for transitional road running, but that stiffer sole would rule them out for me for a road-only run (unless there was lots of snow, they are a great snow shoe). Your wide flat feet should be very comfy in these overall, though, but they are a very purpose-built trail shoe. As for shedding water, they are composed of an open mesh, so if you go deeper in the water they will easily let water in, they are not watertight or even water resistant; they are designed to take on water and hopefully drain that water back out easily. Given they are an open mesh I would assume they would drain ok, I have not doused mine yet to see for myself, but I have heard conflicting reports that the materials take on a little too much water and tend to keep it longer than desired. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Zachary,

Thanks for the quick response. I’m looking at the lone peak as a ultra trail shoe specifically so they should work well. My final choice came down to these and the new Brooks Cascadia 7. My brother gave me an excellent review on his Brooks Cascadia 5 so the Cascadia series was on my list. He ran the JFK 50, And Hellgate 100K in them, and was impressed on how they performed. They also transition to the road pretty easily. Ive been doing most of my ultra trail running in the Patagonia Tsali, and NB MT-101. I like the platform and low to the ground feel of both of these. I also have a pair of La Sportiva Fireblade, but feel they are better suited for a narrower foot although they are a incredible shoe on tech terrain. I altered between the NB 101 and the Patagonia last summer in the Black Hills 100K and they both worked fairly well. Thanks again for the honest review.

Run strong

Zak said...

My pleasure! You’d find a lot to like in the Peak, I would say. The zero-drop platform makes it unique to the others you have mentioned, but it would hold up well to those in a shootout, I would say. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Average guy Id still like to hear some more of your impressions on the Altra Lone peak trail its a shoe Im still seriously considering. Ive ran quite a bit in minimal drop shoes(vibrams, NB 101, etc.. but not sure how Id transition into a zero drop or what I could expect.

Zak said...

Well, if you like your Vibrams they are of course zero-drop, so that may give you an idea there of what that aspect could feel like. As for everything else, the Lone Peak is not at all a minimal shoe. It is a trail tank in the mold of the Brooks Cascadia. My favorite application for the LP is walking. Given how cushioned it is, it is very comfortable to hike and walk in. In the snow it can't be beat for traction, but the upper is very breezy, so wear warm socks. All that said, it really his a tank of a shoe for trail running in my opinion. It is far more shoe than say, a New Balance MT110. I find it to be very comfortable and a decent runner as well, just sort of heavy and more than I need on the tame trails here in Michigan. As for the rocky stuff out west or in the Appalacians, it probably rules. Very protective and pretty stiff. As with any zero-drop design I would ease into them if you're not accustomed to that. They have basically no ground feel, but that is a good thing for what the LP was designed for...bombing down rocky trails at speed. This would be a great ultra shoe for someone looking to conquer 31-100 miles on rocky terrain who wasn't too concerned with high end speed.