Altra Lone Peak Review

Towards the end of last year, a couple new trail shoes caught my attention, the Altra Lone Peak and the Brooks PureGrit. Both are now available and I’ve recently procured a pair of each. The mild winter has offered me the chance to do some extensive trail running in each. I already did a review of the Brooks PureGrit. This post reviews the Altra Lone Peak.

Altra Line Peak

Altra Lone Peak

Rooting for the Underdog

Altra is a new startup shoe company in Utah. It would be great if they succeed and come up with winning products. Having spent some of my formative teenage years (way back in the 1970’s) in Utah skiing and climbing (even in the Lone Peak Cirque – the name sake of this shoe), I have a sentimental wish that Altra prospers as a shoe company.

The Lone Peak comes close to being a great shoe, but unfortunately after running in them, there are a couple of serious problems that become apparent. Let’s hope that the shoe I purchased are part of a prototyping process and Altra learns from and improves things next year.

Poor Quality Control

Right out of the box, I notice there are some manufacturing defects. The stitching inside the shoe looks like there was a problem with the sewing machine during manufacturing. The stitching is chaotic and actually misses part of the upper and liner. Besides the stitching problems, the foot bed is warped and lumpy. Both of these problems should have been caught by some kind of quality control check. The pair of shoes I got should never have made it out into the retail world. So before you walk out the door of the shoe store, make sure you inspect them for defects.

Altra Lone Peak Stitching Sloppiness

Altra Lone Peak Stitching Sloppiness

Why So Heavy?

This shoe was originally advertised as being around 9 to 10 ounces for my size, but my pair weighs in at 11.8 ounces. The Altra website claims a weight of 9.9 ounces.

Compared to similar lower heel shoes (not necessarily minimal) they are heavy. And they feel heavy. For such a thin soled shoe, why are they so heavy? Just handling the shoe, the weight and heaviness seems to be associated with the sole more so than the upper. Bring your scale to the shoe store. Perhaps different manufacturing lots weigh in differently.

Altra Lone Peak 11.8 oz in Men's Size 9.5

Altra Lone Peak 11.8 oz in Men’s Size 9.5

Short Wide Fit

I originally got a size 10 (my normal size). When I realized that the fit was so wide and sloppy in the heel, I returned them for a size 9.5. The 9.5 fit me less sloppy in the heel, but I still had to keep tightening the laces to get a secure fit. The laces are generously long (way too long) after tightening them down. The size 9.5s are just a tad short for my liking and may lead to bruised toes on downhills. Perhaps a women’s size 11 is narrower in the heel and would fit me better?

If you have wide feet, especially toward the rear or heel, then these shoes may fit better for you than they did for me. The toe box is purposely designed to be wide and roomy and that is fine and expected. Nevertheless, you need to be able to comfortably tighten the shoe around your heel to keep your foot securely attached to the sole of the shoe. These shoes make it a challenge to get a secure attachment between foot and shoe.

Running on a rugged rocky trail like the Ridge Run requires a shoe that has a feel of being a part of the foot or at least securely attached to the foot. These shoes don’t give that sense of oneness with the foot when the terrain gets rugged.

Comfortable Ride

The Lone Peak has a comfortable slipper like feel. As long as the trail was smooth, the Lone Peak provided an enjoyable ride. They flex easily and naturally.

Compared to the Brooks PureGrit, they have a much more natural and cushioned feel. This is even apparent while walking. In fact the Lone Peak’s comfort and cush makes it a great walking and casual wear shoe. The Lone Peak with its flat zero drop sole felt totally natural as compared to the PureGrit’s front to back rocker style sole that feels unnatural while walking or standing.

Supposedly, the Lone Peak has a rock protection plate embedded in the midsole. In my experience, they offer about the same protection as the Brooks PureGrit that lacks a rock protection plate. I did feel some pokey rocks making themselves known to the bottoms of my feet. After a 10 mile run on rocky trails, the ball of my left foot was a bit sore from some intrusive rocks.

Altra Lone Peak Flat Zero Drop Sole, Sharp Outside Edge

Altra Lone Peak Flat Zero Drop Sole, Sharp Outside Edge

The low heel of the Lone Peak gives them a sense of stability and resistance to ankle roll over. But the sole is flat and there is a sharp edge on the outside of the sole. Consequently, when they do roll they pivot abruptly on this edge. If the outside edge was rounded it would make them even more stable.

These Shoes are Toe Stubbers

Regardless of the context, fanatical adherence to an altruistic ideal more often than not leads to suffering. In the case of these shoes, the concept of zero drop meaning the same thickness of sole under the toe as the same thickness under the heel has caused an unexpected problem. During my first trail run in these shoes, I kept tripping and stubbing my toes on rocks. This occurred even as I was going uphill at a slow pace! At first, it just did not make sense that I was stubbing my toe and tripping with such a thin soled shoe. It took me a while to figure out what was going on and why these shoes are so prone to tripping.

The culprit is the midsole that does not taper at the toe. The midsole extends right out to the tip of the shoe. This creates a thick bumper under the toes that tends to catch on rocks and irregularities on the trail. If I had my wishes, I would tapper the midsole at the toe to make them less trip prone. Perhaps, I will grind the pair I have down. Ironically the Altra Instinct has a tapered midsole at the toe. Even the pictures of Lone Peak on the Altra website appear to have a more tapered midsole than the pair I own.

Altra Lone Peak Midsole Thickness Extends to Toe Promotes Toe Stubbing and Tripping

Altra Lone Peak Midsole Thickness Extends to Toe Promotes Toe Stubbing and Tripping

.

Altra Instinct has Tapered Midsole in Contrast to Lone Peak

Altra Instinct has Tapered Midsole in Contrast to Lone Peak

Altra’s road shoe the Instinct has a tapered midsole at the toe. And the Nike Zoom Trail my favorite trail shoe also has a tapered midsole at the toe.

Running Shoes Typically have a Tapered Midsole at the Toe - Nike Zoom Trail

Running Shoes Typically have a Tapered Midsole at the Toe – Nike Zoom Trail

Since the rocky Ridge Run terrain is so prone to tripping, the last thing you need is a shoe that also promotes tripping.

Summary

  • The Altra Lone Peak is a low heeled (zero drop) trail shoe that has a natural comfortable ride when running on gentile terrain.
  • The pair I got suffered from some serious manufacturing defects that cause me to question the quality control of Altra’s products.
  • When compared to similar semi minimal low heeled shoes, the Lone Peak is rather heavy and feels heavy.
  • The fit is wide and comfortable, but that yields a sloppy fit and insecure feeling on rugged trails.
  • The outsole pattern has good traction on soft surfaces, but the material is rather hard and feels greasy and slippery when wet.
  • The Lone Peak’s midsole extends all the way out to the very toe tip of the shoe. This creates a thick bumper under the toes that catches and trips on rocks and trail irregularities. This in my mind is a fatal flaw of these shoes and would prevent me from using them or recommending them for the Ridge Run.
  • As long as the trail is smooth or if you are running on roads these shoes have adequate cushioning and feel natural and comfortable.

Changes I Would Make

  • Taper the midsole thickness at the toe so they are less prone to stubbing toes and tripping.
  • Improve the fit at the heel so they aren’t so sloppy in the rear foot.
  • Make the sole more convex so the shoe rolls naturally and does not pivot on the edge resulting in twisted ankles.
  • Make them lighter by using different materials for the outsole and the upper.
  • Add a bit more rock protection right under the ball of the foot.
  • Get rid of the heel spoiler.

Modifying the Altra Lone Peak Update 03-06-2012

I’ve made some quick and simple modifications to the Altra Lone Peak with the intention of improving their suitability for running trails.

First off, the most important modification is to grind down the sole under the toe. This is to make them less prone to stubbing a toe when encountering irregularities on the trail; resulting in a trip and stumble. I only ground down the outsole and avoided grinding into the midsole. After some wear testing, I may find I will have to grind into the midsole (the white stuff).

Altra Lone Peak with Ground Down Toe

Altra Lone Peak with Ground Down Toe

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Taking the Belt Sander to the Altra Lone Peak

Taking the Belt Sander to the Altra Lone Peak

Next I ground the outside edge of the outsole to make a more gradual transition when you roll an ankle. This avoids an abrupt pivot on the outside edge and ankle sprains.

The most forward strap on the outside of the upper was irritating my little toe, so I removed it. I may have to remove more material and part of the mountain profile that serves as part of the upper reinforcing.

Altra Lone Peak Modified - Side View

Altra Lone Peak Modified – Side View

The rear heel spoiler tends to catch on rocks. It also picks of mud, rocks and debris tossing them into your shoes. The worst situation was running in sticky mud where the spoiler gave the mud more leverage and tended to pull the shoes off my heels; kind of like having someone step on your heels.

Altra Lone Peak Heel Spoiler Catches Debris

Altra Lone Peak Heel Spoiler Catches Debris

I’m not sure what the spoiler is intended to do, but I figured its disadvantages outweigh its advantages, so I cut it off. Decades ago, Adidas put these heel spoilers on some of their shoes such as their Marathon Trainer and Brahma Trail Shoe. It was supposedly to cushion the foot when heel striking. Considering the Altra philosophy is natural mid foot and fore foot striking as opposed to heel striking, it is curious that they used this design feature in the Altra Lone Peak.

Altra Lone Peak without the Heel Spoiler

Altra Lone Peak without the Heel Spoiler

My pair of Altra Lone Peaks came with excessively long 5 foot long laces. I replaced them with 4 foot long laces and even these are a bit long.

I added a metatarsal pad to further protect the ball of my foot when running on sharp limestone that is so prevalent around here. The pad is just some 2 millimeter thick foam. So now, instead of zero drop shoes I have positive drop shoes or is that negative drop shoes. It depends on how you define it. If traditional shoes with a thicker sole under the heel compared to the ball of foot are positive drop, I guess I now have negative drop – like the old earth shoes of the 1960’s and 70’s for those that were around back then.

Minor Modifications Result in an Improved Lone Peak

What a difference, just a bit a grinding of the outsole at the toe and these shoe no longer have a tendency to cause me trip. It doesn’t look like I need to grind any more material off them.

These shoes are now a pretty decent trail shoe. If you happen to have the type of foot that these shoes fit well; then they may be a good choice for rugged trail running on the Ridge Run.

For me and my narrow heels, they fit just a little too sloppy in the rear foot for extremely rugged trails. I would need to add some adhesive foam pads inside the shoe to narrow up the upper around my heel. I think I would also replace the insoles. The insoles these come with have a surface that is quite slippery. Depending upon what type of socks I use and combined with the loose fit, my foot tends to slide around inside the shoe more than I like. Unfortunately, the Lone Peak insoles are a very unique shape and finding some replacement insoles that fit the Lone Peak may be a challenge.

A couple adhesive backed foam heel pads help tighten up the fit in the rear of the shoe. I got these pads at CVS. A few years back they were only a couple bucks. Now they are over twice that. Food, Energy, Shoes and now heel pads have doubled in price in the last three years!

Adhesive Backed Foam Heel Pad

Adhesive Backed Foam Heel Pad

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Altra Lone Peak with Heel Pad to Snug up Fit

Altra Lone Peak with Heel Pad to Snug up Fit

Now, the only thing left to fix is to replace those slippery insoles (sock liners).

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About Bridger Ridge Run

The Bridger Ridge Run blog is an information portal for all those seeking to learn more about the Bridger Ridge Run event held every second Saturday of August in Bozeman Montana. This blog contains notifications about important registration dates and deadlines, history of the event, training advice and other stories and entertaining tidbits of information about the Bridger Ridge Run.
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14 Responses to Altra Lone Peak Review

  1. Pingback: Altra Lone Peak Trail Running Shoes | reviewwanted

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  3. Dave says:

    I poked an additional eyelet so that the laces now pull the heel “collar” a little tighter around my heel and ankle. Made a big difference. I also plan to do a little belt sanding to round off the edges of the outsole, just around the heel, to avoid that roll-over edge. I expect I’ll be loosing the mud flap too. Can’t see a real purpose.

  4. Anonymous says:

    An easy solution to slippery insoles is to flip them upside-down and switch left and right. That puts the slippery side down and the grippy foam part up. Initially they cup downward but with some use they re-shape to fit contour of your heel. Another messier solution is to spray the top surface of the insoles with Plasti-Dip rubber coating. It takes a few coats but makes the insoles non-slip.

    • Great Ideas! I like the outside the box thinking. I’d never thought of doing that.

      Flipping the insoles upside down works quite well for nearly flat flexible insoles like the ones in the Lone Peak.

      Works terrific, thanks.

  5. M. Williams says:

    As Utahn I had followed the development of this new, local company and their very forward (or would it be backward?) philosophy – design a shoe around the way the foot is shaped and how it needs to function. Who would have thought? So, suffice it to say I was very excited to get my hands (and feet) on a pair of these this spring (2011), when they first came out. I was actually quite worried that they might not meet my expectations, but luckily that was far from the case!
    While I run on the trails 95% of the time, I still decided to pick up a pair of the Instincts and give them a try (Altras trail shoe wasn’t out yet). I was pleasantly surprised at how well they performed in some of the rockiest terrain. I ran all over the Rockies in these without issue. Your feet will certainly be more fatigued after a longer run over rough rocky stuff, but that’s to be expected. Shoes are OK in mud and not great in snow – but keep in mind this is the road shoe.
    This is not a minimalist shoe (though Altra has since released one, the Adam/Eve), but rather a nearly perfect union of the benefits of barefoot running (wide toebox, zero drop, etc) married with the benefits of a shoe (cushion, protection). Note that the point of this shoe (and the Altra running philosophy in general) is to promote a natural, mid-foot strike with proper running form. If your legs are not used to running in zero drop (or in a mid-foot strike for that matter) plan on spending some time working into these shoes – that calf and Achilles need to strengthen and lengthen – but your legs with thank you for it later!
    I honestly can’t say enough about how much I love these shoes – I recently completed a 50 mile trail race (Pony Express Trail 50) and literally laced up my shoes in the morning, and didn’t touch them until the end of the day – not a single blister, hot spot, swelling – NOTHING in 50 miles! Run right and it’s amazing what you can do! I’m on my second pair of Instincts and just picked up a pair of the Lone Peaks (Trail). Highly recommend.

    • Thanks for your comments.

      Those interested in learning more about Altra’s shoes will benefit from your words.

      I like the Alta Instinct for a training shoe on the road or treadmill.

      With a few modifications (detailed in the blog post) the Altra Lone Peak is a decent training shoe for moderate trails.

      The Lone Peak’s heaviness, the greasy feel of their outsole (especially on wet rocks), their slippery insole and loose fit in the heel prevent me from using them on technical rocky trails or for racing. They are a comfy shoe for training on easy to moderate terrain.

      I’d like to see Altra improve upon the Lone Peak. They have a good start, but they are not their yet.

  6. Joe says:

    Great review. I have the same issue with the loose fitting heel, since I have narrow heels. The loose heel fit lends to friction and blisters too, or if I crank the laces so tight to make it fit better in the heel then it’s just not comfortable at all. I usually wear a size 11 shoe and I’ve ordered a 10.5 to see if that fits better without losing the nice open toe area. Hopefully that’ll help, and I’m definitely going to try the heel pads too, thanks!!!!

    • Thanks for the complements.

      The Altras are very comfy, but the sloppy fit and slippery insoles decreases their suitability for uneven terrain – where your foot tends to slide around inside the shoe.

      I’ve relegated my Altra Lone Peaks to training on mellow trails. The Altra is not a competition running shoe or a shoe for rugged rocky trails.

      The best place I’ve found to buy adhesive backed heel pads is at famous footwear. They had the best prices and selection.

  7. Kristina says:

    I have the Intuitions and they don’t seem to have as much of a taper as it looks like in your Instinct photo. I’m interested in this because I tripped on a treadmill last night, which I have never even been close to doing before. Of course, my own fault comes into play here as I certainly haven’t given myself enough time to adjust to the shoes (I just bought them over the weekend) and was likely ‘spacing’. So now as I’m comparing the forefoot of the Intuitions with my old shoes (NB wt101), I see why this probably happened – the taper is considerably less significant. I really want to like the shoes, but like you said of your experience with the Lone Peaks, I don’t feel a sense of oneness with the foot as I do with my 101s.

    But but…that cushioned zero drop sounded so enticing! (and not to say they are a bad shoe…I just haven’t had the greatest first experience with them)

    • Thanks for your comments.

      Looking at the Altra website, it does appear that the newer Intuitions (women’s model) and Instincts (men’s model) appear to have a bit more material under the toes than my pair of Instincts which are nearly a year old now.

      Given your experience, maybe you are right that your Intuitions have a thicker midsole under the toe than my year old Instincts pictured above. Perhaps even Altra’s road shoes now suffer from the propensity to stub a toe and trip as I experienced with their Lone Peak trail shoe.

      When running in Altras, I guess you can just focus on keeping your toes up and lifting you knees to avoid tripping But that seems a bit counter-productive to be forced to run unnaturally in a supposed natural running shoe. But keep in mind that what defines natural is just an opinion.

      I’m going to make some modifications to my Altra Lone Peaks to make them more runnable (at least for me). Look for some future additions to this blog post illustrating the grinding, cutting and modifications I make to the Altra Lone Peak so it works better as a running shoe. As they are, they make great walking shoes. But I already have too many pairs of walking shoes that were supposed running shoes that flunked the run test.

  8. Bridger, I am so sorry to hear the issues that you have experienced with The Lone Peak. I am sorry that you received a defective shoe and that somehow that made it out there. I would love for you to contact me to get a new pair. Also, as for looking for lighter weight options – we are currently working on that. We will also look into your other suggestions and see how many of those to incorporate into the following version. We do thank you for your support of a new brand and hope that we can win you back to Altra and the product line that we provide.

    • Jeremy,

      Thanks so much for your comments. You openness to ideas and desire to create a good product are noted.

      I have both the Altra Instinct road shoe and the Lone Peak trail shoe. The Instinct seems like a more finished mature product as compared to the Lone Peak.

      I would love to give the Lone Peak another whirl; especially, if you can replace my current pair with a pair that has a midsole that tapers thinner at the toe like the Altra Instinct. To me, that is the biggest flaw with the Lone Peak.

      The heavy weight is not as important and the loose fit at the heel I can correct with some heel pads. But compensating for the extra material under the toe promoting tripping, requires modifying my running form (lifting my toes) and using extra energy and consciousness to avoid tripping – not a viable solution as fatigue sets in.

      I could grind down the sole at the toe, but I’m afraid I may ruin the shoes as it exposes the midsole and may cause the outsole to delaminate.

      Thanks Again.

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