For the past couple of years my regular trail shoes have been New Balance MT110’s and I love them, they’re comfortable, durable and with a 4mm drop suit my running style. They’ve seen me through everything from fast, short fell races to epic 100-mile events. They’re also cheap – I can pick them up for around £35. However, back in February they started becoming harder to get hold of so I decided that it was time to look for a replacement.
On a long run I was listening to an episode of the British Trail Running Podcast which included an interview with the owner of the Ultra Runner Store where the conversation turned to “maximal” trail shoes and then onto Hoka and Altras. I’d been looking into Hokas but was unconvinced and sceptical about the may reports of them causing blisters on long runs. I remember being impressed about how well the Altras were perceived so got onto Google and did a bit of research when I got home.
On paper, these sounded like the shoe I was looking for – lightweight, zero drop, wide toebox with decent grip. Plus, the additional bonus of a decent amount of cushioning – was it enough to see me through 200 miles around Lake Tahoe in September? After a bit of hesitation I parted with £105 and placed my order, that’s THREE pairs of MT110’s – I was expecting something special…
First Impressions: Out of the box they’re RED, you’re not going to miss them! They’re also quite chunky compared to my usual shoes – but slipping them on I don’t notice them being any heavier than my MT110s. The toebox is as spacious as advertised and my toes have loads of room. I’ve read lots of reports of people saying their forefoot felt “loose” in the toebox but, being used to Vibrams and spending a lot of time barefoot this wasn’t an issue for me.
Initial Run: My first run was a trail marathon – the Heartbreaker in the New Forest, just a nice, easy 26.2 mile jog around some well groomed trails to try them out so nothing too technical. Straight out of the box with no breaking-in they performed admirably and I soon got used to a slightly higher and more cushioned ride. I didn’t really notice the zero-drop but my calves were talking to me the following day, something which I seem to have got used to since. The most noticeable effect though was than my feet felt fresh and alive at the end of the run.
Longer Term: The Lone Peaks have now covered around 500 miles and tackled the worst of the British winter. They’ve been immersed in bogs, taken up mountains, across coastal paths and suffered their fair share of tarmac. I’ve taken them to the USA for Zion 100 and all over the UK for various events this spring and I have to say that I absolutely love them, and here’s why…
- They’re comfortable – really comfortable! After several 12-20 hour runs my feet still felt fresh. This was really noticeable the following day when I’d normally be in pieces if I’d used the MT110s
- The wide toebox is as good as everyone says. It gives my feet plenty of room to move around.
- The grip is decent and while not particularly suited for seriously muddy conditions has coped admirably with typical UK trails.
- Even with the cushioning they’re still light enough. I’m still getting used to the chunkier sole and they have tripped me up on occasion with slapstick results
I’m not going to post “out-of-the-box” photos, you can find them all over the internet – so here’s a few photos and comments about how the shoes have held-up over the 500 miles I’ve put into them so far…
After the first run I did, (a marathon) I noticed some fraying on the heel cup. To be fair this normally happens on my MT110s and may be down to the way I run and how my feet move in my shoes? A thin coating of shoe-goo over the frayed areas seemed to protect it from further damage and it didn’t get any worse. I emailed Altra about this but didn’t get a reply which I was surprised about as their customer service has a good reputation.
The upper, while pretty ruggedly constructed has started to come apart around the toebox area. I first noticed the damage after around 100 miles and it’s starting to become quite noticeable now. The overall structure of the shoe isn’t compromised (yet) but I’m keeping an eye on it in and have to wonder how long it will be before a catastrophic rip happens!
The outsole has held up well with the outer lugs having completely worn down which is probably down to my running style as the inner lugs are still not worn down to the white underneath. I’m not surprised by this as I’ve subjected the shoes to a lot of tarmac.
Here’s another photo of the outsole and a wear pattern which should confirm my running style!
Conclusion: I’ve bought a second pair which are sitting in their box waiting patiently and I don’t think there can be a better recommendation than that. I do have some concerns about the durability of the shoes – especially after hearing that they could last 1000+ miles, but maybe I’ve just subjected mine to some particularly nasty conditions?
You just don’t see these shoes in the UK – I really don’t think I’ve seen anyone else in them, and I’ve done a lot of races this year. In every UK event at least 2 or 3 people have asked me about them, (they are very noticeable) . Over in the USA, at the Zion 100, probably 30% of the people were in Altras – they seemed to be a lot more prevalent than Hokas. Certainly when I return to the USA for Tahoe 200 I shall be bringing a few pairs back with me – and I’m very interested in trying the Altra Olympus when it arrives in the UK shortly.
I’m not sponsored by Altra or any other organisation, these shoes were bought at UK RRP, £105 with my own money.