It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Altra footwear. Some might even call me borderline “obsessed”. However, rest assured–it’s a fanaticism built upon thousands of consecutive miles in what are simply the best shoes I’ve found to date. Cranking out 3000+ miles a year (and a subsequent 4-6 pairs of footwear in the process) allows one to become very familiar with any downsides of a particular brand or style, and until recently I’d been disappointed in one way or another with manufacturers across the board. Every shoe felt like a compromise.
After having discovered Altra’s Lone Peak (model 1.0) in 2012, I’ve become a diehard fan. I fretted so much over the uncertainty of this small new company’s future that I ended up buying 15 pairs of the original 1.0 model. You know, for backup. I didn’t want to risk the possibility of showing up to, say, a zombie apocalypse in less-than-sufficient footwear. I mean, what if those fools could RUN?!
Fifteen pair of shoes might sound like a lot, but I burn through ’em pretty quick. The Lone Peak 1.5 has come and gone, succeeded by the 2.0–the subject of this review–which I’ve been doing my best to put through the wringer to see if they stand up to the original that I fell in love with.
First thing I noticed was the new upper material. It’s wicked soft and even more comfortable than the original. Feet have a tendency to swell in the beginnings of a thru hike (especially if temperatures are high) but these puppies won’t cramp your style since there is room to spare! The deliciously functional anatomical shape that Altra is known for really shines in the 2.0, and gives my toes plenty of space to breathe, wiggle, and splay, which I’ve found to be key in the quest to remain blister free. Rock these babies with a pair of Injinji toe-socks and you have the kind of winning combination that makes lifelong converts.
As with all of Altra’s offerings, this model is designed as a “zero drop” shoe, which means there is no difference in height of the sole between the forefoot and heel. Chances are the shoes you’re wearing right now have at least a 2:1 ratio, the heel being twice as thick as under the forefoot. Having a big squishy heel might sound like a good idea in theory, but I and many others have found it to encourage a very unnatural walking stride. There are countless arguments online regarding the merits of both schools of thought, but I urge you to experiment and see if a zero drop platform works for you. Personally, I found it to be liberating, and now I feel like I’m wearing ridiculously high heeled shoes if I wear anything that isn’t zero drop.
The 2.0 has more cushion underfoot than previous models, and my feet appreciate it when the trail gets rocky. If you thought the previous models were comfortable, be ready for your plush-o-meter to spike into the MEGA COMFORT ZONE. This is by no means a minimalist shoe, despite what some might think after hearing the words “zero drop”. The Lone Peak offers substantial material underfoot without feeling overbuilt or clunky, and casually soaks up the gnar on the roughest routes I’ve been able to throw myself at. Peep the tread under that A-Bound EVA midsole–you’ll see a tread pattern aggressive enough to keep me upright as I flail down insanely steep trail, arms flapping wildly in a futile attempt to look like I meant to do that.
There are a few other minor upgrades only shoe nerds like me (and you, dear reader) will truly appreciate. On the heel is a handy velcro strip is already built into the heel for those who like to rock gaiters. DirtyGirl gaiter users are gonna LOVE this feature. The tongue has also been redesigned for a more comfortable fit, and the rear “rudder” has shrunk in size. I’ve always cut that guy off in a nitpicky attempt to save weight, but then again, I cut the handle off my toothbrush (that’s how nutty I am about ultralight practices!).
Thru hikers ask a lot of their feet. Pounding out ultramarathon distances daily for months at a time can be grueling punishment if you’re wearing uncomfortable (or even simply less than ideal) footwear. I am the first to admit that there is no “magic bullet” shoe that will work for everyone, but I cannot say enough good things about these shoes. Since 2012, there has been a HUGE surge in numbers of thru hikers switching to Altra, and it’s for good reason. These things are the most functional footwear available and I implore you to try them yourself and see what you’ve (probably) been missing.