An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Altra Lone Peak -- not exactly what I was expecting.

I've got a bit of a soft spot for Altra, a new company on the running shoe scene with a lot of good ideas. The Altra Instinct is the first running shoe I've worn with PLENTY of toe room. In fact, they were comfy enough that I took them out for 10 miles the first time I wore them, without so much as a hot spot.

So when Altra had announced that the Lone Peak (see picture at right, from the Altra site) was finally hitting store shelves, I was on a mission to find them. I contacted Altra directly to see who in my area would have them in that first week. Turns out that shipping to this area was spotty, and when I called the particular stores, they didn't have them and didn't know when they'd arrive (one store thought that they wouldn't have them for quite some time).

So this past Saturday, when my wife and I stopped at the
Born to Run store, my main objective was to try on the Lone Peak, Altra's zero-drop (as all Altra shoes are) trail shoe. It differs from the Instinct in the toe cap, lateral material, and sole. The toe cap is larger and more substantial to protect from toe-stubs on rocks and roots. The sole has a much more aggressive tread, better in sloppy conditions, and includes a "trail rudder" (okay, I really don't see the use for this, but at least it doesn't appear that it would cause issues). And the lateral material is there for protection against sticks and rocks.

The rearfoot area of the Lone Peak differs from the Instinct in that it doesn't have the rounded edge. With a forefoot or midfoot landing, this is really a non-issue, though.

Altra uses the same last for both shoes, so one would expect that they would fit the same. And while they do have equal toe room, the small differences in the uppers make all the difference in the fit.

When I first slipped on the Lone Peak, same size as the Instincts I've put over 350 miles on, I immediately felt like my foot was hanging over the lateral edge. I took it off and looked inside. I noticed that the insole looked almost exactly like the "support" insole that came with the Instinct (and which I replaced with the "strengthen" insole immediately), and that it said "offroad footbed" (or something to that effect). And there were no other insoles in the box. So the Lone Peak only comes with the contoured insole?

I put the shoe back on, and just tried to "feel". Yes, the toes had plenty of room, just as with the Instincts, but I just couldn't get over that feeling along the outer edge of my foot. I felt along the outside with my fingers to pinpoint where it was coming from, and found it right where the middle yellow strap crosses under the grey reinforcing material. I tried it again with no insole, and it felt the same -- a pressure point right at the aft head of the 5th metatarsal. I think the layering of the material in this area needs some re-thinking, both in location and firmness. That reinforcing material is quite stiff, and will tend to force anything underneath to be pressed into the foot.

I looked at the upper, and it did seem like it was leaning out over the edge of the midsole slightly. I don't know if this is a quality control issue, or something to do with the stiff reinforcing material that is used for protection.

So, I put them back in the box, a bit disappointed. Sure, I'll get another pair of Instincts when the ones I have are near the end of their life. But the Lone Peak won't be a part of my shoe rotation, at least in its current incarnation.

I would urge you, though, to try them on for yourself. Your feet are not my feet, and these shoes may fit you just fine.

Altra is a company I hope survives and thrives in the running shoe market. They've got a lot of good things going for them, and I like their philosophy. They've committed to zero-drop, natural running, and I think as one of the front-runners in the market niche, they've got a lot of good things going by not running head-long down the path of pure minimalism.

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