Second Wind

Second Wind
"Run With Purpose!"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Altra trail shoes... the undisputed King of the zero drop trail

Hey guys, I've been wanting to get this blog out to you for a long time but have just had horrible luck this winter!
For me, I had walking pneumonia twice, bronchitis twice, and full blown pneumonia once.  I was... Not running.  Or walking.  More like barely dragging.
Then my newborn has been in and out of multiple Children's hospitals... it's been a long few months.

I digress:



I tried Altra for the first time about a year and a half ago and spent some time in one of their road running shoes (Instinct 1.5).  I liked them.  Didn't love them, but they were a good shoe.

Fast forward a year and I started doing the "Best of the Best" series.  I got to the "Trail running shoe" award and was supremely disappointed in all that there was to offer.  I even said that the winner was basically the best of the worst.
Shortly there after, Altra and I got together and they felt completely confident that they could set the bar with their trail running series so they sent me a pair of
Superiors  and a pair of Lone Peak 1.5s

First off, if you aren't familiar with Altra, they are a really cool company.  Their story goes back about 30 years and their zero-drop movement can be traced back almost 10 years (to the forefront of the whole thing).  Today they have over 1/2 dozen models in both men's and women's shoes, all featuring zero-drop platforms.  The other cool thing I like about Altra is that their founder, Golden Harper is a runner.  No really.  He's been running since birth and has the hardware to prove it:  set a marathon time of 2:45.  At age 12 (which happens to be a world record, you know, if you're in to that sort of thing...), has a PR 5k time of 14:45, and won the Mountain 50 Miler in a time of just over 9 hours, just to name a few.  In short, Altra is the type of company you can't help but root for.

Check out there Tech pages for a ton of great info on what they do differently and why:

That said.. I didn't love the first shoe I tried.
So, how did these 2 trail models stack up?  By far, hands down, the best trail shoes (BOTH of them) I've ever tried.

Either shoe will beat whatever shoe you are currently using for technical trails, and while they are very similar, there are a few things to differentiate them:

  • The superior weighs in at about 8 1/2 oz and the Lone Peak 1.5 comes in about 9 1/2 oz -- these are lite shoes (your traditional trail shoe would come in somewhere around 10 1/2 - 11 1/2).  

Lone Peak 1.5

  •  Both shoes have have quick dry mesh which are cool but not so thin as to tear in trail conditions (like the New Balance).  They allow great airflow in and out and drain quite well also (very important).
  • Both of them feature asymmetric lacing and good shoe strings that are the correct length and aren't so slick that they come untied every 10 feet (pet peeve!!!).
  • Both shoes feature Altras own 'descent rudder'.  The descent rudder is the piece of rubber that hangs off the back and is designed for 'when your feet start to slip out from under you on technical pieces or nasty downhill sections, they descent rudder kicks in and gives you some grip and traction to help you maintain control'.  Now, before you say it, yes, I agree, that sounds like the most gimmicky thing ever and I really thought they were insulting my intelligence on this one.  I was wrong.  This is a really cool feature for steep downhills at speed - trust me.  The first time yours catches you (like mine have), you'll get it.
  • They both feature Altras zero drop platform (wouldn't be worth looking at if they didn't - that's simply a must have)
  • They both feature Altra's awesomely wide toebox.  Lots of shoe companies talk about foot shaped platforms and wide toeboxes, Altra actually delivers.  They have the widest toebox of any shoe I've tried.
  • Both the Superior and the Lone Peak 1.5 feature really good outsoles, but here's a point where they differ:  

Lone Peak 1.5

  • The superior features an outsole made up of angled or checkered pieces, mostly facing in one direction, for speed, while throwing in some reverse fitting pieces for stability and rock deflection.  The sole works well and does a great job of shedding dirt and mud.
  • The Lone Peak 1.5 boasts Altra's own "TrailClaw" sole which is my personal favorite.  It sheds dirt and mud (keeping the shoe lite while maintaining full traction) and the varied stud pattern (which reminds me of a good cleat) provides great stability on technical portions, big rocks, gravel, etc but you still don't 'feel' the studs on smooth surfaces making for a really comfortable and secure ride.
  • The Lone Peak 1.5 also features a built in (and covered) velcro piece on the heal for strapless gators (no more super gluing velcro!).
  • Now for the game changer:
    All of the above features make for great shoes, but the real winning feature is their stoneguard/rockplate system:
  • The way that Altra builds their shoes (from the layers, the order of the layers, the design of the outsole,) everything is designed to protect you from rocks without compromising weight or flexibility.  Rocks are deflected and/or moved to your midfoot to make for a safe and comfortable ride that is honestly unrivaled by anyone.
  • Both shoes have removable insoles And the Superior has a removable stoneguard!  So no matter where you're running, how far you're running, how technical (or not) the trail is, what kind of ground feel you want, how fast you want to feel, you can adjust the shoe to meet you there!  Not only that, but the removable stoneguard is so good, you can put it in other shoes and it drastically improves them as well.
         So I like that on the Superior I can take out the insole and the stoneguard and have a very fast, light, low shoe that offers a low-to-the-ground feel while still protecting your feet.  I like the Lone Peak 1.5 with the insole in for very technical trails.  Honestly, if I was ever going to put the insole or the stoneguard into the Superior, I would just use the Lone Peak 1.5

So, final thoughts?
First off, both of these shoes move into spots 1 and 2 for "Best of the Best" trail running shoes, no question.  

The Superior, in my opinion, is a great light trail shoe IF you leave the insole and the stoneguard out.  With both (or either) of those in, it becomes too close to the Lone Peak 1.5 in stackheight, cushion, and weight BUT not as good as the Lone Peak 1.5.
So The Superior with no insole and no stoneguard is an excellent light, fast, trail shoe and the Lone Peak 1.5 is the best (as is) for highly technical trails, rough/poor conditions, and long runs.

Also, I Love the Superiors for obstacle racing!  The Superior (good stoneguard, great mud shedding outsole, good ability to drain water, lite-weight, low to the ground) is my new Spartan shoe!

Be sure to check out Altra's product videos for these 2 shoes as well (they're actually really good):
Lone Peak 1.5

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