Altra Trail Running Shoes
In this article, we’re going to break down how Altra’s technology improves your running based on the type of terrain you run on, and the length of your runs.
How Altra trail running technology improves your performance.
Altra Olympus 4 -- Altra’s premium & most luxury cushioned shoe
This is Altra’s premium trail running shoe. Packed with cushioning, you’ll experience amazing comfort for the full duration of your longer runs.
The redesign of the new version has a big change in the upper. You’ll experience a more secure fit in the midfoot along with ample room in the toe box. Altra also shaved down some of the padding around the ankle which contributes to that perfect fit.
The outsole has been updated with a more aggressive tread. It has bigger lugs to give you grippier traction than the previous models.
Since this is a premium shoe, the price is a bit high at $170. But you’re getting your money’s worth. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly shoe, this wouldn’t be the one for you.
Also, if you like a shoe with a low ride, this wouldn’t be the choice for you. The Olympus stands about 1.3 inches off the ground with all its cushioning.
What you’ll notice:
- Durability and Stability.
Not only is the upper a comfortable and breathable mesh, but Altra also increased the durability of this shoe. It has a material sewn into the upper for added stability and more protection all around.
This shoe can take a beating and withstand hundreds of miles of wear and tear.
The Olympus 4 is packed with cushion to give you amazing comfort that will last the entirety of those long-distance runs. Unlike the Lone Peak which flattens out over longer runs, the Olympus’ cushioning stays plush. As noted before: You’ll be standing about 1.3 inches taller.
- Secure fit.
Thanks to the ankle lock lacing system, you’ll get that locked-in feel around your midfoot.
Altra Superior 4 -- Altra’s speedy minimalist shoe
The Superior is Altra’s lightweight, minimalist shoe. This is the closest thing to barefoot running you can get.
It’s designed to give you a low-to-the-ground feel, with its low stack height.
Thanks to a thinner, stretchier upper material, the Superior is super lightweight, and a speedier model that won’t slow you down.
The Superior has a bouncier feel in the midsole than the previous models. And while the cushioning does hold out well for moderate-length runs, it can tend to flatten out after a while. So it’s probably not the best fit for an ultramarathon.
If you’re looking for a shoe to protect you from the rough or rocky terrain, the Superior definitely wouldn’t be the shoe for you. The lack of cushioning will make sure you feel every rock and root on the trail.
What you’ll notice:
- Pretty light for a trail shoe.
At approximately 7.9 oz, this shoe is super lightweight and won’t weigh you down or hold you back.
The lug design offers a great grip even when going uphill. But while it is great for hard dirt and dry surfaces, the outsole design on this shoe makes it a bit slippery when wet.
- Cozy fit.
Altra attached the tongue to the middle of the shoe and designed it to fold into the outside giving you a cozy fit in the midfoot. But it is important to note that some runners may feel this prevents them from achieving that locked-in feel. Especially within the lacing because there are only four eyelets on each side.
The Superior 4 has a neutral/high arch, so if you’ve got high arches, you’ll appreciate the support. However, if you have low arches, you may experience a little soreness.
Altra King MT 2 -- Altra’s rugged shoe for Obstacle courses and rough terrain
If you’re planning on running a Tough Mudder, or similar obstacle course, this is your shoe. The King MT 2 was designed to withstand the most rugged running conditions and tough obstacles.
Runners love the velcro strap that helps hold your feet snug in place and also keep the laces locked down.
The roomy toe box won’t have your toes feeling crammed in.
This shoe is not a plush, overly cushioned shoe, which is why it’s not ideal for longer runs. It’s a bit firm but provides the right amount of comfort to keep your feet from feeling sore after a rugged run. If you want lots of cushiony comfort, this wouldn’t be the shoe for you.
What you’ll notice:
The King MT 2 has a “LIGHTBASE” outsole which is thinner and lighter allowing the shoe to be more flexible.
- Deep lugs.
The chevron pattern and deep 6mm lugs give you a great grip even in the muddiest, rockiest conditions.
The King has four drainage ports in the sole to allow your feet to dry out faster when running through wet conditions. On the other hand, if your feet are already dry and you step into a puddle, they’re likely to get a bit wet.
Altra Lone Peak 4.5 -- Altra’s flagship, and most popular trail shoe
The Lone Peak was Altra’s first trail shoe. It has been widely respected among the Altra fans since the beginning.
The midsole in this shoe is middle of the road, not too soft and not too firm. Though, after several miles -- maybe 15-20 -- the midsole will start to noticeably flatten out. In addition to the flattening out, this is also a heavier shoe. Put both of these together and the Lone peak probably wouldn’t be as comfortable for much longer runs.
The upper is made with a quick-dry mesh. So if you happen to splash through the occasional puddle, they claim that your feet will dry out pretty quickly. Though a number of customer reviews claim otherwise -- just so you know, these may not be best for wet conditions.
Just as with most of Altra’s lineup, you’ll find that the forefoot area has ample room for your toes to splay naturally.
What you’ll notice:
- Rock protection.
This shoe has a plastic plate inside the sole of the shoe that helps prevent sharp rocks from coming through and stabbing into your foot.
- Good for multitasking.
This shoe doesn’t stand out in any one area -- it’s not the plushest model, it’s not the most durable, and its tread isn’t the most aggressive. But it also doesn’t fall behind in any of these areas -- it’s got decent cushioning, they can take quite a beating, and the tread is pretty darn good.
It’s a great all-around shoe.
What to look for in a trail running shoe.
Even though a trail shoe might hold up on the street, a road shoe isn’t ideal for trail running.
For trail running, you need stability tech and protection from the rough terrain, lugs for better grip, and typically a lower drop (a.k.a., the offset). The drop of the shoe is the height difference between the heel of the shoe and the forefoot. A higher drop is more for laid-back runners and a zero-drop is intended for faster, more aggressive runners.
Note: Altra is known for its zero-drop, meaning none of their shoes have a difference between the height under the toa versus the height under the heel.
How do I choose the best Altra trail running shoe for me?
You’ll want to choose a trail shoe based on the types of runs you plan on doing.
Let’s take a look at some of the differentiators.
Casual runs are for people looking to relieve some stress, get more exercise, and maybe split your time between road running and trail running. If this sounds like you, you’ll probably want a trail shoe that can handle any task.
The Lone Peak would be a great choice. It has great traction and suitable cushioning but the midsole thins out after a while. It would be great for technical runs where you’ll encounter rocks, roots, and slick terrain.
If you want to go on a bit of a longer casual run, you could try the Timp 2. They have a responsive midsole that won’t flatten out like the Lone Peak after a short time. But, the compromise is they have a less grippy outsole, so they’re not as good as the Lone Peak for technical, rockier runs.
Tempo / Fartlek training
If you plan on conditioning your cardiovascular system, as well as your muscles, you’re probably going to be doing Tempo training. Like interval training, including jogging or sprinting. And for beginners, at times you may simply be walking.
This type of trail running is more aggressive so you’ll need shoes that offer protection over rocky terrain and stability so you won’t roll an ankle.
If you’re going to be doing obstacle course racing or heavy tempo training, you’d appreciate the King MT. Great for a variety of rugged obstacle terrain. But, the cushion is a bit firm.
For the longer runs, with slightly less rugged terrain, you’ll want a bit more cushion so you could try the Lone Peak. Not as aggressive and durable as the King MT but still a great shoe for rugged terrains.
Racing / speed (5k - half marathon)
For racing, you will need a shoe that can handle speed whether in a long marathon or a 5k.
If your goal is speed and you’re running shorter races like the 5k, then the Superior 4 is probably your best bet. It’s light and speedy, and won’t weigh you down. Just note: it doesn’t offer much in comfort since it’s a minimalist shoe.
If you want to tackle a longer race like a half marathon, you might choose the Olympus 4. It’s loaded with cushion for maximum comfort over longer-distance runs. Though this shoe probably wouldn’t be ideal for a faster race time because all of it’s cushioning, it makes it a tad bit heavier.
For ultramarathon runs that are 30-100 miles long or longer, you need a lightweight shoe with extra cushion that won’t weigh you down.
The Olympus would be a great choice for long-distance runs.
It is a premium shoe. Heavily cushioned for amazing comfort, very breathable, and holds your foot snugly in place. And it has through the roof durability.
The downside is that because of its premium features, it is on the pricey side.
If you don’t want a shoe with a hefty price tag, your next option here could be the Timp. Still a durable shoe great for long-distance. Just not nearly as much cushiony comfort as the Olympus.
Frequently Asked Questions.
Can I use Altra running shoes for road running?
Not with most trail shoe models, no.
Trail running shoes are typically designed with a more aggressive outsole for traction, lugs for mud, and with more stability tech. But some of the generalist models, like the Lone Peak and the Timp, could work okay on hard-top surfaces like pavement.
However a road running shoe probably wouldn’t be suited for the trails. They’ll likely lack the technology to protect your feet and keep you from slipping.
How often should I replace my Altra trail running shoes?
To avoid shin splints, joint aches or other injuries, the general rule of thumb is to replace your trail running shoes every 300 to 500 miles.
Some things to watch for:
- If the midsole is no longer cushiony
- Creasing in the sole of the shoe under the heel and forefoot is a sign of a worn midsole
- Is the tread fully intact or is it worn down?
- Does the shoe twist or is it still firm? If you can twist your shoes with ease, then the stability technology could be compromised
Last but not least, pay attention to your body. If you’re experiencing discomfort and achy joints after your runs, then it’s probably time to replace your shoes.
How do I make my trail runners last longer?
We are all guilty of kicking off one shoe by placing the other up against the heel. This puts stress on the heel of the shoe and wears out the material surrounding it. Just untie them and slip them off.
If possible, it’s ideal to keep your trail running shoes for trail running. They’ll last longer if you don’t wear them as a casual shoe to run errands and other tasks. Save the tread for pounding the trails.
Also, when you’re running, the foam of the sole is compressing with each step. If it’s doable, try to rotate your running shoes every other run to give them time to reset to their original form.
I need help deciding: Which would be the best trail shoe for a beginner?
If you’re new to trail running, and you’re still learning what your preferences and needs are, you’ll probably want a do-it-all shoe.
The Lone Peak is Altra’s most popular shoe for a reason: it can handle just about anything.
And because it’s a great generalist shoe, and doesn’t have the expensive tech of a specialist model, the price tag is much lower. This way you can save a little while you’re learning what you like in a trail shoe. Then, later you can invest in a more premium model down the road.