Altra Lone Peak 1.5 Review

I’m still hammering the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 on longer runs and on days when I require a little more protection than my uber minimalist Vivobarefoot Trail Freak afford. The soles are now, after many, many miles, starting to show their age and the shoe itself is far from fresh when it comes to odour.

Having said that, I just can’t bear to part with them and, having committed myself to return to running ultras after my short ‘ultra sabbatical’, I am faced with the decision of what 2015’s shoe of choice for training and racing will be.

Generally, I would go for the ‘new, improved’ version of a shoe. However, at this moment in time, I am toying with the idea of sticking with what I know, the Lone Peak 1.5. After all, I have found it to be the perfect shoe for longer distances. Zero drop, with a spacious toe box and just enough cushioning to be comfortable but not so much as to detract too much from ground feel. Certainly at this point, the Lone Peak 2.0 represents an unknown quantity to me and, from what I can see, there appears to have been some significant changes to the shoe.

I’ve included my review of the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 below, written originally for Barefoot Running MagazineIssue 12, Summer 2014. It has to be said that this was a difficult review to write. I was torn between an excellent shoe, one of my favourite shoes in years, and the need to assess it using the same barefoot criteria that we apply to all shoe reviews.

As you would expect, in comparison to the likes of the Trail Freak, the Lone Peak 1.5 was never going to be so flexible and was never going to offer the same degree of ground feel. However, it needs to be considered on its merits, as a shoe that enables distance runners such as myself to try and stay true to their minimalist preferences whilst, at the same time, adopting a realistic approach to injury prevention.

Definitely a shoe that I would recommend.

Altra Lone Peak 1.5 Review

In 2010 I discovered ultramarathons, defined on Wikipedia as ‘any sporting event involving running and walking longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi)’. Not long after that I first read Christopher McDougall’s ‘Born To Run’, which inspired an interest in barefoot/minimalist running. Since then, I have run a number of ultramarathons, in a variety of trainers and have even, for a period of time, dabbled with maximalist footwear!

I now find myself looking to complete the same kind of distances as before but, ideally, doing it in minimalist footwear. I do know of some ultramarathoners who regularly complete (and even win) events running in minimalist footwear but, on a personal level, I do not yet have the confidence to go beyond marathon distance in truly minimalist shoes.

For a start, I am a ‘larger runner’, with a far from perfect running form, though I am constantly working on rectifying both of those issues! I am also conscious that my running form alters when fatigued, and I find myself resorting to the occasional heel strike. Finally, my preferred races take part on some pretty unforgiving terrain. Combine all of the above and you can perhaps see why I have been looking for a shoe that adheres to the fundamental principles of minimalism whilst, at the same time, addresses some of the aforementioned issues.

It was the search for such a shoe that first brought the Altra brand to my attention, initially through the US/Canadian press. Altra has fairly recently crossed to these shores and, with the Lone Peak 1.5, offered a potential product to meet my requirements.

There’s an interesting story behind the Altra brand, one that demonstrates the importance of timing, and one that, not unlike my own, owes a debt of gratitude to the iconic ‘Born To Run’.

“Two friends are selling shoes at the family running specialty store, Runner’s Corner in Orem, Utah, and they start zero dropping traditional running shoes to see if they could prevent injuries. Word of mouth spreads and soon they are firing up the bandsaw to zero drop shoes for friends of friends. The pair initially tried to pitch their zero drop idea to established shoe companies and were mocked, but little did they know that Born to Run would be released around the same time. In the summer of 2009, Altra was born with a focus on developing anatomically correct footwear with zero heel-to-toe drop, a concept that has caught on a great deal over the past several years.”

(http://www.irunfar.com/2012/02/altra-lone-peak-review.html)

Generally, where minimalist footwear is concerned, I expect a lightweight shoe with an ample toe box, minimal or no cushioning, a high degree of flexibility, and a good degree of ground feel. The Altra Lone Peak 1.5 is not a minimalist shoe per se, but does attempt to embrace elements of minimalism and, in doing so, positions itself midway between a conventional shoe and a minimalist shoe. As a result, it excels in some areas but not in others.

This has actually made for a difficult review, written with ‘two hats on’, as a barefoot/minimalist runner, and as an ultramarathoner.

Arguably, the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 may be of limited interest to a lot of Barefoot Running Magazine readers but, hopefully, this review will serve some purpose, to those who find themselves with a similar set of circumstances to my own.

The Altra web site describes the Lone Peak 1.5 as follows:

“Inspired by Lone Peak, one of the rockiest, toughest mountains in the Wasatch Range, The Lone Peak™ was designed to conquer the Wasatch 100. While the foot-shaped design allows athletes to stay relaxed and comfortable for hours, this do-everything mountain shoe promotes happy feet, increases ankle stabilization and improves form with the Zero DropTM platform. The Lone PeakTM features an innovative, sandwiched StoneGuardTM system that deflects rocks into the midsole for a smoother, more stable ride. Stand above the rest with the ultimate trail running shoe.”

(http://www.altrarunning.com/fitness/en/Altra/Men/lone-peak-15-mens)

Fit

One of the things that most differentiates the Lone Peak 1.5 from your average trail shoe is the spacious fit, with a roomy toe box that would be the envy of any minimalist shoe. Trying it on for the first time, I did actually wonder if I needed to size down. Online reviews were mixed with regard to size, split between those who considered the shoe to be true to size, those who felt the shoe to be overly large, and, perhaps most surprisingly, one account where the reviewer felt the need to go up a size.

Given my own experience and the online uncertainty where size is concerned, it might be advisable to try the shoe on before purchase if at all possible. There is a useful ‘show me how if fits’ tool on the Altra web site which may assist with regard to size. It asks for a known trainer as input before then recommending the required size of Altra. I used this functionality to confirm that I did in fact have the correct size for me, a UK 8, and, further, the web site advised that the Lone Peak 1.5 was constructed true to size.

The spacious toe box is one of the strongpoints of the Lone Peak 1.5. From a minimalist perspective, it’s a desirable quality in a shoe as it facilitates toe splay. From the perspective of an

ultramarathoner, it means that the Lone Peak 1.5 should be roomy enough to accommodate swollen feet, something which is not uncommon on longer distance runs.

Despite my initial apprehension with regard to size, I found the shoe to be comfortable straight out of the box and would even go so far as to describe it as one of the most comfortable trainers that I have ever worn.

Note that Altra offer gender specific versions of their product:

“Women’s feet are anatomically different than men’s feet. Women have a narrower heel and midfoot, higher instep, longer arch and unique metatarsal spacing. While this has always been a fact of life, traditional running shoe companies have opted to make male and female shoe models virtually identical for years.

Altra is the first shoe company to introduce an entire line of truly female specific shoes. Every last of Altra women’s running shoes have been molded around the unique shape of the female foot. A shoe last is a 360-degree model of a foot used to create the shoe’s heel, instep, arch and toe box dimensions.”

Check out the www.altrarunning.com for further information on the gender specific fit.

Styling

There is a considerably more subdued, almost all black version of the Lone Peak 1.5 available which may have a wider appeal, certainly to those who don’t want to stand out. However, I personally liked my predominantly red Lone Peak 1.5, with its retro old school vibe.

The Lone Peak has a rounded, almost chunky look to it, thanks largely to the foot shape toe box, with a large toe bumper providing generous toe protection, ideal for a shoe intended for trail ultramarathons.

The shoe makes good use of overlays for protection, including a white silhouette of the Wasatch mountain range on each outer edge of the shoe.

The sole of the Lone Peak 1.5 has a cool footprint imprinted on it which, after considerable use, is only just starting to wear away on my own pair.

One aspect of the Lone Peak 1.5 that is quite unusual is the ‘Trail Rudder’, a continuation of the sole that protrudes out the back of the shoe. More to follow on this.

Build Quality

The upper of the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 consists of a quick-dry, abrasion-resistant mesh with minimal seams and the aforementioned overlays for protection. Despite considerable use, I haven’t encountered any issues with the mesh or overlays.

The Lone Peak 1.5 sole consists of the Abound layer, described as an energy-return compound, which sits directly beneath the foot. This in turn sits atop a 1mm thick plastic StoneGuard, intended to provide an element of protection for the foot, which sits above the EVA Midsole. Finally, the lower is finished off with the sticky rubber TrailClaw™ outsole which contains multi-directional lugs and the aforementioned footprint.

Despite the numerous layers, and the mention of ‘energy-return’, the Lone Peak 1.5 offers a fairly firm ride. Compared to most minimalist footwear, it’s quite a built up shoe. However, there’s no comparison to the likes of the Brooks Cascadia and the various Hoka models which provide a noticeable sponginess and energy-return on each foot strike.

There’s a small Velcro flap at the rear of each shoe, something that I will admit to not even noticing until I sat down to give the shoes a closer inspection! It’s a neat little addition that those of us who use gaiters will no doubt appreciate. After experimentation with numerous gaiter brands, I discovered Dirty Girl Gaiters (not just for girls!), that utilized a Velcro approach when securing them to shoes. This proved considerably more robust than those gaiters that relied on cord, leather and/or elastic fastenings that run underneath the shoe. Unfortunately, where the latter approach is concerned, the constant pounding on the trails and the potential for direct contact with rocks and other debris, generally resulted in a fairly short lifespan. This just wasn’t the case at all for the Dirty Girl Gaiters, with the only ‘problem’ being the need to add Velcro to the back of your trail shoes. The addition of the Velcro flap on the Lone Peak 1.5 negates the need to even do this, making it even more straightforward to use gaiters.

The only slight criticism is that, as is so often the case with Velcro, it tends to curl when used repeatedly over time.

Performance

Out on the trail I have no complaints whatsoever when using the Lone Peak 1.5. The multi-directional lugs on the sole cope well, providing excellent traction. However, a word of caution if you are not fortunate enough to step right on to the trail. I’ve had mixed experiences with the Lone Peak 1.5 on numerous hard/concreted surfaces when wet and, worst of all, took a really bad tumble on wet wood.

Despite these failings, I really like the Lone Peak 1.5 and it’s my current shoe of choice for trail runs of any length and/or when the terrain is really technical underfoot and I just want to run without undue caution.

I mentioned the ‘Trail Rudder’ previously which, by all accounts, is intended to provide braking assistance and stability on steep and/or loose downhill sections. In theory at least, it makes sense. Most of us will likely find ourselves leaning back, digging our heels in slightly, trying to control and manage our descent. The Trail Rudder should assist, providing some additional traction.

Now I’m not the fastest of runners so there’s a good chance that I just haven’t pushed things hard enough to feel the benefit of the rudder. I have yet to feel any more in control on steep descents and, as such, am yet to be convinced with regard to the Trail Rudder.

If anything, I have actually found that it gets in the way, catching on steps/obstacles/debris when my foot placement has been really precise.

Whilst I haven’t been sufficiently bothered by the rudder to consider removing it, it was an option that I saw suggested online, and a sharp Stanley knife would surely do the trick.

One final observation is with regard to the laces, an issue I appear to have experienced with a few different shoes of late, most recently with the Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail. I’ve found that the laces on the Lone Peak 1.5 have a tendency to come undone over the duration of a run if not double knotted.

It’s worth noting that the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 was awarded a Runner’s World Gear of the Year award in 2013.

Barefoot Simulation

The Lone Peak 1.5 is a zero drop shoe with a spacious toe box. However, with a stack height of 23mm, the Lone Peak 1.5 was never going to score highly for ground feel.

The level of protection afforded by the Lone Peak 1.5’s cushioning comes at the expense of ground feel and, further, at the expense of flexibility. There’s limited flexibility in the Lone Peak 1.5, focused towards the front of the shoe.

A full-length rock plate sits between the layers of cushioning on the Lone Peak 1.5, shielding your feet from the worst that the trail has to offer.

There is still a higher degree of ground feel than most conventional trail shoes. However, there’s simply no comparison against the average minimalist shoe, with no cushioning and just a few mms of sole.

At the end of the day, it’s all about compromise, protection Vs. ground feel, and, considering the possible use for the Lone Peak, as an ultramarathon shoe, arguably ground feel is going to be less of an issue with the emphasis instead on maximizing ability to cover ultra distances without injury.

Price

RRP £105.00

Overall Rating

It’s possibly unfair to review the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 using the same criteria that I typically apply when reviewing minimalist shoes. It is essentially a conventional trainer with some of the trappings of a minimalist shoe. While it does have an ample toe box, it doesn’t fare so well with regard to ‘minimal or no cushioning’, ‘a high degree of flexibility’, and ‘a good degree of ground feel’.

As previously mentioned, it’s a shoe that may be of limited interest to a lot of Barefoot Running Magazine readers, especially those running short to medium distances, who would arguably be better served by one of the truly minimalist shoes on the market.

However, for those readers like myself, who wish to run ultramarathon distances in a zero drop shoe that still offers an element of protection, the Lone Peak 1.5 provides us with a potential tool to get the job done.

Ideally, I would like to be in a position to run ultra distance events in truly minimalist shoes. However, be it for reasons of form and/or terrain, the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 provides me with an excellent compromise option, letting me run with a zero drop heel/toe differential but with just enough cushioning and protection to hopefully see me to the end of the event without injury.

As I have found to my cost, once you start to add fatigue into the mix, even the best running form can start to slip, with an occasional heel strike, contact with some potentially race ending debris, or simply missing things underfoot. Further, if you find yourself running through the night, visibility may also be an issue.

Until my form is such that I can comfortably run ultramarathon distances in entirely minimalist shoes, I am likely to have a continued need for a product such as the Lone Peak 1.5 in my shoe rotation and, whilst it’s not a perfect shoe from a minimalist perspective, arguably, it is an excellent trail shoe. I very much doubt that this will be my last pair of Lone Peak 1.5 and I will, in all likelihood, check out Altras other minimalist leaning products.

There’s word that the Lone Peak 2.0 will be released mid-2014, apparently with significant differences including reduced use of overlays on the upper (goodbye to the Wasatch mountain range), an extra 2mm of cushioning in the midsole, and a second rockplate for additional metatarsal protection.

(http://www.irunfar.com/2014/06/best-shoes-of-winter-outdoor-retailer-2014.html)

The most likely result will be to add weight to the shoe and to further reduce the flexibility. However, as long as Altra retain the zero drop heel/toe differential and the spacious toe box, an updated Lone Peak will still be of interest as far as meeting my own ultra goals are concerned.

Specifications

  • Ideal Uses: Trail Running, Hiking, Fastpacking, Ultra Marathons
  • Platform: Zero DropTM Platform, Foot-Shaped Design, NRS – Natural Ride System™
  • Stack Height: 23 mm
  • Midsole: Two-Layer EVA / AltraBound™
  • Outsole: Sticky Rubber TrailClaw™
  • Insole: Mountain Footbed
  • Upper: Quick-Dry, Abrasion-Resistant Mesh with Minimal Seams
  • Lacing Structure: Asymmetrical
  • Other Features:
    • StoneGuard™ Sandwiched Rock Protection
    • TrailRudder™
    • Gusseted Tongue
    • Vegan Friendly
    • Natural Ride System
    • Weight: 9.9 oz.
    • Cushioning: Moderate
  • http://www.altrarunning.com/fitness/en/Altra/Men/lone-peak-15-mens