Altra Lone Peak 1.5 Review

Altra is a relatively new company out of Salt Lake City making some very innovative running footwear and the Lone Peak 1.5 is no exception. This is a sweet trail running shoe for a variety of reasons.

When I first put a pair on I thought there was no way I could wear it without going down at least ½ size from what I typically wear. The shoe felt way too roomy in the heel and especially in the toebox where my forefoot felt like it was swimming. Once out on the trail though I found the fit to be excellent. I did have to use the heel-lock lacing technique (also known as the “rabbit ears”) to adequately secure my heel in the fairly roomy heel cup but that did the trick.

I have not been much more than a casual convert to zero drop footwear (for short, easy runs on mellow terrain), finding that more often than not, zero drop is generally accompanied by minimal cushioning and underfoot protection. The Lone Peak 1.5 may soon have me going long in the mountains in zero drop for the first time as it is very well cushioned (with a 23mm stack height) and provides just enough stiffness and protection in the outsole to enhance stability and minimize the uncomfortable pounding of a rough, rocky trail without totally eliminating ground feel.
I had a chance to wear test the shoe in late April on the Paiute Pass trail in the Sierra Nevada west of Bishop where I live and work at Sage To Summit. Normally, you would still be strapping on skis instead of shoes this time of year at that elevation but the range was already going through its transition to early summer conditions with a rapidly melting snowpack. This made for a great opportunity to test the shoe in a wide variety of conditions in one 10 mile trail run, everything from dry, sandy, and rocky trail, to wet, muddy and very slick water-covered rock trail to a very soft, slushy snow surface. The shoe performed great in all of these conditions. What impressed me most was the grip of the outsole as I was running hard downhill at the end of the run, taking tight switchbacks quickly and with complete control. Although the shoe was soaking wet from post-holing in “suspended water” snow conditions and the outsole was covered in a layer of gritty, decomposed granite (sand) I never slipped or lost my footing once even when landing on a flat, cambered rock surface.
The Lone Peak 1.5 has an extremely aggressive outsole

As far as specific shoe features go, as I have already mentioned, and as is the case with all Altra models, the Lone Peak 1.5 is zero drop (with 23mm stack height) and has an exceptionally roomy toebox. The shoes are built on what Altra calls a natural or foot-shaped platform. They recommend that there be a 1/2” gap between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe. This will feel overly roomy to a lot of people but as long as your heel is secure and the midfoot feels comfortably snug this abundant forefoot room allows your toes to fully splay out as they would when barefoot which enhances the stability of the ride and allows for extra force, or propulsion, as you push off into your next stride. The heel cup is very soft and comfortable due to a minimally stiff heel counter. The lateral and medial sides of the midfoot are reinforced with a more durable material which gives the shoes a slightly more stable and supportive feeling than it otherwise would have. The outsole is well-lugged and super-grippy, giving you confidence on even the most technical descents.

One very unique feature of the Lone Peak 1.5 is the built-in Velcro tab on the outside of the heel counter. If you use lightweight trail gaiters (such as the Running Funky or Dirty Girl lines) this feature will be much-appreciated.

Finally, the outsole extends slightly out from the heel creating what Altra calls a “trail rudder” for enhanced balance and stability, say when making tight turns running downhill; whether this benefit is really accomplished or not, I’m not really sure, but it certainly does not take away from the shoe’s overall performance. It is very similar to the feature on the Adidas Trail Response, one of the original trail shoe options from the mid-90s.

I would highly recommend the Lone Peak 1.5 to anyone who wants to experiment with zero drop footwear but is unwilling or biomechanically-incapable of running without either cushioning or underfoot protection. If stiff heel counters aggravate your Achilles/ankle area or if you have a very wide forefoot, this shoe would be a great option. 

The shoe weighs in a 10oz, making it more of a mid-weight than a featherweight option, but still plenty light enough for a racing shoe. I would consider using this shoe for short runs, long runs, flat and smooth, steep and technical terrain, and everything in between. Also, because of its zero drop stability and adequate cushioning and protection, it could be a solid choice for a multi-day fastpacking trip, when you might have a 15-25 lb pack on your back. And, when your feet start swelling from the duration of your outing you’ll have plenty of shoe volume to accommodate it comfortably.

Get out there and give ‘em a try.  Available at Sage to Summit.
Happy trails!

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