I recently found myself in need of a long distance trail shoe. For me, long hours on the trails requires comfort, stability, and the right mix of firmness and responsiveness.
After a bit of research, I found the Altra Lone Peak to be a suitable candidate. I really like Altra shoes, and most reviews of the Lone Peak praise it as a solid, zero-drop long-distance shoe without any serious drawbacks.
Altra Lone Peak 3.5.
I soon found a good deal (EUR 80) on a pair of Lone Peak 3.5, and because the reviews were generally favourable and the price was low, I decided to go with it despite it being last years model.
On most websites (and from the wrong angle) the Lone Peak 3.5 looks pretty horrible. A mismatch of confusing patterns and markings, and extremely bulky.
A bit like a running-shoe-version of the infamous "Moon boots" of the seventies.
From the wrong angle, the Lone Peak 3.5 is reminiscent of the infamous "Moon boots" of the seventies.
In real life and from a more common angle, the Lone Peak 3.5 is actually kind of nice, bordering on inconspicuous looking. And certainly not as annoyingly, brightly colourful as most trail shoes these days.
Lookswise, I'd say they are leaning towards some kind of "tramping boot look. It is rugged, dependable, solid, and a bit on the bulky side. That is a signature Altra look - thanks to the wide toe box.
When it comes to fit, the Lone Peak 3.5 is no different from all Altra shoes I have tried - super comfortable. The roomy toe box, zero drop, a plush ankle collar, and a soft gusseted tongue. True to size and a seemingly perfect fit right out of the box.
I found, however, that the plushness was a bit too much after a short while. The closeness and tightness of the foamy collar and insole seemed to cut circulation to my feet when going for longer outings (>1 hour).
I rather desperately tried a range of socks of varying thickness (I usually like my socks thick) but to no avail. I did not feel truly comfortable for the first 125+ km or so. In other words, the Lone Peaks did require a break-in period.
Apart from the break-in period, the only issue I found fit-wise was the toe-bumper. To protect the toes, Altra has added a band of tougher material around the front of the shoe. This leads to a very distinct change in rigidity, which, unfortunately, is located right on top of my toes.
I like space for my toes to wiggle; that is what attracted me to Altra in the first place. However, in this case, it is bound to cause grief. I can feel my big toe grate against that boundary.
Blisters are in the brewing, and I can point out exactly where my toenails inevitably will tear through the upper fabric. Well, that is at least how it feels.
The transition between soft and hard materials right around the toe band is a disaster waiting to happen.
One of my favourite features of the Lone Peak is the so-called "four-point gaiter trap." What a wonderful and practical invention, and how very dependable and practically implemented!
I don't own a pair of Altra gaiters (yet), but my aging Inov-8 Race Ultra gaiters (repaired almost beyond recognition) fits perfectly. Surprisingly, they fit a lot better and attaches more easily than on my Inov-8 shoes.
My old Inov-8 Race Ultra gaiter attaches easily to the side and front gaiter trap loops.
Of course, the Inov-8 gaiters lack the velcro at the back that corresponds to the back gaiter trap. But the front and side loops align really well and are quite sufficient to achieve solid gaiter performance.
The most prominent advantage of the Altra gaiter attachment system is the pliable loops on the sides of the shoe: Emphasis on "loops," not pockets like on Inov-8 shoes.
The loops are very easy to use, and any kind of hook will fit - also deep (long) ones, which will provide a more secure attachment.
Front gaiter trap loop.
Side gaiter trap loops work really well!
Weight & speed
My pair of Lone Peak 3.5 in size UK 7 weighs in at 276 grams right out of the box. This is not exactly lightweight, but for a shoe with this much protection, cushioning and rather strong outsole, it is quite fair.
Speedwise, it is not the fastest of shoes, though. In my experience, it is paced right around average. However, for its intended purpose - long-distance trails, I find it very well suited.
The upper fabric is light and breathable, with tougher reinforcements around the sides, heel cup, and the toe area. I have had no issues with bumping my toes, neither with stuff (sand, grit, leaves, etc.) getting into the shoes. Ventilation is average.
Water is another matter! Just a wee bit of dew and you'll soon feel the moisture seeping in.
On the other hand, they do not retain water for long should you happen to get them completely soaked. The drainage vents on the front and sides work quite well!
Front drainage vents allow for excess water to escape.
Based on the above, I'll categorize the Lone Peak as a four-season shoe.
Warm and protective enough for most winter runs, ventilated enough for most summertime runs. Perhaps not super for really cold weather nor scorching hot desert runs. However, for most weather conditions, they are quite sufficient.
The outsole of the Lone Peak 3.5 is very distinctly "Altra" and will to most people be rather odd looking.
It works, however, really well when it comes to stability and traction, and that is what matters. The material itself is rather grippy, without being too soft (grating away easily).
A typical Altra outsole - weird looks, excellent performance.
I have put the outsole to the test in conditions ranging from muddy and wet, to dry sandy and rocky and it performed solidly throughout, even on roads.
Providing traction and buoyancy on sandy routes, grip on muddy tracks, stability on the tarmac and rocky ground, and they felt well-cushioned and stable both uphill and downhill.
The only situation I found them lacking was in very slippery conditions, e.g. wet algae-covered boardwalks and ice. However, most shoes without studs, even tramping boots will falter in those conditions.
Midsole & cushioning
How you want your running shoes cushioned (or lack thereof) is highly individual. I like my shoes to be responsive with minimalistic cushioning even in my ultra shoes, where I also like a bit of firmness.
My favourite shoe of all times is the Inov-8 X-talon 212 (standard fit), with its footbed close to the ground and a very responsive midsole.
Another favourite of mine is the Altra Superior 3.5, which in relation to cushioning is one step up from the X-talon. You still get a fairly good bit of the essential close-to-the-ground feel. Even with the addition of the optional StoneGuard, you are not completely lost.
The Lone Peak 3.5 takes you yet another step away from the ground. Even though I knew up front that the Lone Peak would be more cushioned than the Altra Superior, I'm still a bit disappointed.
I was hoping to get a bit of firmness along with the extra midsole and cushioning. Instead, the cushioning feels very soft bordering on wobbly - very little firmness.
Despite its medium height stack and wobbly cushioning, the Lone Peak feels very good stability-wise. The wide last and solid build ensures that there is little risk twisting your ankles. I like that very much.
If you can abstract yourself from the lack of ground feel, soft cushioning and lack of firmness; the Lone Peak is very versatile and provides a comfortable ride over a wide range of conditions.
As mentioned in the introduction, you may currently scoop up a pair of Altra Lone Peak 3.5 for as little as EUR 80. This is, in my humble opinion, quite a bargain.
So far, I have run a bit more than 150 km in mine, and you hardly see any damage to neither the upper nor the outsole.
The "poor-build-reputation" that seems to stick to Altra shoes has not yet reared its ugly head. My Lone Peak 3.5 still seem solid! In other words, good value for money.
The Altra Lone Peak 3.5 is a versatile, rugged-looking, super comfortable shoe that fits true to size. It has a zero heel-to-toe offset and will require a bit of breaking in.
They provide a solid and stable platform with ample, soft cushioning. They have a solid grip in all but the most extreme conditions, and your feet are reasonably well protected. They soak easily and drain well.
They are suitable for long to very long outings all year round in anything from easy to rugged conditions - running and tramping/trekking alike.
If you prefer low/zero drop shoes and like your shoes softly cushioned, I can highly recommend the Lone Peak 3.5. However, if you, like me, prefer your shoes a bit more responsive and firm the Lone Peak may not be for you.
Altra - the shoe brand that encourages and believes that zero drop is effective to promote the natural way of running while having just the right protection. Just make sure to have enough transitioning to avoid injuries.
I've been using Altra shoes for more than 3 years now.
I started with the Superior model which I normally use for shorter distances and then with Lonepeaks when I joined ultramarathon races. I had the transitioning process for a few weeks because I came from 8 mm drop shoes before.
I felt pain on my calves and shin when running with zero drop but I eventually became used to it. That is why it is important to transition and to gradually increase your mileage when switching to new shoes, especially when it comes from regular drops to zero drops.
Looks and the upper
In my point of view, 3.5 looks bulkier. The colorway is more like the DC movies, with its dark or grayish tones than Lonepeak 3.0.
I also noticed 4 small drainages in the front part which is a good improvement to allow fast drying when the shoe gets wet and also cooling the feet inside.
There is also an additional gaiter trap on the side just below the ankle to help secure the gaiters.
When it comes to grip and outsole, I can say that Lonepeak 3.5 is one of the best.
The hexagonal and different shapes provide very good traction when running downhill and uphill. With Maxtrac technology, you can also be sure that the outsole is durable enough to tackle even the roughest trails.
The weight and the midsole
I can say that it is lighter than it looks. The shoe weighs 295 grams for men’s in size 9 US and 247 grams for women’s of the same shoe size.
The midsole has A-bound material for shock absorption and it has also a stone guard to protect the feet from pointed rocks and objects on the trails.
It has an insole for additional comfort as well. The heel height and forefoot height is 25 mm. This stack height is the sweet spot for me, especially for ultra-races.
I used these shoes for recons, training, and ultra-races.
To fully test the performance of Lonepeak 3.5, I used it during the beach bunch trail challenge 2018 for 100km all the way. The race is a combination of road, forest trail, muddy hills, park, and sandy beach.
With that kind of terrain, I can say that I really tested the shoes to its full potential. During the road part, as expected, the shoes didn’t really perform that well, but upon setting my foot on the trails, that's when the Lonepeak 3.5 shined.
I jogged the uphill and ran the downhill without slipping at all. Thanks to its very dependable grip.
During the early part of the race, it also rained and the shoes got wet, but because of its drainage, the water drained fast. I finished the race without changing shoes, without blisters and no injuries.
There is no perfect shoe and there is always something to improve.
What I have observed is that the insole or footbed tends to bend or curl inside whenever it gets wet, especially running downhill. This is also what I experienced with the previous models.
For the sizing, I felt that it is smaller compared to Lonepeaks 2.5 and 3.0. I am usually size 9.5 and have more than enough space but not with Lonepeak 3.5. I recommend to try its fit before ordering your usual size.
With over 200 km in mileage with my Altra Lonepeak 3.5, I can say its perfect for ultra races and daily running, especially on pure trails.
Good to know
- While there are no ‘big’ changes to it, the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 certainly boasts a few smart features that aim to improve the runner’s performance on the ground. The stitching on the upper has been updated for more breathability. The efficient drainage system allows for a healthy circulation of air inside the shoe, thereby ensuring instant drying and cooling of the foot during longer runs.
- The Drilex Lining across the upper gives a smooth in-shoe experience while also making sure to not inhibit breathability.
- The Stone Guard housed in the heel region provides additional comfort to the runner and keeps the foot in position while running on steep slopes etc.
- Another update is the Natural Ride System (NRS) in the shoe which results in the increased adaptability and the improved flexibility for the runner. The system allows for a smoother transitioning of foot among various running positions.
This neutral trail running shoe comes in the standard running length and the standard medium width of D and B for men and women respectively. However, owing to its relatively narrower toe-box, it is advisable to try the shoe first.
The shoe boasts the MaxTrac Outsole with a sticky rubber that has the capability of resisting slip and ensuring a firm grip on the challenging surfaces. This material is also very durable; therefore, it keeps this running shoe in a healthy condition for longer durations of time.
The shoe’s midsole is made from an environmentally friendly recycled material, the A-Bound technology for maximum underfoot protection and greater resilience to impact forces. This material is also present in the Lone Peak 4.0.
The popular EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) material, which has already proven its mettle in other shoes, takes the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 to higher levels of comfortability and responsiveness.
The Natural Ride System (NRS) design includes the foot-shaped finish, various foot-shaped shapes and a zero millimeter heel-to-toe drop for a more natural, closer-to-ground feel. This system lets the sole unit adapt fully to the shape and movement capacity of the wearer’s foot.
The Natural Foot Design follows the natural structure and curve of the human foot, thus giving a secure and agreeable underfoot experience.
The Stone Guard is a flexible thermoplastic urethane material that shields the toes from debris and disperses impact shock, thereby providing protection on the trails.
The 5 mm-Contour FootBed provides additional cushioning for the foot.
The Quick Dry Trail Mesh material keeps the runner’s foot cool and dry. Its highly breathable design and updated stitching provide a healthy environment inside the shoe and a better fit to improve the shoe’s efficiency.
The Drilex lining further increases the breathability by improving air circulation inside the shoe.
The Heel Claw around the back of the shoe provides additional support to the runner while also preventing accidental shoe removals.
The shoe also has the 4-point GaiterTrap for easy donning of a gaiter through a hook and loop tab.
The Gusseted Tongue effectively prevents the small rocks and dirt from entering the shoe.
Finally, the lace-up closure locks down the foot in position and prevents it from wobbling inside the shoe during the running session.