Our verdict

Whether we go fast or take it easy on our training runs, the Altra Rivera 2 is a do-it-all daily trainer that's lively and energetic. It also delivers a natural-feeling run with its zero-drop design. On top of this, we established that it's a trusty pick for runners who want a light, well-cushioned running shoe that can gobble up long miles on the road.

Pros

  • Responsive on faster runs
  • Stable on uneven surfaces
  • Comfortable for long days
  • Lightweight
  • Form-fitting wrap
  • Spacious toe box
  • Visually appealing
  • Soft and stretchy upper

Cons

  • Not a real zero-drop!
  • A bit slimmer than the average Altra
  • Firmer than the Rivera 1

Audience verdict

84
Good!

Who should buy the Altra Rivera 2

Take the Rivera 2 from Altra if you're: 

  • just transitioning to zero-drop running shoes (If you are not sure if these are right for you, see our guide on the heel-to-toe drop)
  • looking for a solid all-rounder that can handle daily training and tempo paces
  • wanting to buy a pair of running shoes that can double for gym training
  • searching for a roomy shoe that welcomes foot swelling after long miles

Altra Rivera 2 outdoor run

Who should NOT buy it

If you don't mind paying extra for a snappier ride that's more performance-oriented, we advise getting the UA Flow Velociti Wind instead. 

And if you want more stack for recovery days, and anything slower, the Altra Torin 4 is our suggested better option. 

Altra Rivera 2 lab desk

Altra Rivera 2 vs. 1 

The midsole and outsole of the Altra Rivera 2 carry over the same components from the first iteration. The changes employed by the second version are mainly focused on fit: 

  • a softer, more pliable upper for a more accommodating fit
  • a snugger heel, addressing the heel lock issues of its precursor

Heel drop is NOT zero! 

All Altra shoes are recognized for having a 0 mm heel-to-toe drop. Surprise, surprise! 

Forefoot stack height on Altra Rivera 2

Our lab measurements have shown that the Rivera 2 has a heel drop of 2.8 mm (heel stack height 24.6 mm minus forefoot stack height 21.8 mm).

We also noticed that this shoe doesn't have a flat feeling on the foot either. 

Heel stack height on Rivera 2

Feel the ground 

With 24.6 mm of stack in the heel, it is much lower than an average 33 mm stack height. For that reason, we think that the Altra Rivera 2 is perfect for those who prefer ground contact to generous cushioning.

Cushioning is not too firm!

This is a tricky shoe because it feels a tad firm but our lab measurements show that it is quite soft!

The midsole scored 15.0 HA on our durometer. The average softness of all the shoes in our lab? 24 HA. This makes the Rivera 2 2x softer than an average running shoe.

We think that it's the shoe's low stack and solid rubber outsole that make it feel firmer.

Rivera 2 changes a lot at cold temperatures

When exposing a shoe to the cold (freezer for 20 minutes) we check 2 things: softness and flexibility. 

Freezer test for Altra 2

1. For softness, we use an HA durometer. Rivera got 46.7% firmer after the freezer test (on average, shoes get 21.5% firmer). 

2. For flexibility, we use a force gauge. Rivera got 138.2% stiffer! For reference, the average change for all the shoes in our lab is 39.4%. This, however, does not mean it got stiff. After being exposed to freezing temperatures, it is still more flexible than most other shoes.

Keeps you steady

We attribute this to the Altra Rivera 2's broad forefoot and grippy outsole.

Outsole on Rivera 2

On both flat and rugged surfaces, the shoe encourages stable strides. What also helps are the lugs that are a bit deeper than the average (3.9 mm).

Lug depth on Rivera 2

Won't weigh you down

The Rivera 2 (8.1 oz or 229g) is light both on paper and on the road. For reference, the average speed trainer weighs in at 8.6 oz or 245g.

All the pieces of Altra Rivera 2 cut in half

Comes to life during fast runs

Picking up the pace in the Altra Rivera 2 feels quite energetic and rebounding. 

Roominess: nor your average Altra level

Forefoot width on Rivera 2

Although it's dubbed as Altra's "least roomy" running shoe, we still found it to be a spacious one, compared to the average.

Our caliper shows an average measurement of 98.6 mm in the widest part of the forefoot. However, the overall toebox volume provided our toes with enough wiggle room. 

Rivera 2 front view on trail run

Adapts to the natural shape and contours of the foot

The Rivera 2's upper has some give and wraps around the foot quite comfortably and securely. To top it off (literally and figuratively), the tongue is very generously padded at 7.9 mm! 

Tongue thickness on Rivera 2

With its higher heel collar, rearfoot lockdown is improved. The midfoot fit is also spot-on. 

Higher heel collar on Rivera 2

The Rivera 2 is too flexible

On the run, this really hurt the snappiness of the shoe, hindering its full potential during faster efforts.

Looking at the lab measurement, we were astonished - the Rivetra 2 is 2x more flexible than the average shoe! We needed as little force as 13.6N to bend the shoe, while the average force needed is 29.5N. 

Our manual tests also confirmed this: the Rivera 2 scored 1/5 (1 being the most flexible) on our tests, both for longitudinal and torsional flexibility.

Lackluster ride during mellow days

This is especially noticeable for recovery runs and anything slower. During landing, the heel feels very firm, and the ground feel is more pronounced, which can be bothersome and even dull. 

Uphill run in Rivera 2

Great for every day! 

We actually found this Altra shoe to be perfect as an everyday sneaker as well! All thanks to the Altra-level comfort.

Altra Rivera 2 studio shot

OK for night runs

Sure we had some really shiny-in-the-dark shoes in our lab (like New Balance 1080 v12), but Altra Rivera 2 also has some reflective elements. Too bad it's only in the back and not on the sides, but they definitely help in low-visibility conditions. 

A step up in the looks department

We found the visual aspect of the Altra Rivera 2 to be quite appealing. It is not as flashy as many other trail running shoes and some of its colorways even have a classy vibe.

Rivera 2 in running

Gone are Altra's toy-like designs of the past!