Altra Lone Peak Zero Drop trail running shoes review
Running shoes come is all shapes, sizes, and styles these days, and Altra, a Utah company specializing in “biomechanically proper footwear,” has joined the fray with their Zero Drop designs. The Lone Peak trail running shoes are a classic example of of this, and I got to test out a pair to see what it’s all about.
So what exactly does Zero Drop mean? Altra says most running shoes are built on a 2-to-1 heel-to-toe ratio, which means the heel is twice as thick as the forefoot. But Zero Drop is a 1-to-1 ratio, which gives runners a more natural stride and builds lower leg muscles. The Lone Peak shoes also have other cool features like an EVA/A-Bound Midsole, TrailClaw Outsole, StoneGuard and Trail Rudder, Mountain Footbed Insole, and a quick drying, abrasion resistant mesh upper. They also have a Drilex Premium Liner, wide foot-shaped forefoot, and only weigh 9.9 ounces.
Although you could call these shoes minimalist, they are far from “barefoot” shoes. And yet, I had some trepidation the first time I went on a run in them because they seem so insubstantial. So to begin, I casually wore the shoes around the house and at work to very slowly get my legs and feet used to them. In this state, I found the Lone Peak’s to have superb breathability and slipper-like comfort.
But the true test happens outside, so I later took Altra Lone Peak shoes to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City for a run around the dirt track. Altra recommends that anyone new to the Zero Drop world start out slow, as calf and Achilles tendons won’t be used to that 1-to-1 ratio. With that in mind I took things slow and focused on my running form while galloping through the woodchips that litter the track. Right off the bat, I could feel the difference compared to my normal running shoes, as the Lone Peaks forced me onto my forefoot and made heel-striking feel awkward. Within minutes, my calves and glutes started to fatigue, and it felt like I was running in sand.
After only one lap, I was tired. Altra says to listen to your body when starting out on Zero Drop shoes, so rather than push it, I stopped and put them away for another day. Well, the next time I ran in them, I went full bore on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and put in 4 miles. From Emigration Canyon to the new Natural History Museum, I ran a loop filled with steep hills, numerous rocks, and all manner of foothill flotsam. I wondered about the Lone Peak’s ability to handle sharp objects considering the lack of cushion, but was nicely surprised at how they kept stones at bay. With confidence in the shoes, I ran full-on, and had an awesome run.
My only complaint with the Zero Drop is how they handle running downhill. It’s really hard to speed on descents without heel striking, and the lack of cushion under the heels really hurt. I had to slow down and carefully pick my way down steep hills, keeping my weight forward as much as possible.
But everything else is gravy. The soles have wonderful traction, even on loose, steep terrain. The wide forefoot looks kinda funny, but allows for full range-of-motion in the toes, which helped with stability and toe splay. Plus, I really dig the sweet-looking, Wasatch Mountain inspired outer design.
Happy Altra Lone Peak:
Comfortable trail runners with inspired Zero Drop design that is the perfect bridge between traditional and barefoot running shoes.
Sad Altra Lone Peak:
Takes time to get your body used to them.
I really like the Altra Lone Peak shoes. While the Zero Drop takes some practice before you can run your usual pace, the build, roomy forefoot, and bomber traction combine to make a superior running shoe that has quickly become one of my favorites of the year.