Best Altra Trail Running Shoes
Altra, around since 2009, has earned a strong reputation in the trail running community for delivering some of the most comfortable and functional footwear on the market. Their dedication to a foot-shaped toe box and a nicely-cushioned shoe has made them a favorite of people who look for the best trail running shoes they can find.
My own experiences with Altra trail running shoes suggest that Altra’s are packed with quality and performance. Each pair feels good on the ankles, knees, and hips, and promotes a natural running form. Whether tackling steep ascents or navigating rocky paths, Altra’s lineup offers reliable choices for runners of all levels.
There are lots of Altra shoes to choose from. I did this piece to help the average trail runner narrow down the best models.
How I Tested the Altra Shoes
I tested and examined Altra’s running shoe lineup in a couple ways.
First-hand trail test runs
I’m lucky enough to have access to a nice 4-mile loop that is partially flat gravel trail and partially a singletrack foothill trail with several switchbacks, tree
roots, and about 400 feet of elevation gain. That is my go-to testing trail, where I can observe things like traction on loose gravel and dirt, cushioning, and stability.
In-store physical product reviews
Before hitting the trails, I inspected each shoe model in-store, paying close attention to the build quality and technological features that Altra prides itself on. I tried on as many as I could do note any differences in fit, which are surprisingly common eve with the same brand of shoe.
I compared my findings against manufacturer claims to verify the authenticity of the features provided.
What Makes Altra Trail Running Shoes Unique
I personally think Altra benefits from being a company that started relatively recently, without all the engineering or design baggage of a more established comapny. Altra’s trail running shoes standout for their distinctive features tailored to enhance the natural alignment and performance of a runner’s foot. Each element is designed with the trail runner’s needs in mind.
There are three things I really like about the Altras:
FootShape Toe Box
The FootShape™ Toe Box is a signature element of Altra trail running shoes. Unlike most other brands I run with, this roomier toe box allows the toes to spread naturally, which I find leads to better balance and a more powerful toe-off. It mirrors the actual shape of the human foot, aligning the big toe in a straight position, which can contribute to improved stability and overall foot health. My feet cramp less after my runs than in some other shoes.
Altra is known for their Balanced Cushioning™ platform, which positions the heel and forefoot at an equal distance from the ground. This design fosters better form, encourages a low impact landing, and supports the body’s natural alignment. The uniform cushioning throughout the shoe does not bias towards a thick heel, enabling a more natural midfoot strike. This kind of cushion can help reduce the risk of trail running injuries, if you are prone to them.
Altra’s GaiterTrap™ Technology is their approach to attaching gaiters—protective coverings that prevent debris from entering the shoe. I appreciate this technology because it features a smart hook-and-loop tab that allows for quick and secure gaiter attachment, which is essential when traversing through mixed terrains. It’s a small but vital detail that shows Altra’s commitment to functionality and convenience. I use gaiters on one trail I do that tends to have lots of wild grass and weeds that you brush up against, and those seeds can work their way into your shoe.
Top Altra Trail Running Shoe Models
Like I mentioned earlier, Altra has lots of running shoes in their lineup. The ones I gravitate to are the Lone Peak, Timp, Outroad, and Olympus.
Altra Lone Peak
The Altra Lone Peak has been a staple in the trail community for its well-balanced mix of durability and comfort. The MaxTrac™ rubber outsole and TrailClaw™ lugs offer superior traction, making it suitable for a variety of terrains.
A key advantage is its FootShape toe box that I described above, which provides ample room for toe splay.
Modest, thin cushioning which may not be ideal for runners seeking plush underfoot protection.
Trail runners who need a reliable all-rounder.
Altra Timp strikes a balance between the Lone Peak and the more cushioned Olympus. With a decent amount of midsole foam, the Timp gives runners a good feel for the trail while provide a little more cushion, and I find it is favored by runners looking for both cushioning and energy return. The shoe maintains Altra’s signature zero-drop platform, promoting a natural running posture.
A little more cushion for someone who needs more of a shock absorber
Slightly heavier build compared to other models, possibly affecting agility for fleet-of-foot runners.
Long-distance runners requiring a blend of comfort and durability.
The Altra Outroad is designed for those who transition from road to trail, or go back-and-forth between the two. This versatility comes from a balanced combination of a nice, solid outsole and sturdy foam midsole, ensuring grip and comfort across surfaces.
Versatile, for you runners who have to run on pavement to get to your trail
The less aggressive tread pattern, which may underperform in technical off-road conditions.
Runners frequently switching between pavement and moderate trails.
The Altra Olympus is known for its maximal cushioning courtesy of the thick, dynamic midsole that is noticeable as soon as you put the shoe on. It’s an ideal match for ultra-distances or rugged trails where impact protection is paramount, or for runners whose doctors and PTs have recommended a more cushioned shoe.
Ample cushioning and shock absorption
While the outsole offers excellent traction, the shoe’s substantial stack height can reduce ground feel, potentially a con for those preferring a more tactile connection.
Ultra-runners or those who prioritize maximum cushioning due to injury issues.
Alternatives to Altra Shoes
If you are looking at the Altra lineup, there are probably a couple. others you are considering as well.
Hoka is probably the most formidable competitor, with a nice line-up that goes head-to-head with Altra at most levels. Many hardcore trail runners like to compare the color-packed Hoka Speedgoat against the Altra Lone Peak, and we love both shoes, honestly. See Speedgoats here.
Salomon is the other brand that offers a solid trail running lineup that matches, at many levels, the Altras. One shoe that I am a big fan of is the Speedcross (not to be confused with Speedgoat), and I am not the only one. It is a favorite among many in my circle, but I would stop short of saying it is superior to the Lone Peak. See Speedcross here.
Caring for Your Altras
When I get new trail running shoes, I try my best to maintain them properly to extend their life and performance. Of course, you can’t control if you hit a patch of sharp rocks or have to run through a stream. But you can try to keep them up. Here are some straightforward tips I follow:
- Cleaning: After each run, I remove debris and dirt with a soft brush or cloth. For a deeper clean, mild soap and water work well, but I avoid harsh detergents.
- Drying: I never put my shoes in a dryer. Instead, I remove the insoles and let both the shoes and insoles air dry away from direct heat or sunlight. Putting them on a front porch in a breeze is about perfect, or consider putting a fan on low and the shoes in front.
- Storage: I store my Altra shoes in a cool, dry place, making sure they’re fully dry before storing to prevent mold and odor. Don’t pile stuff on top of them, they might not be able to recover their form.
- Waterproofer? I know some people who use waterproofing spray on their shoes, but I don’t like to. Maybe if the shoe is on its last leg and I know I need to run in the rain, but I never do it when the shoe is new.
- Avoiding Damage: I’m careful to not use my trail running shoes on abrasive surfaces like asphalt as it speeds up wear on the tread.
- Lacing: I ensure the laces are not too tight to maintain the shoe’s shape and provide proper foot support.
So, Which are the Best Altra Trail Running Shoes?
If I could only choose one, I’m going with the Lone Peak. It is probably Altra’s best all-around shoe for any conditions, and takes full advantage of the latest Altra design such as the toe box and the stability. If your podiatrist has told you to get a shoe with lost of cushion, consider the Olympus. Otherwise, the Lone Peak is a winner. Find them all here at REI.