Product Review: Hoka One One Clifton 1

Hoka One One Clifton 1

Well, I did it. During my last marathon training cycle, I finally tried a pair of Hoka One One shoes.

When I first began running, I was a typical heel-striker unless I was sprinting. In an attempt to stave off persistent lower leg injuries, I switched to a mid-foot strike with the help of Vibram’s and Newton’s. Shortly thereafter, I was amazed to find my chronic knee pain had subsided. This wasn’t pain I developed as a result of running but pain I had endured most of my adult life.

I was officially a member of Team Minimal Cushion in time to witness the birth of Team Max Cushion.

I’ve tried on the Hoka Clifton a few times, but I just couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. They didn’t feel right on my feet, and like most other heavily cushioned shoes, I found the lack of stability disturbing. Regardless, I decided to dive in wallet-first and try a pair of Clifton’s, the model I had heard the most about online.

Even though the Clifton 2 had already been released, I ended up with the Clifton 1. For whatever reason, the Clifton 2 felt drastically different between left and right so I went with the Clifton 1. Looking back, I wonder if the Clifton 2 at the local running store may have had different insoles in each shoe. The Clifton 1 came with 2 insole options so if the Clifton 2 is the same, the previous shopper may have been experimenting. Regardless, I was happy testing the Clifton 1 because it seems like it’s the shoe that kicked off the maximal trend.

So without further adieu…

Clifton 1 vs. Clifton 2

The main difference between the Clifton 1 and 2 is the tongue of the shoe. The Clifton 1 has what feels more like a thick piece of leather as a tongue whereas the Clifton 2 has a fairly traditional, cushioned tongue.

I can understand why people didn’t like the Clifton 1 tongue, but I actually liked it. The thick leather seemed to spread out the force of the laces and make it more comfortable on my feet than the thick, softer tongue of the Clifton 2.

Cushioning

How can I not jump straight to the cushioning? That’s really what this or any Hoka review is about, right?

Between August and November, I put in about 400 miles training for the 2015 Route 66 Marathon. At least half of those miles were in the Hoka One One Clifton. During the first several long runs, I honestly considered giving up on the Hoka’s. Nothing felt right. I was slower and felt like I was exerting more effort than normal. It was like running in quicksand.

I don’t remember when that changed, but the first hint was on a downhill during one of many long runs. I don’t like running downhill, and I alternate between trying to go with the flow and applying the brakes. On one of my downhills in the Hoka’s, I realized I was running aggressively downhill without any discomfort. As my confidence grew, there were times I was pushing my downhill pace into the low 5’s on steep enough hills. Considering I was attempting an 8 min/mile marathon pace, that’s pretty quick for me, even downhill.

Shortly thereafter, I noticed a similar change on the uphills. Keep in mind that I like running uphill, and I find minimal shoes great for running uphill. That said, on the same hill where I was hitting low 5’s downhill, I found myself bounding up the hill near the end of a 20 mile run and feeling surprisingly good.

I don’t know which of these changes can be attributed to the shoes and which can be attributed to the volume and quality of training. All I know is I wasn’t a fan of maximal cushioning, but I grew to appreciate its benefits on my long runs. If I were lacing up for a 5K, I would never wear the Hoka’s, but at half marathon distance or longer, soft, maximal cushioning like the Hoka One One Clifton 1 is definitely worth consideration.

Toe Box

Hoka One One Clifton Small Toe Box Bruised Toenails

Unfortunately, there is one glaring problem with the Hoka One One Clifton 1’s and most Hoka’s from what I’ve seen. The toe box is way too small.

Before you object, hear me out . I’ve run in a variety of shoes, both traditional and minimal, trail and road. In 5 years of running, I have never bruised a toenail, much less lost one. Actually, in all of my 42 years, regardless of the sport or activity, I’ve never bruised or lost a toe nail.

So what’s my secret? Ridiculously tough toenails. Seriously, that’s it. Most people struggle with their big toenail, and my big toenails are just tough. If I don’t have the extra heavy duty toenail clippers, the odds of bending the clippers versus cutting the nail are about 50/50. Gross, right? The other toes are softer, but most of them also curve with the shape of toe instead of sticking out straight so they don’t take much impact.

Around mile 20 of the Route 66 Marathon, I knew that was going to change. At the end of the race, I had 3 bruised toe nails. The 4th toe on my left foot and both of my big toes had bruised. A short 6 weeks later, I lost the nail from the 4th toe, but the big toenails look like they will survive.

I know some runners wear lost and bruised toenails as a badge of honor, but I consider most bruises and blisters the fault of bad equipment.

Upper

The Hoka One One Clifton upper is reasonably comfortable and breathes pretty well. The only problem I ran into beyond the size of the toe box was a hot spot on the inside of my right ankle. Given that it showed up on only one foot I suspect this was a manufacturing defect. A properly positioned bandaid prevented the blister, but seeing as I always forgot to put the band aid on, I now have a nice Hoka spot on my foot that seems to be in no hurry to go away.

Sole

Underneath my foot, the Hoka One One Clifton performed well. Traction was good, and the Clifton easily handled a few miles of trail running during my long training runs. It surprised me that I could feel the ground so well running on the trails. The trails here are rocky, and though you could feel the rocks for proprioceptive feedback, the soles were durable enough to protect the foot from injury.

Hoka One One Insole Escape

The insoles included with the Clifton could use some work. As I mentioned above, they included 2 models. The default was more molded to the shoe and more comfortable on my foot. Unfortunately, after about 50 miles of training in the shoes, those insoles decided they had had enough and tried to walk out the back of my shoes during a run. After that experience, I looked around online and found I wasn’t the only one who had experienced problems with Hoka’s insoles. Hopefully newer Hoka shoes have solved this problem because it’s pretty aggravating to find yourself at mile 5 of a 10 mile run with insole sticking out the back of your shoes.

Durability

As far as the feel of the shoe, I’ve not noticed any dropoff in the Hoka One One Clifton. Now closing in on 300 miles, I don’t see any reason to retire them. The outsoles are taking a lot of damage, but it’s not affecting the ride in the least. It might affect the off-road traction after a while, but since these are road shoes, it seems inappropriate to judge them based on trail performance.

Conclusion

Though I generally liked the way I ran in Hoka’s, I will never buy again unless they change the toe box dimensions. What I find amusing is I went into this review leery of maximal cushioning and especially the potential for rolling an ankle in a maximal cushioned shoe. I came out of this review only having rolled an ankle in minimal shoes (looking at you Nike Free), appreciating the maximal cushioning for helping me run better downhill, but disliking the shoe for a very boring, traditional reason….fit.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Downhill Running Comfort
  • High Mileage Durability

Cons

  • Toe Box Too Small
  • Faulty Insoles
  • Potential QC Issues (hot spot on one shoe)

 


 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: Newton Distance S III

2012 Newton Gravity vs. 2015 Newton Distance S III

2012 Newton Gravity vs. 2015 Newton Distance S III

Well, this is unfortunate. This is my 2nd pair of Newton Running shoes, and I absolutely loved them except for a couple of glaring issues, one of which may keep me out of Newton’s shoes permanently. Let’s get into it.

POP

When you read the rest of this review, you’re going to wonder why I buy Newton’s at all. It’s the POP. I know some people have mixed feelings about it, but the lugs that make up their POP system work for me. I feel faster with less effort in Newton’s than in any other shoe. I can definitely match my speed in a similarly weighted pair of shoes, but it will feel like more effort.

If I want to test my 5K or 10K PR, I would definitely want to have on a pair of Newton’s.

5 Lugs

The only reason I didn’t keep training in Newton’s following my first pair in 2012 was due to the 4 lug system. It always took me a couple of miles to feel comfortable, and they never felt all that stable to me.

More recently, however, Newton introduced 5 lugs. The change solved all of my issues with running in Newton’s. 5 lugs felt extremely stable, and I still felt the same speed and endurance benefit from the trampoline effect of the lugs.

Durability

Newton Distance S III Lug Wear Pattern

Newton Distance S III Lug Wear Pattern

I have never felt compelled to contact a shoe company about the durability of their product until the Newton Running Distance S III. Why? It should be obvious in the above picture. The outer lug on only my left shoe wore down almost completely within the first 120 miles of use. Let me say that distance again: 120 miles.

I don’t know exactly when the lug wore down. It might have been 50 miles, or it might have been 100 miles. Either way, it was not 500 miles. The older Newton Gravity pictured alongside my Newton Distance has over 500 miles on it, and there is almost no wear to any of the 4 lugs. They’ve lost some of their pop, but I bet I can still run in the Newton Gravity for another 500 miles. I’m at over $1/mile in the Newton Distance S III.

So I contacted Newton Running support to see if they had an explanation. Without looking at video of my stride or asking any further questions, the support agent diagnosed me as a supinator and told me I should be in a neutral shoe instead of a stability shoe. My old Newton Gravity are neutral shoes, and I knew I had more outside wear on most of my shoes so I accepted the explanation and went on my way.

It really kept gnawing at me, though.

Why do NONE of my other shoes show a significant wear pattern difference between left and right shoe?

Why did the local running store identify my foot strike as neutral?

Why did stability shoes solve a lot of lower leg problems I was having in neutral shoes?

I’m not sure why it took me so long, but clearly it was time to shoot some video on the treadmill and see what was really going on.

I spent some time researching pronation and supination to make sure I understood fully after seeing this video. The basic difference is which way the ankle moves when you land.

With pronation, your ankle will shift inward as your weight transfers toward the ball of your foot and big toe.

With supination, the weight transfer doesn’t happen, and your ankle might shift outward on impact.

As you can clearly see, I pronate. On the left side, it is more pronounced. This is due to my right ankle injury, and the hardware holding it all in place. My right ankle can only move so far before the internal hardware says it can’t go any further.

You can also see that I land initially on the outside of my midfoot. With a heel strike, that landing would show up in the tread on the outside of the heel, and then the pronation would show up with wear on the inside of the forefoot. Looking back at my first pair of running shoes from when I was still heel striking, you can see exactly that wear pattern. Most of my walking shoes also show the same pattern. The outside of the heel wears first followed by the area beneath my big toe’s metatarsal.

However, I no longer heel strike. I used Newton’s and Vibram’s to shift to a mid-foot strike to avoid injuries I thought were being caused by heel striking. So now my initial landing is on the outside of the mid-foot, right where the 5th lug is located.

I’m definitely impacting the outside lug on the left foot more than any other part of the shoe. There may also be a bit of scraping as that part of the shoe begins to contact the ground. That explains the wear pattern, but it doesn’t explain 120 miles.

My Altra Provision 2.0 which were in rotation during the same training cycle as the Newton Distance SIII have about 200 miles on them. The wear pattern is symmetrical and barely visible.

My Brooks Pure Cadence, 2 pair from 2014 and 2 more pair from 2013, all have around 200 miles of use. The wear pattern is symmetrical and barely visible.

My Newton Gravity from 2012 look like they’ve been barely worn and have 500+ miles of use.

My concern is that I don’t know why that particular lug wore down so severely. You would think I’ve been riding a bike and dragging my foot to stop. That’s how bad it looks. Given Newton Support’s misdiagnosis and lack of interest in pursuing the issue further, I’m not sure I want to spent $150 more on another pair just to see if it was a fluke.

Comfort

My other issue with Newton shoes is not new to the Newton Distance S III, but it was a bit more severe. The shoes have to be tight to keep your metatarsals right where they need to be over the lugs. That tightness, in my experience, translates to pain right where the laces tie together if you run far enough.

If you’re staying below 1/2 marathon distance, you may not even notice. At 10K or less, I never notice a problem, but on a 20 miler earlier this year I did enough damage that I was having trouble tying any of my shoes properly for weeks. I had to use some creative lacing techniques to be able to run a 1/2 marathon at the end of April and a marathon in early May due to the pain from that one 20 miler in my Newton’s.

Pros:

  • 5 Lugs for Stability
  • POP System for that Trampoline Effect
  • Extremely Comfortable Upper Except for Lacing Issues

Cons:

  • Lack of Durability (approx. 100 miles)
  • Cost (due to lack of durability)
  • Lace Discomfort
  • Responsive but Inaccurate Support from Newton

 

 

Product Review: Altra Provision 2.0

Altra Provision 2 0

Heading into the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon undertrained due to a 3 week battle with the flu, I stopped in at Tulsa Runner to find a slightly more forgiving road shoe to protect me as I ramped up my mileage way too quickly. My original plan had been to train mostly in Newton’s and run in an existing pair of Brooks Pure Cadence, but after a couple of long runs, I knew I couldn’t get my lower legs ready fast enough without injury. So I tried on a few different shoes and eventually settled on the Altra Provision.

If you are not familiar with Altra, there are a few common features of their running shoes:

  • Zero Drop
  • Large Toe Box
  • Lightweight
  • More Cushioning

This is actually my second pair of Altra shoes. My first, the Lone Peak 2.0, served me reasonably well on the trails but disappointed me some in their durability. Nevertheless, they are a good pair of trail shoes.

My experience with the Provision, however, has not been all that good. In fact, the experience has been literally flipped upside-down from the Lone Peak 2.0’s.

Let’s take a look at the issues.

Blistering

Altra Provision 2 0 Big Toe Blister

The last time I blistered to any significant degree was when I trained for my first marathon in cotton socks and tennis shoes. I may have had wicking shirts, but yes, I was the newbie in cotton socks carrying around bandaids and athletic tape to deal with all of my well-deserved blisters. In my mind, blisters were just part of running because they had always been a part of tennis.

Fast forward a few months, and I discovered Injinji socks. The blisters were just gone. I could run as long as I wanted, and my feet would not blister. In fact, I haven’t had a significant blister in 3 years of training for trail and road races from 5K to marathon distance. That is, until the Altra Provision 2.0.

I’ve worn the Altra Provision 2.0 on a half marathon distance run, a 20 miler, and for the Oklahoma City Marathon. In all 3 cases, I was wearing Injinjji OTC Compression underneath Injinji original weight socks, and in the case of the OKC Marathon, I had a bandaid on my big toe as further protection. In all 3 cases, my big toe on my left foot was blistered severely.

Let me make the absurdity of this a bit more clear. The spot that blistered was a ridiculously thick callous formed back in 2007 while I was playing tennis. That skin was so hard you could cut it with a knife, and I probably wouldn’t feel anything. It hasn’t blistered since cotton socks and tennis shoes with a ton of side-to-side movement over 8 years ago.

I have run hundreds of miles between Vibram’s, Newton’s, Brooks’, Pearl Izumi’s, and even my Adidas tennis court shoes without blistering that particular piece of skin. Nevertheless, even with 2 layers of Injinji and a bandaid, the Altra Provision 2.0 blistered my toe like this repeatedly.

One major selling point of the larger toe box with Altra shoes is NOT having something like this happen to your feet/toes during a run.

Bruising

That’s right, my Altra Provision shoes bruised my foot. Admittedly, this wasn’t as egregious an issue as the blistering, but it’s something I’ve never experienced with any other shoe I’ve worn. My photography the day after my marathon was somewhat poor, but if you look closely, you should see two different bruises on the top of my right foot. One is just behind the big toe, and the other is midway between the pinky too and my leg.

Altra Provision 2 0 Top Of Foot

I’m honestly not sure how the shoe did this or why it was only my right foot affected, but somewhere in the last 10K of the Oklahoma City Marathon, I started feeling significant pain in both of these areas. My best guess is that something in the upper or the tongue was jabbing the top of my foot as I ran. The left foot was strangely unaffected much like the right was strangely unaffected by that blistering on my left.

Heel Slipping

Not unlike my experience with Newton’s, I found it very challenging to secure the Altra Provision on my heel. This often led to tying the shoes too tight around my ankle which caused a significant amount of discomfort. The tongue is a good thickness, but for whatever reason, it still wasn’t enough.

For the Oklahoma City Marathon, I actually resorted to an alternate lacing method to reduce the pressure on my ankle but still get the shoes secure on my feet.

Altra Provision 2 0 Lacing

It’s hard to see in the picture, but I skipped one hole before the last two at the top, went through both of those on the same side, and then crossed back to the skipped hole to tie in the middle. This allowed me to secure the upper sufficiently but transfer the pressure on my foot below where the laces were causing discomfort.

If you spend some time on Google, you can discover a variety of lacing techniques to circumvent various problems.

Tread and Cushioning

My experience with the tread and cushioning was much better than the rest of the shoe.

Altra Provision 2 0 Tread

I love the fact that Altra used a tread pattern somewhat similar to the Newton lugs. My main challenge with my Brooks’ in 2014 was that my metatarsals were getting sore because of lack of support in the mid-foot area. I had to use metatarsal pads for the 2014 Tulsa Run and 2014 Turkey and Tatur’s 25K trail race due to the damage from training in Brooks’. Newton’s always felt great in the mid-foot because of the excessive support from the lugs. Now Altra seems to have found a nice space in between the two.

The cushioning also worked reasonably well for me for longer runs. I usually run with more minimal shoes so I can feel the ground better. With 3 weeks of missed training due to illness, I bought the Altra’s in hopes that the extra cushioning would help protect my legs. The Provision are not soft and spongy like other maximal shoes I’ve tried. They’re a stiff, supportive cushion that is still fairly forgiving on the lower legs.

Pros:

  • Large toe box
  • Good tread with great mid-foot support
  • Zero drop, if you like that sort of thing (I do)
  • Firm but forgiving cushioning
  • Color options: Thank you for not forcing me to look like a peacock

Cons:

  • Blisters
  • Bruises
  • Insecure fit

I hate to say it, but if you’re looking for a good stability road shoe, I think you should pass on the Altra Provision 2.0. Altra has some work to do on the upper before this can be a good shoe.

 

 

Product Review: Brooks Pure Cadence

BrooksPureCadence 1

I’ve been a fan of the Brooks Pure line since I stumbled onto it in preparation for the 2013 Route 66 Marathon. I bought two pairs of Pure Cadence to train for and run the full marathon, and it was the first time I’ve made it through a marathon training cycle and marathon without any foot or lower leg injuries. Needless to say, I like the Pure Cadence, but it does have a few small warts.

The current version of the shoe is the Brooks Pure Cadence 4. It weighs a mere 8.8 ounces with a 4 mm drop. Beyond that, Brooks will tell you about BioMoGo DNA and Omega Flex Grooves. Whatever those terms might mean, they don’t matter. What matters is the Nav-band.

BrooksPureCadence 2

The Nav-band comes across the top of your mid-foot to help secure the shoe. The Nav-band gives the top of your foot a nice warm hug so that the shoe feels secure even if the laces aren’t cranked down so tight that you can’t feel your toes. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could run without laces in a properly sized Pure Cadence.

If you decide to use the laces, which I do recommend, they route through the shoe in a unique way. In most shoes, the eyelets are positioned directly across from each other giving the shoe symmetry. The Pure Cadence are asymmetric with eyelets staggered on each side. The tongue is also attached more to the inside of your foot than the outside. These two design features combined with the Nav-band lead to a very secure fit that doesn’t require you to risk injury to keep your foot positioned properly in the shoe.

It’s not unusual for me to retie normal running shoes 3 or 4 times before leaving the house. With the Pure Cadence, though, I rarely retie the shoes, and I’ve never felt pain anywhere in the upper.

Beyond the lacing, the upper breathes well. The Pure Cadence do not breathe quite as well as the Newtons I’ve worn, but it’s a very close second.

The toe box is unfortunately a bit small, but for most runners it should be sufficient. I wear two sets of Injinji socks on most of my runs. Even though it’s a tight fit, I’ve never experienced any numbness.

As a mid-foot striker, the heel-to-toe drop of 4 mm is perfect for me. I’m generally happy with anything from 0 to 8 mm.

The tread is fine. Tread rarely affects me on a road shoe so there’s not much I can say other than that I’ve run in a variety of conditions, and I’ve never had any trouble with traction.

BrooksPureCadence 3

For Durability, I find the Brooks Pure Cadence decent but not great. I’ve had no issues with wear on the upper, and the tread has held up well. The only issue I’ve seen with durability is the cushioning. After 150-200 miles, I feel a dramatic improvement moving to a new pair of shoes. The only issue I have with that mileage is the fact that they’re sold as 250-300 mile shoes. That said, I find I wear shoes down faster than the advertised numbers. Most of these shoes were in heavy rotation when I was closer to 175 pounds so I carry a bit more weight than the runners for which they measure the specifications for marketing.

The Brooks Pure line is built to be lightweight for speed so there is not a lot of padding. The Pure Cadence are definitely not part of the maximalism revolution we’re experiencing in 2015. Even so, I find the level of padding sufficient for most purposes. Like I said, my first pair were the only shoes I’ve ever worn and been able to avoid foot and lower leg problems.

You might notice I said first pair. I’ve actually owned 4 pair of Pure Cadence, 2 Pure Cadence 2’s and 2 Pure Cadence 3’s. My experience with the Pure Cadence 3’s did not quite live up to the Pure Cadence 2. Even though I bought 2 identically sized pairs at the same time, the fit was decidedly different. One of the blue pair had some sort of unusual stitching in the tongue that rubbed uncomfortably, and one of the red shoes seemed to lead to pain in the bottom of my foot near the metatarsals. At the Tulsa Run in 2014, I actually resorted to using metatarsal pads in the shoe to reduce the pain.

I don’t think the Pure Cadence caused my metatarsal pain in and of themselves, but I do think inconsistency in the construction contributed to it. I only experienced the problem in 1 out 4 individual shoes. I’ve also rejected shoes at the shoe store due to odd fit variations. My main issue with the Pure Cadence is really an issue with Brooks in general. I just find their shoe construction to be inconsistent.

Stepping beyond the consistency, I also find it frustrating that Brooks (and most other running shoe companies) massively redesign shoes every year even if they are working well.  Case in point, the Pure Cadence 4 now has symmetric lacing with regular eyelets instead of the fabric loops from the Pure Cadence 2 and 3.

Regardless, the Brooks Pure Cadence are still the best road running shoes I’ve found. The negative issues I’ve experienced with other brands and models far outweigh the relatively minor issues I’ve had with Brooks.

My recommendation is you try Brooks, try the Pure line, but make sure you leave the store with a pair only if you are 100% confident in the fit and build.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: Altra Lone Peak 2 Trail Running Shoe

Update 2015-03-02:

While I still like the Altra Lone Peak 2.0′s, I’m not as happy with them as I was when I wrote this review.

This past Wednesday, I did a test run that was meant to be a final check on my sprained ankle for a Sunday race. There was a lot of mud on the trails, and the kind of grip I’ve had from my Cascadia’s just wasn’t there. Additionally, upon cleaning up the shoes at home, I found tread damage like this:

Altra Lone Peak 2.0 Tread Damage

Altra Lone Peak 2.0 Tread Damage

I doubt I have more than 40 miles on these shoes, and the tread is breaking away. My Cascadia’s look almost new at well over double the mileage.

The tread damage in and of itself could have been a fluke, but it also led me to choose the Cascadia’s over the Lone Peak’s for Sunday’s trail race due to the conditions. The trails were covered in snow and ice, and at the last minute, I decided to use screws for traction. I didn’t see any good locations in the perimeter of the Lone Peak’s to hold the screws. The already crumbling tread also had me wondering if the screws would ruin any part of the tread I put them into. The Cascadia’s, on the other hand, had some perfectly sized tread at the perimeter, and the screws held nicely without damaging the tread.

The final issue might be a figment of my imagination. I’m slower and wearing out faster in the Altra’s. When deciding which shoes to use with screws, I noticed for the first time just how soft the Altra’s land vs. the Cascadia’s. I don’t have the speed or fitness to spare to lose energy to a softer landing. That softer landing might also be undermining proprioceptive feedback when my foot contacts rocks and roots.

Again, though, the merit (or lack thereof) of soft cushioning is all conjecture on my part. The only quantitative evidence I can provide is my 9:12 pace in Sunday’s race vs. my 9:45 or slower average in most of my training runs, all of which were run under much better conditions (i.e. dry vs. snow/ice). Then again, it was a race. Adrenaline can do strange things.

So, what do I think of my Altra’s now? I honestly don’t know. I was seriously considering their road shoes for an upcoming marathon, but I might end up sticking with the Brooks Pure line. Regardless, I think we can safely mark me off the list of maximalist shoe proponents. Sorry Hoka.

Original Review

During 2014, I did most of my trail running in the Brooks’ Cascadia 9. I run primarily on technical trails with steep grades, and it’s important for shoes to both protect my feet from the terrain and provide a stable platform with good grip. The Cascadia did both while at the same time providing an upper that fit my feet so comfortably that I rarely have to retie my shoes. That may sound odd, but if you had ever seen me at the beginning of a race obsessively tying and retying my shoes, you would know what I mean.

The Cascadia was my first real trail shoe, and judging by the opinions of other bloggers, it’s the benchmark by which many trail runners judge shoes. To say the Altra Lone Peak 2.0 had a lot to live up to would be an understatement. With a couple of runs now under my belt, I’m happy to report the Altra did that and more.

IMG 1621

Like my Cascadia 9’s, the Lone Peak 2.0’s were a Christmas present from my in-laws. No, you can’t have my in-laws….they’re mine.  Moving on…

My first reaction upon tearing open the gift and opening the box was that I had received the wrong size. They looked huge. I had trouble taking a picture from an angle that would do the size difference justice, but if you’ve ever seen a 2E or larger shoe, that’s what I initially thought I was seeing. Nevertheless, the shoes fit perfectly and seem true to size.

IMG 1624

Altra shoes are known for their natural toe box size and shape, and that’s the major reason I decided to give them a try. With years of wearing J-toe cowboy boots having shoved my toes together, I blister easily and sometimes end up with cuts from toenails from one toe impacting another toe. To counter my messed up toes, I wear toe socks. With a single layer, toe socks do not normally cause a width problem, but if it’s cold or I’m running over 10 miles, I will wear toe socks over toe compression socks. Even in the generously sized Cascadia’s, it can be tight and uncomfortable.

On today’s Lone Peak 2.0 test run in 30 degree weather, I wore both layers, and my feet were unquestionably more comfortable than they’ve ever been. My toes could spread out naturally, and I experienced no numbing sensation in my little toe like I have with other shoes.

The other selling point of Altra shoes is zero drop. The Cascadia is the only shoe I’ve worn with a traditional heel-to-toe drop since changing to a mid-foot strike. I usually race and train in Newton’s or Brooks’ Pure Cadence in the 0-4mm drop range. While I can accommodate the 12mm drop of the Cascadia in my trail gait, I felt like I was running with a more natural, comfortable gait in the Lone Peak 2.0. That said, if you’re a heel striker, the Altra may not be your shoe.

Traction in the Lone Peak 2.0 rivals that of the Cascadia. In 4 miles on Turkey Mountain today, I don’t recall slipping once, and in those 4 miles, I covered the steepest, most technical ascent and descents Tulsa’s trails have to offer. You can see the tread pattern below. It reminds me a bit of Newton’s with the 5 triangular treads under the metatarsals.

IMG 1628

The Lone Peak 2.0 also have a few millimeters of extra rubber sticking out behind the shoe’s normal sole. I think they call this the Trail Rudder, and I managed to trip myself on it a few times when I put them on. Given the incredible grip these shoes provided, though, I’ll just assume Altra knows what they’re doing and continue to appreciate this little oddity.

The shoes also have a little velcro trap for gaiters, but I must be a wimp because I’ve never run in conditions where I needed gaiters and don’t own any.

A lot of zero drop runners are likely minimalist shoe lovers. Minimalist the Lone Peak 2.0 are not. At 10.9 oz they come in just mere fractions of an ounce lighter than the 11.7 oz Cascadia 9’s. The first time I wore them, I honestly thought they were much heavier, but in retrospect, I hadn’t worn anything but Pure Cadence in quite some time so I likely would have had the same reaction to the Cascadia’s weight. It would be interesting to compare the Superior 2.0 weighing in at 8.7 oz, but unfortunately I can’t buy all the shoes.

Summing up, I’m pleased with the Altra Lone Peak 2.0’s, and given some of the challenges I had this year with my favorite road shows, the Pure Cadence, I may have to give Altra’s road shoes a look for my upcoming marathon. Altra and the Lone Peak 2.0 definitely get the 3-Toed Seal of Approval.

Pros:

  • Large, natural toe box encourages more natural toe position
  • Great grip on technical trails
  • Good protection from hazards
  • Secure but comfortable fit
  • Zero drop, if it’s your thing

Cons:

  • A bit on the heavy side at 10.9 oz
  • Zero drop, if that’s not your thing

As I put more miles onto The Altra Lone Peak 2.0’s, I’ll try to post an update if I discover anything new, but for now, it’s hard to say anything negative about the shoes.