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Trail Running Shoes • September 5, 2018

Altra Lone Peak 4.0 Performance Review

Altra Lone Peak 4.0

The Good

Erin: I imagine that many people who read this review have worn previous versions of the Lone Peak and are interested in knowing how the 4.0 compares, especially from a durability standpoint. Though I’ve not run in previous versions of this shoe, I’m familiar enough with the complaints about prior versions that I’ll do my best to address those specific issues.

Altra’s Lone Peak is the company’s best-selling trail shoe, and it’s also a popular shoe among through-hikers on the AT and PCT. While we’re fun fact-ing, here are a few more: Altra was the second most popular shoe at the Western States this year (behind Hoka, who probably sponsors half the field), and was also the second most popular shoe among those who finished in under 24 hours. Also interesting: only 1.8% of all finishers wore North Face shoes, but those same people represented 3.4% of sub-24 finishes. Who knows what that means. I’m getting off topic.

Previous versions of the Lone Peak resulted in the following complaints, which (I think) have been addressed in the 4: heel slipping and general sloppy fit, too-short length, and durability. Regarding the heel slipping, the heel collar seems to fit higher and be somewhat more structured in the Lone Peak 4, which should alleviate this issue for most people. I didn’t have any issues with heel slippage, though I will say that that’s not something I normally notice or have a problem with.

There is a lace loop on either side of the shoe at the midfoot that bridges across the tongue, making the shoe feel very secure in the midfoot; I did not have any issues with stability here. The first time I wore these shoes was for a 14-er attempt with a ton of scree and boulder-hopping; a storm came in and everything got wet on the descent, and I was happy with how the shoes performed. The TrailClaw outsole with MaxTrac provided decent grip. In fact, the only time I fell on my ass in these shoes was during a bushwhacking shortcut down the side of a mountain trying to beat my runner to an aid station at Leadville (made it!). I’ll blame poor planning and not the shoes.

Fit: I took these in the same size as all my other Altras, and they fit similarly. Not too short.

Probably the number one complaint about past Lone Peaks is the delamination of the toe cap. In the 4, the toe cap has been secured with a double row of stitches, so now all those people can complain about the extra micro-ounce added by the thread or whatever. But I’m pretty sure the toe cap isn’t going anywhere.

The midsole feels great to me; soft, but with a very noticeable rocker that I love, but you may not. I would say it isn’t quite as obvious as in, say, the TrailMax 5 (which I also unapologetically love), but definitely there. There’s a 25 mm stack height.

Matthew: I see a ton of Altra’s Lone Peak out on the trails, whether it’s on the foot of runners or hikers. They’re an understandably popular shoe, possessing a solid amount of comfortable cushioning without being too tall, a wide toe box to allow for toe splay, a full coverage rubber outsole with decent traction, and good protection from trail hazards without being too stiff or clunky. That’s why I know a lot of people were thinking the same thing when the Lone Peak 4.0 was announced: please don’t fuck this up, Altra! The Lone Peak 3.5 fit me like a slipper, and by that I mean it was really comfortable, and not anything I’d want to run downhill in. The mid foothold wasn’t there for me, the grip was just so-so, and I felt like my foot my slide out of the thing if I went too fast. The fit of the previous versions left me wondering if they were called the Lone Peak because after taking them onto a mountain once, you never used them peak bagging again.

So how does version 4.0 feel? I thought you’d never ask…

I’m happy to report that they didn’t fuck it up. In fact, I think there have been some solid updates from version 3.5 to 4.0 that make this my favorite Lone Peak yet. Here’s what I dug:

The Lone Peak 4.0 fits better all around than the previous version, with better foothold where you want it–the ankle and midfoot–while still giving you that wide toe box Altra is known for. One major gripe they’ve addressed: the Lone Peak now fits true to size. I had to size up in the Lone Peak 3.5 and then I had a bit too much room. The 4.0 leaves enough room that I’m not worried about mashing my piggies into the toe bumper on descents but doesn’t run so long that I feel like I need to wear thicker socks. It feels like they also tapered the midfoot and ankle width a bit, which really helps keep my foot in place much better on descents and on an off-camber trail. If you look at the top down view of the 3.5 and the 4.0, you can see how boxy the older version looks by comparison:

The heel counter comes up higher on the ankle, which adds to the overall security without causing any unwanted rubbing. As a result of the changes to the upper, the LP 4.0 now feels much nimbler to me on technical terrain and inspires more confidence when navigating tricky descents. In fact, I’d say this is the first Lone Peak I feel comfortable using on really technical courses.

The lacing system has been improved overall, as I can more easily dial in the desired amount of tension and haven’t had to adjust much if at all during a run. Part of the increase in the mid-foot hold and tongue security is from the addition of a webbing strap integrated into the middle of the lacing system (the red loop below the LP logo on the tongue). I think another reason for the increased foothold is that the upper is now primarily single-layer, rip-stop style mesh, as opposed to the stretch of the earlier version. The rigidity of the new upper helps to keep tension better both during a run and also over the course of a number of runs as the upper doesn’t stretch out the shoe’s lifespan in the way I experienced with the 3.5.

I’ve been able to test the upper in wet conditions, and the new material doesn’t soak up that much water, dries pretty quickly, and drains well thanks to the increased front and rear drainage ports. A solid improvement over the soggy 3.5. I was worried the more closed-cell mesh of the new upper would feel hot, but they actually run pretty cool, which is a relief because it’s swampy as shit in the North East these days. The toe bumper feels a bit stiffer, maybe because of the added sand-paper texturing, and I felt like I had a bit better protection up front from the times I kicked a rock or tripped over a tree root. The upper also seems to be wearing better overall than my 3.5s did, but I’m not yet into 100s of miles in them so I’ll have to report back if that changes. I didn’t have any of Altra’s new gaiters to try out with the new 4-point gaiter attachment system on the LP 4.0, but having used the previous version of their gaiters, I can tell this is an improvement to an already solid system.

The outsole isn’t vastly different from the last version in terms of layout, but they’ve changed the rubber out to MaxTrac, their proprietary sticky rubber compound. It definitely grips wet rock much better than the last version, although I have some concerns about how it’s wearing, especially up by the front lugs (more below in the “Bad” section). Overall I’d say it’s less grippy than what Saucony is using on the Peregrine 8–man that stuff rocks–but as sticky as most of my shoes that have Vibram’ MegaGrip, if maybe not as durable. It’s a versatile lug pattern and I dig it on slab rocks, boulders, jeep roads, and even in some mud (although for a really muddy course I’d still go for a dedicated soft ground shoe). It even handles pavement pretty well, although the transition is a touch slappy. I like that they’re using a segmented rock plate (it’s shaped like the bones of your foot) and the increased flexibility, especially torsionally, helps the shoe conform to technical terrain better than the 3.5 (the softer rubber also helps with this). I have some friends who feel this new version is less protective, and while I can see that maybe the new rock plate allows some more trail feel, I haven’t noticed any painful stone intrusions underfoot. In general, though, I think rock plates are over-hyped, especially if you have full-coverage outsole rubber, and that’s what I find with the Lone Peak 4.0.

Shop Altra Lone Peak 4.0

Altra Lone Peak 4.0

The Bad

Erin: Altra: STOP WITH THE LACES FOR GODS SAKE. Why are they so long?? I will continue to complain about this. It’s annoying. Also, can you make some women’s shoes in a color other than gray? Aside from the Superiors, the last 3 pairs of trail shoes I’ve gotten are gray on gray on gray.

I’m listing the weight here under “bad” because I know people will be all OMG 9.1 oz ARE YOU KIDDING ME FFS. Yes, these weigh 9.1 oz in a women’s 8. Yes, that is almost 2 ounces heavier than the Superior 3.5. Trust me when I say that it really isn’t that noticeable. I ran every one of the 45 miles I put on this shoe at above 9,500 ft, which is a big deal for a sea-level runner like me, and I still didn’t notice that they felt heavy. If the Superior 3.5 had a rocker in it like these, I’d probably choose them, but otherwise, I’d say I like both shoes pretty much the same.

The toe box is a little wide for me, in that when I tighten the stupid long laces, there’s some folding of the upper. A minor complaint.

Matthew: I think Altra needs to move on from their A-Bound midsole they’re using on the LP. I get that it’s a clever marketing coup (A-Bound…abound, get it?) but this stuff just packs down too quickly. I don’t need a mattress-sized slab of the midsole in my shoes, but I want the cushioning to feel, you know, cushioned even after 20 miles in a day, or 50 miles in a week in the same shoes. I feel like the A-Bound midsole feels perfect when you first put the shoe on, but deforms pretty quickly during a run and doesn’t return to life fast enough. That’s not exactly optimal for all-day comfort in an ultra, but also just not that helpful all around. Don’t get me wrong, they still feel comfortable, just not as comfortable as they could (or I’d like maybe). Still, the packed-down feeling I’m finding in the midsole is somewhat tempered by the softer outsole rubber, so it’s not all bad.

There’s a lot happening around the midfoot in terms of overlays, and they mostly do their job, but I think this could be streamlined. What’s there is bulky and stitched on, and I’d love to see this support cage be replaced with welded overlays or a flywire-esque system that could help you customize mid foothold even better, while also shaving some weight. Speaking of which, these suckers could use a diet. They’ve actually gained weight since the 3.5. Maybe some of that is from the change in rubber, but I see how they could lose some weight and not lose any function, which would help with them feeling a bit nimbler overall. 

The outsole is holding up fine, but the smaller lugs up front look like they may be wearing quicker than those in the back, and I wonder if increased the size of these lugs might help their structural integrity a bit. Again, I’m not a shoe designer, so if you’re reading this, Altra, basically ignore what I just said, but…you know…make sure the outsole doesn’t wear prematurely. Oh, I almost forgot, the Trail Rudder sticking out the back is useless. I’ve never spoken to a single Altra loyalist who cited the trail flap as the reason they love Altra; whereas, I know more than a few who’ve taken a razor blade to it and thereby lightened their load in the process.

This is the best Lone Peak design yet I’ve seen from Altra, which is to say that it’s just okay. I was hooked up with the blue/blue version and while they’re less tramp-stampy than the Timp, they still look like they were designed a few years ago. The large stitched on toe bumper and mid-foot overlays make a solid-performing shoe look kinda clunky. I know that’s superficial, but when you look at some of the competitors’ offerings (Salomon, newer Hokas, etc) these just look kinda dated. It doesn’t affect their performance, but I kinda think the silhouette of Altra’s need some extra help, since it’s hard hiding that toe box. Adding to the meh-ness is the mountain range graphic that climbs up the rear lateral side of the shoe. They’ve done something similar in all the previous versions and it’s time to move on. We should use them in mountains, we get it. A less literal, streamlined shoe for version 4.5, please.

Shop Altra Lone Peak 4.0

Altra lone peak 4.0

Altra Lone Peak 4.0 Conclusion

Erin: The Lone Peak 4.0 is Altra’s most popular trail shoe for a reason. It’s comfortable and secure and still manages to feel fast. The company really seems to have taken the feedback about previous versions and has made improvements to the shoe based on that. Go get yourself a pair!

Matthew: Petty aesthetic gripes aside, I actually really liked the newest Lone Peak 4.0. Altra has addressed fit issues many of us reported in the 3.5, got the sizing standardized (at least for me) and improved the grip substantially. All of these adjustments make for a shoe that I’m finally happy taking onto an actual peak of an actual mountain. I’d even run down in them! They drain well, grip well, have a really comfortable and so far durable upper (not the case with previous versions). They handle a variety of terrain and temperatures admirably, and I’d happily recommend them to both users of pervious versions and Altra virgins alike.

That being said, there’s always room for improvement. For the next version I’m hoping Altra ditches A-bound in favor of a midsole that doesn’t pack down so quickly, streamlines the overlays on the upper, shaves off some weight, ditches the trail rudder, and updates the design to be both less literal (die, mountain range graphic, die!) and more modern.

Altra Lone Peak 4.0 retails for $120

Shop Altra Lone Peak 4.0

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