Altra Rivera 3 Review: Yes, The River Knows
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Weighs 9.8 oz. (278 g.) for a US M9 / 8.2 oz. (232 g.) for a US W7
More stack (28 mm), still no drop
Put on a little weight, but you probably won’t feel it
SlimFoot Altra shape (the most “narrow” of Altra shoes)
Available February 2023 for $140
AUSTIN: Have you noticed that the Altra logo looks like a river? Yes, the image depicts a road that fades into the horizon, but I also see a mighty river that begins somewhere in the sprawling Rocky Mountains and flows into Denver, Colorado (which happens to be the location of the company’s office). I can hear John strumming his guitar now. I’d like to think that Taylor starts some of his trail runs with this 1972 classic. I know I would.
According to National Geographic, a river is “a ribbon-like body of water that flows downhill from the force of gravity. A river can be wide and deep or shallow enough for a person to wade across.” This description sparked many potential descriptors for the Altra Rivera 3: ribbon, flow, downhill, wide, deep, and shallow. Which ones will cling to this daily trainer, and which ones will be emptied like sediment along the banks? Let’s find out.
THOMAS: I often remind myself that I’m lucky when it comes to the shape and size of my feet. I can run in shoes from every manufacturer out there. With a narrowish foot that is relatively low volume and varies from US M10 to US M10.5, I’m in a sweet spot to review shoes. Unfortunately, if you’re reading this review, I guess you aren’t so fortunate.
After all, Altra caters to the runners out there with brick-shaped feet and, of course, those who want a “balanced” zero-drop shoe. It’s no secret that I’m not a massive fan of either prerequisite. Insert Judgment Volturi Meme.
But before you throw the “d-bag” moniker around my neck, I have to admit I like the new direction of Altra. With the addition of slim-fit shoes and hints that we may even see some trainers with a– gasp– drop, it seems like the times they are a changin’. Maybe before this decade is over, Altra will have a shoe with a toebox that doesn’t look like a Birkenstock. I rub my hands together like Mr. Burns as I type this out, fully aware that if I like the new course Altra is taking, then their faithful natural-foot family is likely not so pleased.
So now you can call me a d-bag. Mwa-hahaha.
AUSTIN: So, I had a moment during my second run in the Altra Rivera 3 when the shoe felt like the original Escalante. Seriously. I was transported to one of my top three favorite shoes ever. Maybe it was the calm, cloudy evening and slight mist falling from the heavens, or perhaps it was the AT&T repairman across the street casually saying, “Nice night for a run,” as I approached home. I don’t know if it was divine intervention or the kinship of all living things, but I tell you folks, at that moment, I was an Altra fanboy again.
I owned a pair of the OG Rivera but skipped version two as the changes were minimal. The OG provided moderate cushioning (26mm stack) and felt fantastic as a daily trainer. This year, stack height increased by two for a total of 28mm. The heel collar feels more secure than the OG and benefits from additional interior padding (what I call “pillows”) on the left and right and sizing that runs true.
Tongue padding, while thin, isn’t a scrap of cloth that bites the instep if I pull the laces tight. The upper screams simplicity, too: a breathable, layered mesh and zero overlays on the forefoot to cause irritation across or around the toes. More outsole coverage in the forefoot seems accurate, as Altra shoes facilitate a midfoot/forefoot strike.
As I noted above with that legendary anecdote from a popular 90s NBC sitcom, I love the Rivera 3 ride. The shoe shot up 1.3 ounces (9.8 in a men’s nine), but it felt light and responsive every mile thanks to the bouncy Ego midsole. From what I remember about the OG, the flex grooves were deep. The Altra Rivera 3, in contrast, is shallower and likely contributes to the slightly firmer ride. And the transition, the toe-off? Sweet.
In summary, there’s ample cushioning for slower paces and some explosiveness for more strenuous efforts. Speaking of which, it’s easy to choose a plated shoe for workouts based on its prevalence in the footwear marketplace today, but there’s a purity to busting your ass at the track with foam alone.
THOMAS: The construction of the Rivera 3 looks and feels high quality. Altra has come a long way in the build of its shoes. The light two-ply mesh upper has a soft enough interior that you could go sockless if that’s your thing, and the Rivera still fits into the slim fit category. The shoe fits well with no buckling or puckering.
Even though the collar is on the lower side, landing further away from the ankle, the generous padding in the heel counter holds the foot secure. The tongue is not gusseted, but it sits well in place over the arch and is surprisingly comfortable. Altra designers added a pillow on the tongue to give extra comfort where the knot would fall. The fit is dialed in, which is notable, considering there are no medial or lateral reinforcements.
Let’s move down to the Altra Ego midsole for our next stop. The soft-to-firm ratio hits the mark for me. The step-in sensation is pliable and more resilient than I would expect. Altra calls the grooves in the midsole Innerflex, and they work to deliver a natural feel through the stride. The shoe bends with your foot while the foam protects and supports the arch. The last ingredient is the outsole rubber– it does the job you expect it to do. Traction is good.
My US M10.5 fit perfectly true to size and weighs 282 g/9.95 oz.Shop Altra – Men Shop Altra – Women
AUSTIN: I think Altra shoes skimp on the arch support. As someone with narrow feet and high arches, I remove the sock liner from every Altra shoe I review and drop in a Currex RUNPRO insole. In fact, I do this for every shoe I own based on some posterior tibial tendonitis I developed about three years ago.
The only gripe I have with the Rivera 3 concerns the laces. Whether it’s thickness, flatness, or sloppiness, the laces kept coming loose and required a retie mere minutes into a run. Thankfully, the fix is simple: find a retired shoe with round laces and make an exchange. And the black colorway I received can only benefit from some additional zing on the upper.
Finally, this isn’t a critique but a caution. Runners new to Altra may not know that the company has three FootShape fits (Original, Standard, Slim) to accommodate more foot types. The Rivera 3 is in the Slim category, which means that runners with wide feet may find the shoe too snug. Check out the Torin 6 for a wide (2E) option.
THOMAS: The rubber coverage will hit where you need it for grip, but there is still a lot of Ego Foam exposed, most apparently on the medial arch and heel. For me, this is all right. I expect a shoe to give about 300 miles of running before they retire. For those that want to run their shoes into the ground, the exposed foam may not hold up as long as they desire.Shop Altra – Men Shop Altra – Women
AUSTIN: I haven’t run in the Escalante since 2019, and based on what I’m reading about the firm ride underscoring version three, I suspect that the Rivera 3 will be my go-to Altra trainer for the time being. I appreciate the simple upper, responsive ride, and stack bump.
Remember those Nat Geo words I sifted from the river article? Let’s revisit those and apply them to the Rivera 3. Ribbon. Ditch the ribbon laces and go with round. Flow. Find your pace for the day’s run and settle in. Downhill. I always run better downhill in Altra (thanks Zero Drop). Wide. Nope. Not wide — it’s in the Slim Footshape category. Deep. Look for puddles and plunge your shoes into the water if it’s raining. They’ll dry, and you’ll smile. And shallow. Less cavernous flex grooves mean springy steps.
For runners and marine biologists alike.
THOMAS: You probably didn’t see this coming, but I like the Altra Rivera 3. The shoe has a quality build and feels natural, flexible, and smooth. I prefer some drop and a more streamlined shape, but Altra made a high-quality shoe. I would compare the Altra to other lightweight, no-frills daily trainers like the Saucony Kinvara, Brooks Launch, Atreyu Daily Trainer, Asics Cumulus, and Adidas SL, to name a few.
You can pick up the Altra Rivera 3 for $140 in February at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Altra – Men Shop Altra – Women
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As the founder of Believe in the Run, Thomas’ goal is to help runners pick the shoes and gear that will make their running experience the best that it can be.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Kinvara 2, Hoka Clifton 1, Nike Alphafly Next%More from Thomas
Austin, who lives north of Atlanta, is a stay-at-home father and running store part-timer (year eleven). Based on his inability to provide a 10K or 5K personal record, he should probably race those distances more. It’s rare to not see a party size bag of peanut M&Ms in his pantry and a pair of Shokz on his ears during a run.
All-time favorite shoes: OG Altra Escalante, Saucony Kinvara 3, Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%More from Austin
To me, the logo looks like a road or trai with a curve in it coming at you.