Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Altra Lone Peak 4.5 Multi Tester Review

Article by Don Reichelt, Canice Harte, Dom Layfield and John Tribbia


Altra Lone Peak 4.5 ($120)
Introduction
Don: Altra’s flagship trail running shoe is back with their annual “kind of an update” update with the Lone Peak 4.5. The upper had a little work done and according to Altra, there’s a new formulation to the form in their midsole. Those changes have been made in the name of weight savings and the idea of an improved upper fit. Overall, there are a lot of similarities with the 4.0, and most importantly to the masses, it is still very much a Lone Peak!  There’s a reason the Lone Peak is annually the most used shoe on the Appalachian Trail because not only is the Lone Peak line their number one selling running shoe, but it is nearly perfect as a lightweight hiker as well.   


John: Out of the box, these shoes are comfortable standing and walking around. Moderate weight, form fitting around the midfoot, open toe box that allows your foot to splay out, and a non-constricting hug of the foot. The seamless upper is lightweight, comfortable and non-abrasive. I was surprised to see gaiter attachments on the shoes, but there is no toe guard integrated into the upper. I would think if one chooses to run where gaiters would be useful, they might want a harder mold over the toe for protection. Out on the trails and road, the traction stands out as exceptional. I ran over ice, snow, technical trail, rutted frozen mud and felt very secure. Not to mention, the wide last provides the best platform for microspikes to fit over the shoe without slipping.
Dom:  The Lone Peak sits in the middle of Altra’s trail shoe line-up.  The Superior provides a super-flexible minimalist feel; the King MT is a toothier, lightly-cushioned mud specialist, the Lone Peak the “Goldilocks” shoe for most people, the Timp is highly-cushioned, and the Olympus is El Gordo.  In keeping with its long evolution, the Lone Peak 4.5 does everything well, and will please most trail runners.


Dom: Compared to the previous version, not much has changed.  My biggest disappointment about the LP4.0 (RTR review) was its weight gain over the 3.5.  So I was happy to see that Altra have managed to trim a little from the shoe.  My US M10 sample pair weighed 630 g per pair, down from 648 g for the LP4.0, a drop of 3%.  The most conspicuous change is to the lacing, which is simplified in the LP4.5. The unusual strap across the tongue that integrated into the lace eyelets is gone.  So are the overlays to the side that provided anchor points for Altra’s “4-point” gaiters.  (I guess we’re back to two-point attachment!)  Altra also say they have changed the midsole formulation, but I couldn’t discern much difference.  I did notice when hand-flexing the shoe that the new version is slightly more flexible, with less of a flat spot under the midfoot.


Pros:
Don: traction is stellar, lacing is better than we’re used to with Altra, It’s a Lone Peak! 
John: best in class traction, stable in technical terrain, foot plate provides outstanding protection
Canice: Wide toe box AKA: “Natural Foot Shape” and good ground feel while providing plenty of cushion.
Dom: If you like a wide trail shoe, this is your best bet.
Dom: Otherwise, its biggest strength is a lack of weaknesses.


Cons:
Don: Too muted a trail feel, a little heavy for faster trail running, 
John: Overall, the response and ride feels stiff and clunky; no toe protection; too breathable for winter temps 
Canice: Mid-foot hold is lacking and gives the shoe a loose fit.
Dom:  Lighter than the previous generation, but still a little weighty.
Dom:  Not much protection for the weight.
Dom:  Roomy fit is lovely for training, but verging on too wide to race.


Stats
Official Weight:: men's 10.5 oz /  297g / (US9 women's 8.7oz / 248g  (US8)
Samples: US M12 - 12.8oz / 363g, US M10 - 11.1 oz / 315g 
Stack Height: 25mm heel 25mm forefoot, 0 drop
Available now. $120



Tester Profiles
Don is an accomplished ultra runner whose most recent exploits include a 3d place at the notorious extreme temperatures, big climb 2018 Badwater 135 miler. He more recently finished 4th at the Jemez 50 mile and won the 2019bLean Horse 100. He opened his 2020 season with a victory at the Coldwater Rumble 20 miler.  Don trains over 100 miles per week on both road and trail in Colorado.
John (5' 6",130lbs) is a former sponsored mountain/trail runner who has run with La Sportiva, Brooks/Fleet Feet, Pearl Izumi, and Salomon. Even though he competes less frequently these days, you can still find John enjoying the daily grind of running on any surface, though his favorite terrain is 30-40% grade climbs. He has won races such as America's Uphill, Imogene Pass Run, and the US Skyrunner Vertical Kilometer Series; and he's held several FKTs on several iconic mountains in Boulder, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah. If you follow him on Strava, you'll notice he runs at varying paces between 5 minutes/mile to 12 minutes/mile before the break of dawn almost everyday.
Canice is a 2 x finisher of the Wasatch 100, the Bear 100, Moab 100, Western States 100, and Leadman as well as many other Ultras. He regularly competes in Expedition Length Adventure races with his longest race to date 600 miles as well as traditional road races and triathlons.
Dom 48, trains and competes mainly on trails in Southern California running about 3000 miles and 500k ft of vert per year.  In 2017 he was 14th at Western States 100 and in 2018 finished 50th at UTMB and 32nd at the 2018 Los Angeles marathon in a time of 2:46.  2019 was a quiet year, with his only notable finish at the multi-day Dragon’s Back race in the UK.


First Impressions and Fit
Don: As usual with Altra, I drop down from my usual 12.5 to a 12. They’re currently the only brand I wear a 12 in, and the fit of the LP4.5 is consistent with that fit. The toebox is nice and wide, nothing new here for an Altra. Although it’s a little heavier than I would pick to race in or go hard in, it at the same time feels like you’re getting a lot of shoe for what it does weight in at. The step-in comfort of the LP4.5 is incredible, and that transitioned to the trails nicely. Let’s dig in a little deeper now! 
John: My first reaction when putting on the Lone Peak 4.5 that it was an aggressive shoe that was stiff but stable. The outsole is one of the most aggressive treads I have worn in awhile. The upper has been reduced compared to the 4.0 and a more efficient lacing system is in place.  It provides a really snug fit, which is necessary given the roomy toe box.


Canice: I’ve been in the Lone Peak since the Lone Peak 1.5 and slipping on a pair of Lone Peak 4.5’s feels like coming home. Over the years Altra has added cushion and tweaked the shoe but big picture, these will feel like 4.0’s or earlier models. The shoe has lots of room for your forefoot, has just enough cushion to protect your feet over long distances (this is subjective) yet maintains good ground feel.


Dom:  If you’ve liked previous Lone Peaks, particularly version 4.0, you’ll like version 4.5.  If previous versions were too wide, you won’t think these are any better.


Upper


Don: The upper on the LP4.5 has been slightly redesigned from the 4.0, with the interest in cutting a little weight, and addressing some fit issues that were reported in the 4.0. I found the upper to be extremely comfortable and fit very well. The overlays are extremely well done to provide stability on the upper, without feeling intrusive or abrasive on my foot. 


This upper fits like an Altra should, so fans of the brand will be extremely happy with the update. 


John: The upper has a fairly shallow cut just near the ankle, but the midfoot upper and lacing provide a very secure fit. 
I never felt slippage in the heel. The tongue on the 4.5 has a vertical strip in the middle that has several loops, which allows for that more secure and customized fit compared to what I see on the 4.0. This was my first time actually running in anything Altra, so I'm new to the feel of the wider toe box. I like having my foot spread out, but I also felt like I had to tighten my laces to the max so that my forefoot wouldn't slide laterally. When making sharp turns at a relatively higher speed, I especially noticed my foot slipping and losing contact with the shoe. I was deterred from running in earlier models because they felt so wide and there was so much leftover lace, but I did find the 4.5s to be more conservative on the amount of lace leftover after tightening. 


Canice: I have a bit of a love hate thing going on with the upper. The materials, durability and breathability are fantastic. My gripe is the lack of midfoot hold. So it’s hard to blame this on the upper but within the context of this review, this is the place to talk about this.


Generally speaking the upper does everything you would like it to. The breathability really is fantastic and I have found they dry incredibly quickly too. Though in the past Altra used to have problems with the uppers failing they have since put that behind them and now have the material selection dialed in.
Altra uses their “Natural Foot Shape” toe box in all their shoes and in some models like the recent Torin they have managed to have great mid foot hold while maintaining the wide toe box. So we know they know how to do it. We just need them to do so with the LonePeak 5.0


Dom:  There wasn’t much wrong with the 4.0 upper, and so Altra only made small changes.  The extra overlay around the heel that provided lateral anchor points for Altra’s 4-point gaiters is gone.  So is the unusual bridging strap across the tongue that was a distinctive feature of the LP4.0. I haven’t yet missed the gaiter anchors, but I do think that the midfoot retention of the 4.5 is slightly worse.    Otherwise, this is all solid, no-nonsense, tried-and-tested stuff. It does a great job of keeping mud out, and dries quickly. Based on my experience with the LP4.0 (which uses the same fabric) I expect durability to be excellent.
Why two heel loops on each shoe?


Midsole
Don: The mad chemists at Altra have updated their foam in the midsole, but not enough that I could tell a difference between the 4.0 and 4.5 in a brief side by side. Word on the street is that the new foam is a little lighter, so I’ll take a similar feel with less weight any day! The LP4.5 also does have a rockplate, “StoneGuard” as Altra coins it, under the midsole. Honestly, as a competitive trail runner, I feel the foam and rockplate give a somewhat muted feel of the trail for my tastes, but will definitely keep appealing to the masses. 


John: The 4.5s are now using a newer foam formula to provide midsole cushion. Although this recent improvement will likely impress Lone Peak enthusiasts, I just didn’t feel like there is enough cushion for me personally. As a result, my feet began to really feel the terrain after 60 minutes of running and my footpads began getting sore when I ran longer than 90 minutes.


Canice: Over the years Altra has added cushion to the Lone Peak. Keep in mind the brand and shoes were born during the barefoot running craze so original Altra’s had very little cushion to them.


Here in Utah, where Altra was founded, we all know the Altra team and run with each other so this shoe and in particular the midsole has evolved based on direct runner feedback. So while we all used to ask for a “little” more cushion, which we got, we now need to ask for a more lively foam. The Lone Peak is an incredibly comfortable shoe and one I’ve worn for the Wasatch 100, but now that Altra is all grown up and part of the VF family, it’s time to take a leadership position on cushion and performance. So the Lone Peak 4.5 is good but it can be much better.


Dom:   Official guidance from Altra is that “midsole foam formula has been tweaked”.  I tried running with an LP4.5 on one foot and LP4.0 on the other, and I couldn’t tell the difference.  When hand-flexing the shoe, I did notice that the LP4.5 was softer in bending in the midfoot, with less of a stiff segment in that region.


Dom:  In the LP4.0, I felt that the “skeletal Stone Guard” rock plate achieved almost nothing except adding weight and complexity, and I hoped that it might miraculously disappear in the new version.  But it’s still there, apparently. It retains the dubious distinction of being one of the only rockplates I’ve ever encountered whose effect was almost indiscernible. Rock protection in the LP4.5 remains adequate but unimpressive: this is not a shoe in which you can stomp over sharp rubble with abandon.   On the plus side, ground feel is excellent.


Outsole
Don: This is where the LP4.5 shines. The outsole features what Altra’s “MaxTrac” rubber which they will tell you provides “a perfect combination of grip, traction, and durability that will eat up gnarly terrain like a boss”. and their neat lug pattern they call “Trail Claw” which is described as “Canted lugs positioned strategically beneath the metatarsals to provide traction at toe off”. I can’t think of another trail shoe on the market I would trust to the same level that I trust the traction on this Lone Peak. Their MaxTrac rubber formulation is tacky and extremely grippy. It features multidirectional lugs that will grip just about anything at any pace or any condition. 
John: Out on the trails and road, the traction stands out as one of the best I have ever experienced. I ran over ice, snow, technical trail, rutted frozen mud and felt VERY secure. Like Don mentions, the traction is downright trustworthy.


Canice: Ditto what Don and John said. The outsole is trustworthy and performs great on Utah trails.


Dom:  Outsole is unchanged from version 4.0.  Like the other reviewers, I have no complaints about the LP4.5’s outsole.  It gets the job done with excellent grip across the board.  


Ride
Don: I truly enjoyed the ride on these more on slower, casual runs than I did on going uptempo with them… which I would guess is exactly what Altra would tell you it’s meant for! Slowing down really allows this shoe to shine, and although I didn’t do any real hiking trips in them, it’s extremely obvious to see why people would enjoy wearing these day after day on the AT or other long thru-hikes. The ride became a little muted for my personal tastes, but the target market for the LP4.5 should love how the rock plate and midsole feel over any terrain. 


John: Despite the advantage gained with top class traction, top-end performance is compromised in the ride and roll. The ride is stable, laterally and especially when navigating downhill terrain, but overall it feels stiff and clunky. With the low stack height, wide last, and firm footplate, I felt like I was unable to really toe-off in a fast pace. I also felt this hindered my ability to go really quickly on flatter or uphill terrain. As it is often pointed out, the Lone Peak’s aren’t intended for fast and race pace ventures. And, that's not to say I didn't enjoy casually cruising in these shoes. They were really enjoyable to run in on rolling trails and atop slippery conditions when not focusing on a fast pace. They are a solid lightweight hiking shoe.


Canice: The Lone Peak 4.5 runs flat with very little bounce or feeling of cushion. Mostly the shoe dampens the feel of rocks and trail debris but this is okay as the shoe is meant to keep you in close contact with the ground. Think of this as a barefoot running shoe with cushion and you’ll get the idea.


Dom:  Despite a midsole “tweak”, the LP4.5 runs just like the 4.0.   Which is to say, a flexible shoe with moderate cushioning and excellent ground feel.  The roomy fit means that this shoe doesn’t really provide the necessary foot retention for aggressive high-G maneuvers, making it unsuitable for short trail races.  And while the LP4.5 is slightly lighter than its predecessor, it remains in Clydesdale territory, so not an obvious choice for long races when compared to competitors that offer a lot more cushioning for less weight.


Dom:  Where the Lone Peak does shine, in my opinion, is as a daily training shoe, particularly as a one-shoe-quiver.  Here the durability and do-it-all capability add to the foot-strengthening benefits and comfort of Altra’s wide toebox and zero-drop platform.


Dom:  It might be worth mentioning that one potential upside of the unusually roomy Altra fit is that it enables all sorts of shenanigans with footbeds, insoles, orthotics, foot supports etc.  If you don’t like fully zero-drop shoes, or you need more arch support, a thin footbed with a small heel lift (e.g. Superfeet Carbon) can easily slide into the shoe in addition to the Altra insole, to tailor the fit and feel of the shoe to individual needs.  A second foam insole can provide a little extra cushion and take up extra space. Obviously this adds weight, but the spaciousness of the shoe provides a lot of freedom to tinker.


Conclusions and Recommendations
Don: The Lone Peak enthusiasts will be very happy with the latest from the storied Altra shoe. The updates they’ve made are purposeful, without changing what makes the shoe special to so many people. While I personally don’t think the LP4.5 will stay in my training rotation, it likely does hold the number one spot for me as a general mountain adventure shoe. This will be my go-to for hiking, camping, and other wilderness activities and will become a very well-loved member of my shoe family. 
Don’s Score: 9.4/10 
Ride 9/10, Fit 9.5/10, Value 9.75/10, Style 8.5/10, Traction 10/10, Rock Protection 9.5/10


John: If you have loved Lone Peak’s in the past or you are looking for a comfortable, stable and efficient shoe that will undoubtedly keep you rubber side down, the 4.5s are for you. The recent updates to the upper and midsole cushion compared to the 4.0 are praiseworthy. Notwithstanding, I am puzzled that a shoe designed for long back-to-back days on the Appalachian or thru-hikes would omit any substantial toe protection. I hope a 5.0 release includes a toe guard to protect against jammed toes and black toenails.
John’s Score: 7.4 / 10
Ride: 5 (it just didn’t work for me: stiff, not enough cushion, but stable from width)
Fit: 8 (nearly no break in period for me, upper kept heel snug, but a little looseness because of width and stiffness)
Value: 9 (durable shoe that can seemingly withstand high mileage back-to-back days)
Style: 8
Traction: 10 (best traction I have ever experienced)
Rock Protection: 7 (needs toe protection and more cushion, but rock plate is highly effective)


Canice: if you have run in the Lone Peak before and liked the shoe, you will feel right at home in the new Lone Peak 4.5. It really feels like the earlier version. If you’re looking for a lively feel with some pop while you run, you’ll want to try a few options on. But if you’re looking for a relaxed toe box and a great balance between ground feel and cushion these are for you. Just check the mid foot fit to make sure it works for your foot.
Canice Score: 9.1/10 
Ride 9/10, Fit 9/10, Value 9.5/10, Style 9/10, Traction 10/10, Rock Protection 9.5/10


DomWhen reviewing the LP4.0, I liked almost everything except the weight of the shoe.  I wasn’t a fan of the meager rockplate either, which I felt accomplished little except making the shoe heavier.  A year and a half later, Altra have shed a few grams with version 4.5, but in the meantime the competition has gotten hotter.   I previously wore version 3.x of the Lone Peak to the podium in many races (among them, Quicksilver 100 km, Angeles Crest 100 mile, and Spine Challenger ~108 miler).   I enjoyed running in the LP4.0, but never used it as anything but a training shoe, at which it excelled. The LP4.5 is more of the same. Don’t get me wrong: it remains an excellent trail shoe with a distinctive feel, but whereas the Superior 4.0 was bold and exciting, I’m a little disappointed that Altra is not bringing anything new to the table.  
Dom’s Score: 8.5/10
Ride: 9/10.  Fit 8/10. Value 8/10.  Style 8/10. Traction 10/10.  Rock Protection 8/10.


COMPARISONS

Lone Peak 4 and 3 (RTR Review of 4.0 and 3.5)
Canice: For my part these two shoes feel the same. There are some subtle differences but by and large you won’t notice them.
Dom:  The Lone Peak 4.5 feels very similar to version 4.0.  I ran with one shoe on each foot, and could barely discern any difference.  It could be my imagination (my feet are different shapes), but 4.5 seemed perhaps a hair softer, with slightly worse foot retention.  The differences between the older version (3.5) are more pronounced: the 3.x lacks the rockplate of the 4.x with a squishier, more cushioned underfoot feel.


On Cloudventure (RTR Review)
Don: I think this is a really good comparison shoe for the LP4.5. The Couldventure is a little heavier but feels similarly well made and like a shoe you could take anywhere. I like both of these shoes a lot for general trail adventures but wouldn’t race in either of them. If you like the Cloudventure and are interested in zero drop, you’ll love the LP4.5. I’m a 12.5 in the On. 


Topo MTN Racer (RTR Review)
Don: Although not an exact apples to apples comparison, I think the Lone Peak feels a lot like a MTN Racer with a less stiff midsole, and the Altra fits a TON better. Topo is a bit small for me in their 12 (they don’t make a 12.5) so if you fit great into their 12, I’d consider going 11.5 in the Altra. 
Dom:  If you have extra wide feet (or just like a lot of room in the toe box), the Altra is a clear winner.  The Topo toebox, though wider than most, is narrower than the Altra. Overall, the Topo offers a snugger fit and more cushioning.  Stack height of Topo is (30/25 mm), similar to LP4.5 (25/25 mm) but with a modest 5 mm drop. Grip is excellent on both shoes. LP feels more stable, but has a less forgiving ride.  Topo is lighter by 0.8 oz (23 g) per shoe. You could probably achieve a similar fit by moving up ½ size in Topo, or downsizing Altra.


Topo Terraventure 2 (RTR review)
Dom: If you like the feel of rockplates (and I generally do not), the Topo Terraventure 2 is an excellent implementation and broadly equivalent to the Altra Lone Peak 4.0/4.5.  Both shoes are about the same weight, with similar stack heights (25/22 mm in Topo, vs 25 mm flat in Altra). The Topo has better rock protection, and a firmer ride.


Nike Zoom Wildhorse 5 (RTR Review)
Don: The Altra is the winner here. The Wildhorse has better ground feel than the LP4.5, but personally, Altra fits my foot better and I could see myself wearing it for much longer activities than I would the Wildhorse. Side note - I’m a 12.5 in the Nike, and a 12 in the Altra. 


John: Like Don mentions, the Wildhorse runs slightly small so definitely order a half size up. I find the Nike more comfortable because it is narrower and has a more cushioned midsole. The Lone Peak traction and underfoot protection is far and away better, but the Wildhorse offers a better ride and roll for faster paced adventures.


Nike Zoom Kiger (RTR Review)
Canice: Though these shoes are very similar to each other, they’re actually very different shoes. The Kiger has 4mm drop, Lone Peak has 0 drop. Both shoes have a wide toe box, Altra has a wider toe box. Keiger has great midfoot hold, Lone Peak 4.5 has poor mid foot hold. Kiger has more ground feel, Lone Peak has more cushion.


New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v5 (RTR Review)
Don:  I found the LP4.5 to fit my midfoot and forefoot much better than the newest Hierro, which I honestly didn’t like much at all. I wear a 12.5 in the NB. 


Canice: Very different shoes here. The Lone Peak 4.5 is a natural foot shape fit born from the barefoot running boom but with added cushion. The Hierro v5 comes from a max cushion and max protection design intent and delivers a well cushioned ride that is best compared to a Hoka.


Salomon Sense Ultra/Pro (RTR Review)
John: WIthout a doubt, the Ultra/Pro is a more versatile and overall better shoe compared to the Lone Peak. But, I wanted to compare something that could come close to the Lone Peak traction. The Ultra/Pros come with a very durable Contagrip® MA outsole that delivers exceptional traction on wet, dry, loose, cold, and hot surfaces. Still, the Lone Peak outsole outperforms the Salomons in all conditions, especially ice and snow. 

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1 comment:

AndyHyde said...

Nice one. Thanks again for yet another super review! I've been waiting eagerly for this one! I'll be interested to see if the midsole holds its spring this time.... How would you say it compares to the torrent? Also, any experience with traction on wet rock/slab for those of us accross the pond?
Andy