Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Altra Running Rivera Review

Article by Brian Metzler

Altra Rivera ($130)

Update: Brian's review is updated to multi tester format here


The Rivera is an all-new neutral performance-oriented everyday training shoe that’s light, lively, soft, versatile and, quite frankly, fun. It’s built on a responsive, moderately thick AltraEgo midsole and includes a balanced cushioning platform and semi-spacious foot-shaped toe box that Altra engineers into all of its shoes, but the shape of this shoe is decidedly more streamlined compared to other Altra shoes. It not only looks fast and smooth, but that’s how it feels and runs too. The combination of the lightweight, one-piece Altra Ego midsole and the stretchy, secure and cleanly designed one-piece engineered upper add up to a soft, but energetic ride to all types of training runs.


  • I love the lightweight feel of this shoe. It feels simple but sufficient. There is just enough comfort, cushion and energy return built into this cleanly designed shoe, but just as importantly there aren’t any unnecessary features to complicate or inhibit the fit, feel or ride.

  • The cushioning is consistent and offers ample shock absorption, softness and decent energy return. It’s built on a level platform — Altra simply called it “balanced cushioning” and not a zero-drop offset anymore — but it feels like there’s a bit of a rocker geometry or a bit of toe-spring design. There isn’t, but it just feels that way.

  • It fits true to size, but it’s probably a medium-volume shoe. (I have narrow feet and felt compelled to really cinch down the laces to get the locked-down feel I wanted.) There’s a moderately firm heel counter, a free-floating tongue with medium padding and only a smidge of medial arch support.  


  • To be honest, there wasn’t much not to like. The biggest drawback for me was that it fit wider than I would have liked and needed to snug down the laces to match my narrow feet. 

This isn’t a con, but just a reminder. We all (should) know the drill about the adaptation it takes to running in low-drop or zero-drop shoes. If you’ve been running shoes with a 4mm drop, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. But if you’ve been running in shoes with a 6mm to 12mm offset, then you might feel some tightness the day after the first several runs in a zero-drop shoe.  


Approx, Weight: men's (US9) 8.6oz.  / 244g  women's (US8) 6.67 oz. / 189g.

Official:  men's US 10.5 - 9.1 oz / 258g women's US 8.5 - 6.9 oz / 196g

Stack Height: 26mm, 0 drop

Available now. $130.

Tester Profile

Brian Metzler is a longtime running journalist and shoe-tester. He’s the author of “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes” and has wear-tested more than 1,500 models of running shoes since the mid-1990s. He’s been averaging about 35 miles of running per week this winter (but rarely records his runs on Strava), while also skate skiing and swimming several times each week.


The Rivera fits true to size with a medium width in the heel and arch and just a touch more room in the forefoot. (It doesn’t feel nearly as roomy as most Altra shoes, but there is room for the toes to wiggle and splay.) The Rivera’s step-in feel is soft, smooth and comfortable, and it oozes a light and agile performance-oriented vibe the moment you start running in it.


The one-piece upper is made from an engineered mesh material that’s pliable and accommodating but it's also supportive when the laces are snugged down. It’s very breathable and airy with very few seams or stitching. The upper material is slightly reinforced to supplement the protection the toe bumper provides, but also to help provide enough shape to keep the material from rubbing the top of the toes. 


The one-piece Altra EGO midsole with a stack of 26mm front and back feels moderately soft (but not mushy or marshmallowy soft) and provides modest shock-absorbing protection in the heel as well as modest to good energy-returning responsiveness in the forefoot. It has a slightly thicker Altra EGO midsole layer than the Escalante Racer and Escalante and seems to serve up a bit more energy return. It’s slightly slower than the cushier but not as lively Torin 4.5 Plush (which features Altra’s Quantic midsole compound).

The bottom of the midsole is sculpted out to provide a natural flex pattern from the arch to the metatarsal heads and toes. That allows it to serve up smooth heel-toe transitions with a completely uninhibited ride.


The outsole is simply and effective with several thin hard and soft rubber segments in the heel and forefoot. (There is a combination of thinner, less durable rubber segments and exposed foam under the middle of the shoe.) It serves up good traction on roads and soft dirt trails and because the outsole rubber segments are aligned along the flex grooves in the forefoot, it allows the shoe to flex naturally without any inhibition.



The ride is buttery smooth, a little springy and entirely effortless. For Altra fans, it feels like a magical mashup of the Escalante Racer and the Torin 4.5 Plush  while including some of the best aspects of the now-defunct One and Duo shoes.. On a broader scope, it might be a mix between the Hoka Clifton, Saucony Kinvara and New Balance 880. Light, supple and peppy, the Rivera inspires quick-cadence running, good running form and an enjoyable experiences.

Conclusions and Recommendations

It’s probably my favorite Altra shoe among the dozens I have run since the brand’s inception. It’s light and lively enough to be a performance trainer for faster days, but it’s cushy and protective enough for long runs and versatile enough to be an everyday workhorse — especially for runners who are nimble and run light on their feet. The combination of ride, fit, value and style make it one of the best new models for 2021. If you like the fit, feel and ride of Altra’s Escalante Racer or Escalante 2.5 but want or need more underfoot cushion and protection, the Rivera might be your Goldilocks pick for its versatility as an everyday trainer.

Score: 9.0 /10


To me, this shoe feels and runs quite a bit like the Saucony Kinvara , even though the Kinvara has a 4mm heel-toe offset. There are some similarities to a lot of other shoes, including Hoka Clifton, Skechers GoRun Razor 3 Hyper and, hypothetically speaking, maybe even a lite version of Brooks Glycerin. But really, the Rivera feels mostly like a juiced up Escalante Racer or Escalante based on the similar soft, lightweight feel and smooth, zero-drop vibe.  

Brian Metzler is a longtime running journalist, content strategist and the author of “Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes.” He formerly was the editor in chief at Competitor and was also the founding editor of Trail Runner Magazine. He has wear-tested more than 1,500 models of running shoes since the mid-1990s and has written about running and running shoes for Runner's World, Podium Runner, Running Times, Triathlete, Men's Journal and Outside. After being a walk-on collegiate middle-distance in the Midwest, he transitioned to trail running in Boulder, Colorado. That led him to ultrarunning, triathlon, peak bagging Colorado 13ers and 14ers and the quirky sport of pack burro racing. He’s run the Rim to Rim to Rim adventure run across the Grand Canyon four times, including once in the middle of the night with Mike Wardian. He’s also four-time Ironman finisher and a 2018 finisher of the Leadman endurance series in Leadville, Colorado. His running shoe quiver usually includes about 25 current models and 5 holdovers from previous seasons.

Watch RoadTrailRun Editor Sam's Rivera Video Review

Altra Rivera is available now. Please shop at our partners below.

Tested samples were provided at no charge for testing purposes. No other compensation was received fly RTR or the author for this review from Altra The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

RoadTrailRun receives a commission on purchases at the stores below.
Your purchases help support RoadTrailRun. Thanks!

Available Now!
USA  Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns
EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Available Now!
Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Join VIP Family, Get Free Shipping and 15% in VIP Benefits on every order, Details here

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Available Now!
Men's & Women's SHOP HERE


Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook: RoadTrailRun.com  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun


Mario said...

Thank you very much! Great review. In your opinion, for a projected 1.30h half marathon and for a 75 kg male runner, this shoe works better or Escalante 2.5/Racer are better to achieve that goal?

Anonymous said...

I have pretty flat feet and have had mixed results with Altra due to the raised arch midsole in some of their shoes. It seems like the Escalante 2.5 has flattened out compared to earlier models, which I really like. The Torin Plush 4.5 was also pretty flat. Does the Rivera have a pronounced midsole bump in the arch?

Brian Metzler said...

Hey Mario - I'm about the same size as you, 77kg or 170 pounds and am probably in 1:34 fitness for a half and I would definitely run in the Rivera instead of the Escalante Racer. I love the Escalante Racer, but for shorter races and workouts. The Escalante 2.5 could be a toss-up, but for anything longer than about 8-10 miles I would personally opt for the Rivera.

As for flat feet, yeah, there is very little arch support in the Rivera. Just a slight medium bump under the arch. That said, it's roomy enough in the interior that you could add an after-marketing custom or off-the-shelf insole.

Xavier said...

Comparison with the Topo Cyclone?

Irwin said...

Comparisons to recent Torin iterations (not plush)? Seems a replacement in the lineup for Torin. Thank you!

Rudy said...

First: thanks for the review!

But then: is it just me, or is this review a little love for a brand new mainstream model, compared to a tenfold review for a sequel also posted a few days ago. Last years Escalante 2.5 review was also remarkable because they were reviewed by people with narrow feet and not accustomed to zero drop shoes (I'm exaggerating a bit, I know). I mean: what do you expect when running in an Altra shoe. It is like letting me review a narrow fitting 12mm drop Nike shoe. I will make remarks about the shoe killing my toes and that the drop will interfere with my stride. The outcome of the review will not have to do much with the shoe, more with the reviewer. And to a certain degree that's fine, because there are reviewers on this site with whom I share a general like or dislike for shoes. And of course a review is a personal opinion after all. But when there's a mismatch to start with, where the added value of the review.

Anyhow: don't take this as an insult or just a rant: I think this site is the best place for running shoe reviews and like I said: I'm happy with the review Brian Metzler provided. I'm just curious how this new Altra would compare to recently released shoes like the Freedom 4, the Floatride Energy 2/3/Symetros, Hyperion Tempo, Torin 4.5, Mach 4, Rebel2 / Propel, Cyclone, etc. And I think there is still some room in the huge lineup of excellent reviewers for people with a preference for wider or low/zero drop shoes. Or let them come over from the trail department :-).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. Under the insole, does the Rivera have a layer of A-bound on top of the midsole like the Escalante 2.5, or midsole only like the Escalante Racer?

Anonymous said...

Am an Altra fan. Was excited to read about the new shoe. For me with only six miles on this shoe, this jumps out at me:
1) narrowish toe box, for me this was disappointing but not a deal breaker. I hope this is not a future trend.
2) feels more like the Torin plush than the Escalante. I find the Escalante 2.5 'fun', 'zippy' while the plush is 'cushy but firm'. My favorite Altra with my least favorite, what could go wrong!? Was hoping for zippy with more cushioning for longer runs.
3) I hope this is not a Torin replacement. Very different ride and toe box.