Sunday, February 13, 2022

Altra Running Rivera 2 Review

Article by Sam Winebaum

Altra Running Rivera 2 ($130)


The Rivera is a neutral daily trainer with a 26mm stack height front and rear so as all Altra are is zero drop.  Sitting between the higher stack (28mm) Torin and lower (24 mm) Escalante, at an approximate weight of 8.46 oz / 240g in a US9, it slots in as the light well cushioned all arounder in the Altra lineup.

The update is to the upper with a now very pliable, very soft mesh (among the softest and most pliable I can recall) with support provided by a very stout heel counter, embroidered stitching, the logos and a low toe bumper overlay. 

Of course we have Altra’s anatomical Foot Shape toe box in what Altra calls a “refined and tailored” shape. This means not the widest chez Altra but given the very soft mesh certainly promising a wider foot friendly fit and more so than the Rivera 1’s was for me.

As previously we have Altra’s EGO midsole foam, a very nicely rebounding with a touch of rubbery bounce to it , Inner Flex grooves to give the big front stack flex and a well segmented outsole.


Great introductioin shoe to zero drop 

EGO foam is energetic and responsive

As promised, platform weight and geometry is “balanced” with a true zero drop feel, and a not negative drop feel at beyond slow jog paces and off the heels

Upper is surprisingly supportive and for sure comfortable for such as light extremely pliable and soft mesh

Wide toe box with comfortable solid hold 

Also supremely comfortable as a casual everyday shoe


To pull off the foot hold in such as soft pliable upper and with a wide toe box the length is on the short side and the front height low, but unless you are on the high side of a half size up I would not consider sizing up

Firm and low heel at slow paces. Low 26mm heel stack and zero drop are not as pleasant as at faster paces.


Approx. Weight: men's 8.46 oz  / 240g (US9) 

 Samples: men’s (US8.5) 8.21 oz / 233g (230g left shoe, 236g right shoe)

Stack Height: men’s 26mm  heel / 26mm forefoot

$130. Available March 2022 

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: Elegant and simple, the look is very classy and for sure more sophisticated than the almost toy-like appearance of Altra’s of the past. Almost completely blue with a light gold logo and white midsole, the Rivera 2 is a beautiful looking shoe. Altra has really stepped up their visual design in the last year and Rivera 2 and other 2022 models we have previewed demonstrate that the progress is across both road and trail.

I am immediately struck by how soft and pliable the toe box and mesh through the midfoot is to the touch.  And unlike many such thin pliable mesh uppers, there is no gusset tongue with just a moderately padded conventional tongue and a fairly thick Altra logo which contributes to mid foot support. I wondered if there would be adequate foot hold for my medium to narrower feet in the true to size pair.

Well at try on, and on the run, the toe box hold works well. It is not Altra’s “widest” last but any wider and things likely would be sloppy given the super soft mesh and zero overlays beyond the small and low toe bumper that keeps it bumping up front and not over the top of the toes 

Think of a slipper like super soft fit with toes able to wiggle and for splay but also never rising up so much that things get sloppy.  There is a bit of a but though…The length fit is comparatively quite short and the over the toes “at rest” volume quite low but in no way uncomfortable.  I personally would not size up. I have dodgy big toe nails and any overly low or short toe box or overdone low bumper causes me issues (for example stretch knit uppers) and this is not so with the Rivera at all.

The upper mesh has a “spray” of longitudinal stitching or embroidering running in increasing frequency and density from toe where there is one stitched line to the heel counter where I count 10 lines decreasing in spacing as they reach the ankle and heel collars. 

While the Rivera still has Altra’s deep squared ankle notch which in some models I found provided poor support in that area, here the combination of the stitching, plenty of collar and tongue padding, and a stout heel counter provides a very solid rear lockdown, especially so for such a light upper.

The bottom line for the upper and fit of the Rivera is that you get a combination of a super secure rear to mid foot hold with a more relaxed broad and easy front fit. The wider your feet upfront the more secure the front hold should be and the narrower they are the more comfort relaxed the fit will be yet I still think adequately secure. I also think this upper is a great choice up front for those with bunions and such due to the combination of width and soft mesh. 


The Rivera midsole is made of Altra’s EGO foam. It has a somewhat rubbery or elastic feel that as the pace and forces applied picks up, tends to feel more dynamic and responsive. As a heel striker at slower paces (above 10-11 minute miles) it feels firm, low and a bit mushy. If you are a mid to forefoot striker at all paces you should notice this less if at all. At faster paces the foam is energetic and fun to run as you get up onto the broad and somewhat bouncy forefoot. 

The platform and geometry is unchanged from v1 and is  26mm heel and forefoot, so of course zero drop. 26mm at the heel is a relatively low stack height these days and back on the heels at slower paces the low stack and foam softness is felt as firmer landing. At 26mm up front we have a relatively stout but not super max cushion stack and feel.  The EGO foam and the Inner Flex (tennis racket-like grooves cut into the top of the midsole that make the Rivera an admirably flexible shoe) plus the wide front platform makes the shoe come alive at faster paces. As the pace picks up (and for me that means I am less back on the heels)  the midsole foam and platform towards the front has a distinctly energetic and stable rebound.


Sam: Nothing changed if at all with the outsole from v1. Decently thick firmer heel elements are followed by a broad expanse of exposed midsole with the medial pads clearly delivering a stable platform.

Up front we have longitudinal pads of only slightly softer rubber than the rear protruding from above deep grooves into the midsole. In conjunction with the Inner Flex grooves into the top of the midsole we have an easy but not overly easy long flexing shoe with the broad forefoot platform and outsole contributing to good front stability.

I have not run enough in them to determine durability but this should be a durable outsole.


Sam: The ride is energetic, flexible with as stated above a clear preference for getting off the heels and onto the broad front platform. Slow paces were OK but the low heel stack was felt. I would not pick the Rivera for recovery and slower runs,

As promised the ride feels balanced in cushion. The 26mm heel does not feel back weighted as has sometimes been the case for me with Altra. I have run many, many Altra and secretly wish they came with some “training heels” or a bit of rear lift and often have cut the back couple inches off a sockliner and put it under the Altra sockliner for some additional “lift” and I will do so here. 

 I generally have no issues transitioning to zero drop, 

This said it has been a year since I have run in a zero drop shoe and as always  getting back into or starting  to run zero drop takes some getting used to, patience and some caution as the feet are being worked differently and more naturally.

The Inner Flex tech and resulting flexibility of the Rivera is maybe a bit overdone for my tastes removing a bit too much toe off snap for my tastes especially when combined with the easy going upper.

Is it a ride I personally would go for every run? I don’t think so as I prefer more heel stack and some drop along with a snappier toe off but it is a useful and fun ride with an energetic feel from the EGO foam and a wonderful fit.  I do think mixing up drops including to zero, and running in more flexible relatively lower stack shoes such as the Rivera, is a great idea especially if you typically run in high stack rigid or plated shoes as you will be able to focus on form and feel as opposed to plowing through the run directed by the shoe and not your feet and the feel of the road. 

Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: The Rivera 2 is a great choice as an introduction to zero drop running (and walking) shoes as it has adequate cushion, a very balanced feel at paces beyond very slow and back on the heels. If you are a mid to forefoot striker I venture to say you will not notice the zero drop as the balance and broad, quite energetic front platform will have you smiling and bounding along.

The very soft and pliable upper works very well combining a very good rear to mid foot hold with Altra’s trademark Foot Shape up front that is as soft and accommodating a toe box (and more so for sure than Rivera 1) as I can remember yet one that is very decently held especially for broader feet. For narrower feet and faster running the front could use somewhat more structure but not much.

The upper balances hold, comfort, and the famous Altra front room in a new way with a super soft and pliable mesh that made my toes super happy. Think slippers with run shoe hold. As such the Rivera with its classy styling also makes a really fine everyday, travel and recovery type shoe.  I only wish for a touch more front length and height for those more casual purposes. 

My only, only gripes here are that I wish the heel had a higher stack and… that the Rivera could become a 4mm drop shoe but that is not going to happen unless I do my rear piece of sock liner trick.

Sam’s Score: 8.97 /10

Ride: 8.7 (50%) Fit: 9.3 (30%) Value: 9 (15%) Style: 9.6 (5%)


Altra Rivera 1 (RTR Review)

Sam: The change here between versions is the upper with the Rivera 2 delivering a more characteristic Altra broad front fit than Rivera 1. The fit now leans a bit more comfort than performance but that is OK by me. 

The Torin 4 (RTR Review)  has 2mm more stack and Escalante (RTR Review) has  2mm less stack Our reviews are linked here for context.

Saucony Kinvara 13 (Kinvara 13 RTR Review soon, RTR Review Kinvara 12)

The 4mm drop Kinvara (April release)  has 2.5 mm more heel stack and 1.5 mm less forefoot stack. It weighs 1.2 oz / 33g less at a mere 199g / 7 oz getting there mostly with far less rubber coverage. The Kinvara’s PWRRUN midsole foam is similar in its bouncy feel to Altra EGO delivering through the geometry a similar energetic ride with yet more flexibility. It is softer in feel as there is so little rubber but interestingly as stable if not a touch more due to its medial vertical side walls. Both uppers are super soft and secure with Kinvara having a gusset tongue. The Altra toe box is wider but lower with for me a less locked down fit up front.  For lower weight, 4mm drop, sheer fun and more secure upper I pick the Kinvara but… if daily training uses with more rubber and front stability are what you are seeking and zero drop is important Rivera 2. 

US Flow Velociti Wind  (RTR Review)

More expensive at $160 vs $130, the Flow Velociti has a far more sophisticated upper that fits all performance. It is considerably narrower and pointier at the front. The Wind has no outsole rubber relying on a durable midsole as outsole. It has the same 26mm heel height (so lowish) with a 8mm drop making its very low 18mm forefoot firmer for sure and snappier with its ride quiet and smoother in a moccasin like way.

The Altra Rivera 2 is available now at our partners below and at Altra HERE

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 64 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article.These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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Anonymous said...

How breathable is the upper? Can you see light passing through?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Anonymous,
Yes one can see light through and there is also no stretch gusset. This is a very thin upper so Iexpect it to be very breathable.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Is the tongue the same from the first iteration of the Rivera or are there differences? I found it to be almost wastefully large and puffy.

Mike said...

Thanks for the review Sam. Are you please able to compare it to the Topo Magnifly 4?

meatball said...

How much slimmer is the Rivera than the Escalante really?

I like the width of the Escalante and I’m a little hesitant to pick these up.

Michal Siniff said...

Hey Sam !!!
Just took my first spin in the Riviera 2 and I must say, you nailed it. Great upper, good flex and nice cushion to weight ratio. Pulled the trigger on this one from how the reviews came in and glad I did. I rely on reviews heavily because there are not alot of LRS here carrying a variety of Altra shoes. Thanks RTR for great work.