Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Altra Running Rivera 3 Review

Article by Sam Winebaum

Altra Rivera 3 ($140)


The Rivera 3 is a daily road trainer with a 29mm heel / 29mm forefoot stack height so 3mm more cushion stack than the Rivera 2 (RTR Review). The midsole foam remains Altra’s EGO which is slightly softer to pressing, interesting. Also called out is what Altra calls “Balanced Cushioning” which is marketing speak for what has become an increasingly effective balancing of the weight and geometry which has led many recent Altra to feel less low and back weighted given they all have the same forefoot and heel differential of zero. Last underfoot we have “Inner Flex” which is a series of grooves cut into the top of the midsole to allow the shoe to flex while remaining stable.

At just under 9 oz / 255g in a US men’s 9  it is decently light. It gets a new less structured and less reinforced at the rear upper of a mesh very similar to the Rivera 2. The fit is Altra’s FootShape in “Slim Fit '' so not as broad as other Altra road trainers such as the Torin or Paradigm. 

There are modifications to the outsole and underfoot geometry with now a more continuous rubber piece at the lateral heel landing and more decoupling, a good sign for the potential of less bottoming out and a low feeling heel given the zero drop. 


Excellent riding, light middle range trainer introduction to Altra and zero drop

3mm additional slightly softer cushion takes the edge off the Rivera 2’s ride

Additional cushion and outsole design help 


New upper needs more midfoot to rear hold for faster paces, some slipping forward at faster paces hitting the front of the shoe.

May run ¼ size small 


Estimated Weight: men's 8.9 oz  / 252g (US9) 

 Sample: men’s  8.72 oz  /  247g  US8.5

Rivera 2: 8.2 oz / 232g US8.5

Stack Height: men’s 28 mm heel / 28mm forefoot ( drop spec)

Available now. $140

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Wow Altra is getting sleeker in their designs and for sure more modern. Gone in the Rivera 3 are the toy like look of past Altra and the somewhat goofy looking and hard for me to secure  toe boxes of the classic Foot Shape fit, a plus for me but a minus for some. 

Here in my sample we have a sleek unadorned low slung look with a cheery beachy look

The front fit is very similar to the Rivera 2 (right above) with the mesh almost identical in thickness and feel, a very soft, very pliable single density mesh front to back.

I do note the toe bumper is now extended further back and a touch stiffer but still quite pliable.

Moving further back the upper continues the soft and pliable approach, eliminating the support stitching of the Rivera 2 but beefing up the stiffness of the lace holding eyestay.

The tongue is thin (thinner than the Rivera 2’s) with a pad at its center at lace up with thin ridged laces. There is no gusset to the tongue. I think this kind of upper needs one.

At the rear we have substantial deep and thick inner bolsters around the ankle wrapping up to the lace up and a rigid heel counter similar to Rivera 2. The achilles collar is higher and a touch less deeply cushioned and the opening at the rear narrower all I think to make up for the removal of the stitching from midfoot to rear in the Rivera 2. 

All the hold in the shoe is focused on the rear to lace up, the thicker and more rigid lace holder, and more substantial toe bumper. 

The feel is seamless and very comfortable and almost gets there for me. While true to size  I did note some slip forward and slightly bumping the front at faster paces on the sharp cornered indoor track I tested on, and more so than in the Rivera 2 I tested on my other foot. It looks like Altra lightened the upper to keep the extra weight of the 3mm more cushion stack in check. They almost get there in support but I do think a gusset tongue and/ or wider laces might help better secure the mid and front of the foot. 


Sam: The midsole is Altra’s EGO foam. To pressing and on my A/B run one on each foot with the Rivera 2 it is a bit softer than before and with 2mm more of it the Rivera 2 clearly delivers a more forgiving ride than before with a touch more bounce and a touch less (overly firm in comparison) response.  

The geometry has a 28mm heel, 28mm forefoot so we are now in the well cushioned domain while the Rivera 2 was thinner in feel. Even with the Inner Flex grooves in the top of midsole (continuing from before) upfront we lose some front flex and thus snap. 

I was particularly pleased with the “balance”. By that I mean that weight is evenly distributed through the midsole. With Altra’s more classic Foot Shape last and broader toe boxes the zero drop in the past was more clearly felt as a low even negative  heel if you heel strike as I do a slower paces. Here yes one realizes there is no ramp down but all in all the zero drop here is not in your face. I think the new outsole geometry at the heel plays a big role. 



In the Rivera 2 we had less continuous rubber coverage at the lateral heel landing.

Now we have a solid pad with a new rounded wrap of the outsole around the heel and a more continuous crash pad groove.

We also have a much more continuous decoupling groove from heel to toe which clearly all in combination smooth transitions from heel to midfoot to toe off even if you might heel strike. And this underfoot geometry also helps keep the flex close to the Rivera 2 even with 3mm more stack height.


The ride is smooth and friendly with the somewhat harsh and firm feel of the Rivera 2 gone. There is plenty of cushion and it is quite lively with some nice bounce. I found slow paces with my tendency there to heel strike just fine with not much sense, either bottoming out soft or over firm and low, it was a zero drop shoe with the feel closer to 4mm in drop. 

This ride is a great compliment in a rotation to higher drop stiff shoes as yes you will feel your feet working a bit more, you will think about your form and get forward a bit more than usual. The Rivera 3 ride is a great introduction to Altra if you have never tried the brand. As always if new to Altra or zero drop start gradually.

While super comfortable and seamless in feel I do think the unstructured upper might hold the shoe back some from faster pace work, especially if you have a low volume foot due to its mid foot to front hold

Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: The Rivera 3 is modern, sleek looking, very comfortable and has a fine more forgiving ride with plenty of cushion and a geometry which largely does not “force” a forefoot to mid foot strike if you don’t have it all the time.. If you have never tried an Altra or zero drop this is the shoe to start with.

The 3mm more cushion, slightly softer foam and new outsole landing and decoupling and comfy upper deliver a smooth friendly ride without sharp edges well suited to most any daily training except faster paces for me. That comfy upper could use more structure and hold for faster paced work for my lower volume feet.

Sam’s Score: 9.03 /10

Ride: 9 Fit: 9 Value: 9 Style: 9.5



Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Altra VIA Olympus (RTR Review)

My only recent Altra has been the Olympus. The Olympus adds 4mm more cushion stack to come in at and for sure is Altra’s max cushion option with a 33mm heel and 33 mm forefoot. It is considerably heavier at 10.23 oz / 290g in my US 8.5 and that is for sure felt on the run in comparison to the quicker more agile Rivera 2 at just under 9 oz. It has the broader original Foot Shape toe box vs the Slim Fit here with I found a more secure hold even with the broader toe box. I found it considerably more lumbering to turn over as not only higher weight and  higher stack, zero drop but a rocker geometry which for me the lower the drop the less well high stack and rockers work. 

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Tester Profile

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 was 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, if he is very lucky, 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.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

I'd love to see a comparison between the Rivera 2, Escalante 3 and Rivera 3. I tried the Rivera 3 after putting 600 miles in 2 pairs of Rivera 1s, and honestly hated the extra stack, sloppy upper, and probably the worst laces of any running shoe ever. Now I'm considering if I should try the Escalante 3, or look for some discounted Rivera 2s.