Saturday, May 11, 2024

Altra Experience Wild Multi Tester Review: Drop Goes Up, Fast Fun too! 9 Comparisons

Article by Mike Postaski, Jeff Valliere, and Jana Herzgova

Altra Experience Wild ($145)


Introduction

Mike P: Altra’s Experience Wild has taken me completely by surprise. I was aware that Altra has already put out a 4mm drop model (FWD), but I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to it other than just the curiosity about a non-zero drop Altra model. Part of that feeling is the fact that for me, Altra hasn’t really been putting out exciting models or updates in recent cycles. So when I saw that Altra was releasing 3(!) new 4mm drop models, I offered to try out the trail version, more out of curiosity than anything else. 


I know, I know, Altra “fanatics” may decry the “move” to non-zero drop as blasphemous - as a move away from Altra’s true identity. But I would argue that there’s room within their brand to offer up something different - perhaps as an entry point to their core models, or even just as a standalone excellent shoe! 

I’m very glad that I did, because in many ways, the Experience Wild offers something that I’ve been looking for in a running shoe. Read on to find out what exactly that is..  


Pros:

Wide, spacious Altra toebox Mike P/Jeff V /Jana

Solid, comfortable stack at 32/28 mm Mike P/Jeff V/Jana

Rocker design + 4mm drop gives a smooth ride Mike P/Jeff V  /Jana

Drop is unobtrusive Mike P/Jeff V /Jana

Excellent door-to-trail, light-moderate terrain outsole Mike P/Jeff V/Jana

Upper security is surprisingly good for an Altra Jeff V/Jana


Cons:

Upper does not offer much support, security Mike P

Foam doesn’t feel dynamic Mike P/Jeff V/Jana


Most comparable shoes (with your name next to each)

Topo MTN Racer 3

Topo Ultraventure 3

Altra Timp 4*


You will find the testers run bios at the end of the article after Comparisons.


Stats

Approx. Weight: men's  9.55 oz / g (US9) 

Samples: men’s 9.8 oz / 278g US 9.5,  10oz / 284g US 10

Stack Height: men’s 32mm heel / 28mm forefoot (4mm drop spec) 


$145. Available now.



First Impressions, Fit and Upper


Mike P: The fit is very spacious and comfortable. Broad across the forefoot and toebox - definitely true Altra. It’s listed as having Altra’s “standard” footshape, which is the middle width in their spectrum. I’d say that it feels even a touch wider than that, falling somewhere between “standard” and “original” in their chart. I currently have both the Superior 6 and Timp 5 in my rotation, and it’s the widest of the 3. The Timp 5 is close, but its more rigid upper material makes for a snugger fit. 


Speaking of the upper material - Altra goes with a softer mesh here, clearly with an aye more towards comfort than security. If you saw my Quick Take video on YouTube - I did an A/B fit test vs. the Timp 5 and there are clear differences. 



The lace throat of the Wild is narrower, which gives a less secure fit. There’s definitely more volume overall inside the shoe - so those that find the new Timp a bit snug will feel better in the Wild.


Foot security will vary based on your foot volume. High volume feet, that fill up the upper, will feel more secure. For reference, the Superior 6 (Altra’s slim footshape), fits me like a glove. The Timp 5 is a little bigger, but with its rigid upper and wide lace through, it fits me well. The Wild has more volume and a looser upper material, so I struggle to get a solid lockdown in anything more than moderate terrain.

[Plenty of space for a good toe sock]

The tongue is well padded and comfortable. Again, I find that Altra has gone with more comfort-style materials here, with a brushed softness on the interior. 



The interior of the heel is well padded, with interior bolsters along the sides. Heel hold is good. Ankle and achilles collars are soft and secure, at the right height and with no rigid spots. All around, it's a well-executed upper which I don’t foresee causing any comfort issues for anyone.


Jeff: The Experience Wild is a big surprise for me.  While I have always had respect for Altra as a brand, their shoes just have not worked for me on the trails, as I do not mesh well with zero drop.  Also, with a narrow foot and a preference for steep, technical mountain terrain, the signature wide Altra toebox and low “skateboard shoe” heel counter have also not worked well for me and it has been years since I have worn an Altra.  When I heard about the Experience Wild, it looked really promising, with a 4mm drop and a fairly “normal” look to it.

Mike has covered the details well, so I will focus on my experience with fit, foothold and overall performance.  I find the fit to be true to size in my usual size 10, with a secure heel, secure midfoot and I am really pleased with the toebox.  Having a narrow, low volume foot, I am never one to deliberately seek out a shoe with a wide toebox, but when done right, I do enjoy having the extra wiggle room for longer, less technical runs.  


I find the toebox here to be roomy in a just right sort of way, such that my forefoot and toes have plenty of room to spread out, but they do not feel excessively spacious, loose or floppy, as I have experienced with other Altras in the past. 


While the Wild is best suited for long miles on mild to moderate terrain, I have also run them on some very steep and technical trails and found that they do OK with some care.  While my feet are not locked in as they might be with more precise fit shoes, I do feel like I can control them well if I back off the pace just a little bit.  If anything, I feel like the more limiting factor is that the shoe is on the large side and not super nimble when navigating rock gardens, roots and talus.  I have run on days as warm as 80 F / 27 Cand found them to be well ventilated.


Jana: Before I write more,  I have to fully disclose that my experience with Altra shoes, in general, has been really bad. Mainly quality issues, and overall feel and experience. I was naturally skeptical. When I saw Experience Wild with 4mm drop (I had to read it twice myself), I wanted to test them and see what else has changed (besides the drop).

While I have run only about 40 miles in them so far, it is impossible to say at this mileage whether or not the quality has improved - the only two Altra pairs I have ever worn lasted about 80-ish miles each. 


Mark and Jeff summarized well the upper and fit, and my experience is very similar - I’ll add a few of my thoughts. 

The Altra Experience Wild boasts a soft heel cup that conforms to your foot’s shape for a snug fit. Combined with a padded collar and tongue, plus a gentle upper material, it delivers a great comfort. 


The upper, composed of durable mesh with rubber overlays on the toe, offers protection and structure.

Another “issue” for me with Altra shoes has been the wide toe box, causing a lack of tightness and consequently an insecure ride. 

The Experience Wild features closer eyelets and still has a more relaxed fit, making them ideal for easy,  mixed-terrain running. While it excels on firmer smoother trails, it lacks the tightness needed for rougher terrain, allowing for a slight foot movement within the shoe - I have to add here that I have not used the additional eyelet allowing for butterfly lacing to further customize fit - I don’t like my shoes to be laced up that close to my ankle. That additional eyelet may solve the issue for some folks.


Midsole & Platform

Mike P: 4mm drop - I love it! Yes, there it is, I said it. I’ve run and tested shoes of all shapes, sizes, and drops. I do occasionally like running in a natural-feeling zero drop shoe, but as an ultra trail runner, the 4-6mm range is definitely the sweet spot for most runs, especially when you start increasing distance and duration. I do appreciate the “natural” nature of running at zero drop, but in terms of the “market” - it can’t be denied that it’s definitely a niche segment.


4mm hits the right spot here by physically relieving a little bit of that pressure on the lower legs, Achilles, and heel - while at the same time not being entirely noticeable. If you’re an Altra fan, or Altras typically work well for you, but you’re not ideologically committed to zero drop - it’s not a difference that would be drastically noticeable.


There are no details provided on the composition of the midsole It is called out as "compression molded EVA". It is not listed or branded as one of their “EGO” foam varieties. 


Nevertheless, the level of cushion does feel somewhat deep, and at the same time lightweight. This is a feature of Altra’s foams that I’ve come to appreciate - especially in recent Timp models - there’s never a sense of the foam bottoming out. This suits me well especially as a forefoot striker that tends to put most of my impact pressure under the balls of the feet. 


Jeff V:  Mike again sums up the midsole well.  The lightweight compression-molded EVA foam midsole is excellent, striking a good combination of a deep cushioned feel, with just enough firmness for great support and stability, along with a reasonable level of response.  


With the foot shaped upper not making for the most locked in shoe, combined with the lighter tread, the Wild is intended for less technical trails and the midsole is perfect for that purpose,. That said if I am running extended periods of time on rocky technical terrain, I have found my feet getting a bit tired from the flexing (though not any thin feeling, as I never get any pokes or jabs).  


I have not heard of a rock plate in the mix and I don’t think there is one, especially given the less technical intent of the shoe.  While the Wild is not a race shoe, the midsole has enough response for quicker running on moderate, rolling terrain, with a nice assist from the rocker shape design.  The 4mm drop is ideal here and I am thankful that Altra is now offering more options.


Jana: I don’t have anything else to add here, as Mark and Jeff summed it up really well. 


Outsole


Mike P: Altra’s in house Maxtrac compound here - segmented into vertical “fingers” from the midfoot to the toes. There’s of course lots of lateral flex here with the segmentation, and good midfoot flex as there’s a gap in rubber coverage under the arch area. The outsole flexes smoothly and adapts to terrain underfoot. It also rolls smoothly with the rocker geometry and doesn’t get in the way of the ride.


It’s a very versatile outsole that matches the character of the shoe. Good for door-to-trail, light paths and trails, with some range to tackle moderate terrain. Probably not deep enough lugs for more technical terrain, but I think the shoe itself would be more of a limiting factor than the outsole. 

Jeff V: Like Mike said, the outsole is versatile and ideal for door to trail, light terrain, up to moderate terrain.  I have run on more rocky technical trails as well as some steep, loose off trail, wet conditions, packed snow and I did not feel all that limited (though I was already slowed some because of the limitations of the upper).  

The lateral flex grooves allow the shoe to flex and contour well over uneven terrain, providing very good ground feel.  This flexibility is an asset most of the time, but if you find yourself negotiating rocky trails, rock gardens and talus hopping for extended periods, your feet may feel a bit worked over and tired from the flexing (though again, that is not what this shoe is made for, so more of a cautionary note than a knock).


Either way, I found grip to be surprisingly good, even when I find myself in tricky situations from time to time, but I certainly would not pick the Wild when I know footing will be steep, technical and loose for extended periods.


Jana:  The outsole of the Altra Experience Wild seems to be durable. The lugs are designed to provide a smooth ride on hard surfaces, while still offering traction on softer terrain. They offer a reliable grip in wet and dry conditions and are durable enough for occasional road use.


Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations


Mike P: The rocker geometry of the Wild is really nice and smooth on the run. I’d say it’s a great match for the 4mm drop - the shoe transitions very smoothly. The wide forefoot, with ample cushion, and nice balanced feel is just a joy to run in. I love the sensation of my forefoot spreading out to absorb impact and at the same time being a bit insulated from any harshness from the ground.

I mentioned in the intro that the Wild is something I’ve been looking for in a shoe (road or trail) for a long time. I tend to favor a balanced shoe and ride, and in a lot of cases I’m also looking for a good amount of cushion. For example - I recently did a Backyard Ultra and attempted a 48H looped race. In those instances, cushion and comfort is king, but at the same time I still would love a smooth ride and don’t want to be stuck dragging around a lot of extra weight in order to meet the cushion needs. 


If I had them then, the  Experience Wild would have been a perfect fit for those scenarios. At 9.8 oz / 278g  in my US 9.5, it’s a reasonable weight given the 32/28mm stack. It also rides lighter since the shoe is so balanced - the weight of the shoe and the foam is distributed evenly under the foot, with the heel being more streamlined - no excessive heel flare or extra chunky heel weight. As a midfoot striker, this really suits my stride well. I think it would also work well for heel strikers - as long as you have good form and land under your body.


The one area where the shoe is lacking, would be moderate/technical or steep/twisty terrain. The upper is just a bit too relaxed and the foothold is a bit lacking once you get twisting and turning. On steep descents I also noticed a bit of foot sliding. I get the sense that Altra is focusing on the easier end of the trail segment for this type of “entry” low drop shoe. Perhaps they’ll gauge the response, and then go from there.


Overall, the new Altra ``Experience” is a clear win for me. The Wild will be a go-to shoe in my rotation for easy/crusy days. I’ll also surely reach for this one if any multi-day events come up. Foot Shape  toebox, smooth cushion minus the heel chunk, no lower leg stress.. What’s not to like?

Mike P’s Score:  9.58 / 10

Ride: 10 - Smooth, balanced, cushioned

Fit: 9 - Perhaps a bit more foothold, but leans more towards comfort

Value: 10 - I’ll be putting many, many miles in these

Style: 10 - Love the orange look, especially in my home terrain

Traction: 9.5 - Versatile in all but the high technical end

Rock Protection: 9.5 - Lots of foam absorbs most gravel small rocks where I’d take these

Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊


Jeff V:  Mike sums it up perfectly!  The Experience Wild was a real pleasant surprise for me and has earned a spot in my rotation for easier days on less technical trails.  5 or so years ago while visiting the Altra booth at Outdoor Retailer, I asked if they had plans to ever offer options like a more “normal” fit and some drop?  I was laughed out of the booth after such nonsensical questions, but it seems like I may not have been the only one looking for this and am glad they are coming around.  


While the fit may not be “normal” and still Altra, for my narrow foot, it is much more reasonable and at least able to provide enough security and support to be able to run on moderately technical trails and also be able to navigate more technical trails without complete fright.  The added room in the forefoot is an asset vs. a liability.  


The ride is very smooth, with an easy and efficient transition, making them perfect for just cruising long easy training miles, but are light and responsive enough to step up the pace a little bit.  Cushioning is soft yet supportive and ample for full days on your feet. The Experience Wild is a delight and I look forward to more “alternative” models from Altra. 

Jeff V’s Score 9.5/10

Ride: 10 - Smooth, easy, efficient, well cushioned

Fit: 9 - Hard for me to dock points here, but could still be a little more secure without sacrificing comfort

Value: 10 - a fair price for a solid, versatile shoe

Style: 9.5 - The white/orange colorway is quite sharp looking

Traction: 9.5 - Very good for intended purpose and versatile

Rock Protection: 9 - Great for intended purpose

Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊

Jana: I have to say that I have been enjoying this model quite a bit. Its soft cushioning is forgiving on hard surfaces like roads and packed trails, absorbing bumps well. While not ideal for challenging and rough terrain, the Experience Wild is an ideal shoe for anyone who likes to run from the front steps and hit some trails as well. It’s the very first Altra shoe that I have added into my rotation. Looking forward to comfy long miles!

Jana’s Score 9.5/10

Ride: 10 - Smooth, easy, efficient, well cushioned

Fit: 9 - deduction due to lower secure feel on more challenging terrain

Value: 10 - a fair price for a solid, versatile shoe

Style: 9.5 - I like the style and colorway

Traction: 9.5 - Very good for intended purpose and versatile

Rock Protection: 9 - Great for intended purpose

Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊


9 Comparisons


Altra Superior 6 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The Superior uses Altra’s “slim” fit, which really hugs my foot well. But many Altra runners find the Superior to be too narrow and shallow in the toebox, and I can see that being the case. The foam feels similar to the Wild, perhaps a little denser, but there’s less of it, and you definitely have more ground feel. The zero drop is noticeable, so I don’t often run in them, but they’re an everyday casual shoe, and hiking shoe for me. I’ve put a lot of miles in them and continue to use them. Clearly the case where the extra cushion of the Wild plus the 4mm drop makes them much more usable as a running shoe for me.


Altra Timp 4, 5 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The Wild feels very, very close to the Timp 4 - in terms of volume in the upper as well as feeling of the foam underfoot. The Timp 4 foam was a bit more dynamic though. Both shoes struggled with foothold, but the Wild outsole is actually better than the Timp 4’s. Timp 5 is now more dialed in and responsive, a much better shoe for all terrain including technical. Timp 5 feels more responsive, but the zero drop could be a limiting factor for some. I’d love to see a Timp/Wild mashup with a 4mm drop!


Topo MTN Racer 3 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Altra seems to be responding to the rise of Topo with their new Experience lineup. Foots haped toebox with a moderate drop has been Topo’s calling card. Many of my feelings about the two brands hold true in this comp. I like the Altra foam better, it feels a bit sturdier, less bottoming out, and inherent softness. But the Topo clearly wins in upper security - midfoot hold is much better in the MTN Racer model, and you still have the wide toebox, with no foot sliding. Hopefully Topo comes up with a response of better foams and/or more TPU insole integration as they are starting to do.


Jeff V (10): Agreed with Mike, the Topo has a more secure upper and is more competent on technical trails, aided also by a better treaded and sticky outsole.  I think the Altra midsole might be more supportive and resilient for longer distances, but the Topo midsole is more performance oriented.


Topo Ultraventure 3 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): This shoe from Topo matches up more with the Wild in terms of target terrain. The UV is one of the best easy-moderate cruisers out there right now and especially for me. The big cushion stack, smooth ride, and comfortable 5mm drop makes it a go-to shoe. Now with a 4mm drop, the Wild really matches up well here. Again, I think Altra’s foam feels better underfoot, and I also think the Wild’s rocker geometry is a bit smoother. But also again, the UV, despite being quite wide (wider than the MTN Racer 3), still wins in midfoot hold and security. Topo has that aspect dialed.

Jeff V (10): Agreed with Mike on all points, though I lean towards the Altra for most runs, as it feels more stable and in touch with the ground, where I found the Ultraventure to be a bit bulky and less stable.


Hoka Speedgoat (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The SG clearly wins in the technical department with a more dialed in fit and technical terrains suited outsole. I’m throwing this comp out since many runners also use the SG on easy/moderate days due to its relative light weight and high cushion. IMO the Wild stacks up very well against the SG in those scenarios, and many runners should now consider the Altra for those cases. The SG has a restrictive toebox, and just doesn’t work for me (haven’t tried V6 yet but Jeff has below). As long as you don’t have a narrow foot, I think many runners would benefit from letting the foot spread out in a shoe like the Wild.

Jeff V (10): Mike hits the main points.  The Speedgoat  6, while not wide in the toebox, is slightly more forgiving than previous models and is superior in technical terrain in every regard (traction, foothold, protection underfoot), but if you want a more relieved fit and easy all day cruising on less tech terrain, the Altra is the better choice.


Brooks Cascadia 17 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The Brooks is a bit more of an all-around mountain shoe, but Altra does list it as a competitor in its spec sheet. I just don’t see that though - the Brooks is way heavier (+2 oz in my US 9.5), and really more suited towards mid-level terrain and above. It’s all around heavier both under the foot, as well as in the upper. It just feels clunkier in comparison to the lighter, smoother Wild. But the Wild can’t match the foothold so it’s really limited to lighter terrain.

Jeff V (10): Agreed with Mike. The Cascadia is great and better on more technical terrain, but it’s weight is getting excessive and is better for slower running or mountain hiking.


ON Cloudsurfer Trail (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The ON is a very nice shoe, with a unique cushioned feel. It’s also limited to lighter terrain due to its outsole and not very good stability. The ON clearly feels like a heel-oriented shoe, with big soft cushion under the heel, tapering off towards the ball of the foot and especially the toes. I like the feel of the ride, but side-by-side with the Wild, I appreciate the wide forefoot of the Altra much more. The Cloudsurfer Trail really tapers at the toes too, which is noticeable. The ON also has a 7mm drop which feels much higher than the Wild’s 4mm.


Nike Zegama 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): If we’re talking about back-weighted, heel chunk, the Zegama 2 is probably the king in this department. ZoomX foam feels really, really good underfoot, and really, really soft. If that’s all you need to hear, I’d suggest you go for them. But a lot of that ZoomX is located in the back half of the shoe, even extending out to the sides and out from the back of the heel. If you like or want to mash the heel, this is the shoe for you. The Wild is clearly the opposite, with a much more streamlined heel, and with the wider forefoot, more foam located up front. Wild is also 1.2 oz lighter in my size. The Zegama does have better foothold from the upper, despite its high, soft stack.

Jeff V (10): Agreed with Mike again.  I find the Altra better in all regards, as I never bonded with the Zegama in any way and even for my narrow foot, the Zegama really confined my forefoot, to the point of discomfort.  


Salomon Genesis (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Comparing the “regular” Genesis version here - it’s a more versatile, all mountain shoe. The foam feels similarly cushioned to the Wild and its 8mm drop doesn’t feel that high. At 9.2 oz, the Genesis really packs a value punch in terms of versatility, cushion, and light weight. The only “problem” I have with the shoe is that the toebox is slightly narrow at the toes. For normal/narrow feet this could be a non-issue. If not for that tiny narrowness, I could probably use the Genesis as an everyday shoe. The Wild is not as responsive, and not as versatile in moderate/technical terrain, but definitely wins in terms of comfort. So I would still go with the Wild for everyday easy runs, especially in flatter/rolling grades.


Jeff V (10):  Agreed with Mike again.  The Genesis is my choice for any run moderately technical and above, with overall better performance, but the Altra’s relaxed nature is better for more casual trails and long cruiser miles where comfort is the priority.


The Altra Experience Wild and its road focused siblings Form and Flow are available now at our partners below.


Tester Profiles

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to 100+ mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. From 2022-23 Mike has won the Standhope 100M, IMTUF 100M, and Scout Mountain 100M trail ultras. He also set a CR of 123.74M at the Pulse Endurance Runs 24H and completed the Boise Trails Challenge on foot in 3 days 13 hours, besting the previous record by 7 hours. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.


Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.


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

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