“A lone peak of high point is a natural focal point in the landscape, something by which both travelers and local orient themselves. In the continuum of landscape, mountains are discontinuity — culminating in high points, natural barriers, unearthly earth.”
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking.
Scan the horizon, any horizon, and the silhouettes of distant peaks against the backdrop of a clear blue sky will almost always churn up feelings of curiosity, adventure and freedom. Well, that is at least the case with us. A lone peak stands out above an otherwise monotonous horizon. It is separated from the rest of the earth, “unearthly earth” as Rebecca Solnit put it. It demands respect. It demands to be feared. It challenges the most hardened of adventurers to come conquer it. Characteristics we have found the new Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 to embody in every way over the last 2 months of rigorous testing.
Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5
We reviewed the previous version Altra Running Superior 2 a while back and found the shoe to be fantastic, there were some issues though that we had with the shoe and we are happy to say that Altra Running have addressed these issues very well. The shoe feels a lot more solid and stable under foot. It is no wonder the Lone Peak 2.5 is the choice of leading Ultra Marathon Runners, some of those runners include Ian Sharman (Leadville 100, 2015 winner), Josh Arthur (US SkyRunning series, 2015 winner) and Jeff Browning (Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji, 2015 third place).
Before we get into the review let’s look at what is new compared to the Lone Peak 2.0
- Redesigned Upper
- Improved Lacing System
- Improved Upper Durability
- Slightly Firmer Midsole
Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5
This shoe really stands out from others in the design of the outsole. The centre lugs are in the shape of a foot and look more like Bear Claws to us than feet. This makes the shoe feel incredibly stable as the points of the outsole that make contact with the trail underneath your feet are digging into the dirt like claws. The multi-directional lugs ensure you have grip whatever the gradient, whether you are going up or down the Outsole gives you a lot of confidence. The Outsole is made up of what Altra call their “Sticky-Rubber TrailClaw”, aptly named as the shoe sticks in dry or wet conditions. One of the issues we found with the Superior 2 was that the grip in wet rocky conditions was almost non-existent. Altra has definitely sorted that out in the Lone Peak 2.5. The other aspect of the lugs that we enjoyed is that they aren’t too deep, so running on hard pack gives you a smooth feedback. Some trail shoes with very deep lugs can get uncomfortable on the hard stuff as you feel the individual lugs under your feet as you run.
In terms of durability we found the Outsole rubber to hold out well on jagged rocky terrain, we didn’t experience any of the lugs being cut off by sharper rocks. All in all we could not fault the Outsole, a seamless design makes it so much a part of the midsole that it is difficult to separate the two while running.
The Midsole of the Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 is where things get exciting for us. A 25mm stack height with Altra’s signature Zero Drop (0mm) heel-to-toe offset is low enough to provide feedback on the technical terrain, yet plush enough to offer some added comfort on the longer runs. One characteristic that puts people off zero drop shoes is the transition from heel to toe while running can feel ‘sluggish’. As your stride adapts to landing on the forefoot your legs work more to continue the momentum through each stride. Picture cutting a pizza with a round pizza cutter and a knife, the knife takes more effort to lift and cut down while the pizza cutter rolls through with ease. Having a larger offset works like the round pizza cutter. A smoother transition from heel to toe. The guys at Altra know this and very cleverly developed what they call ‘A-Bound Technology’ which is built into the top layer of the Midsole. It is merely a built up piece placed under the foot to stimulate that transition while still giving you a zero drop shoe. If you take the insole out and wear the shoe without socks you can clearly feel it under the middle of your foot. The Lone Peak performs and feels like a standard running shoe with an offset but still gives you all the benefits of a shoe that encourages a more natural stride.
One of the great advantages of a more minimal zero drop shoe is that you feel the trail beneath you, it is also one of the big disadvantages as a sharp rock in the arch of your foot is not fun. The Lone Peak 2.5 are somewhere in the middle for us, enough protection through the Rock Gaurd protection plate and the dual layer EVA but still responsive enough to give you feedback as you skip along the trail. Altra Running have stiffened up the midsole of the Lone Peak 2.5 slightly which many runners were requesting, we thought the previous version was perfect in terms of flexibility. We found it now to be a little too stiff but that comes down to personal preference, South Africa trails are far more technical than ones in the States. Having a more flexible sole on the technical terrain can increase stability.
A-Bound Technology built into the Midsole
The body of the Upper is made up of Altra’s Quick-Dry Trail Mesh. A fantastically breathable material that allows water to easily drain out of the shoe when running on a very wet route, one thing we found though is beach running can result in some sand finding its way through the mesh into the shoe. To be fair it was very minimal, it is a fine line to have an Upper that breathes well and still keeps out the debris that the trail throws at the shoe. Durability on the Upper has been drastically improved which was a welcome improvement. The material feels far more robust than that of the Superior 2 Upper.
As with all Altra running shoes the Lone Peak 2.5 has ample room for your toes to open up inside the shoe. Used in conjunction with Injinji Performace Toe Socks you will struggle to find a more stable set up for the trail. The seams inside the shoe have been covered which significantly decreases the amount of friction in the shoe. One really nifty feature of the shoe is the Gaiter Trap that comes standard on the shoe, it is a piece of velcro at the back of the shoe which secures your gaiter perfectly. Visually the Lone Peak 2.5 has also been improved in our books, the contrast of the grey and blue in the pair we tested is striking.
The Altra Running Lone Peak 2.5 stands out in every way possible for us. Calling your shoe the ‘Lone Peak’ is risky as it can have two meanings. On the one hand it could mean separated, lonely, cast out but it could also mean set apart, unique or great. On the horizon of trail running shoes it really is a lone peak clearly visible from the rest. It clearly is unique, set apart and dare we say even great. They are “unearthly earth”, a discontinuity in the continuum of long distance trail running shoes. They demand respect. They demand to be feared and they challenge the most hardened of adventurers to come conquer with them.