Altra King MT 2 - Women's Review
Cons: Potential durability issues, high price, zero drop design may not be for everybody
Our Analysis and Test Results
This year, the Altra King MT has been completely updated, and it's even better than before! The upper has been redesigned with a reinforced harness that locks the arch into place, and a thicker overlay exists around the toe box to improves durability (so far from what we've seen). The fit in the toe box feels wider than before, which we appreciate as this was a major caveat with the previous iteration. We also love the updated outsole that has smaller, sharper, and more aggressive chevron lugs that bite down on sloppier surfaces better than ever. The result? Better fitting, more durable, and better performance.
The King MT 2 is a zero-drop trail running with an aggressive outsole and a minimal amount of underfoot cushioning. It stands out for its ability to carry you for short to long distances (think ultramarathons) with comfort. A wonderful mountain runner, it'll take you effortlessly over technical terrain if you prefer a more sensitive ride.
It offers foot protection in the form of a thicker outsole, rock plate, with 19mm of underfoot cushioning. The Altra Ego cushioning is high density with a responsive spring. When running on trails littered with sharp rocks, we could feel the rocks but did not experience any pain.
While a thicker midsole, this is essentially a thicker barrier between you and underfoot trail hazards. Overall, we would call this a protective trail shoe, but it's not the best. Given its thinner design, there are far more protective options out there that use a thicker midsole and a burlier rock plate. The toe bumper in the front is also quite flexible, which doesn't protect the best from rock stubs.
We wore this shoe while running a-many trails in the late Fall; these trails were typically snow-covered, sun pocketed, with undulations and rocks everywhere. On these runs, we could feel every rock and undulation underfoot. While they offer just the right amount of protection, these bad girls are ultra-sensitive, as well. Not as sensitive as a barefoot shoe, but pretty close.
We love this outsole. Built with Vibram rubber, it holds onto dry rocks like no other. The lugs are deep and chevroned shape, resembling the outsole of our Top Pick for Traction, but not as long. On snowy runs, we got to really test the traction and slip to full capacity. What we've noticed, especially on icier roads with a little snow overtop, is it grabs without the shoe slipping back. It also does well in mud, shedding it readily without accumulating a "mud pie" on the outsole.
On dry terrain loaded with sand, dirt, or other types of surfaces, it does well. It stomps through deeper sand with ease, while floating over easier terrain. The lugs aren't long enough or soft enough to really abrade on the pavement, so it can handle the odd road run on a trail adventure.
With a low stack height and wide forefoot, we feel stable while running in it. Its upper is not rigid but flexible but has a stability harness that maintains the shape of it when twisting around rocks on technical terrain. Its light weight allows you to lift your legs easily so as not to accidentally trip or stub your toe. The collar wraps around the ankle nicely, while the Velcro strap locks the foot in whenever you need it. Stable? Yup!
Comfort and Fit
This is a trail shoe you can wear on a fast training run or during your next ultramarathon. The underfoot cushioning is responsive and high density with a bit of cushion. Its zero-drop design makes it a better choice for mid and forefoot strikers as there's not enough cushion in the heel to protect heel strikers. The fit is quite specific. The heel cup is small, which wraps around the Achilles nicely, with a cushion on the Achilles.
The upper on the collar is thin while the tongue is long enough to pull out and adjust as you please. With a flexible upper, especially around the widest part of the foot, there's a little give for those who need a wider fit. With some breaking in, it will adhere to your foot perfectly. We also love the Velcro strap that brings the upper together laterally to offer an even more specific fit on the trail. The lace eyelets are placed wide enough apart that you can really cinch it down if you have an especially narrow foot; or, you can loosen it up if your foot is wide.
This is a lightweight shoe (9.2 ounces, size nine) that hardly feels there when you run. On the trail, we feel light and ready to tackle the steep slopes without a problem. While it does a good at wicking away moisture, it, unfortunately, takes a little more time to dry when wet, saturating easily and feeling heavier. Thank goodness for its drainage holes in the front of the shoe that makes water escape easy.
Those that will find the most value in this shoe are those who seek a lightweight, wide-footed option with an aggressive outsole that can go almost anywhere. Altra users know of the reputation associated with the construction of this shoe. They can break down after about 200-300 miles, depending on how heavy you are, and how you use them. In our experience, the King MT's haven't lasted that long; we're lucky if they make it to 200 miles.
The blow out zone (for us) has been around the edges of the upper; however, in this update, there is more reinforcement in this zone. We've only put about 60 miles on these with positive results, so we hope they will last longer than in the past. That said, given the high investment price, we'd say the value is there if this is exactly what you've wanted in a trail shoe. Many Altra users know and accept the high price, and low mileage, simply because of the on-trail performance when they work well, is exceptional and unparalleled. Stay tuned for updates on durability as the years go on.
The Altra King MT 2 is built for those who appreciate a sensitive shoe with mega-traction and a zero-drop design. It's perfect for all types of terrain, from pavement to mud traps to your next spartan race. Just be wary of its predecessors' poor durability; a trait that Altra is known for, unfortunately, in the trail running community.
— Amber King