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Altra Lone Peak 3.5 - Women's Review

A trail shoe best for those seeking forefoot freedom on the foothills to the mountains.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $120 List | $59.83 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Ultra wide toe box, zero drop and cushioned platform, great traction, better breathability, close-to-the-ground feel
Cons:  Slippery on wet, moss laden rocks, no extra heel cushioning, lacks arch support
Manufacturer:   Altra
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 14, 2017
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75
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot protection - 25% 8
  • Traction - 25% 6
  • Stability - 15% 8
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 9
  • Weight - 10% 7
  • Sensitivity - 10% 7

The Skinny

Whether you're floating down groomed single track or tackling the steepest switchbacks in the highest mountains, the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 is a quality trail running shoe that can take you anywhere you please. We logged over 200 miles in the high rocky mountains and the humid lowlands of the Bruce Trail in Ontario, Canada to see how they stand up to the rest of the competition. Featuring a robust combination of stand-out protection, a zero drop from the forefoot to the feel and an ultra wide toe box that doesn't compare to any other, this is our Top Pick for Wide Feet (and has been for the last three years).

These combined features make this shoe a great option for those seeking out a shoe that allows them to spread their toes or for those looking to transition to or from barefoot running. If you're interested in a wide shoe but you prefer a little extra cushion in the heel, be sure to check out the Saucony Peregrine 7 - Women's. It has a 4 mm heel-toe drop with a toe box that is wide in comparison to the rest, but a little narrower than the Altra Lone Peak 3.5. Because there is limited cushioning in the heel, it is highly recommended for forefoot and midfoot strikers, otherwise, injury can ensue.

To add to this sweet, sweet package, the MaxTracTM rubber outsole is durable and aggressive, providing average trail running traction on most surfaces - with the exception of super slippery rocks. While the traction is great, it doesn't compare to the burly and aggressive lugs of the Salomon Speedcross 4 - Women's that is best for soft surfaces and has a narrower fit, but it still does well over most surfaces. To put a cherry on top, the Lone Peaks feature a comfortable 25 mm of cushioning that keeps feet comfortable on long days while the sandwiched StoneGuard rock plate provides additional protection on sharp, rocky terrain.

The Lone Peak's are a unique trail runner with many 'barefoot' features and more protection. In addition, this year's model added a more breathable fabric that is stretchier and silkier than last year's model - bonus! In all, whether you like to tackle just three miles at the end of the day or if you're an ultra-distance champion, the Altra Lone Peak 3.5, our Top Pick for Wide Feet, is a comfortable option that frees your forefoot through the foothills to the mountains.

Searching for some extra protection?
An exciting addition to the Altra lineup is the new Lone Peak 3.5 NeoShell Mid, a mid-rise, water resistant, hiking boot-esque Lone Peak variation. With the same base as the Lone Peak we love, the NeoShell Mid has a "taller, waterproof upper" and "enhanced toe cap protection," all for the increased price of $160. While we haven't tried these out ourselves, we think they may be a great fit for thru-hikers and fast-packers alike.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The Lone Peak 3.5 won our Top Pick for Wide Feet because it features the widest toe box tested. If you're in the market for a versatile shoe with a wide toe box designed for running long or short distances over a gauntlet of surfaces, this might be the right choice for you!

Performance Comparison


Our Top Pick for Wide Feet is an all terrain warrior best for the trail runner that wants to spread their toes while experiencing protection and comfort on the trail.
Our Top Pick for Wide Feet is an all terrain warrior best for the trail runner that wants to spread their toes while experiencing protection and comfort on the trail.

Any zero drop shoe, like the Lone Peak 3.5, requires a transition shoe or a period for your calves to get used to the extra strain of not having any additional support in the form of cushioning. If you plan on giving the zero drop shoes a go, try them carefully and follow the 'training instructions' on the box.

Foot Protection


While running through the Rocky mountains and the humid lowlands of the Boreal Forest, we exposed this shoe to every surface possible. Sand, fine dirt, gravel, loose rock, streams, sharp rocks, and more. The Altra Lone Peak 3.5 earned an eight of ten in this category due to its great protective features. It's a great trail shoe option for super technical terrain that lasts everywhere from an hour to multiple days.


The exterior mesh is breathable keeping our feet fresh and dry after 20 miles of hot, humid running. The upper mesh is locked down - not allowing small particulates into the shoe. The moderate cushioning and rock plate keeps feet well protected from sharp rocks and other trail hazards over longer distances - even over consecutive days on the trail. The hard toe cap protects toes from nasty stubs, providing even better protection. With all these features, feet are well protected on the trail.

The updated upper is more flexible and breathable than the Lone Peak 3.0. In addition  we liked the additional drainage holes that allows water to escape easily if the shoe gets completely immersed in water. The overlay gives the shoe structure and lateral stability.
The updated upper is more flexible and breathable than the Lone Peak 3.0. In addition, we liked the additional drainage holes that allows water to escape easily if the shoe gets completely immersed in water. The overlay gives the shoe structure and lateral stability.

While this shoe is very protective, it is not as protective as our Editor's Choice winner, the inov-8 305 Roclite 305 GTX. This shoe features a GORE-TEX overlay, that keeps feet dry in all wet conditions - even river crossings. The Lone Peak 3.5 features drainage holes in the upper mesh that allows the shoe to drain water quickly. Also, it quickly dries when running in warmer temperatures, but it is by no means waterproof. Alternatively, if you're looking for a little less in the way of protection, check out the Salming Elements, a shoe that doesn't offer any cushion, rock plate, or much in the way of foot protection.

In addition to great foot protection, the Lone Peak 3.5 features a four-point gaiter adaption system that allows you to use a trail gaiter. This is an excellent protective accessory for running in tall grasses or through sandy environments.

A look at the gaiter system. The velco flap at the back is a little bigger then the previous versions of the Lone Peak 3.0.
A look at the gaiter system. The velco flap at the back is a little bigger then the previous versions of the Lone Peak 3.0.

Traction


The Lone Peak 3.5 features a "trail claw" with a hard and durable rubber that sticks to most surfaces. The outsole features hexagon-shaped lugs that grab the trail in every direction. So far, the outsole has been durable with just a little sign of wear after running 200 miles in the forefoot of the outsole.


We tested it over many trail surfaces, and during our tests, it did great on most surfaces except super slippery rocks. We found that we had to slow down or even stop while running over moss-laden rocks with a layer or moisture. While this was a little frustrating, you'd be hard-pressed to find a shoe that sticks to those surfaces. The closest one that we can recommend is the La Sportiva Bushido - Womens that features a super sticky rubber outsole. Other than that, the durable MaxTrac outsole has proven burlier and better than many other outsoles out there. It grabs wet surfaces better than any other Altra shoe tested. In the past, we saw lugs wearing down after roughly 100 miles of use. However, we have only observed some wear after 200 miles of running. This is a HUGE improvement over previous models.

This MaxTrac durable outsole is aggressive  biting down on even the most technical surfaces.
This MaxTrac durable outsole is aggressive, biting down on even the most technical surfaces.

We found its traction to be similar to the Nike Air Terra Kiger 4 - Women's, but not nearly as good as the inov-8 305 GTX or our Top Pick for Sloppy Surfaces - the Salomon Speedcross 4.

Stability


The appeal of a zero drop shoe with a wide toe box is stability and sensitivity on the trail. With a stack height of 25 mm, this shoe is a little more stable than its predecessor (the Lone Peak 3.0) and one of the most stable trail shoes in this review.


It earns an eight out of ten because of the wide toe box which allows the toes to splay; providing the runner with better balance and stability overall. It loses a couple of points because the higher stack height feels less stable than a shoe with less cushioning, like the Salming Elements.

The zero-drop design and wide forefoot provides great stability on the trail.
The zero-drop design and wide forefoot provides great stability on the trail.

Comfort & Fit


Many runners with a narrow toe box felt like this shoe was a little too loose. Getting used to spreading your toes may feel weird at first, but you may come around. Make sure the ball of your heel fits well and try it before you buy it!


What a relief it is to wear shoes with zero drop, a spacious toe box, AND moderate cushioning! In comparison to other shoes out there, there is no other shoe that provides such a high level of cushioning and comfort, in addition to such a wide toe box. This is the reason we gave this shoe our "Top Pick for Wide Feet"! The heel fit is snug and opens up towards the front, which allowed our toes to wiggle free through long and short runs. Some of our testers reported that the fit isn't as snug as other shoes tested; some liked this while other didn't. In general, this shoe is true to fit.

The wide toe box is the trademark of the Altra shoe. Providing ample room for toes to wiggle around. That said  if you've run in previous models like the Altra Lone Peak 2.0 or 2.5  you'll notice the toe box has gotten a touch more narrow.
The wide toe box is the trademark of the Altra shoe. Providing ample room for toes to wiggle around. That said, if you've run in previous models like the Altra Lone Peak 2.0 or 2.5, you'll notice the toe box has gotten a touch more narrow.

We found that the new laces in this model weren't quite long enough to stay tied up for longer runs, but it's easy to switch out laces. Also, the fit of this new model is similar to the Lone Peak 3.0 except the upper is a little more stretchy. Many of our testers liked this new addition that made the comfort and fit of this shoe better and more versatile.

It's important to identify that this is a zero drop shoe. If you've never used such a shoe before, it's important to engage in proper training. Not doing so can result in sore muscles and possible injury. Also, women who wear it should adhere to the minimalist philosophy, striking only with the forefoot or midfoot. If you're a heel striker and in the market for a comfortable shoe, check out the Brooks Cascadia 12 - Women's instead. Learn more about zero drop running here.

Weight


We tested a lot of lightweight options, including the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4 - Women's at 8.55 ounces, the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 4 at 8.9 ounces, and the Salming Elements at 8.65 ounces.


The Lone Peak 3.5 weighs in at 9.65 oz. Another nice change to this model is the upper, making it a little lighter than before! It absorbs roughly 3.7 oz of water when wet and dries fairly quickly on the trail. The new drainage system allows the shoe to dry and drain better than before. As a result, it's a good option for river crossings or wet days on the trail. Just avoid using it on trails that have super wet and mossy rocks as the outsole doesn't grab so well to this surface.

Sensitivity


Similar to the Saucony Peregrine 7 and the New Balance Leadville v3 - Women's the Lone Peak offers decent sensitivity. With the added cushioning of this model, it is not as sensitive as the La Sportiva Bushido, but you can feel the trail without being so intimate that it hurts your feet.


Best Applications


With its wonderful performance, this shoe is best for all sorts of distances and all types of trails. We also recommend it for folks looking to transition to or from barefoot or minimalist running, or for those looking for a little more protection with the same toe splay benefits of a barefoot shoe. That said it does have some limitations because of its unique design. It is best for forefoot or midfoot strikers, but unlike traditional shoes, this shoe does not feature a whole lot of cushion in the heel and could cause joint problems for heel strikers. If you are a heel striker, consider a more traditional shoe like the Brooks Cascadia 12 or the ASICS Kahana- 8. Take it trail running, hiking, or wear it around town!

Running the Bridge of Heaven trail in the San Juan mountains is made even better with the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 shoes. Providing great comfort on the steep switchbacks  these trail shoes will have you running for mile after mile.
Running the Bridge of Heaven trail in the San Juan mountains is made even better with the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 shoes. Providing great comfort on the steep switchbacks, these trail shoes will have you running for mile after mile.

Value


We think the price point is right on the money at $120.00. The only thing to consider is how long this shoe will last. The main author is a long time owner of the Altra Lone Peak models; with older versions, she noticed breakdowns and blow outs after just 100 - 150 miles. She found herself buying 2-3 pairs a year with the mileage she accumulated. In comparison, the Lone Peak 3.5 outsole and upper has proven to be FAR more durable than in the past; after 200 miles of running and hiking in this shoe, we hardly see any wear and tear, except for a few lugs shaving down. This just adds to the value of the shoe - making it a better option concerning the mileage you'll get out of it.

Conclusion


This Top Pick for Wide Feet features a unique combination that no other shoe can match. The widest forefoot out there (other than a barefoot shoe) that accommodates toe splay, zero drop technology, and great all around protection. Run for miles - this shoe will truly make you feel like you can fly down (and up) all trails out there.

Enjoying a snack and the view. The main author is pictured here in her favorite trail shoe  and the Top Pick for Wide Feet - the Altra Lone Peak 3.5.
Enjoying a snack and the view. The main author is pictured here in her favorite trail shoe, and the Top Pick for Wide Feet - the Altra Lone Peak 3.5.


Amber King