The Lone Peak 3.5 is a nicely cushioned shoe that features Altra's zero-drop platform. It has a significant 25mm of EVA foam cushioning underfoot that gives it a springy and responsive ride but maintains a healthy amount of sensitivity and trail feel. With this small update, Altra has changed the fabric of the upper, such that it is supposedly more durable and also has added moisture wicking liner material to the inside, as well as an overlay re-patterning. As the most traditionally cushioned shoe in Altra's trail lineup, the Lone Peak is one of the most popular shoes available on the market today. Despite this, we found that in our comparative testing, it garnished merely average scores for almost every metric, landing it near the bottom of our overall scoring. While we think this is a quality shoe with some good attributes, it wasn't the best of our elite selection of trail running shoes.
Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Review
Cons: Wide fit throughout makes it hard to lock down the foot, very poor grip on rock and wet rock, high stack height makes it less stable
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Compared to the Altra Superior 3.5, this shoe is comfortable and quite cushy. It has an extra 4mm of EVA foam added to its zero-drop stack, clocking in at 25mm throughout. While many shoes have nearly this much material underfoot in the heel, this proved to be the single largest stack for the forefoot of a shoe. Although the issues we noticed were different than the Superior 3.5, we also found this to be a poorly fitting shoe. For starters, it is the shortest size 11 we tested, with our toes touching the front of the shoe, an issue that was not changed from the 3.0 to 3.5 release. And while we liked the wide forefoot that gives our metatarsals room to spread out upon landing, we noticed that this shoe simply stayed wide throughout — in both the arch as well as the heel — leading to a pretty poor fit. These issues combined with below average traction and average performance in most of our other testing metrics led it to be ranked near the bottom of our selection.
The Lone Peak 3.5 has a midsole made up of dual layered EVA foam throughout and no rock plate. Much like the maximally cushioned HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 4, it feels springy underfoot and when it is fresh even aids the runner with a little bouncy rebound. However, there is far less of this foam in this shoe than in the Challenger ATR 4, and thus much more of the texture and obstacles on the trail can still be felt while running.
We have also noticed that the foam seems to break down relatively quickly, transitioning to a firmer feel underfoot that offers even less protection and more sensitivity. So while this shoe seems to have a lot of protective cushioning underfoot, we feel that this sensation is slightly misleading. The upper on the other hand has copious amounts of suede fabric overlays that protect all of the most likely impact points. Overall, we gave it 7 out of 10 points for foot protection, which was right in line with the best traditional shoe in this review, the Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4.
The outsole on this shoe is made up of moderately deep hexagonal lugs that are well spaced apart. While they feel pretty sticky to the touch, we, in fact, found them to be very poor at gripping rock and wet rock compared to the competition.
We first experienced this while scrambling on exposed alpine ridges in Colorado and were sure to later verify it both with our comparative traction tests and by comparing notes with other users. Worth noting for those runners that stick exclusively to trails is that we found that it grips just fine to dirt and muddy surfaces. On the whole, we ranked it pretty low for traction, a smidge better than the shallow, firm outsole of the Brooks Caldera, but nowhere close to as good as the best overall trail running shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4.
While we certainly appreciate the advantages inherent in a zero drop design, we felt that regarding stability these were offset by a poor fit that allowed a lot of foot movement, as well as the very high stack height removing our foot from close contact with the ground. In particular, the wide fit in the forefoot of this shoe didn't narrow down as it went back, and simply stayed wide through the midfoot and heel. This translated to us having problems with our foot slipping around, and our only method of correction was to crank the laces down so tight that they became uncomfortable on top of our feet. Similarly to the Superior 3.5, our foot was also prone to sliding forward and bashing our toes in the front of the shoe. Considering we had similar problems with both Altra shoes we tested, we surmise that perhaps they don't fit our head testers feet well, so be your judge. But compared to other shoes that also had a wide forefoot and were very stable, like the Terra Kiger 4, there wasn't much comparison.
There is no doubt that this shoe is far more comfortable than the Superior 3.5. It is very well padded on all sides, especially around the heel and ankle, making the foot feel comfortably ensconced in love. However, as we have mentioned, it runs very short, and we strongly recommend that you size up when purchasing this shoe. As we have already mentioned, the extra wide midfoot and heel also present problems regarding fit, which we were unable to overcome comfortably. In our water bucket test, we found that they absorb slightly more than most shoes, and also retain water a little more as well, although not egregiously enough for us to consider penalizing the comfort score.
Compared to other shoes, we found that these were about as comfortable as the Saucony Peregrine 7, which had a few internal friction points, and The North Face Ultra Endurance, which also suffered from needing the laces to be tightened to the point of discomfort. 6 out of 10 points.
Our pair of size 11 men's shoes weighed in at 22.8 ounces, pretty much average for this review. Considering the amount of material in the upper, and the thickness of the midsole, this is honestly not super heavy, and they don't feel clunky or heavy when running. Paradoxically, they weighed very close to the same as the Inov-8 Roclite 290, a far more low profile shoe, but were a bit heavier than the very burly Brooks Caldera.
Much like we found to be the case with the Saucony Peregrine 7, this shoe retained a surprising and refreshing amount of sensitivity for having so much material underfoot. This is because it does not have a rock plate and rather relies solely on foam for cushioning, which compresses underfoot when landing and allows for some great trail feel. We awarded it 8 out of 10 points, making this its most reliable attribute, in line with the performance of the much lower profile New Balance Vazee Summit v2.
This shoe is the best fit for those runners who are dead set on a zero drop shoe but appreciate more cushioning and protection underfoot. It would also work a lot better for people with wide to very wide feet. Regarding terrain, we feel like it will serve well for your standard trail running, but its traction and fit are a liability off trail and on severely rocky terrain.
These shoes retail for $120. This makes them roughly average for a trail running shoe today. We feel that this presents questionable value, given the wonky fit and relatively low comparative performance, but we know countless runners who continue to buy these shoes regardless because of their zero drop.
The Altra Lone Peak 3.5 is a zero drop shoe built on a relatively fat stack of EVA foam cushioning. Since it is a shoe that hits a sweet spot that many trail runners today are looking for, it is very popular. However, in our comparative testing we found the fit and sizing to be quite off, and its performance relative to the best trail running shoes on the market today, tested in this review, to be fairly low.
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Most recent review: September 11, 2017
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