The Altra Lone Peak 4.5 are possibly the world's most popular zero drop trail running shoe, but have been plagued with inconsistencies for years. The latest update is no different. A notable change has been made to the midsole foam that makes it feel far stiffer, but also more resilient, durable, and protective. The previous versions had very soft and cushy foam that was a dream for walking or hanging out in, but quickly compressed and afforded little underfoot protection when running. We think the new foam will serve runners far better, but this step forward is offset by a couple of disappointing steps back — specifically an overly tight fit in the midfoot and a poor heel design that rubs and blisters. The net effect is a shoe that is hard to wear, love, or recommend.
Altra Lone Peak 4.5 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Zero drop, protective underfoot, stable
Cons: Heavy, tight in the midfoot, badly rubbing heel
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Lone Peak 4.5 sits in the middle of Altra's trail running shoe lineup, in between the light and thin Superior 4 and the beefier Timp 2. For years it has been a very comfortable, super cushy shoe that is well loved, especially by hikers and thru-hikers. Despite the love, it has also long suffered from short life spans due to early compression of its overly soft midsole foam, and a sloppy fitting upper that we weren't in love with for trail running. With the 4.5, Altra set out to fix these issues, tweaking the midsole foam compound to be more "resilient," while also tightening up the fit considerably, especially in the midfoot. It has a StoneGuard Rockplate sandwiched into the midsole, sticky and grippy traction, and accommodations for Altra's trail gaiters.
While the 4.5 remains cosmetically the same as the 4.0, the fact is this shoe feels drastically different from the moment you put it on. The new foam is far stiffer and less squishy and forgiving underfoot. The fit is also changed quite a bit, with a high instep, and a low volume design over the top of the foot and the laces. Lastly, the heel pull tab is harder to get a finger through, and there are only a front ring and rear Velcro patch for gaiters, rather than the four-points for attachment like in previous versions. The new version also weighs 1.3 ounces per pair (size 11) more than the old version.
This is a burly trail running shoe, and offers solid protection, both for the tops of the feet and the bottoms. The midsole is made up of a sandwich of Altra's StoneGuard Rockplate and their new foam compound, and feels dense. While it isn't overly thick, it is certainly protective, as well as somewhat inflexible, and does a good job taking the blows from sharp rocks so that your feet don't have to. The midsole now lacks the trademark soft springiness that the last many versions of this shoe had become known for, but also protects the bottom of the feet much better, a boon for those who like to run in rocky terrain.
The upper is also quite protective, made of burly ripstop mesh with a liberal amount of sewn fabric overlays and 3D printing for increased durability. There is a toe bumper that stretches across the entire front of the shoe to protect all toes, although it isn't very thick or rigid. All in all, foot protection is one of this shoe's strongest attributes.
The traction on this shoe remains the same as previous versions. It is what Altra refers to as their "Trail Claw," featuring a mix of arrow or chevron-shaped lugs and hexagonal lugs, positioned underneath the push off points of the feet. The rubber compound is relatively sticky and grips rock well, making it a good choice for scrambling. However, the lugs are not overly aggressive or especially deep, and so it doesn't do as good a job gripping slippery surfaces like mud, snow, or steep grass as many of the other competitors do. Like most shoes, these lugs wear down over time. In general, this shoe performs well on dirt trails and rocks, but is not the grippiest on the gnarliest of technical mountain terrain.
With its zero drop platform and low to the ground, stiff midsole compound, this is one of the most stable shoes in this review. While the stack height is listed at 25mm, it feels closer to the ground than some with much less stack. The shoe does a good job of holding the foot securely in place, with little slippage, especially as it grips in the mid-foot. If stability on uneven terrain is a concern for you, this shoe is one of the top choices.
Previous versions of this shoe were exceedingly comfortable, but this one simply isn't, and we aren't alone in this assessment, as you can tell by reading online purchaser reviews. The fit is narrow in the midfoot, manifesting as either pressure along the top and sides of the foot where the laces cross over, or as pressure in the arch and instep. We initially were very aware of the feel in the instep that was totally unlike any other Altra's we have worn, but this sensation wore off a bit as the shoe broke in with miles. However, the low volume fit through the entire middle of the foot is very apparent, and we feel pressure constantly on the top of the foot over the tongue. The forefoot of the shoe retains its standard wide fit, allowing the toes and metatarsals to splay out. However, the shoe also runs a little short, and if you never want your toes to touch the front, you may want to purchase a half size up.
Our biggest gripe in terms of comfort is the heel, and the internet is also littered with complaints about this. From the first step when we put on our new pair, to the last step almost 50 miles of running later, the top of the heel cup has rubbed against our Achilles tendons. We have tried almost every different pair of socks we own to try to eliminate the problem, and indeed, some work better than others, but the fact is this little piece of rigid sewn fabric annoys to no end, and we aren't alone in our complaints. When considering the many comfortable trail running shoes you can buy today, this factor alone is reason enough to skip this shoe and just choose something that won't rub you raw.
Our pair of men's size 11 shoes tipped the scales at 25.2 ounces, making them the heaviest shoes in this review, and also marking an increase of 0.6 ounces per shoe from the last version.
Clearly, the addition of denser, more solid midsole foam also affects the weight. Anecdotally, the shoes also feel heavy on the feet, and do not rival the light and nimble options that are out there.
Despite the high level of underfoot protection, this remains a relatively sensitive shoe, in the sense that you still feel a bit of what you are running over. It effectively balances protection and sensitivity by blunting the force of landing on uneven terrain, while allowing for some trail feel at the same time.
The newest version of this shoe remains the same price as the previous versions, which is refreshing, considering that many trail shoes continue to get more expensive year after year. That said, we don't think this shoe presents very impressive value considering it performed lower than almost all of the competition.
The Altra Lone Peak 4.5 effectively fixes some of the long time issues with this shoe by tweaking the foam compound in the midsole, but also created new problems by adding significant weight and narrowing the fit. These changes might have been a wash if it wasn't for the horrible fit of the heel, which rubs and annoys and ultimately leads us to recommend looking for a different shoe to buy.
— Andy Wellman