Review: Living With the Altra Lone Peak 3.5

Altra

I didn’t, perhaps, get the opportunity to test these on the Challenge as much as I wanted. However, these have been used in a variety of real world conditions, on steep grass slopes, on mountain tracks — good and bad, and tarmac (rather too much). I worse these exclusively for a couple of weeks.

The longer use of these shoes confirmed what I described in the First Impressions: Altra Men’s Lone Peak 3.5 post.

I should say at the outset that these are probably the best trail shoes that I have used to date!

Comfort and Fit

A reminder; my feet are rather broad and with a high instep. One of my feet is significantly different in size to other. For me to find shoes to be comfortable they have to have a wide fitting and to still continue to grip the heels of both feet. The Altras succeed on both counts.

On first inspection these shoes appear not to be quite as wide as the Inov-8s that I have been using but I really don’t think this is the case. I’ve had no problems wearing these, even in very warm conditions. What makes for the difference in the feel is, I think, that these shoes are far more robust than the Inov-8’s. They appear to be less flexible but for my wide feet they are no problem at all. Altra recommend that you go up a full size from the UK equivalent, so for me that meant going from 9.5 to 10.5. This worked well. The Altra website has a size calculator which will give you guidance for other size measurements; on this experience I would expect this to be spot on.

General Performance

These shoes perform admirably. They grip grass well on steep slopes. They shed water as quickly as you would want The sole unit is firmer and tougher than that on Inov-8. The sole unit will wear down a little but so far these are holding up more effectively than they Inov-8’s. There is more cushioning in the sole unit, not over the top this but enough to be very effective on rocky paths. they are also far more comfortable when walking distances on a tarmac surface.

The robust nature of these shoes is not simply down to the sole unit. look closely at the photograph and you will see that the top of the shoe features mesh that has been reenforced with red stretching. The mesh itself sheds water very well and efficiently. The ditched mess seems to give more strength to that mesh top. Bashing through heather when your shoes are damp often leads to holes in the mesh but so far there has been sign of such a problem with these shoes.

The extra build of these shoes does mean they weight about 750 grams, a little more than the Inov-8’s, but they are still very light and I have not found this weight increase to be significant at all.

Zero Drop

I mentioned in the first impressions post that I was a little wary of the zero drop heel. Mainly this was because of an ongoing problem I have with a sore achilles. These shoes have not caused any problems and, indeed, the heel cup works as effectively — if not more effectively — than any trail shoes that I used to date. This might seem odd but with these she’s your feet — and heels — are more lightly to go exactly where you want them to go! they certainly encourage you to heel and toe properly.

Conclusions

There is almost nothing to dislike about these. True, they are expensive but these are a quality product. So far, I have found these to be the best trail shoe that I have used to date.

I’ll continue using this throughout the summer and right a long term review  then. But on my experience so far, these are simply excellent trail shoes.

Available in both men and women’s fittings

 

Altra Men’s Lone Peak 3.5

First Impressions: Altra Men’s Lone Peak 3.5

Lone Peak

 

I’m a bit slow to the party with these shoes. Fellow Challenger Shap McDonnell has been using them for a few years now and Chris Townsend peaks highly of them. I’ve been testing out alternatives to the old Inov-8 Terrocs for a few years now and the Lone Peak 3.5s are the latest in the quest to find a replacement.

My Feet Profile

Searching for shoes is a bit of a challenge for me. I have wide feet and I’ve found that many firings are simply too cramped, certainly when backpacking for days on end. I also have one foot which is larger than the other and has a high instep. It is a bit of a challenge to find two shoes that both hold the heel in effectively.

The Zero Drop

The Lone Peak’s are ‘zero drop,’ a system that Altra have been pioneering in running and trail shoes. The ‘drop’ is the relative distance from the heel to the level of the ball of the foot. When you stand without shoes the heel and the ball of the foot are at the same level. With most shoes the heel is raised and the ‘drop’ is the distance between heel and the front of the foot. Often the drop is quite small, my last shoes had a drop of 4 millimetres, but such small measures can result in a very different feel.

The idea of the Zero Drop system is that your feet are positioned as naturally as possible.

On Test

I used these straight out of the box for a three day backpack walk, carrying a full pack weight. I replaced the insole of the shoe with the replacement insole that I usually use (the Pro 11 system).

The Lone Peaks were very comfortable from the off and gave me no problems at all over a range of different terrain. The sole grip seems more than adequate for the task.

Fit

These are probably some of the most comfortable trail shoes I have used. The fit is broad and there was more than enough room for my toes to spread when walking. There also seemed to be a little more room across the mid width of the shoe as well. The heel system has some solidity to it and more than adequately cupped both of my heels.  I didn’t find any pressure points and the shoes were comfortable throughout the walk. For a light and small shoe the cushioning of the mid sole was quite impressive.

The Zero Drop

Although a number of people have spoken highly of thee shoes I have been a little reticent to try them because of the zero drop. I have read a number of accounts of these shoes stretching the heel and the achilles a little more than usual. I have a slight problem of soreness with one of my achilles. 

In practice, however, I fund no problems at all with these shoes. The walking position seemed comfortable and natural from the off and I detected no problems with the achilles — the biggest factor here seems to be how well the heel is held in the shoe.

So, there seemed to be no downside in using the zero drop system. I did form the impression that, on uneven ground or when scrambling, the system was better than many conventional systems. It seemed to me that my heel was always where I assumed it would be — I’m not sure this is that scientific and observation but it just goes to underline that there is no downside in using this system.

General Performance

The shoes are very well made and seem pretty tough. There is a very effective toe box too protect the front of the foot. The mesh surface of the shoe is re-enforced with stitching at key points of stress and wear which seems a nice touch. I shall take another look at this when making a full review.

Trail shoes like this need to shed water effectively and the Lone Peak is no slouch here and presented no problems. For those of you that used the Terroc system this shoe sheds water, perhaps, a teeny bit slower then the original Terrocs but better I think to the second generation of Terrocs. The water shedding performance of these shoes is excellent.

In General

These seem like a very sound investment. The fit is excellent for those who need a wider fitting. The construction seems of a very high quality. The laces are some of the best that I have used. The shoe seems pretty tough and yet still comes in at a shade under 300 grams.

 

In short I could find no downside to these shoes at all. I shall be using them for two weeks on the TGO Challenge — a backpack coast to coast across the Scottish Highlands. This is a walk that tests shoes to the full.  I shall write a final review when I have returned at the end of May.

 

Challenge Gear 2018

Preparations for the TGO challenge are well underway if not a little delayed by me having twisted my ankle and damaged some ligaments. Thankfully these are healing quickly.

What gear am I using? I still get asked this a lot. There’s no much too for improvement this year. I do need a new pack but I’ll get another year out of this one before I go setting off for a replacement (probably in the direction of Colin Ibbotson).

The big change this year will be shoes. This year I hope to be using the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 shoes. These are shoes that Chris Townsend has been raving about for a while now. Shap McDonell — fellow Challenger — has also been using them for a few years. These are zero drop shoes, in other words your heel is at the same distance to the floor as the front of your feet — you are walking very naturally.  I picked mine up this morning and haven’t had a chance use them yet but they are very comfortable. Altra suggest sizing up one size from the USA size, so my 9.5 becomes a 10.5.  they are have a nice wide fitting for those of us who have wider feet and there seems to be enough room min the toe box.  Apparently walking in them seems a bit odd for a mile or so before you adjust. i shall report back as seen as the ankle is properly back in action.

I’ll be wearing the Altras with X Socks Trekking Lite — still the best socks I have found for trail shoes. X Socks are currently available on Amazon for a ridiculously cheap price. As backups I will also carry a couple of pairs of Tekko merino socks.

My waterproof will be the PHD smock which has served me very well for three or four years now. My waterproof trousers are the minimalist and very light Berghaus Pac Lites. Underneath this will be a Rab mid layer, merino base layers, Jack Wolfskin walking trousers and my PHD down gilet for added warmth. I’ve damaged the gillet a bit over the winter and it will probably be patched with masking tape!

The tent will be the my Tarptent though it has to be checked over yet. This has a small walking pole hole in the roof that was patched with a bit of spare fabric and seam sealant — it just needs checking over.

I’ll probably put the final list online at some point but for now I’m engaged in industrial food production!

Se you soon.

Backpack Light — My Trail Update — Oh Dear

A reader has been in touch to tell me more more about the My Trail company. I have to confess to not following the lightweight gear scene in the US that closely these days.

My Trail is a company owned by owners of Golite, a company which collapsed pretty spectacularly a few years ago. My advice to anyone is to avoid them like the plague!  Why?

The financial collapse of Golite came about following some pretty weird business practice and attitude to export. The company effectively pulled out of Europe. They then pulled out of retail, but before that they offloaded a load of surplus stock at rates that completely screwed their retailers. When they moved to a web only operation they adopted a policy that only USA credit cards could be accepted — effectively ignoring the rest of the world. If this seems odd the background to this is even odder.

For a while the folks who had the distribution contracts in Europe tried to keep things going. They looked at taking a container load of products from the Asian producers. They touted this around to UK online retailers, effectively looking for orders or cash upfront. Unsurprisingly this didn’t work. I did feel sorry for these guys as they had been effectively left in the lurch as well.

I was told that after the banking crash the GOLITE people in the USA had been ‘advised’ that the European economy was collapsing. Yes collapsing. So, they pulled out. Then it became apparent that the company had over ordered, had too much surplus stock and were in real trouble. Whether they really believed Europe was a basket case or whether this was an excuse, it was pretty sure behaviour.

As my reader says “This is a new company formed by the people behind the old one. Seems a typical phoenix company situation – leave all the debts and losses behind in the old one and start a fresh with something pretty similar”.

I’ve left the original post up as, to be fair, it looks like a good product and other readers have recommended it.  But me. I don’t really ant to now anymore …

… these are the attitudes that saddled us all with Trump.

Alternative to Golite Packs — Backpack Light 70L

Reader James ‘Jay’ Keen has emailed to bring this pack to my attention.  Jay’s old pack — a Golite Pinnacle — has finally bitten the dust and he’s been searching for alternatives. I must admit I’ve lost touch with the Golite debacle; I know they are not available here in Europe but I presume they still have a presence in the USA.

Anyhow, Jay has been considering other option, most notably the ULA Catalyst until he came across the Backpacklight 70 L.

The BPL 70 is two packs in one. Created with comfort in mind, it has a great suspension for moderate loads and its ComPacktor system quickly converts it from a multi-day load hauler to a 25L day pack.

The BPL 70 is packed with light features you’ll love, from the dual compartment front hip pockets to the roll top closure. It’s tough: the white Dyneema® threads are 3x stronger than Kevlar and 15x stronger than steel.

It looks promising not least as it offers some decent back length options. It’s another international order but my experience of this has always been pretty positive, so long as you allow enough time for delivery and customs clearance.

North Face Make Gear Breakthrough

North Face have been a top brand for many years, truly international and truly innovative. But, arguably, they have just created their most innovative and most important product for many years.

I need one of these. No, I need at least three!

North Face launches range of gravy-proof clothing for the ‘indoorsy type’

The State of the Outdoor Industry — Update

I may not be posting here as often as I used to but I still try and keep up with those in the industry who keep their fingers on the pulse.

Earlier this year I took the decision not to post about gear very often. In all honesty it is hard to keep up. My current collection of gear is both very functional and lightweight and there is no pressing need to replace much of it. Indeed — and this may be sacrilege to some ‚ I’ve noticed that such ultralight gear has reached a natural limit. It is impossible to reduce weight that much and so the focus is more on innovative design and functionality these days. But guess what?  As a result weight is creeping up again!  Still, we rely on our outdoor designers and manufacturers and there is still a lot to think about.

If the last few years for the outdoor industry have been tough — as they have for many — the future looks even more challenging. Continuing austerity means people have less cash inter pockets and now rising inflation is set to eat into living standards both decisively and quickly. As I write I’m listening to a radio report that focuses on what amounts to an almost collapse in consumer spending. And, of course, uncertainty about what Brexit will mean to the sector is a major concern.

Small, niche, retailers are reporting that they are living in increasingly hard times. But it is now just the small operators that face difficulties, small and even large manufacturers are finding things getting harder. In the face of tighter margins the big retail chains are putting the screws on manufactures. I was recently told of a major award-winning outdoors chain (one with a major high street presence) that has written to all suppliers telling them that they will be discounting their invoices by 5%. In other words if the suppliers are given an invoice for X thousands they will be paid X minus 5%.  This kind of tactic is not unknown and has been the backbone of the supermarket world for years.

For us the consumer, this means that we are likely to see even less variety and choice on the high street. And while this is sad in many ways you, like me, might feel that you are honour bound to once nitrate what spending power we have left into the hands of the small online retailers.

Yes sir, of course we have a lot of jackets to look at. But you can only have the jacket this this one company and only in fluorescent blue.

What does the team think?

TGO Preparation 2017: Lightweight Footwear/Trail Shoes

In this latest instalment of articles aimed at first time TGO challengers I take a look at the thorny question of footwear, including the use of lightweight trail shoes.

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The PHD Sleep System

For some years now I have been utilising my down gear as a ‘sleep system’. UK manufacturers PHD have now produced their own complete system. This is not cheap but install might appeal to new TGO challengers who have yet to compete their kit (and who have a decent credit card limit).

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Tramplite Evolves — Catching Up with Colin Ibbotson

I’m still grounded as a result of this dreadful lurgy that is going around the West Midlands. Fortunately mine hasn’t turned into bronchitis as it has with some people; the damn thing keeps coming back. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out for a walk later this week but in the meantime it has offered me a chance to catch up with people I haven’t spoken to for a while, including Colin Ibbotson. I’m always being asked what Colin is up to.

Since finishing the Pacific Crest Trail last autumn Colin has been hard at work with his Tramplite Gear. Colin’s gear is not mainstream and is expensive but it is full performance stuff that is properly proved over thousands of miles.

 

 

 

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