Frustrations with the durability of Altra shoes

Reviews, Running, Trail Shoes

I think I might be over Altra shoes.

I LOVE zero drop shoes. I’ve got a long history of using zero drop and minimal footwear (around 14 years). In the last few years, especially as my long run distances have increased, I’ve been using Altra shoes. They give me the zero drop that works for me but also cushioning, comfort and protection from rocks. Turns out for me the most important aspect of “minimalist footwear” was the lack of heel drop, rather than the thin sole.

So what experience do I have with Altra shoes?

I’ve used various Altra models over the years (since ~2015):

  • Superior (v2 (x2), v3, v4.5)
  • Lone peak (v3.5, v4, v5, v6)
  • Outroad (v1)
  • Olympus (v5)
  • Escalante (v2, v3)
  • Timp 5 (warranty replacement for the Outroads… read on)

All shoes were bought with my own money (apart from pairs replaced under warranty)

The Escalante have mostly been used for some light road running, gym and round town use. The various trail models have been used for trail runs of varying lengths from 5km up to 53km and also multi-day hiking. I run anywhere from ~1000-2000km per year depending on races and injuries.

Initially my go-to shoe was the superior, I’d come from minimalist shoes so the stack height was appealing as it was some protection but it wasn’t too high. However, the superior v2 tore through the upper in a way that left them non functional after ~250km and had to be replaced under warranty. The replacement pair died after the same distance. The v3 did the same (although they did last to ~500km before tearing the upper).

So I moved over to the Lone Peak as there was plenty of buzz about this from the long distance hiking community. I have been comfortable in these shoes for the majority of my running. I picked up a pair of Olympus v5 in the lead in to my first proper ultra. My goal with the Olympus was to protect my feet a little more over the longer distance (I’d had a run in with a plantar plate tear on my right foot due to smacking into rocks the previous year).

I bought the Outroad as a shoe that would handle the road and easy trail with equal ease. I’ve loved running in these, the have the most “fun and responsive” feel. It’s just a pity that these are the least durable shoe of Altra’s I’ve ever tried.

I track all my running and hiking on Strava and always assign a shoe to the activity so I have good records of what shoes have done which mileage.

Also for context I’m ~80kg and average height with size 10-10.5 US depending on the shoe brand. Not a massive dude but not a svelte elite level runner either.

Where I have typically have issues in Altra shoes

Whilst at very high milage (900-1200km) the soles of the shoes do have a fair bit of wear on them, I’ve never really had issues with the tread. I don’t find the “max track” outsole compound to be as grippy as some other outsole rubber but it’s not terrible and it wears OK for me. Wear on the sole of my Superior 3.5 after ~1000km of running:

The real durability pain point for me is the uppers “blowing out” at the point where the shoe flexes in the forefoot. This happens on both sides and on both shoes. It always starts with the inside of each shoe. Here’s a particularly bad example from the Outroad v1 after only 180km run in the shoe.

On some of the shoes like the Lonepeak with welded overlays that help hold the shoe together it’s not “fatal” to the shoe as the overlay seems to stop the whole shoe falling apart. However, once they are torn they let in any dust or debris that is floating around on the trail and as they get bigger the size of the pebbles and rocks they let in gets bigger too. You can’t rely on them for long expeditions.

I haven’t had more than 550km tracked on an pair of Altra trail shoes without blowing out the insides of the shoes at least. The midsoles don’t really degrade until more like 900km on average so that’s a considerably premature end for serious excursions for every single pair I’ve ever bought.

Also there’s nothing more terrifying than being 20km from the nearest trailhead and feeling your shoes rip and then wondering for the rest of the run whether you’re going to make it back in one piece. Yes that actually happened.

Basically it’s not a great feeling to be doubting your shoes before you go away into the mountains.

Compounding the issue with poor design choices

After I bought the Olympus, I noticed that there were several lines of holes in the mesh for extra breathability. That’s generally a desirable feature. However, they are placed right at the point where the shoe flexes. I did a double take and had to check they weren’t already ripped. I felt so nervous about this design choice that I checked them after every run. Sure enough they held up for 130km and then started to tear straight along the line of the breathing holes. I had to get out the tough thread and stitch my shoes back together.

The heavily stitched inside to hold the shoe together so I can get my monies worth…

I trusted them for the ultra and my homemade repairs held up ok (although by the end of 53.5km they had torn on both the outsides). But I really do feel that if they hadn’t made such an obvious blunder with the design that these shoes would have lasted longer than they did. Olympus is too much shoe for too little durability.

I shouldn’t have to stitch the shoes to hold them together, especially not after less than 200km run (123 miles for you non metric folks). Also Altra’s most expensive trail shoe (and the only one up to that point with a Vibram outsole that’s designed to be grippy and last the distance) should just be more durable.

Just to add insult to injury, after 330km run in the Olympus, the cushioning is also gone in my pair, pancaked out to a dull heavy mass underfoot. The only way that I can describe it is like “running on dead foam bricks”. It’s demoralising and extremely frustrating for a shoe that costs so much and was clearly marketed as a “long distances” type shoe.

Sloppy when wet

One of the other qualities of the material choices is just how sloppy the Lone Peaks are when they are wet. Altra’s don’t lock in my heel or midfoot as well as some other shoes. That’s generally not an issue when they are dry.

However, once they are wet I really feel myself start to slide around in the shoes. I’ve even had the insole slide right out from underneath my foot on a couple of occasions. I have to really crank the laces when the shoe gets wet to minimise the sliding. This puts extra pressure on parts of the shoe that already are not that durable.

I’m certain that the way the shoes start to contort when wet and placed on any angled rock or surface contributes to their lack of durability overall (they twist underneath and around your foot and you can feel the strain on the upper).

The exception to the rule

Weirdly, the Altra model that has lasted best for me is the superior v4.5. I have over 1250km logged on this shoe and the upper is in great condition with none of the issues mentioned above. I had to stop running in them regularly ~950km in as the cushion started to go but I still use them for shorter day hiking and around camp shoes where the impact is less and the cushion not as important.

While it is fantastic that these shoes have held up better, it does illustrate to me more clearly that one of the key problems with Altra shoes in general is their material choices. The materials they have used in the superior v4.5 never left me too hot or retained too much water when crossing streams. I’d be very happy to have that upper and a Lone Peak style sole and stack height. Yet they chose not to do that and persist with materials that just are not durable enough

$1 per kilometre is not value for money

My last two pairs of Altra shoes are “a dollar per kilometre” shoes. The Outroads cost me ~$180NZD on sale (converted from Euro) and lasted 180km before the catastrophic tears got bad enough to stop running in them. The Olympus’ have done ~330km and as well as the tears, the cushioning has completely gone (pancaked out) and they feel dull and awful to run in. They cost me $309 NZD.

Running is a simple sport, slip on a pair of shoes and go. However, if a 10km run is costing you $10 in shoe wear then it starts to become a very expensive sport.

It’s not just me or my foot shape

There’s a load of other people having issues with Altra’s durability. Here’s an example of some other peoples issues.

Here’s another example from a Reddit thread – https://www.reddit.com/r/ultrarunning/comments/19bc2by/altra_shoe_rant/

A lot of people I’ve meet on the trails in New Zealand ask me questions like “Lone Peak’s, comfortable eh, but how have you found the durability?”.

On the Te Araroa trail (a trail that goes the length of New Zealand) there are a lot of through hikers, and Lone Peaks are common. I’ve seen many pairs with exactly the same areas blown out on other peoples Altra shoes.

One woman that I came across on the Te Araroa (south bound) had started in Lone Peaks and only made it to Auckland (~600km) where she had to replace them as they were “completely disintegrated” as she put it. She switched to the Topo Pursuit and when I met her she’d done over 1000km in them. They looked great, no tears in the upper and still decent tread underfoot. She had another pair of Topo’s waiting for her in St Arnaud (a further ~100km down the trail from where I met her) but she wasn’t even sure if she needed them as her current ones were still good.

I’ve met quite a few others on trail with similar experiences, many started their running or hiking journey with Lonepeaks but have switched away to other brands due to the lack of durability.

Warranty process is slow and tedious

I’m currently going through a process to try and get the Outroad’s that I mentioned above replaced. So far I’ve had no joy in contacting anyone at Altra. I bought them while I was on holiday in Ireland but I live in New Zealand so I’m half expecting to be passed around the world and eventually rejected.

The story so far:

  1. I tried to contact the shoe store I bought the shoes from in Ireland with no luck.
  2. 9/2/24: I first contacted Altra USA as it’s not a New Zealand purchase therefore I figured I’d need to contact the parent company
  3. They referred me to Altra Australia
  4. I’ve sent email to Altra Australia with no response so far
  5. I’ve followed up 10 days later to see if I can get a response from them at all
  6. Update: Altra Australia got back to me after my followup email with the predictable respsonse that warranties need to be returned to the store of purchase. Given that I can’t do physically and that and that store in Ireland hasn’t returned my emails, I don’t know what I else I can do. I was offered a 25% discount on future purchases but since I’m unlikely to buy Altra shoes again in the future then that’s effectively meaningless.
  7. I’ve replied, and asked Altra Australia whom I should contact given that I can’t reach the store in Ireland. Not holding my breath. Still waiting since the 22/2/24 to hear back.
  8. Update #2: 1/3/24 – Altra Australia never bothered to reply to my email, not even a “sorry, it’s out of our hands but we can’t help” type email. That’s just slack to be honest.
  9. I’ve reached out to Altra EU as that the distributor for the store of the original purchase. I’m now 4 weeks into this process
  10. Update #3 6/3/24 – I still haven’t heard from either Altra Australia or Altra EU
  11. Have emailed Altra USA just to keep them in the loop about how awful this whole process is
  12. Update #4 15/3/24 – After following up with Altra Australia they got back to me. They acknowledged that this was a less than ideal situation and offered to send me a replacement pair of shoes. Since Outroads weren’t available in my size a pair of Timp 5 has arrived.
    • Ultimately this was nice of the Australian distributor as they are not the distributor for the original sale. They also apologised on behalf of the other Altra distributors lack of contact. I appreciate that they went outside the bounds.
    • I do have to say also though that I’ve never had a reply to my email to Altra EU. Nor have I had any followup from Altra US.
  13. Whilst I’ve had a good outcome, I really don’t think that I should have had to work this hard to get a satisfactory response from a company who’s product was so clearly faulty.

Ultimately from a customers point of view this is a terrible process. Big companies should just take care of it and sort out the accounting internally without the customer having to bear the brunt of being passed from one team to another around the world.

I really don’t think the Olympus 5’s are up to scratch but at this point I don’t think that I can be bothered trying to go through the process of getting them returned. I really like the small independently run store (and the people that own it) that I bought them from. The thought of having to make the store owners go through this process on my behalf isn’t very appealing. I also don’t trust any replacement pair to last more than the original ones and therefore feel like I’d be kicking off a process that would have me going back to the store multiple times and becoming their least favourite customer. I might just write off that $309 NZD as a waste of money.

Not to mention that getting loads of replacement pairs of shoes isn’t great for the planet and just fuels my natural dislike of rampant western consumerism.

So yes, I’m done with Altra shoes – It’s time to try something else

I’ve recently found the Topo Pursuit, a Zero drop, wide toe box shoe from Topo that seems like the perfect shoe to test as an alternative to the Lone Peak. Others have tried them and found the durability to be vastly superior.


Here’s my first impressions of the Pursuit (TL;DR, I really like them). I will do a full review on the shoe when I have some more kilometres logged.

10 comments

  • benjamin lane

    This is the exact problem with Altra, as the uppers fail in predictable locations at predictable intervals. My favorite shoe, the Torin, is particularly susceptible to this. I have a dozen iterations of the shoe laying around as proof of these failures, all the way from the heinous Torin 2.5 to the Torin 7. They will ALL fail at the forefoot flex point, both feet, and on both the medial and lateral side of the shoe. This will happen at or around the 250 mile point. The outsole material itself will also significantly flatten out by this point as well, and the base of the shoe will quite literally be up to 1/2″ wider than it was originally.

    The Lone Peaks last significantly longer, and the upper won’t actually tear away from the shoe as with the others. Eventually it’ll fail exactly as your pictures indicate, and the fabric where the forefoot flexes will simply fall apart. The point it does this is 500-750 miles, which is acceptable for me. I also love the Lone Peaks because they are one of the few shoes that still have the original foot shape. Most of the other lineups have gotten more “normal” in their designs…..but for people with wide ogre feet like me we need the old school original footpod design. Increasingly few shoes in their lineups have this Original foot shape.

    I have defaulted to buying 3 pairs at a time of last year’s version when they go on sale as the new models are released. You can then get them at 40-50% off and the price becomes more reflective of their short lifespan. 3-4 pairs will last me a year.

    So, yeah, Lone Peaks are the best, but can’t really be regarded as all-around daily driver shoe. The Torins and Escalates can, but they’ll fail after only a couple hundred miles. And let me tell you, if you decide to play basketball in them you may need to buy a new pair once a month. No joke! I know they aren’t basketball shoes, but we Ogre Feets can’t stuff ourselves into things like Nike’s so we have limited options. Even with the short lifespan they are cheaper than a couple trips to the podiatrist each year because we screwed up something in our feet by trying to use poorly fitting shoes that lasted much longer.

    • A
      Avoca @AvocaWebDesign

      I’d be soooo happy to get 500 miles (~800km) out of a pair of Lonepeaks before they fall apart :). I suspect it depends a bit on foot shape and usage patterns.

  • BRAD EVANS

    Good info. I’ve loved the comfort of my timp 4 but the tread wore out fast. Was going to try the lone peaks or superiors, but this has changed my mind. How to the topos fit? True to size? Need to size up?

    • A
      Avoca @AvocaWebDesign

      The Topo’s seem to be true to size for me. I’m usually a US 10.5 in Altra but that is a little on the big side. However Altra’s 10 just isn’t usually a good fit. The Topo’s I have are US 10 and fit great.

  • Zohrab Getikian

    Altra was my go to shoes and the only one that has relieved my toe arteritis.
    But me too have been having issues pair after pair. However the company has never given me any grief and has replaced the shoes immediately

    • A

      Great to hear that you’ve had less issues with warranty process. I wish I could say that it had been as easy.

  • All of these experiences echo my own frustration with the durability. I have the Olympus 5 shoes and destroyed them in less than four months hiking and intermittent trail running. I destroyed the same pair last year in at least the same amount of time. I only bought these as they were on sale at the time, but despite how I enjoy how they fit it just isn’t worth it. I shall look into the Topos everyone is talking about. I did purchase a pair of Flux shoes and can only hope they are an upgrade from the Altras.

  • Michel jones

    Ive gone thru 2 pairs of altra Olympus 5 in less than a year and a half and i don’t run or hike i use them for work im a painter and do a lot of standing climbing and daily up and down work the area’s most affected are the toe box and sides they wear out extremely fast and gets holes in them so im switching to something else which I hate to do as they were super bouncie and comfortable but just do not last i couldn’t imagine how fast they would wear out if I actually tried to hike in them or run the support is just not there and for the price I think they need to go back to the drawing board as far as maybe getting rid of all the mesh uppers and trying something all together new.

    • A
      Brendyn @ AvocaWebDesign

      That all sounds so familiar. My early experiences in the Topo Pursuit has been really good – they’ve been super comfortable even on very steep terrain. They have some good road models too that might be worth a look for work type wear. Just bear in mind that if you wanted to keep the zero drop, Topo make some shoes that have 0mm drop but also some that have 3mm or 5mm drop as well.

      • Interesting read. I too have been disappointed with the wear of my Altra trail runners, purchased for walking wet leafy trails in my area. I’ve never seen wear on the uppers like this: 2 discreet fingertip-sized holes, one at padded side of ankle and the other at inner side of arch. I love Altra for the wide toe box, but these comments have me reconsidering a second purchase.
        BTW I have a pair of Topos I bought USED, and they still look great. Hmmm…

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