Altra Lone Peak 2.0, 2.0 with NeoShell, 2.5, and Dirty Girl Gaiters

Altra Lone Peak 2.0 (size 13). China. $120. Purchase.
Altra Lone Peak 2.0 NeoShell (size 13). China. $150. Purchase.
Altra Lone Peak 2.5 (size 13). China. $120. Purchase.
Dirty Girl Gaiters (size XL). USA. $21. Purchase.

UPDATE 8/2/2016: I’ve now completed the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail in the Lone Peak 2.5’s and their outsole rubber is superior to the Lone Peak 2.0’s. The tread no longer tears off in chunks–not even one chipped lug. The 2.0 NeoShell doesn’t have issues with the sole either. Only the 2.0.
Last summer I hiked the John Muir Trail (JMT) and, though very selective in my choice of shoes, was still plagued by blisters and had numbness in my left big toe for months after the hike (due to downhills with shoes that were too narrow). On the hike I encountered many folks on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) who had various recommendations for footwear, but most of those who were moving light and fast were wearing Altra’s. I’d heard about them from a Bishop / Yosemite trail running friend prior to my trip, but was unable to find them in my local REI. I wanted to be able to try on the shoes I’d be wearing on the trail before committing to the trip, so Altra’s were out due to lack of availability. Upon returning from the JMT, with my feet in sad shape, I promptly ordered a pair of Altra Lone Peak 2.0s.

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I first tested them on a 22 mile weighted day hike on Mt Tamalpais and, having received no blisters, set off for the Wonderland Trail (94 miles, 44,000′ of elevation change). Four days later I didn’t have a single blister and my feet felt great. Since that hike I’ve been convinced that Altra’s are the ideal blister free hiking shoe. I’ve always disliked an elevated heel in hiking/running shoes, but didn’t think there was much that could be done about it. Altra’s Zero Drop allows for a natural foot strike and prevents the downhills from being extra steep—the result of a wedge shaped sole. Their rockplate & cushion appear to be the ideal thickness, thick enough to be able to step directly on pointy rocks, while not being so tall as to worry about rolling an ankle.

Besides the unusual and somewhat goofy look of the shoes very wide toe box (let’s be honest, I’m rather aesthetically critical, and these shoes look…different), my main initial concern was the control of such a wide toe box. They felt way too roomy and clumsy at first, with my foot swimming around inside a large rubber and cloth box, but soon I was appreciating that my big toes could stay pointed straight ahead and my foot could elastically expand on impact. I could also still hop from rock to rock without issue, which at first I thought would be impossible with such a seemingly loose shoe, but it just took a few miles to learn the new balance point.

The Lone Peaks also have a Gaiter Trap, which pairs perfectly with the ultra-light Dirty Girl Gaiters to keep stones and debris out of your shoes. These were also discovered on the JMT and they made a world of difference on the WT. There were times on the JMT where I was stopping multiple times per hour to empty my shoes, but with the DG Gaiters on the Wonderland Trail I could keep on trucking all day.

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With the wonderland trail under wraps, and a business trip to Sub-Saharan East Africa on the horizon, I began to research if I could wear Altra’s to the summit of Kilimanjaro. I knew the wind and waterproof Polartec NeoShell model existed, but it was hard to determine if they were going to meet the requirements of the weather on the summit. Most of the gear guides suggested medium weight hiking boots with strong ankle support for summit day, but knowing that’s also what old school hikers recommend for the JMT, Appalachian Trail, Central Divide Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail, I was skeptical (note the cover of Wild, with the stereotypical heavy hiking boot). Then I came across Dick Sandhaus’s post on Altra’s blog and I knew I wasn’t going back to a life of blisters. I wore the Altra Lone Peak 2.0 NeoShell’s as my only shoes on a 25 day trip to Sub-Saharan East Africa. I was mostly just walking around, but also hiked up to Likii North on Mt Kenya, to the summit of Kilimanjaro, and stood for hours on end in the back of a land cruiser in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.

On Kilimanjaro they performed perfectly, breathing sufficiently for my feet to not get swampy, providing ample traction, excellent comfort, plenty of warmth and minimal weight. Following Dick Sandhaus’s technique and suggestion I wore my tall OR Crocodile Gaiters on summit day. I actually doubled up, wearing my Dirty Girl Gaiters underneath, just to ensure no rocks would sneak into my shoes. I also doubled my socks, wearing both light weight and medium weight Smartwool PhD socks. The Lone Peak NeoShells combined with this setup was excellent for summit warmth as well as our running descent through scree, sand, and marble sized gravel.

The only time my feet became wet was when we were continuing our descent in the rain, after our midday post-summit nap, and I’d removed my OR gaiters, but was still wearing my rain pants, which then funneled water directly into my shoes. By the time we got to the lower camp a couple hours later my feet were sloshing with every step. This could have easily been prevented had I kept the gaiters on, so I consider this user error. And even with the soaked shoes I didn’t get blisters on the decent.

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I’m now preparing for the 165 mile Tahoe Rim Trail and will be wearing, you guessed it, the Altra Lone Peak 2.5s. The NeoShells I only use for trips where warmth is expected to be an issue, so the enhanced breathability of the regular Lone Peak is preferable for summer hiking. My original pair of Lone Peak 2.0s has been abused on the Wonderland Tail, numerous day hikes, and tons of time in the gym. This leads to one of my main criticisms of this shoe: It’s a sneaker and thus wears out like a sneaker, much faster than the boots I usually review. The tread in particular appears to tear off on the Lone Peak 2.0’s, though this has since been solved on the 2.5’s. This weight/durability tradeoff is worth it to me, since ultimately, on the trail, comfort and functionality are my main concerns and traditional hiking boots are just too heavy, rigid, hot, and blistery for me. My other criticism is that they’re made over seas, instead of here in the US, where the company is based. That said, I know the sneaker manufacturing capabilities in China far exceed those of the US, and I haven’t had any quality control issues with the three pairs of Altras that I’ve worn (unless the rubber compound counts–but it could have been designer error).

Altra Lone Peak 2.0 (size 13). China. $120. Purchase.
Altra Lone Peak 2.0 NeoShell (size 13). China. $150. Purchase.
Altra Lone Peak 2.5 (size 13). China. $120. Purchase.
Dirty Girl Gaiters (size XL). USA. $21. Purchase.

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