Blister Brand Guide: Altra Running Shoe Lineup, 2020

Blister Brand Guide: Running Shoe Lineups

Intro

When considering a new running shoe, there are so many similar-looking shoes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.

So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which shoe might work best for you. 

In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products. 

See our other running shoe Brand Guides

Altra: Brand Background

All of Altra’s shoes are based on two key design principles that set them apart from most other shoe companies’ lineups. Altra’s shoes all have a zero-drop heel-to-forefoot platform, and a wide, “foot-shaped” toe box. Many runners love this combo, but for people coming from shoes with higher heel-to-toe drops or narrower toe boxes, it may take some getting used to.

Since debuting their first shoe in 2011, Altra has gained popularity with both trail and road runners of all levels. The brand now offers shoes with a wide variety of cushioning, support, and traction.

As a general rule, Altra shoes have a wider and higher-volume fit than shoes from other brands. While this can cause problems for some people with narrower feet, many runners love the comfort that Altra’s platform provides, particularly when it comes to letting your toes splay out. And several of their models still feature a pretty snug fit through the heel and midfoot, so that some runners with low-volume feet can still get along quite well with them.

All of their women’s shoes also feature the brand’s “Fit4Her” design, which essentially means that they modify the fit of the shoe to accommodate the slightly different shape of women’s feet.

Altra started out as a trail-running brand, but has expanded into the road-running world in the last few years.

In this Guide, we’ll present Altra’s road shoes and trail shoes separately, and will order these lineups from the most cushioned to least cushioned.

ROAD SHOES

(Most Cushioned to Least Cushioned)

Most Cushion

Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

This shoe is built to be super cushioned and super light. Altra touts it as a race-ready maximal shoe, ideal for pounding out fast miles on the roads. As a race-oriented shoe, it doesn’t have any of the extra midsole posting or pronation-support found on shoes like the Paradigm 5 — so the Duo 1.5 is probably best suited to runners who prioritize minimum weight over support but still want a high-cushion shoe. The Duo 1.5 features new outsole rubber to improve on the durability of the Duo 1.0. While it has a very thick midsole, The Duo 1.5 might not feel as “maximal” as you’d expect — we’d recommend reading our review of the Duo 1.0 since the firm nature of its midsole makes it feel very different than many other shoes with similar stack heights.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $130.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
The Paradigm 5 is Altra’s most cushioned “stability” shoe. It uses the brand’s “guiderail dynamic support” system, which is designed to provide support and pronation control when you start to fatigue, but not really affect you when you’re running normally. It was originally designed for the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, so it should be well suited to long runs on the road, particularly if you notice that your technique can get sloppy / inefficient during long runs. The latest version of the Paradigm has a slightly tweaked upper and midsole, but like the previous version of the shoe, it could be a good option for runners who want a high-cushion road shoe that offers more support than the Torin 4.5 Plush or Duo 1.5.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $150.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
The “Plush” version of the Torin adds a little extra cushioning to the popular Torin 4, making for an even more forgiving, cushioned ride. The midsole is designed to be soft and flexible, providing comfort at the cost of slightly reduced support and efficiency. The Torin 4.5 Plush has the same midsole and outsole as the previous version of the shoe, but the new knit upper makes the 4.5 more than an ounce lighter than its predecessor. The Torin 4.5 Plush could be a solid option if you’re looking for a lightweight, high-cushion road shoe for longer runs and races and don’t need the extra support of the Provision 4.0 or Paradigm 5.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $140.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
The Provision is Altra’s less-cushioned “stability” shoe. The newest version has an extra 2 mm of cushion compared to the 3.5, but the Provision 4.0 is still a bit less cushioned and a bit lighter than the Paradigm 4.5. The Provision 4.0 also gets the addition of Altra’s “InnovArch” technology in the midfoot area, which wraps the arch area to encourage a more natural gait cycle. With its slightly lower stack height and weight, this shoe would be a good match for people who need a supportive shoe but want something a little more minimal than the Paradigm 4.5.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $130.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
The Torin is one of Altra’s more popular road models, and the 4.0 takes a slightly more race-oriented approach. The shoe has 2 mm less cushioning than previous versions, resulting in a slightly more efficient ride. The neutral platform allows for a natural foot movement, and like all of Altra’s shoes, a midfoot or forefoot strike (as opposed to heel striking). If you’re looking for a highly-cushioned-yet-fast shoe for training and racing, the Torin might fit the bill.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $120.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
The Viho is a new addition to the Altra road lineup for 2020. It’s designed to be a no-frills, all-round road shoe, with moderate amounts of cushioning and a lower price point than Altra’s other road models. It’s got a reportedly more durable mesh upper and rubber outsole to hold up to daily use. While it’s got the same stack height as the Torin 4, the Viho is better suited for day-to-day training runs thanks to its superior durability. The Torin 4’s lighter weight makes it a better option for faster runs and workouts, and there are likely some differences in how the two shoes’ different midsoles feel underfoot.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $100.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
The Escalante 2.5 is Altra’s mid-cushion, lightweight, all-round road shoe. For 2020, the Escalante gets a new sock-like upper and loses a few grams relative to the previous version of the shoe. Aside from its new upper, the Escalante 2.5 provides the same accommodating fit and fairly soft cushioning as its predecessor. The Escalante 2.5 could be a good option if you’re on the market for a lightweight, flexible road shoe for everyday training runs and don’t want a more supportive / structured shoe. It could also work as a slightly less cushioned, lighter alternative to the Viho. If you’re looking for a race-specific shoe, the Escalante Racer would likely be a better fit thanks to its lighter construction and firmer cushioning.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $130.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

The 2020 version of the Solstice, the Solstice XT, is geared towards both gym training and running. It has the same moderate cushioning found in last year’s version of the Solstice, but with a more durable, structured upper and full rubber outsole for increased performance in the gym. While the Solstice XT has a fairly similar construction to the Escalante 2.5, its more supportive upper and gym-specific midsole / outsole make it a better option if you’re looking for a shoe to use for gym workouts that include a little bit of running — if you’re just looking for a moderate cushion road running shoe, the Escalante 2.5 will likely be a better fit.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $110.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
The Escalante Racer is a lighter, firmer, lower-to-the-ground version of the Escalante 2.5. It has a slightly stiffer midsole for better energy return at faster paces and a more minimal / breathable mesh upper. If you want a fast shoe that still offers a bit of protection / cushioning from the pavement along with all of Altra’s other standard features, look no further. The Escalante Racer should be a solid option whether you’re looking for a moderate-stack, race-specific shoe or just want something that feels a little faster than shoes like the Escalante 2.5 or Torin 4 for everyday training.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $140.00

Least Cushion

Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

The Vanish R is Altra’s first road / track racing flat. Like most racing flats, it’s crazy light and offers very little in the way of cushioning. This definitely is not an everyday shoe, but it does provide Altra’s standard zero-drop, foot-shape platform in a race-ready package. This shoe is ideal for short races on road or on tracks, or for use (on occasion) in your fastest workout. 

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $100.00

TRAIL SHOES

(Most Cushioned to Least Cushioned)

Most Cushion

Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

The latest version of Altra’s most cushioned, plush trail shoe has a new upper, updated fit, and more flexible midsole. The Olympus 4.0 has the same, very big stack height as the previous version of the shoe, but the new upper is designed to be more breathable and provide a more secure fit. Like the Olympus 3.5, the 4.0 has a wider platform than many maximal shoes on the market from brands like Hoka, which should make it a bit more stable on technical terrain. It also makes the Olympus 4.0 a solid option for runners with wider feet who find Hoka’s shoes to be too narrow. With that said, the Olympus 4.0 likely won’t feel as secure on technical terrain as a lower-stack-height shoe like the Lone Peak 4.5. But if you like the wide toe box and zero drop platform of Altra’s other shoes, want a max-cushioned shoe for long days on the trail, and don’t mind a slightly heavier shoe, the Olympus 4.0 could fit the bill.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $150.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

The new Timp 2.0 offers the same, generous amount of cushioning as the previous version in an even lighter package. It features Altra’s new Quantic midsole material, which is designed to be lighter and more energetic than the A-bound midsole of the Timp 1.5. Altra has also tightened up the fit a little more in the new version. We found the Timp 2.0 to be both lighter / faster feeling and more secure than the previous version of the shoe, making it a solid option for longer runs on mixed terrain. Like previous versions of the shoe, we thought that the Timp 2.0 doesn’t feel nearly as maximal as you might expect from its fairly high stack height — but it does feel much more nimble than many other shoes with similar amounts of cushion. The Timp 2.0 doesn’t offer quite as much protection / cushion as the Olympus 3.5, but it should be a good option for runners looking for a lightweight, well-cushioned trail shoe but who don’t want the more extreme stack height, weight, and / or more generous fit of the Olympus 4. [Check out our full review of the Timp 2.0]

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $140.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
While it’s listed with Altra’s trail running shoes, the Tushar Boot is really the brand’s first true hiking boot. It has a similar, wider toe box and the same zero drop platform as Altra’s trail running shoes, but with a much more supportive, mid-height, waterproof / breathable upper, a firmer midsole, and a thicker, more durable outsole. The Tushar Boot should provide more support and protection than the Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM (which is basically the mid-height version of the running-oriented Lone Peak), but the Tushar is a lot heavier and will likely be less flexible. With that said, the Tushar Boot will likely have a wider fit and more flexible midsole than some boots from other hiking-specific brands on the market. If you’re looking for a supportive, durable boot for hiking with a heavy pack on rugged terrain, the Tushar Boot might be worth trying on.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $200.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

The latest version of Altra’s original, moderately cushioned trail shoe makes a few minor changes to the platform of the Lone Peak 4.0. The Lone Peak 4.5’s upper has been tweaked to improve the fit slightly and simplify the lacing system, while the midsole is slightly more flexible than the previous version. Overall, the Lone Peak 4.5 could be a solid option for runners looking for a versatile trail shoe with a wide toe box and zero-drop platform. It’s slightly lower stack height makes it a potentially better option for technical / uneven terrain than the Olympus 3.5 or Timp 2.0, though in our experience, this will be very dependent on how these shoes fit your feet. So as always, we highly recommend trying them on. [Check out our full review of the Lone Peak 4.5]

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $120.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
This special edition of the Lone Peak 4.5 has all the same features as the standard version of the shoe, but with a unique color scheme intended to celebrate the “trail running mecca” of Chamonix, France. If you like the looks of the Lone Peak 4.5 but want a unique colorway, the Lone Peak 4.5 Chamonix could be the shoe for you.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $120.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

This is basically the Lone Peak 4 with a waterproof / breathable eVent upper and burlier outsole. If you’re a die-hard Lone Peak fan but find yourself running in mud and snow a lot, the RSM is for you. The waterproof upper does decrease breathability, so if you consistently run in hot weather, the standard Lone Peak 4 makes more sense. (Altra also makes a mid-height version for even more coverage.)

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $150.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
The regular version of the Lone Peak has been a popular shoe with long-distance hikers as well as runners. The Lone Peak 4 Mid Mesh takes the outsole, midsole, and fit of the Lone Peak 4 and adds an ankle-height upper to cater specifically to hikers. The Lone Peak 4 Mid Mesh’s upper looks more like the upper you’d find on a mid-height hiking boot than a running shoe, so it should provide more ankle support than the Lone Peak 4.5 for hiking with a heavy pack — but it isn’t really designed for running. If you love hiking in the Lone Peak 4 but want a higher ankle cuff for extra support, this shoe is worth checking out.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $130.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup
The Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM takes the same hiking boot-like construction of the Lone Peak 4 Mid Mesh and adds a waterproof / breathable eVent upper. If you’re looking for a hiking shoe for wet, cold conditions and don’t mind sacrificing a little breathability, the Lone Peak 4 Mid RSM could be a good choice.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $160.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

The Superior 4.5 is Altra’s lightest, most minimalistic, all-round trail shoe. The Superior is designed for all kinds of uses and terrain, unlike the XC-racing-oriented Vanish XC and mud-specific King MT 2. The Superior 4.5 gets a fairly minor upper update to improve breathability and durability relative to version 4.0. Aside from that, you can expect the Superior 4.5 to offer the same lower-volume fit and minimal cushioning as previous versions of the shoe. The Superior 4.5 also still has a removable StoneGuard rock plate, which makes it easy to add some extra protection for rocky terrain (or get more ground feel when you don’t need the plate). While the Superior 4.5 is a few grams heavier than the Superior 4.0, it’s still ideal for runners who like a light, fast shoe with lots of ground feel. The Superior 4.5’s fairly low stack height does mean that it probably won’t be as comfortable if you do most of your running on extremely rocky terrain — we’ve found that previous versions of the shoe excel on up-tempo runs on smooth, less technical trails.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $110.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

The King MT 2.0 gets a major update from the 1.5, featuring a new upper, outsole, and midsole. While the shoe itself has a lot of changes from the previous version, it’s intended purpose remains the same: providing traction and control on muddy / loose terrain. The new Vibram MegaGrip Litebase outsole material provides the same great grip as previous versions of the shoe with 25% less weight, while the new upper is designed to drain and dry quickly after wet sections of trail. Like the 1.5, the King MT 2 has a velcro strap across the midfoot to provide a more secure fit. While the King MT 2.0 isn’t nearly as cushioned as the Lone Peak 4.5, it’s probably a better option for Obstacle Course Racing or extremely muddy runs. The King MT 2 is a fairly niche shoe, but is excellent for running on very technical, off-camber terrain and in loose conditions. [Check out our full review of the King MT 2]

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $140.00

Least Cushion

Blister Brand Guide: Blister breaks down the 2020 Altra Running Shoe Lineup

This Cross-Country racing flat brings Altra’s “foot shape” toe box and zero-drop platform to the XC racecourse. It has a unique lacing system that allows wearers to customize the lacing pattern to fit their foot. If you love the features of Altra shoes and want a shoe for short, fast, off-road races, the Vanish XC is worth a look.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $80.00

4 comments on “Blister Brand Guide: Altra Running Shoe Lineup, 2020”

  1. My doctor had me get Intuition 4.5 a year or two ago for arthritic feet and they are wonderful but wearing out. I’ve tried several of the other Altra shoes but nothing fits the same. Can you recommend a shoe equally as good for walking the dogs with old feet, with wide toe box?

    • Hey Janet,
      I’d check out the Torin 4, Torin 4.5 Plush, or Provison 4. The Torin 4 has about the same amount of cushion as the Intuiton 4.5 did, and the Torin 4.5 Plush could be good if you want something with a slightly thicker midsole. The Provison 4.5 has about the same amount of cushion as well, but it’s a bit more supportive than the Intuition or Torin, so that could be stood option as well. If none of those work you could also check out some of Topo Athletic’s shoes like the Phantom or Ultrafly 3 — they tend to fit fairly similarly to Altras.

  2. What would be the road equal to the Olympus 4? I actually use those to play softball in and love them. Would like to have a shoe for everyday use too.

    • Hey Mark,
      You’d probably have the best luck with the Torin 4.5 plush — it doesn’t have quite as much cushion as the Olympus, but it’s Altra’s most cushioned neutral road shoe that would hold up for daily use. The Paradigm and Duo have higher stack heights, but the Paradigm is a more supportive/structured shoe and the Duo is more race-specific.

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