Last month in this column I wrote about a line of futuristic running shoes from Skora Inc. The subject for this week’s column, a pair of trail shoes from Altra Running, skew not mod or cutting-edge but back in time.
On the feet the company’s Lone Peak shoes have a retro look and a deliberately under-engineered design. There’s a gray mesh upper and a flat plank of foam for the mid-sole. The treaded outer sole is glued on from toes to heel, a strip of knobby rubber that ends as a half-inch flap hanging off the back.
The hand-hewn aesthetic is perhaps on purpose. The company, a family business that has origins in a small running shop in Utah, for years modified its customers’ shoes with a blade.
“We had to cut down the heels of regular running shoes to test our zero-drop theory,” said company founder Golden Harper.
Indeed, workers at the family shop would modify new running shoes to make what they believed was a more “biomechanically correct” product. Today, the company’s line of shoes are the “zero-drop theory” come to life.
In short, the zero-drop design means the shoe is flat. There is no rise from the toe area to the heel like found on most running shoes. The result of the flat design is a shoe that promotes mid-foot strides and discourages sloppy strikes where you land on your heel.
Additional points on the “biomechanically correct” theme include a wide toe box area to let the metatarsal bones spread naturally out, a flexible sole, and no significant arch support inside the shoe.
Running in the Lone Peak shoes, which are the company’s beefiest model, is a different experience. They are comfortable and protective, including a thick slab of mid-sole foam and aggressive tread underneath.
In the industry, the zero-drop build is most often associated with minimalist or “barefoot-style” shoes. The Lone Peaks really are neither. They are average in weight, not light, and though the foot can comfortably spread out inside you are aware at all times that there’s a large shoe on your foot. The so-called “ground feel” characteristic usually found with other barefoot-style shoes is missing.
Instead, the Lone Peaks are a solid trail runner that protect the foot and grip hard on the ground. They are fun to run in, and they inspire confidence with their good fit and bombproof feel.
Lace up the Lone Peaks for a test run if you’re looking for a new kind of trail-running experience. Right out of the box you’ll notice a difference. They run smooth. The grip is good. The sole is low-profile and “natural,” no modifications with a knife blade required this time around.