First Look: Altra ‘Toothy’ King MT Trail-Running Shoe

Traction is not for want on a new shoe from Altra. The King MT is the brand’s toothiest trail shoe to date.

altra king mt shoe

Utah-based Altra Footwear has a reputation for shoes that can go long distances on dirt trails. The brand’s latest, the King MT, is a strange beast more at home off the trail than on it.

A wide forefoot, zero-drop platform, and big tread underneath make for a different kind of run. A Velcro tab across the foot straps you in for the ride. I took the $140 shoes on a few test runs for a first review.

Review: Altra King MT Trail-Running Shoe

This is a neat shoe, though it is not for everyone. Nor is it very adaptable to different running styles or different terrain types. As described below, the King MT is a specialist shoe and one that will interest mainly advanced runners doing untraditional things.

To start, a set of aggressive 6mm lugs stud the sole. These rubber teeth, made by Vibram (the MegaGrip outsole) are the deepest seen on any Altra shoe, and among the largest we’ve seen on any dedicated running shoe.

Massive tread underfoot
Massive tread underfoot

The tread gives grip, traction, and braking ability when you’re sputtering on mud, loose dirt or sand, and even snow.

I am a fan of toothy but nimble trail shoes. The category, sometimes called “fell runners,” offers grip in a light, low-to-the-ground, flexible shoe design.

This combination lets the footwear bend and mold to the terrain underfoot, giving unusual grip. I have long loved the security and speed for adventure racing, orienteering, peak-bagging, and other off-trail pursuits.

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But Altra’s go at a fell runner is stiffer, flatter, and wider than anything I have worn. The King MT shoes feel like tanks on each foot, small snub-nosed vehicles that clamp to the ground with each stride.

Details: Altra King MT

At about 12 ounces a shoe (men’s size 12.5), the “tanks” are light enough. However, comparable shoes I have from Inov-8 and other brands shave a couple ounces off and are noticeably nimbler on the foot.

Altra gives more durability in trade for the couple extra ounces. The upper is a strong matrix with TPU overlays and polyester rip-stop fabric. A bumper in front and a rock plate in the midsole protect during stumbles and toe-stubs.

Foot strap adds some support
Foot strap adds some support

The mid-foot strap cinches down to add some support. It doubles as a lace-keeper; you can put the loose ends of your bows in the Velcro to keep them out of the way.

I found the strap to be a good idea, though not super noticeable while running. It may add a little support or tighten the fit, depending on the bulk of your foot.

Zero-Drop Trail Shoes

As noted, the shoes are zero-drop. This means there is no slant from the heel to the toe. That gives a “barefoot” feel and a more natural gait, though it can feel odd to anyone used to traditional running shoes (which have a higher heel).

Altra sells the shoe for “runners whose idea of fun involves mud, wet grass and burly mountain climbs.” The company notes obstacle-course racers, too, as candidates.

Altra calls its wider toebox a 'foot shape' fit
Altra calls its wider toebox a ‘foot shape’ fit

It should be obvious, but do not use these shoes on pavement; they feel harsh on roads and cement. On flat terrain and hard-pack trail, the King MTs are usable but slow.

Note: I would not buy these shoes to replace your regular trail-runners. The King MT is a quiver shoe — pull it out for those occasions when off-trail events, summertime mountain climbs, and rough or muddy terrain is ahead.

Shoes For Off-Trail, Mountain Peaks

Altra named this model after the tallest mountain in Utah (Kings Peak). For peak-bagging and moderate mountain climbs, the King MTs have attachments for gaiters and will serve well during fast-and-light ascents.

Don’t expect to leave crampons at home, but I tested them on snow and was impressed with the grip.

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The company sells the King MT in men’s and women’s models. They both cost $140 and are a similar design. The women’s model has softer cushioning on the last.

Look at this model if you find yourself often on talus, scree, grass, mud, or if bushwhacking and avoiding trails are a part of your routine.

I love running in the wilds. For me, this shoe will see wide use this spring as I ramp up my running and head off trail again.

Tread so tall you can see light coming through...
Tread so tall you can see light coming through…

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By

Stephen Regenold is Founder and Editor-In-Chief of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for nearly two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of four small kids, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.

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