Altra Mont Blanc Trail-Running Shoe Review
Light, aggressively-tractioned, zero-drop, wide-fit shoe for long distances in technical terrain
Altra is finally breaking into the realm of true performance trail running shoes. Named after one of the most well-known technical running regions in the world, the Altra Mont Blanc Trail-Running Shoe is an extremely light and speedy shoe that can be used for hiking or running in a variety of conditions and terrain types — from easy trail to all out scrambling in difficult terrain they do it all.
New Altra Mont Blanc Shoe vs. Hoka Speedgoat?
Their most clear competitor is the Hoka Speedgoats and in this review we will cover key differences between the shoes. Hoka has exploded with popularity, and trail runners around the world are choosing their lightweight yet ultra-cushioned Speedgoats. The Mont Blancs use a very similar lug pattern for traction on the outsoles, with a similarly breathable and lightweight mesh upper. These shoes are also very similar to the Altra Olympus, with a more precise fit and less weight.
In this guide we provide comparisons to
Key Specs | Altra Mont Blanc Trail-Running Shoes
Design: Low-rise, zero drop trail running and hiking shoe for comfort and speed on technical terrain
Features: Vibram Lightbase outsole for traction, Altra EGO MAX™ midsole for comfort and responsiveness, FootShape™ design features wide toe box and zero drop to mimic natural stride, GAITERTRAP™ for Altra’s gaiters to secure to the shoe without a strap (sold separately)
Weight: 18.8 oz pair (men’s 9)
Type: Trail runner, low-rise hiking & running shoe for rugged trails
Stack Height Heel: 30mm
Stack Height Toe: 30mm
Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
Outsole: Vibram Lightbase
Altra Mont Blanc Trail-Running Shoe | Overview
Altra Mont Blanc Trail-Running Shoes are, in every specification, close competitors to Hoka Speedgoats. The main gripe against most Altra shoes are their, wide (some say sloppy) fit and/or their zero drop design. While the Altra Mont Blancs still use a zero drop design (love it or leave it), the fit is so much more dialed in making it a much more competent shoe in technical terrain. To put this in perspective, the beloved Altra Lone Peaks while comfortable on easy trails, do have a loose fit than can be unstable & disconcerting on rough trails & technical terrain. The new Mont Blancs solve much of this. While still have a somewhat wide toe box, they are by far the most precisely fitting Altra shoe we’ve tested and work well in technical terrain. But without sacrificing that signature, comfortable Altra fit.
Key Features for Altra Mont Blanc Shoes & Why They Matter
- High cushioned stack height: Cushioning really helps with long term comfort in technical terrain. Without a rock plate, the high stack height and heavy cushioning protects your feet against whatever is on the trail. These would be shoes suitable for the rocky section of the PCT in Oregon, or the famous “Rocksylvania” stretch of the Appalachian Trail.
- AltraEgo high energy return foam midsole: Last year, Altra started using their proprietary AltraEgo midsole in trail shoes. Previously, they reserved this technology for their fastest road running shoes. Now, trail runners and hikers can also reap the benefits of high energy return foam. In a nutshell, more energy from each step is absorbed in the midsole and transferred back up the user. This is an amazing feature in the Mont Blancs, as moving through technical terrain is very tiring.
- Vibram Lightbase outsole: Vibram outsoles are known for their traction in icy, slippery, muddy, and uneven terrain. Altra doesn’t use Vibram in many of their models – so these shoes are clearly designed for the rougher conditions. Vibram developed their new Litebase outsole, which reduces the weight by 30% and the thickness of the outsole by 50%. This is a piece of what makes the Mont Blancs so grippy and tough while still being so lightweight.
- Balanced cushioning / zero drop design: Many people who use Altra continue to use them because they’ve grown to love the zero drop design. This means that there’s no difference in height between the heel and the toe. Benefits of this are that it encourages a more natural gait, with more engagement of the calves and achilles while hiking or running. However, it does take a bit of time to transition to this comfortably if you’re used to shoes with a higher drop.
- Breathable and lightweight mesh upper outsole: I was initially worried that the snugger fit would trap heat from my feet. However, the lightweight upper outsole is incredibly breathable and stretchy. Extra material is only placed in high wear areas, like the sides of the shoe. This makes it so heat can escape through the top of my feet when I’m using these shoes for my longer days on the trail.
Lightweight and precise trail shoes for moving through tricky terrain and sloppy conditions
- Lightweight and speedy shoes: When hiking or running in shoes with a higher stack height, I’m used to feeling weighed down. Altra Mont Blanc Trail-Running Shoe is still only 9.9 ounces – lighter than their most popular Lone Peaks. This is especially helpful and noticeable when moving quickly through rocky conditions. The shoes allow you to pick your feet up so quickly and land with precision each step.
- Narrower, more precise fit: I’ve tripped in the Lone Peaks. A lot. Even though they’re incredibly comfortable shoes for even the longest days on foot, I hate that I can’t take my eyes off the trail without flying into the bushes. Conversely, the Mont Blancs keep your feet locked into place on uneven or rocky terrain. There also isn’t so much extra room in the front that you can easily trip over rocks.
- Excellent traction: Shoes with a vibram outsole have been my go-to for technical terrain for awhile, and the Mont Blancs step it up even more. So far, I’ve noticed no performance difference between the lighter version and Vibram’s original rubber outsole. The lugs on the Mont Blancs are varied in size, with macro lugs placed strategically where you are most likely to land. My first test with these shoes was on a flat trail with a mix of ice, mud, and dry sections. I was with two friends, and on the icier bits I flew ahead of them. I felt very little difference in the grip between the dry trail and ice in the Mont Blancs. If the trail was steeper, I’m sure it would have been different but they were amazing for moving fast on a flat trail in mixed conditions.
- Suitable for long days: So far, I haven’t had any aches or pains after long days in these shoes. The traction keeps the bottom of my feet happy, while the narrower feet keeps my feet locked into place. I haven’t tested them long enough to know yet how they will do over long periods of time, for something like a thru-hike. My guess would be that they perform very similarly to the Speedgoats in terms of overall mileage, and mileage per day.
Sloppy heel cup & high investment for a brand new product
- Heel cup issues: The number one problem cited with this shoe so far has been the sloppiness of the heel cup. Especially in deep mud, you can feel like you’ll pop right out of the shoe. Additionally, if you wear after-market footbeds in your shoes, I imagine this problem would be exacerbated. I have noticed this problem starts to relieve itself as I break the shoe in more, but I still would not trust them in deep mud or sand where I really need a tight fit. Also, the laces are a bit short so it may also help to swap out the laces.
- Price: These shoes are $50 more give or take to the competition. For a new model that you may be unsure of, it’s a really steep investment. So far, I’ve been happy with the purchase but if their long term durability doesn’t hold up it may not be worth the price tag.
- No long term data on durability: These are brand new shoes, and as such we don’t have much data on how long they last. The traction and amount of cushioning feel really solid, and they’ve only gotten better as I’ve worn them the past few weeks. If there is a part of the shoe I’m skeptical about, it’s the lightweight upper outsole. We’ll see how it holds up over time.
Altra Mont Blanc Trail-Running Shoe | Compared to Similar Shoes
Heel to toe drop: 4 mm
Stack height: 33 mm heel / 29 mm toe
Weight: 20.6 oz
Rock plate: No
Outsole: Vibram MegaGrip
The Hoka Speedgoats are absolutely the Mont Blanc’s most popular competitor. They have even more cushion, similar traction, a bit more support for the foot with a 4 mm drop, and they’re $25 cheaper. They also have snugger more technical fit due to a narrower forefoot and a lot more substantial heel cup. However, they are a few ounces heavier than the Mont Blancs. Altra shaved weight with the Vibram Lightbase outsole instead of the heavier MegaGrip used on the Speedgoats – we’ll see how that traction holds up over time. So far, I haven’t noticed a difference with the Lightbase. Though I prefer a zero drop shoe, the small heel to toe drop in the Speedgoats does cater to a wider range of athletes.
Heel to toe drop: 0 mm
Stack height: 25 mm
Weight: 21 oz
Rock plate: No
Outsole: MaxTrac Rubber
We included the popular Altra Lone Peaks in our comparison section, to show why one may be interested in upgrading to the Mont Blancs. Altras new release is lighter, more cushioned, has a grippier outsole, and fits more precisely. However, because of the price difference, if you are new to Altra is may be worth it to test out the Lone Peaks before upgrading to their performance-focused model.
Heel to toe drop: 5 mm
Stack height: 30 mm heel / 25 mm toe
Weight: 20 oz
Rock plate: No
Midsole: ZipFoam EVA
Outsole: Vibram MegaGrip
We’ve just started testing these shoes and we’re excited by what we’ve seen. Based on their specs, they appear to be extremely close competitors to all of these shoes listed. Topo is somewhat of a combination of Altra and Hoka – where they use an Altra-style wide toe box but have a minimal, 5mm heel to toe drop. Other than that, the level of cushioning, weight, and outsole specs are all very similar to these other shoes. In summary, a 5mm drop technical shoe but with a wider, “altra-style” toe box.
Conclusion | My Choice of Shoe for High Alpine Adventures
I live in Salt Lake City, where there are plenty of technical trails to be found. Though I loved the Altra Lone Peaks last summer, I couldn’t take them high up into the alpine for ridgeline scrambling because they are far too sloppy. The Altra Mont Blanc Trail-Running Shoes are going to be absolutely perfect for long days, where there’s a mix of dirt trail, rocky sections, and true scrambling. The level of cushioning keeps my feet happy when I’m out in the alpine for hours on end, and the Vibram outsole and precise fit give me confidence that my feet will go exactly where I want them to.
The only conditions that I’ve struggled with so far in these shoes is excessive mud. The sloppiness of the heel cup really affects hiking or running with efficiency in sticky conditions. While hiking up a muddy trail in these shoes, I felt like my foot was going to be pulled out of the shoe because of the play in the heel cup. I wouldn’t be surprised if this design is changed on version two of this shoe.
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