I recently found myself in a position where BOTH of my trail running shoes were…shall we say…compromised. After finishing a tough ten miler, I realized one shoe had developed a gaping hole in the side. The other pair had a broken lace loop, making tying the shoe a logistical nightmare.
So. Shoe shopping time!
I have been running in Altra Lone Peaks for the past three years, having thoroughly enjoyed both the 2.0 and the 2.5, so naturally I was going to lean that direction when considering a new shoe.
Coincidentally, the day after I tore through my 2.5s, I got an email announcing the BRAND NEW FULLY REDESIGNED 3.0!
Fate? Destiny? Who cares. I immediately ordered a pair.
One of my Twitter buddies suggested that I give the Topo Athletic shoes a look-see. So on that recommendation, and an hour of online research, I grabbed a pair of MT-2s.
I have now logged 34 miles in the Topo MT-2, 45 miles in the Altra Lone Peak 3.0. The time has come to jot down some impressions, comparisons, thoughts, and musings.
First, let me get the minor, nitpicky, unimportant-in-the-long-run stuff out of the way.
ALTRA – Every pair of Altras I’ve owned (5 total) has had laces that were too long for me. The Lone Peak 3.0 is no different. It is a very minor issue that is my own fault (probably) for having skinny feet.
TOPO – Um…look, I get that the founder of the company is named Tony Post…but I have to say the name is not a big draw. Topo…Topo…Topo…sounds too much like “typo.”
Well, never mind…
Okay, let’s dive into the stuff that really matters.
ALTRA – In the past, whenever I wore my Lone Peak 2.0s, I always referred to them as my “clown” shoes. Why? Because the design of the shoe seemed to accentuate the large toe box making the shoes look clownish. The 2.5 was slightly better. The 3.0 redesign has completely eliminated any trace of clownishness. This is a good looking shoe. I love the orange and red combo, the lines, the aggressiveness of it. Well done, Altra!
TOPO – Geez, is it just me or does the MT-2 look eerily similar to the Lone Peak 3.0? So, thumbs up here. Another, almost equally great looking shoe, this one in a dreamy blue.
The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 came in at $120. If you buy them from the Altra website, they give you a 30 Day Guarantee.
The Topo Athletic MT-2 came in at $100 with a similar guarantee.
ALTRA – The lacing system on this shoe is good. I get the perfect tie with ease. No complaints.
Alta has added a metal loop that I can hook my gaiters to, a small but potentially important detail. I haven’t actually tried my gaiters yet with these new shoes, but this seems like a brilliant idea.
TOPO – So far, getting these shoes laced just right has been a real problem. I think it’s because the laces pass through a loop on the tongue as well as some very narrow loops that run parallel to the tongue. This makes it is difficult to tighten or loosen the laces from top to bottom and get that perfect fit I’m looking for.
In addition to fiddling with the shoes for five minutes before I leave the house, I also have stopped during every run to adjust the laces. Stopping during a run to retie my shoes is annoying. I’m going to swap these out for Lock Laces and see if that helps.
(I’ve run a couple miles since putting in the Lock Laces. It’s much better.)
Also, the tongue seems too short. When I tie the shoes, the knot slips above the tongue and rests on the top of my foot. I’ve tried tugging up on the tongue, but it doesn’t budge. This hasn’t created a problem during runs, but it is a concern.
Both shoes, so far, have been comfortable and responsive. They both keep me from feeling any sort of pounding, yet I still feel connected to the trail. Cushioning is light enough that I feel the roots and the rocks under my feet, but hardy enough that my feet feel protected.
Also, both shoes have the expanded toe box allowing a more natural toe splay. Pair these shoes with some Injinji toe socks and you can virtually kiss blisters goodbye at any distance.
I’ve NEVER had a blister in any of my Lone Peaks (that includes two 50 milers, two 50ks, several marathons, and half a 100k). So far I have been blister free in the Topos as well.
But I do have to give the advantage to the Lone Peaks. I ran a 15 mile training run this past Saturday and felt no fatigue or soreness in my legs or feet during or after the run. The MT-2s don’t seem to have quite as much cushioning.
Again, this is a near dead heat.
Every run in each of these shoes has been a joy, but there is something about the Topo shoe, particularly on flat groomed trails, that gives them a slight advantage.
The MT-2 feels like it is driving me forward at toe off, like the shoe really is pitching in and helping me out. It’s a sensation I’ve never felt before. This doesn’t seem to be having any noticeable affect on time or speed, according to my GPS, but I feel fast on the flat sections, particularly fire roads.
I like both of these shoes and will continue to run in them, alternating between the two for my weekend long runs.
The ultimate winner will be the pair I chose for the North Face 50 miler, but it’s too soon to make that decision.
So who wins this round?
At the moment, I prefer the Altra Lone Peak 3.0s. They have a slightly better feel on the trails, a superior lacing system, and the ride is a bit more comfortable over the long haul.
Run on, Sisters and Brothers!
PS – I did not receive any compensation from either company for this review, but I certainly and proudly recommend them both without reservation.