Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid ReviewAugust 29, 2017
- Secure fit
- Great traction
- Breathable upper
- Ankle support
- Distinctive design
- Sizing runs small
- Tongue slip
- Overbuilt toe cap
- Over-soft midsole
The Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid is one of very few genuinely runnable mid-top trail shoes. Our wear-testers applauded it for excellent traction, generous toe box, top-notch protection, and responsive feel on the trail. However, it is substantially heavier than other shoes in the test, and some wear-testers wondered whether the extra support from the mid-top ankle was worth the added weight.
The Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid is a warm-weather version of last year’s waterproof Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid. It shares an outsole, midsole, and upper design with the new Lone Peak 3.5. The 3.5 edition is a minor update to the Lone Peak platform (which Altra signifies by the half-point jump rather than a full digit). To briefly catalog the updates, the Lone Peak 3.5 includes reinforcements to the mesh uppers, tweaks to the placement of the stitched overlays, a redesigned toe bumper, and an additional overlay wrapping around the heel of the foot. The Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid takes the Lone Peak platform and extends it about two inches up the ankle in a mid-top boot. In terms of performance, the Lone Peak 3.5 feels almost indistinguishable on the trail from the 3.0. It’s the same zero-drop platform with the same heel and forefoot stack height as last year’s model, with the same midsole material and outsole design. The last has not changed, so runners who appreciate Altra’s roomy generous toe box and zero-drop platform will find few differences here. The Mesh Mid version removes the waterproofing from last year’s Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid, and shaves down the padding around the ankle. Our wear-testers found the Lone Peak 3.5 runnable despite the high ankle, although opinions were mixed about whether the extra support from the mid-top was worth the added weight.
The Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid’s roomy forefoot is designed to encourage natural toe splay. The width prevents the feeling of pinched or cramped toes, although one of our wear-testers wished Altra would bump up the toe box height because the edge of his big toe bumped up against the overbuilt toe cap. Our wear-testers had no issues with the comfort of the uppers. One explained, “the upper was soft, supportive, and broke in easily after just a few runs,” and another called out, “the nicely padded collar around the ankle that increases the comfort factor.”
Our wear-test team was divided here. One described the Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid as smooth rolling and speedy, saying it was, “fast and secured with excellent turnover for a zero drop shoe.” Another called them light compared to hiking boots but tanks compared to most trail running shoes. From his perspective, the mid-top ankle “hinders any kind of swift turnover, making these shoes clunky and inflexible for running (but great for hiking).” Runners looking for a lightweight, speedy trail shoe on Altra’s wide-forefoot, zero-drop platform should take a look at the lower-profile Superior 3.0 and brand-new King MT. As always with Altra shoes, runners who are not used to a zero-drop shoe will need to take time to transition.
Security of Fit
Here the Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid stood out from the rest of the test group. The mid-top height is the key feature here, with one wear-tester noting, “The ankle construction adds another dimension of support and security.” The Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid suffered from an overpadded ankle and tongue, but that issue has been resolved in this version. The reinforced stitching added to the mesh panels gives them additional support, and the stitched-on overlays lock the foot in place. Some runners have trouble with Altra’s shoe feeling sloppy due to the wide toe box, but the Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid holds the foot in place securely. One tester had an issue with the tongue slipping to the side, and wished Altra had included a lacing anchor.
The extra weight and extended ankle height of the Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid are naturally going to make it feel less nimble on the trail than lower-profile shoes like The North Face Ultra Vertical, Asics FujiRado, and New Balance 910v4. But our wear-test team was surprised by how agile they ran, especially for a shoe that doubles as a lightweight fastpacking boot. One observed that, “they surprised me in their ability to provide plenty of cushioning and comfort, but still feel plenty nimble in rock gardens and through wet root sections. The aggressive traction and upper support gives runners the confidence to easily handle rough terrain.” Another claimed that, “you’d never wear another all-leather hiking boot again after you’ve worn these.” Much of the Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid’s agility comes from a burly outsole with full-coverage rubber and a smart combination of lug shapes, sizes, and placement.
The majority of our wear-testers praised the responsive midsole, which was soft and comfortable underfoot, but flexible enough to respond well to changes in pace, terrain and direction. One wear-tester compared it positively to other trail shoes in the test, concluding, “While not as firm feeling as The North Face Ultra Vertical or New Balance 910v4, it offered the best combination of soft and responsivness in one package.” One wear-tester, however, thought the proprietary A-Bound midsole foam was too soft, and compared it to running on marshmallows. Great at absorbing the unevenness of a rough trail, he observed, but not so great at bouncing back with a lively, responsive feel.
The Lone Peak 3.5 Mesh Mid does not have a rock plate embedded in the midsole, but the high stack height and generous midsole foam make it unnecessary. Our wear-testers thought the uppers were virtually bombproof, and praised the toecap, midsole wrap, wraparound heel, and mid-top ankle collar. The four-point integrated gaiter connections (to be used with Altra’s in-house gaiters) only add to the protective elements. One wear-tester, however, was concerned that the overbuilt toecap across the front of the toe box interfered with the front-end comfort.
Jason is a trail runner and ultra-marathoner who lives with his wife and children in the frozen tundra of northeastern Wisconsin.