If you are a trail runner, training for an ultramarathon, or looking for your next pair of trail Altra this is the comprehensive comparison guide you've been waiting for!
Use the comparison graph below to find your next pair of trail shoes! For an in-depth review of all the shoes keep reading.
8.8 oz (251 g)
10.6 oz (300 g)
Great overall workhorse
10.9 oz (308 g)
Stiff but responsive
9.9 oz (280 g)
Insane grip and springy feel
11.6 oz (329 g)
Like riding on the clouds of Olympus
Altra ranks highest on my running shoe list for several reasons: durability, comfort, quality, and value. I discovered the brand at a running expo before a marathon in 2018 and immediately fell in love with the road shoes I was running in. The foot-shaped toe box, zero-drop sole, and comfort kept me running almost completely injury free and hitting PRs. I transitioned to trail running and ultramarathons in 2019 and have been using the different trail shoes since then.
Fast forward to today and I own more pairs of shoes than my wife (I may need an intervention). They are almost all running shoes and all of those are Altras. Altra shoes have gotten me across finish lines of some of the most rugged and grueling races in the US, including a Hardrock 100 qualifier 2 times. They have never failed me and I have gotten the least amount of blisters and lost the fewest toenails in Altras, hence why I currently own around 11 pairs in various stages of wear (several need to be retired, but I just can't bring myself to toss them).
Each trail shoe has a different feel and fits different needs and I've experienced them all. This guide is meant to help you find which shoe would best fit your needs. We'll go over comfort, responsiveness, grip, foot protection, and overall feel for each of the shoes: Superior 5, Lone Peak 6, Timp 4, Mont Blanc, and Olympus 4.
There is a wide variety in comfort levels of the Altra trail shoes. If comfort and decreased foot fatigue are the most important factors for your shoe choice then I would hands-down go with the Olympus 4.
Imagine running on clouds with bags of marshmallows on your feet. That's kind of what it feels like running on these. The shoe of the gods will give your feet the special treatment in the comfort category. The Lone Peak 6 isn't far behind, however, and is also an extremely comfortable shoe with a slightly smaller stack-height and much lower price tag. The Olympus does edge out the Lone Peak, so if comfort is king, this is your shoe.
I would place the Mont Blanc next as it doesn't have as cush a feel, but does have a good spring to the sole and return some of your energy back from the ground to push you forward during your run. It is not lacking in the comfort category, just not as comfortable as the Olympus or Lone Peak.
The Timp 4 and Superior 5 are a little hard to compare because the Timp has a greater stack height, but much stiffer feel while the Superior is minimalist by design but still sports a decent amount of comfort given its thin sole. If the trail doesn't have too many rough rocks and roots the Superior would feel great, but for anything more rugged I think you'd find more comfort in the Timp 4.
This is a shoe's ability to react to your movements with speed on the trail. The softer the sole the less responsive a shoe is likely to feel. You may not have as much feedback from the shoe to your foot and be able to create an appropriate response to the terrain changes you're running over. The Timp 4 and Superior 4 win out in this area. The Timps are stiffer in the soles so you can respond faster without your foot sinking with the innersole before getting feedback from the trail. Superiors are the most minimal trail shoe Altra makes and because the sole is so thin you can really feel the trail under your feet.
I would place the Mont Blanc next as it has a thicker sole, but a bit more of a springy feel than the Timp 4. They still have great responsiveness overall.
The Lone Peak 6 shoe may feel sloppy to some, as would the Olympus 4, because that extreme comfort comes at a cost, and that is the responsive feel. Enveloping your feet in a bag of marshmallows feels great as you cruise over rough terrain and pound out hundreds of thousands of miles during an ultra race, but you lose a sense of contact with the ground and just don't get the feedback from the ground like you would from a stiffer shoe. There are tradeoffs with about every choice in life, so you have to pick between comfort and responsiveness.
Get a Grip!
Most of the trail shoes have great grip and will keep you safe on the trails, but two shoes really stand out on opposite ends of the spectrum: the Mont Blanc and the Superior 5.
The Mont Blanc has the best overall grip I've ever felt in a trail shoe. It hugs the sidewalks and other flat surfaces while really biting into loose dirt, sand and scree on the trails. Most shoes feel fine on the trails, but the grip on these stand out more than any other shoe I've worn.
On the opposite end is the Superior 5. Out of the box the grip and traction aren't bad, but once the lugs start to wear down they can feel more like racing slicks. That, more than any other reason, is when I've known it's time to retire a pair of Superiors. If you like skiing off-season a pair of worn-down Superiors should do the trick!
Honestly, every other pair of shoes are just solid in the grip department and will do pretty much whatever you ask (except make omelettes. Don't ask them to make omelettes... ever).
If you plan on running on flat, smooth surfaces then you won't need much protection from the ground, but on trails like the IMTUF, Pike's Peak marathon, Wyoming Range 100, Bigfoot 50K, or any other rugged trail race with lots of roots or rocks you're going to want some protection for your feet. A bruised foot or blackened toenail could be the difference finishing well, just finishing, or a big DNF. Our sport is hard enough without undue suffering to accomplish a goal.
In terms of sole protection the stack-heights of the shoes is about the best way to quantify your protection. In descending order the best sole protection looks like this: Olympus 4, Mont Blanc, Timp 4, Lone Peak 6, and then Superior 5. You can definitely feel a difference in each of the shoes (less so the Mont Blanc and Timp because the stack height is so similar) when you hit rough terrain. The Superior 5 does come with a removable rock plate, which does help, but there is a compromise you make when going minimalist.
The sole is not the only part of your foot to protect and anyone that has kicked a root or rock with their big toe while blazing down the trail around 10+ miles per hour will attest to that! All of the shoes are pretty similar with a rubber toeguard extending up the front-middle portion of the shoe. They also all have a more protective upper section wrapping around the front and sides of the toes.
If I were to create a caricature of each shoe this is how it would go:
Olympus 4- the ultimate luxury ride with massive soles. Put on these bad boys and you'll be hand-feeding your feet grapes and other fruit while fanning them on a luxury massage bed. This is the Purple Mattress of the shoe world. If comfort and protection drowns out all other categories at the expense of responsiveness and weight and money is no object then this is the shoe for you. Again, think bags of marshmallows and clouds.
The sole is the size of Mount Olympus, however, so I have felt a little unstable at times on technical terrain with the thicker stack height. I really noticed it at the Cactus Rose 100 in 2020 and rolled my ankle several times on the steep and rocky descents. I didn't sustain any major injuries, but I did definitely notice a difference from when I was in my other trail shoes.
Mont Blanc- this is Altra's newest offering in trail shoes and is the gazelle of their shoes. It has great responsiveness with a spring-like rebound as you rocket off the ground. If you recall the moon shoes from the 90's or Wiley Cyote's spring-shoe antics from Loony Toons, it's kind of like that. You will, however, shell out a lot of the Benjamins to ACME in order to get these rocket-powered spring shoes in the mail. They are the most expensive Altra trail shoe right now (apart from the Altra X Reigning Champ edition of the Olympus 4, but I don't count those as you have the cheaper, regular Olympus option available). They also have the most insane grip I've ever experienced in a trail shoe. They're not quite ice cleats, but man do they grab the ground and keep you going in the right direction.
The one downside is they have a minimalist upper to keep the shoe light, second only to the Superior 5. In order to get weight down they decided to cut a lot of the cushion from the upper around the ankle and it does feel loose compared to the other trail shoes. I haven't had it fully slip or rub, but it does feel like it's going to and many others have mentioned it as well. You can use the runner's knot or heel-lock lace technique to cinch down the upper around the ankle, but it is by far the least comfortable around the ankle area.
Timp 4- I'd liken this to the Magic School Bus. It can get you wherever you need to go, but you're going to feel all the potholes along the way. Anyone who rode the back of the bus to school going up knows what I'm talking about. It's the least comfortable and stiffest shoe, but you gain responsiveness and it still has great protection from the ground. I could use this shoe on any rugged trail race, but personally I'd rather go with the Lone Peak 6 or Mont Blanc as they are both very capable shoes with much more comfort.
Lone Peak 6- If the Olympus 4 is the chariot of the gods then the Lone Peak 6 is a royal carriage that even the uptight Lady Catherine de Bourgh of Pride and Prejudice infamy would give two thumbs up! It is tried and true and I have finished many ultramarathons wearing this shoe. I have no reservations wearing it in any terrain and it has never failed me. It has great grip, comfort/cushion, and won't cost an arm and a leg to buy. There's a reason Altra has like 15 variants of this shoe: it does work!
Superior 5- for those who wish they could run naked, or at least just barefoot, and not risk stepping on broken glass or getting thrown in jail for indecent exposure then the Superior 5 is the next best thing. You can literally feel the contours of the trail (for better or worse) and your feet will build up muscle and toughness running in these shoes. They are also the cheapest trail shoes Altra makes. These are the lightest shoes and Hermes would be proud as you float across the trails and dance your way around technical sections.
That freedom does come at a price (though not to your wallet) as your feet will feel even small rocks at times pushing up through the sole into your foot. I have hit painful rocks and roots many times in these shoes and my feet paid for it. Freedom is not free!
I hope this comparison has been helpful as you decide which shoes to buy for your upcoming trail season and wish you the best of luck!