While I’d never consider hiking in fuzzy bunny slippers, that’s exactly what the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid Hikers felt like while testing them on my 68km trek. The Earl Grey Pass trail teeters on the edge of backcountry, while still remaining within trail status. We encountered everything from creek crossings and side hilling, to devil’s club, alder and stinging nettle bashing. Through all these trials the Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mids were comfy as hell. Over the 5 days of hiking there wasn’t a hot spot to found anywhere on my feet, and I wore the Lone Peaks right out of the box!
My previous 65km trek was the Rockwall trail 4 weeks prior, wearing my tried and true Oboz hiking boots. However, on this hike these trusty boots decided to retaliate and chewed my feet up all over the place; I had lots of hot spots and blisters after just the first day. With an additional 40km day of walking still ahead of me, I vowed to change my hiking footwear for the better before my next trip.
The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid Hikers on top of Slate Peak at the height of the Earl Grey Pass.
I had just returned from Outdoor Press Camp 2016 in Deer Valley. While there, I had the good fortune of speaking with Golden Harper (founder of Altra) who extolled the virtues of the new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid hikers. Based on our discussion I decided test a pair on my next hike, the Earl Grey Pass.
The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 Mids are reported to be the most popular footwear on the Pacific Crest Trail, and for good reason. They’re incredibly comfortable over the long haul. They’re designed to improve toe splay, stability, push-off, comfort, and traction, all without sacrificing their lightweight, responsive feel. The Lone Peak NeoShell Low has been a staple in the Altra line-up for years. The Mid now features the same MaxTrac rubber outsole and TrailClaw designed lugs. There are three main benefits to the Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mids: The Footshape toe box, Zero Drop platform, and Polartech Neoshell waterproof/breathability. Let’s look at each feature in more detail:
Front and back.
Left and right.
Traditional running shoes are not foot-shaped; they are somewhat pointy. This squeezes your toes out of their natural position making it uncomfortable over the long term, and causing bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis. Altra’s FootShape toe box offers more room for your toes, enhancing stability and allowing your feet to remain in a natural, relaxed position while you walk, run, and hike.
Nearly all shoes on the market have elevated heels that cause a high-impact landing with every step. This traditional design may look good, but it isn’t beneficial to your body. A fully cushioned Zero Drop design keeps the entire outsole level, and aligns your feet, back, and overall body posture to lessen the impact of each step. A Zero Drop platform is also said to strengthen your Achilles tendon and lower calf muscles.
Unlike traditional footwear that places the waterproof/breathability membrane on the inside of the shoe, Altra is the first company to use Polartech Neoshell on the outside of a shoe. This ensures that the upper portion of the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 doesn’t get saturated with water and increase the shoe’s weight. Polartec Neoshell is inherently more breathable than other waterproof fabrics. Placing it on the outside of the shoe helps with overall breathability.
Midsole: EVA with A-bound top layer
Outsole: Altra max trac sticky rubber with TrailClaw
Upper: Abrasion-resistant mesh with minimal seams, Polartec Neoshell
If my feet are happy, I’m happy. There’s a pretty simple correlation between foot comfort and overall comfort on the trail. Your feet take the brunt of trail obstacles and shoulder all the weight that’s on your back, so it only makes sense to keep them comfortable, especially on a multi-day hike. Traditional hiking boots can be heavy and stiff. While this protects your feet from hazards found along the trail, it also makes them sore after a long day’s hike.
The new Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid Hikers are more like a shoe than a boot. I was eager to test them on the 68km Earl Grey Pass trail which crosses the Purcell Mountain range here in British Columbia. Our trek would take us 4 days with 8 hour days on-trail, and a total elevation gain of over 10,000’. I decided not to break in the Lone Peak Mids before we departed. In most cases this is foot-suicide, but I’d been told by the Altra rep that the Lone Peak 3.0’s fit right out of the box, and boy were they right! I’m not sure if it was the FootShaped toe box or the Zero Drop platform but my feet were so happy each and every day on the trail. The cushioned mid sole made for a very soft walking experience, and the Polartech Neoshelled upper portion ensured the morning dew and shallow creek crossings didn’t get me wet.
Typically, after 8 hours of hiking the first thing I need to do is get my hiking boots off my feet and let them air out and expand back to their normal shape. I always bring along flip flops so that my feet and boots can recuperate before the next day’s hike. While I still brought my flip-flops on this hike, I found I rarely ever put them on after the day’s walk was complete. After finishing a 20km day I’d often just leave the Lone Peak Mids on my feet as there was no discomfort, nor that hot clammy feeling that I typically experience with hiking boots.
While the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid Hikers handled the Earl Grey Pass trek with ease, I wouldn’t recommend them for more advanced scrambling, continuous side hilling, or more mountaineering-type trips. They simply don’t have the stability, ankle support and dense outsole that one would want for this type of advanced trip. The Lone Peak 3.0 Mids are designed for strictly hiking. Their light weight enables you to put in longer days than traditional hiking boots. Perhaps this is why they’re the most popular footwear on the Pacific Crest Trail!
While the Lone Peak NeoShell Mids are waterproof, this is only true to the top of the laces. And since the tongue isn’t waterproof, you have to be weary about fording streams that are too deep. The Mid cut keeps out most dirt and debris, but if you want a better seal around your ankle then consider adding Altra’s strapless trail gaiter. These gaiters use a Velcro flap to quickly attach to the heel of most Altra trail shoes. A clasp on the front keeps the gaiter secure and allows you to quickly change your shoes/socks without removing the gaiter. While I didn’t get to test these, they sure sound like an effective product to limit dirt and moisture while hiking or running.
Even though I am a huge fan of the Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mid Hikers, I still found it difficult to wrap my head around not wearing tough and sturdy hiking boots on my feet. After 30 years of using hiking boots it’s tough to change your perception of what hiking footwear should be. It’s happening though! The Lone Peak Mids will be my go-to hiker for any future adventures (regardless of length). But I think I’ll still keep my traditional hiking boots around for those more technical trips that require extra support and protection.
Price: $227CAN / $168US
Colour: Yellow, Red, Blue
Sizes: 7, 8-13 (in half sizes), 14, 15
Weight: 283g / 10oz
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