Well, it is that time of the year again. The weather has turned and the rain has arrived, and if you’re like me, then you’re looking for shoes to keep the water out and let you run more often. Thankfully, the folks at Altra have released the latest version of their Lone Peak model made especially for this time of year, it’s the NeoShell. We got a chance to put them through the ringer, almost literally.
We’ve taken a look at the Altra Lone Peak model before and actually one of our complaints was the fact that on overly muddy days your feet just get drenched. The NeoShell is not a full re-imagining of the Lone Peak, which puts it an ideal spot if you are already an Altra convert. Much like the parent model, the shoes feature a Moderate level of cushioning, which puts it right in the middle of the Altra lineup for trail shoes. It features all of the Altra core capabilities including a large FootShape™ toe box and Zero Drop™ profile meaning zero degree transition from front to the heel of the show. It also features their trademarked rock protection, trail runner, and has a built-in gaiter attachment. So its Altra to its core, but with a little extra flavoring and that’s what we want to cover here.
Performance In The Messy Stuff
We have long discussed the benefits and design of Altra shoes so I wanted to focus this more on performance and weather and how the Lone Peak NeoShells reacted when challenged with less than optimal climate conditions. It’s a trail shoe through and through, so there’s no better way to challenge it than to take it into the hills. Before that, I did run these on the road as well and I actually quite enjoyed the additional traction especially with the amount of debris and leaves the can build up on our Northwest roadways. During the Fall, many times in your regular road shoes will hit a wall in leaves or twigs or you stumble on slippery spots, etc. and I actually really enjoyed stomping through all of these barriers in the NeoShells. There’s nothing quite like seeing a big pile of debris or water in the road and being able to roll right through it, it makes you feel like a kid again.
I then took them into the hills and onto the trails on some gnarly days to see how they would respond and I was not let down. I took them through puddles many inches deep, across the muddiest portions of the trail, and over branches and even across rocky terrain that was moss and water covered. The traction held very well and the shoe remained responsive throughout never giving in or losing its grip. A few people asked me about the level of warmth generated by the shoe given this new waterproof exterior lining and padding and I’ll admit I never found this to be an issue. The Polartec NeoShell lining is made to both protect and breathe, but of course it only goes so far. I wouldn’t run the NeoShells on a 70+ degree day on a dry trail, I simply don’t think they’re made for that.
The idea was to make the Lone Peak impenetrable and when paired with the Altra gaiter nothing is getting in. They’re made for Fall, Winter and early Spring conditions. They are made to tackle the toughest of terrains and the wettest of conditions. I haven’t had a chance to run them in the snow yet, but I can imagine when paired with any additional grip these things would live up to the challenge as well. If you are already a fan of Altras and you want to run in the toughest conditions, then this is definitely your shoe. When you put them on, you simply feel like you can challenge most anything you come across.
A Note On Additional Weight
In the weight department, they are a little heavier than your non-weatherproof shoe, but it isn’t significantly noticeable. In fact, its only a little over an ounce in actual weight. We have tried several other brands prior and in many cases the additional weight was counterproductive to the running experience. The NeoShell, while running, honestly doesn’t feel that much different to the original. Even on non-rainy, muddy days where the temperature has dropped into the 30s and below I find myself still reaching for the NeoShell over the standard Lone Peak simply because I know I’m getting that little bit of additional warmth that will allow my feet to relax more during my run.
A Quick Note on Altra
I have noticed a trend among a lot of readers and interviews of people who are not liking or who have a preconceived notion about their Altra experience and I wanted to offer up some advice around this. If you aren’t an Altra runner yet, then you shouldn’t come to them cold turkey. Even when we interviewed their founder Golden Harper, he made the same comment as well. There is a breaking in period for your legs because running with Altra’s brings you closer to a barefoot style run in terms of your stride. Your footfall will change, the stress you put on your calves and ankles will change, and you will notice it in those first runs there is no doubt about it. During your breaking in period you may experience the same pain you feel when you haven’t run in three weeks and your quads are responding. Your legs are merely learning to understand what it means to run differently and really more efficiently. You’ll find it’s okay to shorten your stride to ensure your landing properly on your foot. This will only benefit you overtime once you have mastered this and then you will find your cadence increasing without the need to increase the length of your stride and this is important. We will be talking about power generated in an upcoming article, but for people looking to go for distance it’s more about cadence and power generation than it is about a longer gait.
Lastly on this topic, you should ALWAYS be wearing different shoes depending on the conditions the length of the run and your desired outcome. I’m really tired of seeing people in their road shoes tackling trails and using the same shoes to run a marathon in addition to their fastest 5K. There are inherent performance advantages to all shoe typws. When you look at the NeoShell, this is your fall and winter crappy condition trail shoe that will keep your feet warm, dry, and safe from harsh trail conditions. You’re not going to run these on a sunny summer afternoon around your neighborhood. They are not meant for that. And yes, I took them on the road, but it was in the middle of a rainstorm with 40 mph winds. This shoe is a utility and should be treated as such.
The NeoShell is $150 and available directly from Altra or can be found at your local running store. Note that the gaiters are not included in the box, so if you know you want to keep your ankles dry and you’re gonna be in ankle deep water, then make sure you grab those as well. These shoes are awesome for this time of year.