For the last several years, I’ve primarily backpacked in low-top trail runners with Brooks Cascadias and Altra Lone Peaks being the ones most often on my feet. I’ve used both waterproof and non-waterproof models and, after much experimentation, have pretty much decided that in three-season conditions non-waterproof works best for me in the terrain and conditions most common on my backpacking trips. While trail runners have been preferable to me for a variety of reasons – breathability and comfort being the foremost ones – I’ve found myself missing the ankle support provided by boots.
Despite using trekking poles, I’ve had two sprained ankles within the last year while using trail runners. Past injuries are the primary contributing factors to this weak spot in my anatomy, but it seemed worthwhile to examine my footwear as well. Not wanting to go back to boots, but recognizing that maybe trail runners weren’t offering the support I needed, I decided to try out a pair of mid-height trail runners – the Altra Lone Peak 4 Mids.
After having used Altra Lone Peak 4 trail runners for many of my backpacking trips since last year, I didn’t have any trouble adjusting to the zero-drop platform of the shoes. Hikers used to more traditional designs might want to ease into using zero-drop shoes, as sometimes issues can arise when doing too much too quickly after making the switch. I never had any noticeable issues when I made the switch years ago and have been happy with how my feet and body feel at the end of the day after hiking in Altras.
The Lone Peak 4 Mids are, aside from the higher tops around the ankle, nearly identical to the Lone Peak 4 Lows. A wide toe box, gaiter trap for use with Altra specific gaiters, and ample cushioning are all features of each shoe. As someone with a rather generic foot shape I don’t necessarily need the wide toe box, but I have noticed that on longer-mileage days my feet do appreciate the extra room to spread out when compared to shoes with a narrower profile. I’ve yet to use the Altra specific gaiters on the low version of this shoe, instead just using gaiters I already own, and with the mid version I’ve not found gaiters to be necessary for most of the terrain I hike in since the higher upper portion keeps out enough debris, especially when wearing pants.
Similar to most trail runners, these shoes were comfortable right out of the box and no “break in” period was required. My first trip with them was a 10-mile round trip overnight with a few miles of faint trail and bushwhacking and a steep climb through a burned area. These shoes felt just as comfortable on that trip as they did 100 miles later on another backpacking trip with significant cross-country travel. At 1 lb. 9 oz for the pair, these feel nearly as light as low trail runners while still offering a reasonable amount of ankle support at a fraction of the weight of traditional hiking boots. The boots have a 25mm stack height, and combined with an integrated rockplate I’ve found them to provide ample protection underfoot on rough trails. The sole provides good traction across the board with a fairly aggressive tread pattern. Although overall, I've been impressed by the durability of these shoes – especially given that a decent chunk of the mileage has been cross-country or on brushy trails – they do appear to have similar weaknesses as with trail runners in general. The toe cap on one of the shoes is beginning to peel slightly as I close in on 150 miles. However, the tread is still in great shape and most surprisingly no weak spots in the mesh have appeared.
The only downside I’ve noticed about these shoes compared to traditional trail runners is that they are not as easy to slip on and off when taking breaks or exiting the tent in the middle of the night to, uh, admire the stars. Whereas with most low trail runners I can easily slip them on and off without undoing the laces, with these I have to undo the laces and loosen them to get my feet in and out. This isn’t a major point of contention for me, as I usually use camp shoes, but on trips where I forego them I do miss the convenience of being able to easily shed my footwear and just as easily slip it back on.
As would be expected with a mesh shoe, the breathability is excellent. Even on a 16-mile day in Yellowstone National Park with a heavy pack in 80-degree temperatures, my often-unusually-sweaty feet didn’t get uncomfortably warm. The obvious counterpoint, of course, is that these shoes are not waterproof. Although Altra does offer RSM mid and RSM low versions of the Lone Peak with waterproofing in mind, since I’ve more or less phased out waterproof footwear and replaced it with breathable, quick-drying footwear this wasn’t a major adjustment or inconvenience for me. These shoes dried reasonably quickly in low-humidity conditions in the Northern Rockies after getting wet crossing creeks; no better or worse than other comparable trail runners.
At $130 the Lone Peak 4 Mesh Mids are economically priced and, given the features and performance, I find them to be a remarkable value. If you’re looking for ankle support but don’t want the bulk of a traditional hiking boot, then the Lone Peak 4 Mids are a great option if you’re comfortable with zero-drop shoes or are interested in transitioning to them.