I’ve been running in Altra Lone Peaks for 3 years. They have been my go to trail shoe. I love the wide FootShape toe box and the Zero Drop platform. Portland had a miserable 2016 for winter weather. Heavy rain, snow, and mud made for some slippery trails and the Lone Peaks didn’t hold up as I slipped my way through any heavy mud. When Altra introduced the King MT trail shoe geared for mud and rocks last March, I couldn’t wait to try them out. So, in October, the first heavy rains came in and I headed to down to Mountain Shop in Portland and bought a pair.
The King MT has a new Vibram MegaGrip Rubber Outsole meant for OCR with 6mm plugs. It is an obvious change to the Lone Peak 5mm plugs. The midsole has a Stoneguard to protect the sole from jagged rocks, which makes the shoe slightly heavier than the Lone Peaks (9.7 oz. to 9.0) even though the cushioning on the King MT is meant to be minimal.
Altra has had some problems with the uppers wearing out prematurely, but they seemed to fix it with the Lone Peak 3.5, where I was able to get over 500 miles in my last pair. The King MT has a slightly different upper, so we will have to see how this holds up after a couple hundred miles in them.
Looking at the shoe, the most unique feature is the Velcro foot lock strap. I was told this is for adjusting for technical uphills and downhills to keep the foot from slipping. Also, the heel has a feature that allows the foot to slide in, but not out. (Think of a fish hook barb.) I have started using a heel lock lacing technique the last couple year, which has helped me with heel slippage. However, the laces come up short, which makes it tough to double knot. With the King MTs, I used a single knot and tucked it in the Velcro strap. The kept my shoe from coming untied during my run.
If you viewed the video, you can see that my initial run allowed me to take the King MTs into all types of conditions, which made a great test run. My confidence on the Newton Road downhill in Forest Park grew as I never felt any slipping on the mud or rocks. I stepped in every mud puddle I saw on the trail to give these shoes a good go. When I got to the bottom of the hill, I turned to BPA road and headed for the steep climb. BPA has both gravel and grass, which allowed me test a couple new surfaces. Because of the smaller stack height, I could feel the rocks a little more, but they didn’t bother me because of the Stoneguard. I had no problem climbing the hill. Next, I ran North on Wildwood to try to find some heavier mud. I found some spots and ran back and forth on the mud to really test these out. It took three or four efforts on the same spot before I felt any slippage. The only time I felt uncomfortable in the King MTs was on a couple of the wooden foot bridges. I didn’t slip, but the Stoneguard plate and lighter cushioning made if feel like it metal on metal.
When I finished my run, I felt the King MTs could make a reliable winter trail shoe for the Pacific Northwest. I don’t think the Velcro strap is necessary, as I never adjusted it once. I am a little nervous to take them on longer runs because of the minimal cushioning design, but I think they will work soundly. The mud in October isn’t as thick as February, so that is when the real test will take place. Perhaps a good Hagg Lake shoe?
As always, remember to buy from your local trail running store. These stores are the foundation of local trail running communities.
I ran McKenzie River 50K in the King MTs with no problems. They worked great in the technical part of the course. After getting to about 200 miles total in the King MTs, the uppers started to come apart. This was really disappointing as I would hope to get more than a couple hundred miles in trail shoes. It also makes it tough to run in wet and muddy conditions when there are holes in my shoes. I’ve attached a few pictures of the shoes as a reference. If Altra can figure out how to keep the uppers in tact, these could be a great shoe. As for now, I would not recommend them.