The Altra Mont Blanc is a race-ready trail shoe with a grippy Vibram outsole. The cut-down upper and 30mm stack height materials place the shoe perfectly in the long-distance racer realm.
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I’m a little late to the party with the Altra Mont Blanc, but with a 100km race on the books, I decided it could be time to shake up my shoe rotation.
But did all the impressive specifications translate to be a great racing shoe? We’ll find out in this review where I take you through the fit, the feel, and the durability. And if you should buy the shoe, or look elsewhere.
Hint: You may want to wait a few months….
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If you’re going to start somewhere with a shoe, it should always be the fit.
And in all honesty, this is where the Mont Blanc fails.
Altra made a tradeoff between comfort and performance. And clearly, comfort lost out.
Is the toe box wide?
As with most Altra’s, the Mont Blanc toe box is plenty wide enough. Even though the shoe’s shape is said to be Altra’s “standard fit,” I feel the width is on par with the Lone Peak 7, and the depth is greater than the Superior 6.
The lack of a toe cap could leave you with bruised toes. Why do you always seem to kick a rock when running on trails? You’re supposed to be moving over them, not through them! A solid toe cap can help avoid bruised toes, but Altra has decided to go with nothing on the Mont Blanc! Just keep that in mind if you’re heading out on technical terrain.
Is there enough depth in the shoe?
The toe box depth is average, but that reduces as you move back through the shoe. This is not a shallow shoe, but I wouldn’t advise it to anyone who needs a considerable amount of depth. There’s still some wiggle room in the toe box.
The width in the midfoot is a little limiting, meaning you have to be careful with lacing. Altra’s always have a wide toe box, but I’ve had midfoot width issues in multiple models. The Mont Blanc is no different. If your foot tends to be wide back past your toes, the taper of the shoe towards the heel may prove problematic. I had to loosen the lacing to relieve pressure around the midfoot.
How to fix heel slip in the Mont Blanc?
The heel lockdown in the Mont Blanc is horrendous. I tried many different lacing techniques and even different insoles to get a good lockdown, but nothing worked.
The lack of heel cuff and depth in the heel makes it feel like nothing is holding your foot in. As you look inside the shoe, you will see two fatter columns running down the sides of the ankle, but the placement seems to be too low, and the fact that they stop before the back of the heel means they do little to keep the heel in place.
If you buy these shoes, you will 100% need to use a lace lock. It still didn’t solve everything for me, but the shoes were unusable without a lace lock; another option is to find some thinner insoles to allow your heel to sit lower in the shoe.
I even know of others preemptively using blister prevention pads whenever they use the shoes to avoid the heel rub.
If you can get past this major flaw, you will find a decent shoe. 🙂
Is the Mont Blanc true to size?
I bought my standard US9 sizing and found them to be perfect in length. I wouldn’t suggest moving up in size as you’ll only make the heel slipping worse.
Stick to your standard size.
Altra Mont Blanc
Now we’ve got the bad part out of the way; let’s talk about the good.
The Mont Blanc is made to go fast, and to go faster; you want cushion and roll!
Does the Mont Blanc have ground feel?
Not too much.
A shoe with a 30mm stack height will never translate the bumps and lumps of a trail. That’s a lot of material to get through to stimulate the sensors in your foot! But the semi-firm midsole will provide something, at least.
The shoe has a large stack height for a reason. For me, 30mm is a bit high, but there’s good reason. A straightforward way of making a fast shoe is to increase the stack height. It lengthens your stride, which leads to faster times. That’s not great for all situations (that’s why I believe in barefoot training), but for races, it works.
The larger, stiffer base has a minor toe spring, causing a rocker-like motion. It’s not huge, but you’ll feel it if you’re used to a minimal, flatter shoe. I’d compare the feel to an Altra Rivera on the road.
What’s the grip like?
The Vibram outsole does it again. To be honest, I wish all Altra shoes used Vibram rubber. It just works. With evenly spaced lug pattern, it grips in muddy conditions but also rips through dry sandy conditions too.
The lugs are too short for boggy, sloppy mud conditions found in the British fells. With 3-4mm lugs, they do not protrude far enough to consider them proper mud shoes. Since the King Mt, there’s not been an Altra shoe for those conditions. But for most of the US, the Mont Blanc will work.
The heel becomes an issue again
I discussed it in the “Fit” section, but I must discuss the heel again.
It felt like the shoe was about to slip off my heel on every step. The lack of heel lock was unnerving. Although the shoe was completely secure, it felt like there was no heel to the shoe, like a Croc.
There were continuous minor movements in the heel that did end with a blister on my long run. I thought I could ignore the weird feeling and continue with the Mont Blanc, but sadly, at the ~10-mile mark, I developed a blister.
The tongue needs to be taller!
Most of the tongue has a spongy wedge running up the middle, preventing the lacing from digging in. But that ends right near the top of the tongue, and because of the heel issues, this is where you need to crank the most. If you crank too much, the laces become painful. So there’s a fine balance between lockdown and comfort.
The upper materials are light, airy, and great for all conditions. Finding a balance between durable and breathable is hard, but the Mont Blanc has it. The flexible, soft toe box offers a ton of breathability while not being fragile, whereas the midfoot and heel mix lightweight materials with overlays, resulting in a performant mix.
Altra Mont Blanc
They’re a racing-inspired shoe, so they won’t last long, will they?
I’m not sure that’s true.
With a Vibram outsole and a nice wide base, they have the making of a sturdy shoe.
How long before the outsole wears out?
As with any trail shoe, keep them offroad. You’ll see wear and tear as soon as you hit the pavement, regardless of the rubber compound. And as the lugs are the only part of the outsole in contact with the surface, they’ll soon wear away.
You may find the outsole falling away before it wears out. Because this is not a one-piece outsole, and instead, it’s many strips of rubber, there are a lot of edges to catch and tear off. I’ve not seen evidence of that happening yet, but the potential is there.
Will the midsole foam hold up?
The EgoMax sole comes to life after a few runs but tends to run flat after a few hundred km. If I hear a complaint about Altra’s more than any other, it’s the midsole longevity. It’s not that you can’t get 1000km out of them, but they tend to lose that bounce after a while.
If you can get past the lifeless feeling, the midsole will last you a lifetime. Often, the worry of midsole wear is the imbalance it causes, potentially leading to injury. But a wide base on the Mont Blanc avoids any possible injuries in the future, adding a hint of stability.
Is the upper on the Mont Blanc durable?
In a word, yes.
There are two sections to the upper, the font and the rear.
The rear is a plastic-like fabric with further reinforcing overlays, and the front is a stretch, thin wetsuit-like material.
You can kick rocks and tree roots all you want, and all you’ll damage is your feet. I already mentioned the shoes aren’t that protective, but that doesn’t mean they’re not durable. The materials are unlikely to rip, but they won’t save your feet either!
Overall, the Altra Mont Blanc is a durable shoe. Pair that with the lightweight design. I hope we see these design elements in more Altras!
Altra Mont Blanc
Who is Altra Mont Blanc for?
That lucky person who has no heel lift issues!
The Mont Blanc is fabulous for those trail runners looking to pick up the speed on race day.
And for the other 80-90% who have heel lift issues….
Try the Olympus.
It may be big and heavy, but the fit is x10 better. The heel is almost dreamy in comparison.
And if you can wait until the end of the year, I have a sneak feeling that we may see a new shoe from Altra that will take the Mont Blanc’s place. Fingers crossed, they’ve solved the heel.
If you were wondering… I never did my 100km in the Mont Blanc. And instead, I went for the Xero Shoes Scrambler Low!
Altra Mont Blanc