REVIEWER: KATE DZIENIS
AS IMPRESSIVE AS MONT BLANC ITSELF
PREMIUM PREMIUM PREMIUM. The newest member of the Altra family, the Mont Blanc, has literally sold out everywhere with demand outrunning supply. But don’t worry. Altra has heard the call and is returning this month in August with plenty of new sets available.
And just why has it been such a success?
Well, I’ll tell you one thing. The Mont Blanc shoe is Altra’s offering to the ultra gods after they heard ‘the people’ calling for a product that could go the extra mile against the toughest terrain.
And they’ve come up with their most premium long distance trail running shoe yet.
Clearly inspired by the UTMB, the biggest feature (and star of the show) for the Mont Blancs is the EGO™max midsole – foam that provides a light and luxurious performance with added bounce and durability. Essentially, it’s a blend of cushioning compounds, and there’s no other way to describe how the shoe feels other than two thumbs up and crying out ‘Yeah, baby!’.
At first glance, the Mont Blancs scream Altra – they feature the same undercarriage foot shape toe box, are a balanced 30mm zero drop front and rear geometry, and are very recognisable in their design. Their fit to the wider foot is impeccable, with runners getting their own personal security guard of snugness within the forefoot and midfoot, and plenty of room for toes to swell up and breathe.
Altra markets their shoes three ways – Original FootShape™ Fit (the roomiest design), Standard FootShape™ Fit (the middle of the bunch), and Slim FootShape™ Fit (their slimmest option but still with plenty of toe room). It’s a trademark to have the wider toebox combined in a specific and unique-to-brand FootShape™ Fit so that the majority of runners can experience the shoe. It’s a big reason why Altra has become one of the fastest growing footwear brands globally – a brand that allows people to run more naturally but still with the benefits of superior, high-tech and modern cushioning.
The Mont Blancs are classified in the Standard category, but as someone who took to the Altra Lone Peak 6 shoes recently (which are of Original FootShape™ Fit), I could immediately tell the difference in ‘fit’. When I run, I tend to wear a thick sock brand, and have done so for over six years…never having a problem with testing or trialling shoes those exact socks. In the Mont Blancs, however, there was a necessity to source a slightly thinner sock so my foot wouldn’t feel strangulated.
But that was an easy fix, swapping out socks, and I happily took the Mont Blancs with me for training runs as well as the Lighthorse Ultra 3hr event, where I bonded with two other runners who were wearing the exact same pair in the exact same colour – “Don’t you just love these?!” were the words coming out of our mouths as we idolised over the funky Coral Black colour scheme.
One of the most impressive features with the Mont Blancs is the insane tread on the outsole. Think premium track wheels on the best 4WD vehicle, and that’s what you get with the grip these babies give you. Other than the sexy, sleek design, it’s one of my favourite parts of this shoe. The innovative sole technology of the Vibram® Litebase rubber is an uncompromised piece of material, giving superior grip and traction, and there’s plenty of lug spacing to tackle the terrain too. The Mont Blanc gave me confidence on the dry trail, and on days when the ground became slippery and wet, it still performed very well across a range of surfaces.
A more interesting component I found, however, is that the tongue is lightly padded, made from a very thin stretchy nylon. I believe it may have been designed this way to strip the upper down to make it as lightweight as possible. It’s still a gusseted tongue though, to reduce debris getting inside. Not many people may notice, but take a look at this – Altra have printed the latitude and longitude of Mont Blanc on the tongue. There’s no function in that, but it made me smile when I got online to check the coordinates. It’s definitely a charming personal touch.
With regards to other elements of the Mont Blanc, the only things that didn’t quite work in my favour where the lace lock and the heel collar. The lace lock holes sit further up the shoe than what I’m used to, so the technique meant the heel collar, which is made of the same material as the tongue and sits high up, felt loose and rubbed against my skin. I solved the issue by trialling a higher sock rather than my usual ankle length ones, but the heel lock still provided me with a slighter more lose feel than I’m used to.
Overall, the Mont Blanc is a precision Altra shoe that doesn’t sacrifice its signature features. Incredibly impressive in technology and design, I can completely see why it’s one of the most popular trail running shoes on the market. Definitely a fit for anyone who has a wide foot, who loves technical trail, and who can use and abuse these shoes as much as possible.
THE LOW DOWN
GREAT FOR: Ultra distances on technical terrain, preferably dry ground
NOT SO GREAT FOR: Road and cycle paths (you want to use these babies on trail as much as possible)
TEST CONDITIONS: Limestone, boardwalk and asphalt
TESTER: Kate Dzienis
TESTER MECHANICS: Severe overpronator with wide feet, usually running in 8mm drop shoes.
RRP: $319.95 AUD / $349.95 NZD
CONDITIONS: Shoes provided for testing by Altra