Ever since Altra made changes to my beloved Timp trail shoes, I’ve been shopping around a bit more. I still wear Timp 4s (finally settled on size 9), and they’re fine, but I figured this was a good opportunity to check out what else is out there, both inside and outside of Altra. The biggest issue for me is that zero drop really works well on my body, particularly my knees. I tried some Hoka’s last year and ended up having knee issues crop up and so I was back to look at zero drop options. I have another review in the hopper for some non-Altra zero drop shoes, but today is about a new shoe that Altra added to their line-up last year, the Outroad.
I came across the Outroad when visiting my local running store, and was intrigued by the idea of a cross-over shoe that was built for both road and moderate trail. Given that a lot of my training miles are on pavement or gravel roads, a more robust road style shoe could be interesting. I found a size that worked for me and brought them home. I’ve now got about 135 miles on them, in many varied conditions, so let’s get into the good and the bad.
What do I like about the Outroad?
Slipping into the Outroad is soft and cushioned. The upper (and particularly the heel cup) is highly padded and comfortable. I felt like I was sliding into a pair of slippers when I put them on, and gave me vibes of the original Altra Torin Plush. This padding helps the heel feel locked into place without feeling tight and constrictive. This gives the shoe a long-distance feel; something that you’ll pull off the shelf when you know you’re out there for 3+ hours.
The EGO midsole is similar to other Altra shoes, and so there were no surprises here. I like the midsole material, and it seems to be holding up as well as other Altra shoes I’ve owned. That is to say, it’s not what it was when I first got the shoe, but it’s not fallen completely flat. It gives a moderate level of responsiveness and cushion and doesn’t feel overly bogged down.
The outsole has been solid and performed as you’d expect for a hybrid shoe. On pavement I don’t feel any ‘stick’ or sluggishness from the bigger lugs, and on moderate trail I’m getting the performance that I wanted. In particular I’m finding this outsole to be really well tuned for gravel and grass. Things like horse trail or double track are where this shoe shines, and I’ve done a ton of comfortable miles at my local parks with this shoe.
The lugs do OK on wet surfaces like wood and dirt, however I’m not as confident on wet rocks. I don’t have a lot of good rocky trail near me to test on, but the couple times I hit a wet rock it went OK, but I wasn’t filled with confidence. Oh, and I’ve also managed some runs on packed snow trails and the grip has been perfectly fine for that.
The upper design is fine, with some fun colorways to choose from. So far it’s been holding up fine for me. Though, I’ve been seeing complaints that some people are having durability issues. Your experience may vary.
What makes me sad?
Right off the bat, I really wish this shoe used Altra’s Original or Standard foot shape. The new Slim fit is just not my jam, and it’s not why I buy Altra. Having a version of this shoe in a wider shape would help on longer efforts, since my feet tend to swell in ultras, and that could feel pretty constricting with this current design.
The overlays on the shoe are OK, nothing to write home about but they’re not what I would consider to be ugly. I do slightly worry that the shape of the overlays are putting undue stress on some parts of the fabric with repeated creases. This seems to be a general design issue with many new Altra shoes, so hopefully something that will get corrected if it turns into a problem.
Finally, my only other complaint is with how expensive shoes have gotten lately. The Outroad retails for $140, which for a pretty basic shoe feels high. Yet it seems that most new shoes have taken a big bump up in price in recent years. I try to get a solid 300 miles on my shoes before retiring them, but with costs going up I can see myself trying to push that farther and farther. I just hope that the Outroad lasts long enough to feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth.
Overall I really like the Altra Outroad. It’s a great shoe for mixed terrain that feels as much at home on pavement as well as dirt. It’s not the shoe I’d chose for rough terrain like the Superior Hiking Trail, but it gets the job done on 90% of the trails that I find myself on each week. This upcoming year has me taking on a handful of gravel races, and I’d like to make the Outroad my go-to for those events, but time will tell if the slim shape will make it realistic for 50-100 mile efforts.