Altra vs. Hoka: Find Your Best Trail Running Shoe

We logged over 1,000 miles on dirt, gravel, and sand to identify the best shoes

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Altra vs. Hoka Shoes

Tripsavvy / Zack Angeline

Despite making very different styles of trail running shoes, Altra Running and Hoka One One share a lot of similarities. Both brands launched in 2009 as upstarts looking to upend the trail running market with very specific yet distinct shoes. And both have built massive and loyal fanbases. Both brands have also since sold to larger corporations—Hoka to Deckers in 2013 and Altra to VF Corporation in 2018.

Yet the styles of both shoes are wildly different. Altra shoes feature a wide "Footshape" toe box and zero-drop construction while Hoka earned fame from its ultra-cushioned and stable build (not to mention, its unique designs and color choices).

As an aging runner (I'm 35 at time of publication) with wide, flat feet and a love for barefoot and minimalist running, I've gravitated towards both brands. In my experience, Hoka and Altra both excel at creating running shoes that are good right out of the box for a 10-mile run with minimal issues or consequences — a rarity in the industry.

Over the past year, I've logged well over 1,000 miles specifically on Altra and Hoka trail running shoes, testing them on dirt and gravel fire roads, technical single track, crushed limestone, and sand. Most of the testing took place in California's Ventura County, where I'm based, but testing also happened in other parts of California, Colorado, and the Midwest. Other trail running experts were also consulted for testing insights.

The Key Takeaways

Altra
  • Founded in 2009, currently based in Logan, Utah

  • Famous for wide toe boxes, allowing toes to splay, and a zero-drop, minimalist construction

  • Currently about 10 models of true trail running shoes

  • Prices range from $130 to $210

Hoka
  • Founded in 2009, currently based in Goleta, California

  • Famous for maximum cushion and stability and unique design and colors

  • Currently about 10 models of true trail running shoes

  • Prices range from $125 to $220

TripSavvy's Pick

Running shoes are very specific to the runner and terrain, so it really depends on you and your training. However, over the countless amount of miles I've run in Hokas and Altras over the past decade, I prefer more Hoka trail running shoes than Altra. That said, Altra has had some of my all-time favorite favorite shoes, including the newest version of the Lone Peak 6. Take a look below and consider what's best for your specific foot and training local.

Read on for detailed testing insights and our picks of best Hoka and Altra trail running shoes.

Best Overall, Altra: Altra Lone Peak 6

Altra Lone Peak 6

Amazon

By far the most popular shoe in Altra's trail running line is the Lone Peak. The latest version—the Lone Peak 6—is probably our favorite yet. The main reason? This shoe can handle any sort of terrain and any distance. We even enjoyed it during faster trail speed workouts. It's also one of the comfiest shoes we've worn, which has translated to it being one of our favorite travel shoes.

We found the MaxTrac outsole with TrailClaw canted lugs solid on steep and rocky ascents, loose dirt downhills, and on ice and snow during the winter. It handled the varying levels of sand and slick rocks in Joshua Tree. And we felt very comfortable taking them on runs of up to 20 miles. Altra's proprietary Ego foam is responsive and provides excellent energy return—something we appreciated while dropping sub-6 miles on tempo runs and workouts.

And Altra's original Footshape design is one way how the brand became popular as it creates a natural foot strike and toe splay. We love the wider design for long travel as the feet have room for swelling. These shoes also have a hook and loop system for attaching gaiters to block small rocks from entering them. (We didn't try the gaiters, but didn't have issues with rocks entering.)

Who should buy this: Anyone looking for an all-around trail running, hiking, and travel shoe. They're particularly solid for those with wider or flat feet, but will also work for most foot types. Note that these are also zero-drop shoes, meaning your heel and toe are at the same level. If you've never run in zero drop shoes (we recommend giving it a try), ease into it.

Price at time of publication: $140

Weight: 10.6 ounces | Drop: 0 millimeters | Outsole: Altra MaxTrac | Midsole: Altra EGO | Cushion: Moderate | Upper: Quick-Dry Air Mesh

Altra Lone Peak 6 Trail Running Shoes

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Best Overall, Hoka: Hoka One One Speedgoat 5 Trail Running Shoes

4.8
Hoka One One Speedgoat 5 Trail Running Shoes

REI

Similar to the Lone Peak, the Speedgoat is probably Hoka's most popular and well-known trail running shoe. And for good reason—it's an all-around excellent shoe that can be used for hiking and backpacking as well as trail running (they're my go-to shoes on backpacking trips, because they're supportive and comfortable enough to hike with heavier packs). We gave the nod to the Lone Peak as a bit better than the Speedgoat as we fill it's a bit more approachable to more people and works better as a travel shoe.

That said, if your plan is to run long races (marathon and up) on super technical terrain, you might want to consider the Speedgoats over the Lone Peaks. This version of the Speedgoats shaved some weight and gained some traction. Hoka has started employing Vibram Megagrip outsoles with Traction Lug and we're all about it. That combined with the 5-millimeter lugs has amped the traction to another level.

The 4-millimeter drop and late-stage meta-rocker also creates a smooth and fun ride on all types of trail and terrain.

Who should buy this: These kicks are for those anyone running on technical terrain often or planning on running a marathon or ultra-marathon on trails. It's also an excellent pair of shoes for anyone looking for something that will work for hiking and backpacking as well as trail running. With moderate cushioning, a neutral profile, and coming in regular and wide sizes, these shoes will fit most feet.

Price at time of publication: $155

Weight: 10.6 ounces | Drop: 4 millimeters | Outsole: Vibram Megagrip | Midsole: Compression-molded foam | Cushion: Moderate | Upper: Double layer jacquard engineered mesh

Runner-up, Altra: Altra Mont Blanc BOA

Altra Mont Blanc BOA

REI

Let's just start by saying the other Mont Blancs (non-BOA) are one of the very few Altra shoes we haven't liked. Our main issue with the other Mont Blancs was that the heel kept slipping out of the back. No matter how tightly they were laced or tied, the heel kept coming out. We thought it might be our foot shape, but other customers leaving reviews have mentioned similar issues.

Altra recently introduced the Mont Blanc but with the BOA Fit System, and we must say, we haven't had the same heel slipping issue. We really like that Altra went with two BOA dials on each foot for more precision tightening and loosening. Other BOA-lacing shoes we've tried without two dials have been tougher to get to a good fit for individual feet.

Other than that, these Mont Blancs are very similar to the other model with Altra's EGO Max midsole foam, and a Vibram Litebase outsole.

Who should buy this: Anyone looking for a precision fit and comfy lacing system. If you have issues with the fit of most running shoes or with traditional laces (or getting the correct fit with laces), these are worth checking out. They're also constructed with truly long distance runners in mind. If you're an ultra runner or spend long days in the mountains, these might be worth checking out.

Price at time of publication: $210

Weight: 11.2 ounces | Drop: 0 millimeters | Outsole: Vibram Litebase | Midsole: Altra Ego Max | Cushion: Light | Upper: Not listed

Altra Mont Blanc Boa

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Runner-up, Hoka: Hoka One One Mafate Speed 4

Hoka Mafate Speed 4

REI

It's not super common that I immediately fall in love with a new pair of shoes. But it does happen. And that's what happened with Hoka's new Mafate Speed 4s. These shoes rip. There's two main reasons these shoes feel faster than previous versions. First, they're lighter overall, thanks to a single layer jacquard mesh upper and new foam underneath, which Hoka says is its lightest and most responsive foam yet. Second, they employ Hoka's two-part midsole, the ProFly+ and Vibram Megagrip with Litebase and 5-millimeter lugs, which creates a very responsive and grippy ride.

The result is one of Hoka's most enjoyable trail running shoes. No matter the terrain, I felt like these shoes could not just handle it, but fly doing so. I've been particularly impressed with the feel and responsiveness (they're comfy, even by Hoka's standards and feel like you could turn the pace up easily and quickly). The stickiness and grip of the outsoles have also impressed me. They've rapidly turned into my go-to shoe for both quicker trail workouts and long trail runs.

Who should buy this: Anyone who wants a high-performing shoe and doesn't mind spending a bit more. They're more expensive than both of our best overall picks, but you a slightly lighter and springier ride. We'd see these good for anyone running up to a trail marathon and beyond. If you're looking for a shoe that can serve as a daily trainer and a racer, these are for you.

Price at time of publication: $185

Weight: 10.4 ounces | Drop: 4 millimeters | Outsole: Vibram Megagrip with Litebase construction | Midsole: ProFly+ | Cushion: Lite | Upper: Single layer woven jacquard mesh

Hoka Mafate Speed 4

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Best Road to Trail, Altra: Altra Outroad

Altra Outroad

REI

If you're like us, you love the trails. But you also like the roads at times. Or you're also like us and your trail running might involve a road approach. For that, having a hybrid trail/road shoe is nice to have. We've been loving Altra's Outroads lately for our road/trail runs. It's a new shoe to Altra's line and features the same Altra Ego midsole and MaxTrac outsole. But it differs from the Lone Peak and others in the fit, where it has Altra's slimmest fit.

We found this to be a true hybrid that feels equally solid on pavement as dirt. Although we did like it a bit more for the roads than we did the trails.

Who should buy this: Anyone looking for a true road/trail hybrid shoe. It fits the bill. We also recommend it for those with slimmer feet (perhaps those that have traditionally been turned-off to Altra's wide fit at the toes and foot). We found it much more constricting around our feet than other Altra shoes.

Price at time of publication: $140

Weight: 10.2 ounces | Drop: 0 millimeters | Outsole: Altra MaxTrac | Midsole: Altra EGO | Cushion: Moderate | Upper: Rip-Stop Mesh

Altra Outroad

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Best Road to Trail, Hoka: Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6

Hoka One One Challenger ATR 6

Amazon

Of the two hybrid shoes, we liked Altra's Outroad a bit better. But that's not to say we didn't like Hoka's Challenger ATR. Now in its sixth iteration, there's a lot to like about the Challenger ATR. First, at just 9.8 ounces, it's one of the lightest shoes featured on this roundup. It features zonal rubber placement and strategically-placed lugs to save on weight while boosting grip on trails. The CMEVA foam at the midsole also helps absorb impact and amps stability.

If you're not down with the slimmer fit of the Altra Outroad, we recommend giving this one a try.

Who should buy this: Like the Altra Outroad, this shoe is for anyone that spends time on the roads and the trail but doesn't want to purchase two separate shoes (we don't blame you). Or for anyone (like us) that runs to the local trail head and, thus, spends a bit of time on the roads along with the trails. If you've got a wider foot, go with this pick as the regular version is wider than the Outroad and there's also a wide version of this shoe.

Price at time of publication: $140

Weight: 9.8 ounces | Drop: 5 millimeters | Outsole: Not listed | Midsole: CMEVA Foam | Cushion: Moderate | Upper: Not listed

Best for Racing and Tempos, Altra: Altra Superior 5

Altra Superior 5

REI

Altra doesn't have a true racer like the Tecton X (but if we were pressed, we guess that changes relatively soon). But the closest we'd say Altra has is the Superior 5, mainly because of its weight of less than 9 ounces. The biggest differences from the Superior 5 and other Altra shoes featured on this list (besides weight), is the Quantic midsole, which is a lightweight foam. The shoe also features a removable StoneGuard, which uses less material and is also lighter than previous models.

Who should buy this: Anyone looking for a solid racing shoe on the trails but doesn't want to spend on the tech. At $130 at time of publication, this is the most cost-effective shoe on the list. So if you're a trail racer but can't stomach paying $200 for a pair of running shoes (we understand), this is a good pick.

Price at time of publication: $130

Weight: 8.8 ounces | Drop: 0 millimeters | Outsole: Altra MaxTrac | Midsole: Altra Quantic | Cushion: Low | Upper: Sandwich mesh vamp with durable quarter panel overlay

Best for Racing and Tempos, Hoka: Hoka One One Tecton X

5
Hoka One One Tecton X Trail Running Shoe
TripSavvy / Nathan Allen.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, this shoe changed our lives. But, for real, this shoe is a game-changer. The name says it all (with some explanation). Tecton comes from tectonic plates, which is the construction design behind Hoka's innovative two carbon plate build. The "X" comes from Hoka's ProFlyX midsole construction, which features an ultra-soft, yet responsive and snappy foam. Combine the two and you've got Hoka's lightest, fastest, and frankly, funnest trail runner yet.

Some times in highly engineered shoes, companies can get too focused on teching-out the shoe and forget the basics. Not so with the Tecton X, which has comfy and breathable engineered jacquard mesh, and Vibram Megagrip with Litebase construction outsoles. A new shoe with a ton of lightweight materials can create some potential concern over durability. These aren't the Speedgoats. But we're close to 500 miles in with these shoes and while they're beaten down, they're still in tact.

The result of all this is a shoe we won races and set Strava CRs in. But more importantly, we couldn't stop smiling while running trails in these.

Who should buy this: Anyone looking for a serious and teched-out racing shoe. We wouldn't recommend them for ultras. But for anything marathon or lower, this is a solid shoe. We don't recommend using it as your daily trainer (save it for hard workouts and races), but we also wouldn't blame you if you do. They're that fun.

Price at time of publication: $200

Weight: 8.5 ounces | Drop: 5 millimeters | Outsole: Vibram Megagrip | Midsole: ProFlyX | Cushion: Light | Upper: Engineered Jacquard Mesh

Hoka Tecton X

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Comfort and Fit

The most important thing to consider when purchasing any sort of running or hiking shoes is comfort, which includes fit. No matter how fancy or engineered the shoes are, if they're not a good fit, you're not going to want to wear them. Knowing your correct comfort and fit can take some time and trial and error. We recommend trying out a few different brands and shoes to figure out works best for you.

Hoka and Altra are two brands built specifically for trail runners in mind. They were launched as trail running brands, and have a bit of a leg up on traditional running shoe brands that are now getting into the trail running shoe game.

Traction

After comfort and fit, traction is the next most important feature when considering trail running shoes. Constantly spinning your wheels on dirt and loose rocks is inefficient and frustrating (and potentially dangerous if running fast downhill). Look for lug-size when purchasing trail running shoes (larger lugs, generally mean more traction). Placement of lugs also matters. Nowadays you'll see brands outsource the creation of their outsoles (Vibram, for example).

Durability

Because of the natural pivoting, turning, and stress put on shoes from running on trails, durability is more crucial for trail running shoes compared to normal running shoes. It's tough to judge a shoe based on durability before purchasing. We suggest reading customer comments. Both Hoka and Altra, however, are known to have durable shoes. We've put well over 500 miles on some of these shoes (or previous versions of these shoes) with no durability issues.

Hoka Mafate Speed 4

TripSavvy / Nathan Allen

Why Trust TripSavvy

Nathan Allen is TripSavvy's Outdoor Gear Editor. Based in southern California, he runs on trail every day year-round. Nathan has won multiple races on trails from 8 kilometers to the marathon. He appreciates the new technology going into running shoes but doesn't appreciate how expensive it's making some shoes. His current go-to pairs of running shoes from this list are the Hoka Mafate Speed 4s and Altra Outroads.

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