IF YOU’VE TRIED THE KING MT, TELL US ABOUT IT IN THE COMMENTS!
For the first time in as many shoe reviews from me, I find myself in a shoe brand that I’ve never run in before. Here is my first New Balance review in the Fresh Foam Hierro from a few days ago [HIERRO REVIEW LINK]. To be honest, it’s not that I haven’t had the chance to run in any Altra shoe models, it’s just that I just haven’t found myself very interested in them for whatever reason. That has changed.
The Altra King MT, which we are looking at today is not really your daily driver trail running shoe. Rather, this was a shoe which I found most at home on trails that may have some grooming but that are more on the rugged side – and sometimes things which aren’t trails at all. This shoe is ready to go off-trail and on the road less traveled and that excites me. Let’s get into it.
Let’s start by taking a look at the outsole. Altra has used Vibram Megagrip rubber which is sticky and soft, yet very durable. Perfect for providing traction on wet or slippery surfaces, but with the toothiness of this sole it handles dry terrain as well.
The 6mm directional lugs are laid out in a foot design to accommodate pressure from parts of an actual foot. There is also an implied flex groove right under the metatarsal heads. There is a lot of flexibility in this shoe and I can easily I can fold and twist it.
I have logged 90+ trail miles so far (I know, WAY more than we normally do!) in the King MT and am very impressed with it’s durability and see very little sign of wear at all. I have enjoyed testing this shoe in many different running scenarios. It’s ability to grip well on most any terrain, including angled, smooth, flat rocks (where Brandon had some trouble [LINK] with Altra’s grip in the past) was very impressive. Of course, ice is another story as with all shoes and I was able to use my Kathoola Micro Spikes with success even over the extreme lugs. I didn’t think it felt strange or uncomfortable underfoot.
As with all Altra shoes, the King MT is a zero drop shoe. With a 15mm of stack in the forefoot and heel, Altra uses 2 types of midsole material, A Bound and Altra Ego. Together they create a cushioned but responsive midsole. You will also find a StoneGuard rock plate which does add a torsional stiffness, but not as much as you’d think given it’s carbon fiber-esque appearance.
I was able to take the King MT right from the box and onto the trails with no break-in period. They are quite comfortable from the get-go. In fact, one of my initial runs in them was a longer 12 mile run on the notorious Manitou Incline continuing on up the Barr Trail to Barr Camp with great success. I enjoyed the responsiveness and nimble feel while moving along the rocky and sometimes snowy terrain.
Altra advertises the upper of the King MT as the “most protective” of any of its shoes and that comes as no surprise. The soft feel of the upper is made of polyester ripstop fabric, a web of bonded TPU overlays. It’s not advertised as such, but the upper material almost seemed to have a water-repellant aspect to it (don’t hold me to that, though!).
A nice feature, especially if you’re like me and tend to “toe pick” rocks along the trail, is the great toe protection provided by a hefty toe cap. That same thick material is carried over to the instep. Speaking of rocks, there is a built in clip and velcro strip on the heel so you can easily attach your gaiters to keep rocks and sand out of your shoes.
Now let’s get to the most obvious aspect on the upper – the velcro strap. I’ll say it right off the bat. When I first saw the King MT I immediately thought it looked like a toddler shoe. Brandon, on the other hand pointed out that it looked like the Nike Air Trainer 1 (circa 1986). This velcro feature is not a gimmick like I thought. It kept my foot in place very well on descents. The velcro connects to an internal microfiber strap that hugs the foot giving a snug fit and keeping it from moving too far forward. While it may add a bit of weight, it’s well worth it for the added security it provides (and will help stave off black toenails). If floppy laces are a problem for you, the strap can keep those locked down as well.
Moving to the back of the upper, the heel cup stays in-line with the minimal nature of the shoe. It is very flexible and has a nice amount of foam for a comfortable fit and feel.
Since the beginning, Altra’s “thing” with regard to fit, has been to have a true foot shape so they just went ahead and called their fit, well, Foot Shape.
Since I run on my forefoot (sometimes without my heel having contact with the ground at all!) I love the roominess up front in the King MT. Through the midfoot the velcro, both the strap itself and the internal connection to the sole unit, goes a long way toward giving a well locked-down feeling. Despite a pretty nonexistent structure in the heel cup, I found no slipping at all and plenty of security, even on the super gnarly terrain that this shoe craves.
The Altra King MT is my first pair of zero drop shoes. As I mentioned above, I run very much on my forefoot and I was able to jump right into these without any transition time (*BUT I don’t recommend doing that – please take your time if you’re coming from a more traditional drop into a shoe like this). Right out of the box, I was able to wear the King MT’s on a pretty brutal run with hugely varied terrain with zero issues.
While it’s not the lightest shoe in the world, it does FEEL light on the foot. (Men’s size 9 weighing 8.5oz & Women’s size 8 weighing 7oz) They were surprisingly comfortable, flexible, and nimble. Despite having a fairly cushioned midsole, the response was very good.
As I mentioned above, the traction on this shoe is excellent on everything from loose rocks to snow and everything in between (though again, watch out for ice with ALL running shoes that aren’t spiked).
Honestly, I am floored with how much I enjoy running in this shoe. With the King MT’s on my feet, I am able to run any trail I choose, regardless of the conditions, with complete confidence. When it comes to adventure, I really enjoy being able to roll with the punches, and these shoes allow me to do just that. I would hate to miss out on an epic adventure because I wasn’t prepared for it.
The King MT craves gnarly trails and getting off of the beaten path, just like I do. At $140 they are a bit expensive (although at our links below they MIGHT be a bit cheaper). However, if you’re someone who is going to be on technical terrain or in inclement weather, I don’t think that price is a deal-breaker. A small price to pay for the many epic memories you’ll have out there in the muck. The dirtier you are after a run the better the adventure!