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Trail runners: Altra or Brooks, or Hoka????

JanelMcB

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF (2018)
Hello. I am VERY confused and not a little obsessed with reading reviews about trail runners. I’ll be grateful if you can help to end my torment 😀

I’m used to wearing hiking boots but they’re too sweaty for a May/June Camino Frances (just SJPP to Belorado). I have knee/joint trouble so trying trail runners makes sense. I plan to break them in during a walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands this month, then use them for weekend walks through the winter too.

I have to use an orthotic insert to raise my arches so will need to put this in whatever I buy. My understanding is that all of the shoes I’m considering will be fine with an orthotic, but maybe there are also some differences?

And my main question... I initially looked mostly at both the Brooks Cascadia and the Brooks Caldera. Most are out of stock in my size, though, and I’ve read poor reviews about their durability. Im confused because the Caldera has better cushioning but the Cascadia is more popular, and I don’t know why. After reading about these, I then repeatedly convince myself that the natural toe width of the Altras would surely be better. I have quite narrow feet (I’m a petite 5ft tall woman) but in the past have had black toe on my little toe in my hiking boots, although never yet a blister.

I suspect that the Altra’s flat sole—the zero drop—might not be good for my knees. If I did consider Altras, I don’t understand why so many people wear the Altra Lone Peaks—for the Pacific Crest Trail as well as the Camino—when the Altra Olympus offers more cushioning and still good traction/stability. Can you shed light on this? Is the Lone Peak actually really well cushioned?

Also Hokas... and… others… and I can’t get to a shop to try anything on because my family is shielding.

Any light-casting on the above mess of uncertainty will be very much appreciated! 😀🙏
Forget about brands and what works for others. This is what is important to consider:

Does the footwear fit
Is it comfortable
Does it cause problems

If the answers are yes, yes, and no, then that is the footwear you want. Could be a boot, sandal, or shoe. You'll know it when you find it.
 
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Tarsalcoalition

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hello. I am VERY confused and not a little obsessed with reading reviews about trail runners. I’ll be grateful if you can help to end my torment 😀

I’m used to wearing hiking boots but they’re too sweaty for a May/June Camino Frances (just SJPP to Belorado). I have knee/joint trouble so trying trail runners makes sense. I plan to break them in during a walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands this month, then use them for weekend walks through the winter too.

I have to use an orthotic insert to raise my arches so will need to put this in whatever I buy. My understanding is that all of the shoes I’m considering will be fine with an orthotic, but maybe there are also some differences?

And my main question... I initially looked mostly at both the Brooks Cascadia and the Brooks Caldera. Most are out of stock in my size, though, and I’ve read poor reviews about their durability. Im confused because the Caldera has better cushioning but the Cascadia is more popular, and I don’t know why. After reading about these, I then repeatedly convince myself that the natural toe width of the Altras would surely be better. I have quite narrow feet (I’m a petite 5ft tall woman) but in the past have had black toe on my little toe in my hiking boots, although never yet a blister.

I suspect that the Altra’s flat sole—the zero drop—might not be good for my knees. If I did consider Altras, I don’t understand why so many people wear the Altra Lone Peaks—for the Pacific Crest Trail as well as the Camino—when the Altra Olympus offers more cushioning and still good traction/stability. Can you shed light on this? Is the Lone Peak actually really well cushioned?

Also Hokas... and… others… and I can’t get to a shop to try anything on because my family is shielding.

Any light-casting on the above mess of uncertainty will be very much appreciated! 😀🙏
I’m curious as to which ones you purchased And how they worked out. your post sounds like I was writing it And obviously it popped up because I was researching the same thing. I have orthotics for the same reason & many more reasons. I own the Olympus-3, hoka Stinson & just purchased the cascadia’s-wide. Im thinking of also purchasing the speedgoat Wide-Hoka and the Olympus 4-Altras. i Love my current Altra Olympus- this is my 2nd pair & it’s time for a 3rd. My only complaint is the fit at the ankle is poor-too loose and my feet get very sore in a different way then with the hokas or brooks because of the zero drop- so my podiatrist wants me to wear a very small heel lift In the Altria’s which I did for the first time today. I haven’t tried the cascadia’s yet but was told to get wide so my toes have room to move like with the Altra’s which I did and to do the same with the Hoka’s. What I didn’t like about the hoka’s was I would get a large blister on the arch of my foot which I heard was common but that maybe fixed with the speedgoat.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2017
I am an Altra convert. I wore Lone Peaks on the CF and had no foot issues. The advantage of Altra’s Lone Peaks is the wider toe box, the zero drop sole, and the general flexibility of the shoe. Wearing the LP’s actually helps develop the musculature in the feet, which in turn makes the ankle do it’s job. This relieves the knee from doing the ankles job (rotating joint), which the knee (hinge joint) is not designed to do. I ditched my inserts after a week and could not have been happier.
The shoes, any shoe really, will run hot after hours of walking. Your feet will swell and sweat. The LP’s wider toe box helps with this but you should still consider sizing up at least a 1/2 size.
Finally, I found that standing and working all day in my regular shoes ended the day in sever knee pain. I switched to wearing my LP’s all day and, voila, knee pain resolved. I believe it was the simple change from a lifted heel to zero drop that fixed that one.
 

jcat

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Sarria - Santiago 2016
Camino Ingles 2019
Another convert to Altra Lone Peak 4s here.

I have always been a huge fan of the Salomon trail runner models, but tried the Lone Peak this year. So far I have over 100 miles on my Lone Peak 4s and couldn't be happier. I even bought a second pair to keep as a backup. There is a newer Lone Peak model out this year so the older "4" is getting harder to find.
 
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Lhollo

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(Camino Frances, September 2020… POSTPONED to May/June 2021, SJPP to Belorado section)
I’m curious as to which ones you purchased And how they worked out. your post sounds like I was writing it And obviously it popped up because I was researching the same thing. I have orthotics for the same reason & many more reasons. I own the Olympus-3, hoka Stinson & just purchased the cascadia’s-wide. Im thinking of also purchasing the speedgoat Wide-Hoka and the Olympus 4-Altras. i Love my current Altra Olympus- this is my 2nd pair & it’s time for a 3rd. My only complaint is the fit at the ankle is poor-too loose and my feet get very sore in a different way then with the hokas or brooks because of the zero drop- so my podiatrist wants me to wear a very small heel lift In the Altria’s which I did for the first time today. I haven’t tried the cascadia’s yet but was told to get wide so my toes have room to move like with the Altra’s which I did and to do the same with the Hoka’s. What I didn’t like about the hoka’s was I would get a large blister on the arch of my foot which I heard was common but that maybe fixed with the speedgoat.
Sorry for only just picking this up! Have you chosen shoes yet?

I'm going to post a new thread (edit: it’s here) because I've had a terrible half year with an injury, which isn't related to the shoes I chose, although for a while, I thought it was. As such, I'm not sure what to say in terms of which shoes I would or wouldn't now choose! But to plunge in…

I took both the Altra Lone Peak 4.5 and the Brooks Cascadia 14 on my Cairngorms walking holiday, and then wore only the Lone Peaks because I absolutely loved them. They took a huge amount of punishing! I felt sure-footed in them, and was happy with the amount of cushioning for the type of walking I was doing (trails, mud, heather, very little road). I'm used to zero drop shoes so had no problem, and the toe space was fantastic.

When I came home, I started using the Cascadias as well. I found them supportive and generally comfortable, but preferred the Lone Peaks. I noticed the different drop (the Cascadias are an 8mm heel to toe drop) and felt, perhaps perversely, that it put more pressure on my heel. They felt less cushioned but perhaps more springy.

I have, however, since become a Hoka convert as well. this is largely a result of my injury. The Stinson ATR 6 were, for a while, the only shoe I could walk in (I had many more pairs sent via online order, mid lockdown, and not even the Bondi 7 wide was, at that point, as good for me as the Stinson). I find the supportive cushioning of the Stinson, combined with the rocker shape, which is more pronounced than on the Bondi, absolutely excellent for transferring pressure away from painful points on the foot. I've since also got a pair of Hoka Speedgoat wide, into which, believe it or not, I've put extra foam.

My experience is an extreme one—I couldn't walk or stand for a few months, and thought it was a foot injury; I'll explain more about that, and what I'm doing now, in the separate new post—but it has enabled me to experience lots of shoes in various ways! Obviously the below thoughts are only my own, but in case they help…

Re Brooks, I think the wide will be a good option if you don't usually find your foot to be slim. The fit of them is very good, though, for me at least. I find Hoka's sizing a bit all over the place. I've sized up two full sizes in the Speedgoat, and also got the wide version (the non-wide must be incredibly slim!), but I have added 6mm of poron foam, which takes up space. Without this foam, I'd only size up by probably one and a half sizes, but still get the wide. The Stinsons are more true to my usual hiking shoe size, although I'd opt for a half size larger rather than smaller if you're unsure. I also find that, for me, the Hokas are the only shoes in which I don't need arch support at all. I've had insoles for my arches for many years now, so not needing them was a revelation! I do adapt my lacing technique for each shoe, though. I've had some that were loose on the ankle, and I almost always use the runners' loop lacing technique,; this method has fixed the issue in most if not all of the shoes.

I'm about to try the Altra Timp 3, Lone Peak 5 and Paradigm 5, this weekend, along with perhaps some others, in my first trip out to a shoe shop in more than a year! I'm now thinking of shoes to actually… maybe… finally walk the Camino in! (rather than my rather beaten up Lone Peaks, or the ones I've used for my injury recovery), which is why I'm yet again looking for new ones. Perhaps I'll report back on those shoes here… and retitle this thread 'The Shoe Shop' :D
 
Last edited:

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
Hi @Lhollo, it's so easy to go down that rabbit hole of shoe obsession! I've been there many, many times.

As others have said - it's all about what feels right for you, regardless of what manufacturers or wearers say about their shoes.

For what it's worth, here's my experience of some of your specific points:
  • Brooks Cascadia - have a have a nice wide fit, but the toe box isn't particularly generous. I've worn them for walks at home, but not on the Camino. As regards their popularity - it's probably helped by the fact that Scott Jurek (famous ultra-runner) was involved in their development.
  • Don't confuse cushioning with comfort. I'm very blister-prone and my feet are usually happier in a less-cushioned shoe. I've no idea why.
  • Zero drop shoes - feel quite weird to me, but less so when I use orthotics.
And just to confuse you even more - don't rule out the idea of hiking in sandals 😀

Happy planning and Buen Camino!
I know this is a late response to your post. I too love Brooks Cascadias. I have worn them on every camino. I too was upset when they redesigned the shoe and made the toe box narrower. It really freaked me out. I have an average (maybe just a touch wide foot). I always size up and when they narrowed the toe I went to a 2 Wide size. It turned out to be just fine and I had no issues whatsoever. I don't know your foot dimensions obviously or if you have a wide foot but the 2 wide solved the problem perfectly.
 

NualaOC

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
A few and hopefully lots more. See signature.
I know this is a late response to your post. I too love Brooks Cascadias. I have worn them on every camino. I too was upset when they redesigned the shoe and made the toe box narrower. It really freaked me out. I have an average (maybe just a touch wide foot). I always size up and when they narrowed the toe I went to a 2 Wide size. It turned out to be just fine and I had no issues whatsoever. I don't know your foot dimensions obviously or if you have a wide foot but the 2 wide solved the problem perfectly.
Good to know, @lt56ny, thank you!
 

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