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Who Needs Laces When You Have the Altra Mont Blanc BOA

In this review we’re checking out the revamped Altra Mont Blanc. For those that had a chance to run in the original offering with traditional laces (including yours truly), this latest version is definitely full of big changes.

First, the unmistakable dual-dial BOA Fit System is the immediate eye catcher. For those not familiar with BOA, the fit system is not new, and has in fact been around for more than 20 years. More and more companies are turning to BOA as the technology improves and users recognize the value. For Altra, this is their first dive into its use and it seems to be taking off, as the Mont Blanc has received solid reviews from runners across the globe.

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For me, Altra has been my go to brand for over 7 years. I’ve tested nearly every model out there and still swear by the Superior model as my favorite, super light, super comfortable, super fast trail shoe. As Altra has evolved in their use of different foams, outsoles, lug patterns, heel cups, and even lacing systems, they haven’t lost their soul, which is a zero-drop platform with a wide toe box. The Mont Blanc is no different in any of these areas, and shows off Altra’s commitment to being one of the best in the market.

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So let’s get to it, eh? Out of the box, the BOA system might seem odd to you, especially if you have only seen it online, or maybe in the store. It’s important to point out that the ease of use is ridiculous. What I mean by that is just how easy it is to pull the dials out, loosen the shoe, insert your foot, snap the dial back in, and then turn the dials until you have your desired snugness. This first feature is important, and very nice, but I will come back to it to talk about adjustment on the trail.

A couple of other notes about the Mont Blanc BOA out of the box. First, there is only one color option. The orange and white color-way works, and has a bit of a European flair to it. Second, the 30mm stack height appears tall, but don’t let that outsole fool you, the foam is lovely. Next, flip the shoe over and you will notice the classic bear-paw tread pattern missing, which has always been present on Altra shoes. It’s not a bad thing, just an observation. Lastly is the weight, which might seem middle of the road at 10-11 ounces (depending on size). However, once these shoes are on your feet, they seem lighter.

On the trail, the EGO MAX Foam, paired with the Vibram Litebase outsole, combine for a very comfortable ride, even on the super steep downhill sections. Returning to the BOA system, be prepared to stop at least once in the first mile or two of your run to make adjustments. I started my first run on a steep downhill. At the bottom I tightened both dials.

Then I rolled into a long climb and had to stop part way up to pop the dials and adjust again. I believe part of this comes from the shoes being new, and expect this will get better as they break in, but it’s worth noting. Still, the ability to adjust shoes this quickly is amazing, as it only takes seconds and doesn’t require untying double knots…

My first run in them was solid, with nearly 3,300 feet of gain in 10-1/2 mniles. The constant up and down really tests heel grab, mid foot fit, and toe wear, as you cram them forward on the steep descents. As mentioned above, I stopped a couple of quick times early on to make simple adjustments, but overall the shoes performed really well and were very comfortable, especially for a first run.

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My second run followed a bit of rain, which provided for some awesome muddy trails. And while I like the orange and white color pattern, I was happy to add a little brown to the mix. The mud also helps test traction, in the ups and downs, but especially in the corners. I tend to push downhills much harder than most, including the corners. The chevron lug pattern may be new but make no mistake, it works. Regardless of root, rock, berm, small animal, or whatever you run across, the tread holds well, even in the mud.

Following a third run, I’ve gotten to the point where I only need to stop for a couple quick seconds and adjust both shoes, and then I’m off. The comfort continues to get better, as the EGO MAX foam condenses and has fantastic shock absorption, even returning a little energy on every bounce. After 35 miles and 8,000 feet of climbing I am reminded of why I love this brand so much. Altra continues to come forward with top notch products, and the Mont Blanc BOA is no different. The price might seem a little high, but this is a shoe that feels like it’s stepping up its game.

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Where to Buy: At Altra or REI

Cost: $210

 

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Ultra runner with an ice cream addiction.

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