Aug 12, 20166484 views

Inov-8 and Altra: A Quick and Dirty Comparison

With the introduction of Inov-8 to Massdrop, several UL members have asked how these compare to Altra. I'm happy to share a few thoughts and photos on the subject to get the conversation started, and I hope that some of you with experience with either brand will add more insight.
Founded in 2003, Inov-8 is a British company that focused on trail running and ultralight hiking. It quickly became a favorite of BPL members around the world. Generally speaking, the shoes had sufficiently durable outers, great treads, minimal cushioning, and tremendous 'natural' foot flex. The shoe lines come in different heal rise, that allow you to taper from the conventional running shoe 12-15mm to zero-rise or something close.
Altra was started in 2009 in Utah and is known for their zero-rise heel and super wide toe-box, which is supposed to allow your toes to splay more naturally when you run. The cushioning is usually fairly substantial, soft and light. When I first tried them on, I instantly thought of moon boots from my childhood. Aesthetically, the design is less traditional looking for sure. This shouldn't matter for running or hiking, but the looks could be less ideal for traveling when you don't want to stand out.
I took a few pictures to illustrate the differences. The photos aren't great, and the comparisons maybe aren't the most equal, but they should suffice for our purposes. We have (left to right) Altra Lone Peak NeoShell in Mens 12, Inov-8 X-Talon in Womens 8, and Inov-8 Roclite in Mens 12.5 (all black).


The Inov-8 shoes are super flexible up front, giving a more natural experience (closer to barefoot than not).
Applying the same amount of pressure, the Altra shoe is much stiffer due to the propensity of cushioning.
Again, the Inov-8 is very flexible laterally too.
And the Altra is laterally stiff.
I think a quick summary is that Altra shoes are zero-rise, highly cushioned, and have a big toe box. Inov-8 tends to use a more traditional last (ie, 'normal' or 'narrow' toe box), have varying degrees of rise based on model, are lighter and have less padding / more flexibility for a more minimalist shoe.
I'm not trying to persuade anybody one way or the other, but rather start the sharing of information so we all can make the best decision for our own personal uses. For reference, I use Inov-8 shoes for hiking, Altra shoes for daily walking, Scarpa boots for mountaineering, and Vibram Five Fingers for all runs but the rockiest, where I bring out the Inov-8s.
Duncan, GNUgixxer, and 26 others

Been using Altra for thru hiking for years now love their shoes. I think it is fair to say Altra has lots of shoes with less cushion. Not sure what the point is other than it seems like this post is comparing apples to oranges, other than saying Altras have zero drop and big toe boxes.
Most shoes are not shaped like a foot, are your big and little toes angled in from years of being pushed into a rounded toe box? Don't know if Innos are like Hoka Stinsons that made me choose: cut hole in side for my smashed in pinky toe (first time I got blisters between toes.) Or chop off my pinky toes (hmm, Hokas weren't cheap, toes came free...) Altras say "foot shaped" on the toe box. Why aren't others foot shaped? I think pointy or round toe boxes are crazy (they are for me.) But some people have long big toes, recessed pinkies that work with pointy shoes. Altra Olympus are the most comfortable shoes I've ever had. A little sloppy on technical terrain but still comfortable and I didn't have any ankle roll issues from height. On a technical traverse, had to cut the reinforcement side of ankles for the Hoka. All shoes roll some on traverses, sharp edge dug into ankle, not a prob with Olys.
I've used the Roclites for trail running, hiking, and everyday use, and love them. My only complaint is that they all have blown out in the same place, right by the base of my pinkie toes. I have gotten my money's worth out of them, and won't be switching, soles are long-lasting. Have also used Vibram 5 fingers and Merrel Trail Gloves.
Danny, that's fantastic. Been looking for wider toe boxes on my shoes since reconstructive surgery on my feet this last winter. Can't wear regular shoes any more. Even my Oboz Sawtooth wides don't cut it. Found a pair of Merrels (of all things) AllOut Rush shoes that work despite being uglier than hell. Been looking at the Keens, but the Altras look more like what I'm looking for. Sorry, but the Inov-8s just aren't showing the toe box I'm needing these days, but thanks for using the Altras for the comparison.
Hiked 1000 ks in the Altra lone peak 2 on Australias Bibbulmun Track and loved the comfort provide by the wide toe box. I'm a full time ski instructor and my feet are normally cramped up inside ski boots and have some funky shapes caused by rubbing on the hard shell of my boots so these were a great change. Only complaint was that on some steep wet granite areas the traction was not as good as I'd expected. Would buy again though and now own 3 pairs both neoshell and regular.
Load 1 more comment
Both excellent. My feet dont get super cold, I'm always too hot in Sorrels, even in Banff. The neoshell works great in Australia's wet warm snow too.
Ok im sold
I cannot speak for the performance of Inov-8s for hiking, but I have 3 pairs that performed excellent during trail runs and obstacle course races. I have a wide foot and find them very comfortable. The grips of their shoes are wonderful, in mud, loose rocks and wet rocks.
Another great shoe to consider is Topo Athletic. I know MassDrop is not doing drops on them but maybe you could check into that?
I have heard great things about the Topo shoes ever since I read Will Rietveld's review on the Terraventure We'll see what we can do about starting a working relationship with Topo!
That sounds great! I've looked at Inov-8 shoes a number of times but like the combined feature set of Topo shoes better.
Not familiar with Inov-8's, but can speak to the Altra's. Have gone from steadfast stiff hiking shoe aficionado to the Altra's in past 6 mos. Currently own 3 pairs of the lone peak 3's (including 1 low, 1 low neo, 1 mid neo). Have a running battle with Planters Fasciitis and the Lone Peak's have helped considerably. Just finished month on the AT and will be thru hiking Colorado trail this summer in Loan Peak's. Great shoes that meet most all of my criteria to higher degree than any previous shoe.
Danny, great info here. Awesome comparison! Thanks.
Brilliant! Thanks for the info.
Thanks for the post. I've been thinking of the altra's or inov8 as a replacement for my salomon's when they wear out. The wide toe box is a winner over the narrow inov-8 for me.
I have worn the x-talons both running and on longer hikes. The soles are very reliable on any surface, even when wet, and they just feel very comfortable to walk in. I have never gotten any blisters wearing them. They can even handle a bit abuse, and doesn't wear and tear so easily. I use some glue on the toes when they are new to prevent the sole from loosening, which is a weak spot on most shoes. I would not hesitate to recommend them. I have no experience with Altra.
I have found that too flexible a sole can cause plantar tendon stress.
Good idea, but that's sort of an apples to oranges comparison. Both Invo-8 and Altra make multiple shoes with different cushioning and tread patterns. I'm guessing you just grabbed what you had on hand, which is fine, but doesn't allow for a true comparison.
The X-Talon is a race shoe! Comparing it to the Altra Lone Peak - and the Neoshell version at that - is goofy, and your overall conclusion doesn't account for the range of both companies' product lines. An Inov-8 Trail Talon 275, for example, has tons of plush foam under your heel. Grab an Altra Superior, on the other hand, and you will not be thinking that Altra makes highly cushioned shoes. And, the Altra Superior is lighter than all but one of Inov-8's true trail-running shoes (and only 1oz heavier than the X-Talon 212).
Yep, this may not the best comparison and you're right, I was taking photos of whatever trail shoes we have in the office right now. I hope I didn't come off as recommending one shoe company over the other. I use both and am happy with both. So thanks for calling that out. I wish the Inov-8s had a bigger toe-box like the Altra's, because then in my mind, they'd be perfect. I was just trying to highlight some generalizations.
To your point about apples and oranges, I did the same flex test with the soles of the Roclite shoes, and they are just as flexible as the X-Talons. So, I believe it would be a good comparison of the Lone Peak and the Inov-8 Roclite 285 - probably the most popular shoes from each brand, and the photos would have looked the same. I don't think that the NeoShell has any affect on that stiffness.
I'll definitely check out the Superiors. In fact, we'll have a sample coming in soon as they are scheduled to drop in mid October! I can update photos to this thread when I have the sample in house. Thanks again @engearment_dave
Thanks, Danny. I need a new pair of Superiors, so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled!
It appears the Altra doesn't get cleaned prior to photo shoot either. If anyone has a rough spot on the pinkie toe or have hoped their new shoes will stretch out with time should just go get Altras. I've been hiking daily in Colorado with my Altra Superior 2s and love them. Going for a pair of their new Lone Peak 3 Mids soon. I've completely given up the heavy gnarly hiking boots. 4 mile hikes in the mountains with mid-weight pack, and my feet and knees thank me!
@UBockinMe - I thought I was pretty clear with the title, Quick and Dirty :-) The Inov-8s were already clean, and I'd rather put up this post to get the conversation started, rather than clean shoes and take better photos. Glad you've been happy with your Altra's, and most importantly, that you've found something that replaces your heavy hiking boots! Thanks for the post.
This is great. Would love if you would add some more comparison with roclite. Will those be available for women too?