Altra Rivera Review
If the minimalism movement had it together years ago, they’d have given us the Altra Rivera: Exquisitely-executed simplicity for natural running without compromising performance or comfort, with a ride that really resonates with efficient runners.
Weight: M8.2oz, W6.9oz
This is a completely new shoe for Altra, sitting between the Escalante and the Torin, with a new upper, a dialed-in density of the incredibly resilient AltraEGO foam, and a refined and trimmer FootShape for lower-volume feet.
This is the shoe for you if…
You’re looking for a great uptempo trainer or 10k to half-marathon racer that is equally as responsive as it is cushioned, you prefer a flexible feel that moves with your foot, and you like a snugger fit.
If you could strip away everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary from your favorite shoe, going down to the bare bones yet keeping it comfortable and responsive, you’d end up with a shoe that would be a lot like the Rivera. This neutral lightweight trainer blends resilient cushioning with responsive performance and a real feel for the ground without subjecting the foot or body to the drubbing that can be the sharp end of the “natural running” experience. The Rivera is versatile for efficient runners and serves well for long runs and as a speedy race flat.
The low-profile and soft-yet-highly-elastic AltraEGO midsole foam make for smooth, stable and balanced transitions and roll-through. Grid-like grooves in the midsole let the sole flex independently in all directions. In this new shape, Altra moved the ball of the foot back toward the heel so the shoe widens earlier along its length, providing a more stable platform under all the met heads (all the way to the 5th), and allowing the Rivera to flex earlier as the foot rolls toward the toes. The stable stance is enhanced by soft contoured support around both sides of the arch.
One tester found the Rivera to be Altra’s “best application of AltraEGO foam so far — they dialed in the durometer and thickness so that it feels equally and simultaneously soft and firm, cushiony and responsive.” Another said the cushioning was “right for the roads and buffed out trails, but not great for rocky terrain. They were very responsive for fast running and picking up the pace. The forefront had great protection, but the heel would feel nicer with more cushioning.” The test team also appreciated the Rivera’s flexibility and the light touch Altra took in its strategic placement of the rubber outsole for durability and traction.
Another tester, however, gave up on the Rivera after three runs on asphalt. “I was expecting the ride to feel like a happy medium between the too-soft Escalante and the too-firm Escalante Racer, but it was really only slightly softer than the Escalante Racer,” this tester said. “It’s just not a shoe I look forward to running in, especially when there are so many lightweight trainer options around the same price as the Rivera.”
Despite mostly glowing remarks about the Rivera’s ride, some testers were disappointed with the fit. The negative comments came from the disappointing narrowness, especially because of the expectations of Altra’s category-changing expansive toe boxes. Even with the Rivera’s engineered mesh upper’s breathable stretchiness, wide-footed testers found the new trim fit was constraining in the forefoot, enough so that they wondered if they had the right size because the shoe felt small.
Those with average-to-narrow feet, however, reported these one of the best-fitting Altra’s to date. One reason: the eye-stay was shortened so it ends higher on the foot to allow more forefoot flex and to avoid squeezing the met-heads. These testers reported that the simple engineered mesh keeps the upper light and breathable and the stretchy forefoot allows for adequate toe splay — while the lightly-structured, engineered heel accommodated the natural flexibility of the rearfoot.