Altra Vanish-R Review

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The Vanish-R is arguably Altra's first "racing flat", coming in at just 5.3oz in my US men's 10. This is light, but not stunningly light these days. Material science has allowed for the creation of some stunningly light and effective running shoes. The Vanish-R has lots of promise, but it has a few significant flaws, so it doesn't quite match up to the best of breed. The most obvious issue is the fit; the Vanish-R comes with two insoles, and with both insoles installed the shoe is rather too low in volume. However, with just one insole, the volume becomes too large and I had problems with the ankle opening rubbing on my heel bone. The cushioning with just one insole is also a little more minimalist than I'd like. The second problem is the lack of head room in the toe box, with the toes pressed flat. This is uncomfortable, and I fear it prevents the toes risking up to strengthen the arch (AKA "the windlass effect"). This is a problem to one extent or another in virtually every shoe, but it's particularly bad on the Vanish-R. The final issue is that the Vanish-R lacks durability. I retired mine after only 135 miles, mostly due to the compression of the cushioning. Having said all that, the Vanish-R is still "recommended; it's got good cushioning for its weight and I enjoyed running in it (with the toe box cut open as I usually do.) Sadly, the Vanish-R suffers greatly by comparison with the Nike Zoom Streak LT, which is almost exactly the same weight and cushioning, but the Streak is more comfortable and lasts far, far longer. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The Vanish-R is nicely cushioned given its light weight. The cushioning is reasonably soft underfoot without being mushy. A good portion of the softness comes from the two insoles. The shoe comes with both insoles installed, and you can remove one or both of them. I measured the Vanish-R with both installed, as that's how they come out of the box and there's nothing to indicate that just one should be used at a time. If you remove one of the insoles, the cushioning is noticeably reduced, and I'd consider them closer to a minimalist shoe when used that way. This dramatic change in perceived cushioning is probably due to the woven TPU plate over the EVA foam midsole. This plate is woven material, but still quite firm, so the cushioning the insoles provide has a disproportionate effect. (Note this is a woven TPU plate, not TPU foam used in some midsoles.) I've done most of the miles in the Vanish-R with both insoles installed, and I prefer them that way, even though the shoe volume is a little low in the forefoot.
  • Drop. The Vanish-R is zero drop when loaded, which is great.
  • Structure. The Vanish-R uses just one density of foam and doesn't attempt to manipulate or interfere with your natural biomechanics. I found the Vanish-R to be very honest and transparent, if that makes sense in a shoe. It doesn't get in the way or give a false sense of what the ground is doing.
  • Flexibility. While the Vanish-R has a plate that Altra imply might "offer maximum energy transfer for maximum propulsion", it's quite flexible with no real spring.
  • Outsole. There's only small patches of harder rubber outsole, with the vast majority of the soft midsole foam exposed. While the Vanish-R doesn't disintegrate and disappear like the original Altra One shoes did, I found rather more wear than I would have liked.
  • Shape. Altra shoes are some of the few that attempt to actually fit the human foot. The Vanish-R does a great job of fitting the outline of the human foot, but there's no headroom for your toes at all. I found the Vanish-R presses down on my toes far too much, and I quickly had to cut the toe box open. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is unpadded except for a tiny bit around the ankle opening. I found the Vanish-R upper to be rather low volume over the metatarsals (forefoot) with both insoles installed, but with only one insole I found the ankle opening rubbed against my ankle bones (lateral malleolus.)
    The upper backlight.
  • Tongue. The Vanish-R has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. There's no padding and the tongue is rather floppy, so you have to take care to ensure it's laying flat when putting them on.
  • Lacing. The traditional flat laces stayed tied.
  • Heel Counter. The Vanish-R has little in the way of heel counter.
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This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don't get "reviewer specials" that are better than the retail versions.


2 After 135 miles

Altra Vanish-R 135 miles.jpg

As you can see from the image above, there's some abrasion of the exposed midsole after 135 miles. I'm generally a low abrasion runner, so I'd expect most people to see more than this. The abrasion is fairly minor at this point, but it's rather uneven, wearing in the middle of the forefoot far more than the areas around. I suspect this is due to the cut outs in the middle of the forefoot which will concentrate pressure in this area. As with most shoes, the limiting factor is more the compression of the foam than abrasion. Because the Vanish-R relies more on the insoles for cushioning that most shoes, this is somewhat exacerbated, as insoles tend to be far less durable than the midsole. I found that after 135 miles the Vanish-R has compressed under the ball of the foot more than I'd like. I think I could push it out to nearer 200 miles, but I'm looking to protect my knees at this point, so I'm retiring them. As a comparison point, the Vanish-R has more of the uneven compression at 135 miles than my Nike Zoom Streak LT have after hundreds of miles. (I retired my Streak LT after 300 miles, then used them again for several weeks, retired them, then repeated the return-retire cycle several more times. I've no idea how many miles they have on them at this point.)

3 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

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If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 was my top pick, but the latest version (LT 4) falls short of it's predecessor. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills, but all have their weak spots. Probably the best option at the moment is the Altra Vanish-R, which offers great cushioning for just over 5oz/150g.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. For trail running, I've become a fan of Altra, and I think their best shoe is the the Altra Timp, though the Altra Lone Peak is really close.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review

Brand Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A Review Saucony A/A7 Recommended $100 6.0 6.7 12.1 19 22 1 4.1 7
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 7.7 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 4.7 7
Saucony Type A8 Review Saucony A8 Highly Recommended $90 7.1 6.2 9.7 19 20 -1 4.4 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.4 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 3.8 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 5.7 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 6.7 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 8.6 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.1 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.2 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 6.7 3
ON Cloudflash Review On Cloud Cloudflash Worth considering $180 4.2 8.3 14.6 19 26 7 3.5 6
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.4 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.4 7
ON Cloud X Review On Cloud CloudX Not recommended $140 4.3 8.3 16.3 21 27 7 3.6 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.3 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.7 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.1 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.4 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 7.8 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.4 5
Altra Duo Review Altra Duo Recommended $130 5.6 8.4 13.1 29 29 1 4.7 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.3 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.0 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 7.5 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 3.8 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 6.8 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 6.8 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 8.6 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.5 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.0 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.4 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.4 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 5.8 5
Reebok Floatride Run Review Reebok Floatride Worth considering $150 7.2 9.6 14.9 28 34 10 7.0 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.1 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.4 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 5.7 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.3 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.1 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.1 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.5 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.1 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.1 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 4.9 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 5.7 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.1 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.2 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.4 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 5.7 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.6 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 9.4 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.4 6
Altra King MT 1.5 Review Altra King MT Recommended $140 4.1 10.7 20.8 19 21 -1 4.4 5
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 8.8 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 7.5 5
Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Review Altra Lone Peak Highly Recommended $120 4.9 11.4 17.7 23 25 -2 5.6 4
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike LT3 Best of the Best $80 8.3 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.5 5
Nike Zoom Streak LT 4 Review Nike LT4 Recommended $90 9.2 5.5 8.5 15 21 5 5.0 7
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.5 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.3 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Highly Recommended $170 7.1 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 8.5 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.5 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 4.9 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.1 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.3 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.0 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 7.5 3
Altra Olympus 2.5 Review Altra Olympus Highly Recommended $150 6.9 11.8 18.4 34 34 2 8.2 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 5.8 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.1 6
Altra Paradigm 4.0 Review Altra Paradigm Highly Recommended $150 3.6 11.0 17.1 28 30 3 4.0 9
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 13.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 5 5.5 8
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 4.3 9.7 15.1 26 29 4 4.2 6
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 7.1 6.5 10.1 16 19 5 4.6 8
Altra Escalante Racer Review Altra Racer Highly Recommended $140 7.1 7.6 11.8 24 26 6 5.4 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.4 5.6 8.7 15 21 6 4.7 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 17.6 4.0 6.2 13 21 4 7.0 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 4.6 8.5 18.9 18 28 3 3.9 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Review Nike RNDist2 Worth considering $120 8.7 9.2 14.3 25 28 3 8.0 4
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 6.6 8.0 12.5 14 17 1 5.3 6
Salomon Sense Ride Review Salomon Sense Worth considering $120 5.7 10.0 15.6 24 29 0 5.7 7
Altra Solstice Review Altra Solstice Highly Recommended $90 9.9 8.1 12.5 23 25 6 8.0 0
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 7.3 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 5.4 5
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 4.1 11.6 18.1 35 40 4 4.8 5
Altra Superior Altra Superior Highly Recommended $110 6.3 9.9 15.5 22 25 2 6.2 3
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.9 6.6 10.2 17 21 -1 5.2 4
Topo Terraventure Topo Terraventure Review Pending $110 4.6 10.8 16.8 24 24 2 5.0 5
Altra Timp Review Altra Timp Best of the Best $130 2.3 11.6 28.8 30 31 0 2.7 10
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 4.2 9.6 14.9 31 25 -1 4.1 6
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 4.2 7.4 17.3 22 24 1 3.1 9
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 6.0 8.4 13.1 13 13 0 5.1 8
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 1.7 7.3 29.5 20 18 0 1.2 10
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 22.9 3.1 4.8 9 12 8 7.1 2
Altra Vanish-R Review Altra Vanish-R Recommended $100 9.2 5.3 8.2 19 21 6 4.9 5
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 10.6 6.1 9.5 6 5 9 6.4 6
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 11.1 7.2 11.2 25 37 4 8.0 6
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 7.9 8.6 0.0 18 24 8 6.8 3
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.3 6.3 0.0 17 27 1 6.4 5
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 6.0 9.5 0.0 29 32 0 5.7 7
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 6.6 8.7 0.0 29 36 -1 5.7 7

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.