Altra Rivera Review | Zero Drop Road Running Shoes

The newest shoe in Altra road running range is the Altra Rivera. The Rivera drops into the range where the Altra Instinct/Intuition used to sit. That makes the Rivera more cushioned than the Escalante, which is designed as a racer/trainer for those faster runs and interval sessions. Conversely, it’s less cushioned than the Torin, which is Altra’s high mileage high cushioning road running shoe. If I had to label the Rivera, I would say that it’s a ‘performance training shoe’.

Everything about the Rivera is light and minimal. The men’s weight comes in at 240g and the Women’s at 170g. They are very light for an everyday training shoe. The upper is a one piece construction. There are no overlays in the toe box and the upper is designed to give the foot complete freedom of movement inside the shoe. Ideal for a shoe that is designed to promote a more natural midfoot strike. The upper gives the feet the space to spread out on impact and spring you into your next stride.

The whole ethos of Altra shoes is to allow your feet the space to function. Then you run with better posture and your feet get stronger the more you run, which reduces the wear and tear on the body and chance of injury.

If you have been wearing shoes with a high heel to forefoot drop and a ‘pointier’ toe box, then your feet will have been prevented from functioning. If you decide to try Altra Zero Drop shoes, then it is advisable to gradually increase the time you spend in the shoes and alternate with your previous ones. This way your feet and lower legs can gradually get stronger without getting overloaded.

The midsole has a high degree of flexibility for its thickness (26mm). This allows your feet to flex and bend were they want to naturally. I have quite a long big toe, so I find in a lot of shoes that the flex point is too far forward, which makes the shoes more difficult to run in. Everyone’s toes are different lengths and therefore their feet will want to bend in slightly different places. This degree of flex in the midsole allows more runners to have the same comfortable effortless feeling ride.

Altra shoes have a broader rounded toe box that they call FootShape to allow space for your feet to spread out on impact. How broad they are varies with the different last shapes that Altra use to make their shoes. How snug the shoe should be differs depending on the type of shoe and terrain. Generally the shoes designed for running quickly in have a snugger fit so when you are cornering at speed your foot doesn’t roll around inside the shoes. The shoes designed for longer runs and Ultramarathons have more room to accommodate foot expansion when you heat up and give your feet the room to function. This helps you maintain good posture/form as you are getting tired. The Rivera is not as wide as some of the other Altra road shoes like Torin and Paradigm. However, I wouldn’t describe the fit as snug. There is a good level of height in the upper that makes the toe box feel free to move. The single piece mesh upper adds to the feeling of freedom that your toes have. If you don’t have especially wide feet then the Rivera could be the perfect fit. Giving your feet encouragement to start to function in the shoe without feeling like there is too much room.

In our experience the Rivera is half a UK size smaller fitting than the usual Altra size. So, we would suggest trying half a size larger. If you would like sizing advice then email us (

As you would expect with such a light, flexible shoe you don’t really notice that you have them on. The mid sole is made of Altra’s Ego material. It is a one piece midsole with Altra innerflex to increase the flexibility. I found the ride of the shoe to be cushioned and bouncy.

The Rivera is an everyday training shoe. So, it has enough cushioning for you to do your slow easy recovery runs. Yet it is lively and responsive enough for tempo runs or intervals. The cushioning is also good enough for your long runs too. Although if you were training for a marathon and therefore on your feet for a long time then you might prefer the more cushioned plusher ride of the Torin for these runs.

I have enjoyed running in the Rivera. I find that I start of my easy runs at a nice slow pace but, then as I get into my rhythm the shoe encourages you to go faster. The bit of bounce in the midsole and the way the shoe flexes moves my pace effortlessly up. This means that I have to exercise a bit of self control in easy to runs to maintain and easy pace. However, in steady/tempo runs you can just leg go and bool along.

No one shoe is perfect for all running and I found that for fast intervals the Rivera was a bit too flexible. I was having to work a bit harder to generate speed compared to running in an Escalante Racer or Escalante that have firmer, stiffer midsoles.
In summary if you want a lightweight neutral shoe that allows your feet to function naturally and has a fun bouncy feel then the Altra Rivera is a contender.

Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle

Other Considerations

Topo Clyclone: These are 5mm heel to forefoot. They have a broad rounded toe box that is broader than the Rivera. The upper is similarly light. (shoes weight is 225 grams). The midsole is Zip Foam which is Topo’s bouncy midsole. It has a less flexible and more solid ride than the Rivera. Which feels better on long runs to me.

Hoka Mach 4: 5mm heel to forefoot drop and like all Hoka shoes they have a rocker. They are again super light at 232 grams and have some flex in the forefoot. They are in effect the same as Hoka’s Carbon X 2 without the carbon in the midsole. This allows your feet to function better. So, is better for training. The rocker promotes a quick cadence and a more up right running style.

New Balance 880

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