Altra Vanish-R Review Facts
Altra is a brand that is relatively new to the running shoe scene, having just been officially launched in 2010 with their first shoe hitting the market in 2011. While they don’t have the history of prominent names in the market like Nike or Adidas yet, Altra is becoming a frontrunner for shoe technology very quickly. Curiosity led the brand owners to create the company’s ZeroDrop technology in 2009, two years before they even released their first shoe and the rest is history.
Today we are reviewing the Altra Vanish-R, which is marketed as a neutral road running shoe made for serious speed. Its secure fit, lightweight materials, responsiveness, and durable outsole make it the most performance-focused shoe in the entire Altra line up. That doesn’t come without drawbacks, however. The minimalist style that the Vanish-R offers may not be for every runner. Let’s take a closer in-depth dive.
The Altra Vanish-R features a blown rubber outsole. This type of material helps to give runners traction on paved roads. There are a pair of rubber pods under the big toe as well as one near the back of the shoe. The reason for these pods is that they help to give runners grip and a solid surface to push off of. The sole itself is thin, boasting a total stack height of just 14mm which gives the runner the feeling of running barefoot. Many reviewers questioned the durability of the outsole but minimalist shoes
, by definition, have a much shorter lifespan than other runners on the market. Some reviewers mentioned that their outsole wore down even after just a few runs.
The midsole of the Vanish-R features Altra’s Propel Plate push-off technology. This simply means that when you go running in these shoes, the thin ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) material helps to provide bounce back and propulsion to help you go further, faster. There are Inner Flex grooves present in the midsole that add a lot of flexibility while minimizing the weight, making the Vanish-R a truly lightweight experience. The forefoot bends very well which will translate to an effortless toe-off. When you have such a light and flexible shoe on your feet, you really can push yourself to go faster because you’re not weighed down by a heavy cushioning system or outsole. The Natural Foot Design present in this model gives a fair amount of comfort for being a minimalist shoe. This tech’s purpose is to mimic the curvature of the human foot to make it feel like you’re running without anything on your feet at all. The Vanish-R arrives with two different insole options. The runner is meant to choose the insole that works and feels best for them and not use both at once. If you remove the insoles, the cushioning is significantly reduced, which may be attractive for some runners who prefer a closer-to-barefoot running experience.
The Altra Vanish-R features a seamless engineered mesh upper. This translates to a lightweight feel and material that fits on your feet like a sock would. The Quick Air Dry Mesh featured here adds to the breathability of the shoe. The focus with this material is to eradicate and wick away water and sweat from your feet. The Vanish-R also boasts the signature wide toe box that has become the brand’s modus operandi. This style of toe box helps your toes to spread naturally and not be constrained by the shoe at all. It also helps to ensure that the big toe stays in a straight position for added stability and maximum power. The upper is mostly unpadded aside from a small bit of cushioning by the ankle collar. Some reviewers mentioned that this small amount of cushioning isn’t sufficient enough if you’re not wearing proper socks
. One consumer said his low cut socks fall below the height of the heel and that the shoe rubbed the back of his ankle raw. It might be a good idea to wear longer socks if you experience this issue. The tongue is feather-like and flat which really helps add to the barefoot feeling. Some reviewers mentioned that the upper felt way too thin and fragile, stating that they feel it’s going to rip after just a few miles if they are trained in too vigorously.
The Vanish-R weighs in at 3.9 ounces or 111 grams. This qualifies it as an extremely lightweight running shoe option. Most of the reviews we came across praised the lightweight feel of the Vanish-R and said that they’re so light it felt like they were running barefoot. This can be a very attractive quality for runner’s who tend to prefer shoes that are part of the minimalist trend. Runners who require more support should look elsewhere, however. Part of the reason that this model is so light is due to the engineered mesh upper and the blown rubber found in the outsole.
These shoes are incredibly breathable. Just looking at the images of the Vanish-R, you can see that the mesh upper is almost completely see through. The Quick Dry Air Mesh featured in the upper is made with synthetic overlays that really aid in the breathability of the shoe. This kind of material is so integral in keeping the feet dry during long, grueling runs. It will dry quickly if it does happen to get wet, thanks to the simplistic style of the shoe itself. You may want to reconsider this shoe if you plan on taking it out on rainy days, however, as the rain might just seep right into your shoe, soaking you completely.
The Vanish-R arrives in the box with two differently shaped insoles inside of the shoe. In order for the shoe to fit the way the company intended it to, only one of the insoles should be inside during your runs. The flat option is a traditional style that you would expect to find in similar shoes on the market. The contoured insole option provides a more cushioned midsole, but it should be noted that this style does take up some extra space in the shoe.
Do you have wide feet? This might be a great option for you. Review after review mentioned that the toe box for the Altra Vanish-R is remarkably wide. Too wide, in some cases, however. More than one consumer mentioned that this shoe was so wide that their feet were slipping side-to-side during their run, causing painful blisters. Most of what we read online, including information from the Altra website and their customer service team, suggest to size up at least a half size larger than your standard running shoe size when purchasing the Vanish-R. It should be noted that, while the toe box for this model is wide and seems to be the Altra brands’ M.O., the vertical height found in that area of the shoe was too restrictive on their toes.
As for in-shoe feel, the Natural Foot Design
featured in this style is meant to provide maximum comfort by following the natural curvature of the runner’s foot. It seems as if the reviewers are split when it comes to the comfort of this shoe. Some love the minimalist cushioning while others felt there could have been more present in terms of comfort. One reviewer mentioned that he didn’t even finish one lap around the track before the shoes started digging uncomfortably into the side of his foot. This might be one shoe you should try on before you buy or at least try to purchase it from somewhere with a fantastic return policy.
The Vanish-R is a unisex shoe and it seems that the decision to make this shoe as such was a mistake on Altra’s part. Many reviews we read online mentioned that the style of the shoe not only makes it more difficult to find the right size but the width also does not lend itself well to a unisex style. Men and women’s feet can be drastically different in width so it seems strange to a number of consumers why Altra would opt for a unisex style.
The shoe is available in six different colors from gray/lime to plain black to red and pink/yellow. It is simple looking without any huge components that set it apart style-wise. There is a large “V” on the tongue of the shoe to add a little something-something but other than that, it’s pretty simplistic. The mesh on the upper of the shoe is see-through and we think that if Altra was aiming to offer a minimalist shoe in design, they succeeded so in style for this shoe as well.
Durability was one of the main concerns that many reviewers had when it came to the Vanish-R running shoe. Some folks noted that the outsole started to wear down after a few weeks of wear while one runner said his pair to be retired after only 135 miles because the cushioning became too compressed. The rubber pods on the outsole, under the big toe and heel areas, are present to help prevent some wear on the midsole. We were able to deduce that the Vanish-R is a great shoe if you plan to wear it only for races. Being that it is created with speed and races in mind
, it is plausible to have a pair of these in your closet for race day but to train in a different shoe. The primary purpose of these shoes is speed and not durability, after all.
If you’re a heel, midfoot or forefoot striker when you run, you will almost certainly see immediate wear in the outsole of this shoe. There are only two rubber pods on the big toe and heel portion of the outsole and that’s all you find in terms of protection with the Vanish-R. If you are transitioning from a running shoe with a regular drop, you may want to ease the transition by slowly introducing a minimalist shoe such as the Vanish-R. A lot of injuries that occur from minimalist running shoes happen because runner’s make the switch from traditional running shoes to minimalist ones without first ‘weaning’ themselves off of the traditional style first. We have to remember that when we run in typical shoes, the heel portion of the outsole is there to help absorb some of the shock, which is then transferred to the ankles, knees, hips and, back. If you know that you need extra support in your shoes, we would suggest doing more research on zero drop shoes and talking to a running coach to see if this is the right style for you.
As previously mentioned, this model is fitted with Altra’s Propel Plate material. This feature is made of ethylene vinyl acetate foam which helps to provide a fantastic energy return with each step for a true feeling of propulsion from the midsole. The Propel Plate should help to increase the speed of the runner as well.
Staying true to the minimalist nature of the Vanish-R, there is just one density of foam used in the construction of these shoes so as to not interfere with the biomechanics of your gait. There is an A-strap present in the midfoot area of the shoe in an attempt to add some support. As mentioned, however, most minimalist shows offer very little in way of support as the purpose of these shoes is to provide a natural, barefoot run feeling.
This is a minimalist shoe and is made to be used on paved streets. There isn’t much available on the outsole in terms of support, so it wouldn’t be advisable to take these on gravel roads or on the trails.
The MSPR of the Vanish-R is $100, though you can find certain sizes and colors for as low as $39 on Amazon. The price point seems low enough, but one must take into account the durability of this shoe. If you are searching for something to wear every day on your runs, the Vanish-R might only last you a few weeks, depending on how many miles you’re logging. As mentioned in the ‘Durability’ section of our review, most people found that these shoes started to wear down within a few weeks of wearing them. If you plan to only wear these on race day, they should last you a lot longer. If you have money in your budget to blow on shoes and are a competitive racer, it wouldn’t hurt to try the Vanish-R out and see if they increase your speed.
As mentioned earlier, the blown rubber integrated into the Vanish-R sole provides traction on pavement. Because of the simplicity of the outsole and the fact that this is a minimalist shoe, you won’t find much else in terms of traction available in this style. If you plan on taking your shoes on wet terrain or somewhere where you’ll need to gain traction on your run, you may want to consider a different model.
The Vanish-R qualifies as a very flexible shoe because of the very nature of this minimalist style. You want to have flexibility in your running shoe as this helps to mimic natural strides. No one wants to go for a run with a stiff piece of wood attached to their feet. Altra boasts about the Propel Plate present in the Vanish-R and that it offers maximum energy transfer for runners, however, not all of the reviews we read seemed in line with this thinking. The shoe is flexible enough, but there doesn’t seem to be much spring. Some reviewers mentioned that the flexible upper can cause some slippage. One consumer said that they were throw off of the side of the shoe, especially in the toe box area, while running around tight corners.
This shoe features Altra’s FootShop Toe Box which allows the toes to splay naturally and the big toe to stay in a straight position. What does this all mean? Your feet aren’t going to be scrunched up inside your shoes uncomfortably. These stability features allow for maximum stability
and power. One reviewer mentioned that the Vanish-R is stiffer and fits more snugly than other minimalist shoes on the market, but that these features add some stability around the foot that will allow them to go further distances.
This shoe is considered a “zero drop
” option. This simply means that they allow the feet to sit level with the ground. The idea behind this style of shoe is that they are supposed to help make it easier to run with a more natural and efficient stride and form. This style has been made increasingly popular in the last few years as proponents for barefoot running have gone viral. The Zero Drop platform featured in the Vanish-R model provides natural alignment for your body as well as a low-impact landing which, as you can imagine, will be great for your joints.
-FootShape toe box to allow the toes to splay naturally
-ZeroDrop Platform so the heel and forefoot are equal distance from the ground to help aid with natural alignment of the foot during your runs
-Propel Plate made of TPU for an extra springy and responsive ride
-Upper that fits like a glove
The Altra Vanish-R definitely has a large following in the running community amongst runners who prefer minimalist-style shoes. If you’re someone who needs more support or aren’t a fan of the barefoot running trend, you will want to skip right on by these on your search. While fans of the shoe touted how great fitting they were, how much faster the shoes made them and how they made them feel that they were running barefoot, the negative reviews were plentiful as well. Many of the bad reviews that we came across in our research mentioned the poor durability, inconsistent sizing, and bad fit of this shoe. If you take this into consideration when you purchase it and go in with an open mind, an open wallet and the willingness to keep trying until you find the size that fits just perfect, these may be the shoes for you.