Altra Vanish XC – Specialized Multitalent

Get over the stats first ! 150g for 19mm of cush, ZERO DROP platform and performance fit ! What do these mean ? Well, first of all, it is light, so following physics, the less weight you got at the end of a lever, the easier is to move, lift and circulate that lever. Add in bendability, rebound and active-dynamic stiffness, together with the wide, squared foot-shape toe-box, the Vanish-XC screams for runner-health promoting high cadence. You put on this flip-flop-feeling-like close-fitting sneaker and literally you will have higher leg turnover. It is just a natural  bodily reaction coming from the above mentioned features.


I must also state that I am an Altra guy, I am sponsored by Altra and I am an Altra Red Team Member. However, I have been promoting Altra shoes well before that. I am a coach and ultra endurance athlete so fitness, health, lifestyle, posture, breathing, body alignment, joint function are all very important to me.

Performance Fit

I have a size UK12 / US13/ EU48 size feet with 11cm-s of width, so the experience I have, might be different from somebody wearing a 42. I also must say that I respect Altra’s advice, what has actually been my shoe fitting recommendation too for over a decade. (I used to work in a running specialty store, but as a coach I also have been advising runners, outdoor adventurers and mountaineers on footwear choice and sizing for a very long time.) 


Meaning that in case of running shoes, but lifestyle shoes too, a 1.2 to 1.5cm toe-gap is necessary. That means, you take out the proprietary insole, place your feet on it, snuggly adjust your heel to the insole’s heel and you should have one-thumb width of space on the front. This is how I measure all shoes, therefore the Escalante, the Superior, the Lone Peak and all other models.
I was hesitating ordering a half size smaller Vanish-XC, mimicking the sizing of a track spike, but decided to go with my regular size. It was a sound choice. The shoe is kind of shorter, closer fitting, shallower and narrower than other Altra models. Not narrow or short though, just narrower and shorter than for instance the Escalante or the E-Racer, but still very Altra-ish !
I would not use the shoes with a thick sock that is for sure, but with a thin-one or being totally barefoot in it, they are perfect. If I decided to run an ultra distance event in these, I would go for a half size bigger, than my regular size. (For me that would be UK12.5/US13.5 and that doesn’t exist, but for those having normal feet, that is something to think about)


Now that we’ve adjusted the baby, we talk about the use of this shoe. They are not meant to be your everyday jogger. It doesn’t mean you cannot do your morning baguette walk in them or go for a 20km road tempo. Of course, anything is possible. They are just not for that.


We discuss a high performance racing and training shoe wanting to go fast. On the track, on the road, on non-technical flatish short trail or on bone dry cross country courses. The Vanish has its limitations. The length of the outsole lugs makes it impossible to utilise it on muddy courses and the total lack of protection also dismisses the chance of technical rocky terrain. The question is not can or cannot ! It would be fast or fast not ? Removing pebbles, dust, rocks and dirt coming through the ultra breathable fishnet like see-through upper will be also annoying after a while. This is why in case of training, I limit the shoe for the track and road, with maybe some dry XC reps.

I’d like to put up some race-pictures and XC action here, but most likely real running will be limited due to the Corona on the King’s head. At least till mid April, but looking at the advised 4th of May school restart, maybe longer.

The shoe actually behaves like a mixture of a distance spike and a road racing flat. More grip than a Flat, but more underfoot support than a Spike. We have to exclude the Golden Spike here, as that is a another Unique Altra shoe defying the norms. I find that despite that missing overlays and upper-structure, the custom lacing does an excellent job keeping your feet stable inside the shoe. As in most Altra models, the joint equilibrium including ankles, knees and hips is coming from your own abilities, not from an artificial double density platform, nor from an arch support or heel-counter. Supernatural and very much neutral !

Running 100s to 3km repeats on the track, I did not find anything negative to say. A couple of speedy strides on the road and I would prefer the Kayenta or the E-Racer here, but either ways, that is not the home of the Vanish-XC. Cornering and entering mountain switchbacks where sharp surprises could be present, is not a good idea either. You can step on something super pointy at sub 3:30/km pace and you’d cry like a baby, so would you if a rock went straight up into your arch.
I would still be delighted though, to be racing a road 10km in it. Definitely would be using this for a track 10000m with no hesitation !  

I actually bought the shoe for mixed surface races coming up soon, (I mean not coming up at all unfortunately.) It feels like that the best option for this shoe would be a bit of road and a bit of dirt. Max 20km, but better shorter. 3 to 10km, Kaboom !


I cannot honestly comment on this. I had some racing flats in the past holding up only 150km, with the outsole peeling off, upper disintegrating and so on. I also had others lasting over 1000km looking like new.

I would recommend the shoe as an appropriate racer for 200km as total distance goes. That is not much. Like 15 training sessions and 5 races. Then keep it exclusively for training. When we train, usually we do shoe changes. Warming up shoe, distance shoe and speed shoe. That can mean shoe or spike. Surely, I don’t talk about 15 training sessions of 2O to 30km, each in the shoe, but 15 sets of 5 to 8km as part of training, to get the hang of the shoe and to understand the lacing.

I am around 50km in the shoe, with 2 dirt, 2 XC and 4 track interval sets. It looks like I could still send them back as an unused shoe. I would not do it though, as I like them a lot. I mean, that I really seriously enjoy pulling them on !

Cross training

The shoe lacks support and structure, so it is not going to be your heavy, torque resisting, ONE’rep’MAX olympic lifting footwear.
However it is agile, light, nimble and very flat. Doing a mixture of Running, KettleBells, TRX exercises, Athletic Schooling Drills, Plyometrics is totally possible with all confidence.


I really appreciate Altra’s efforts to put out shoes serving a purpose. They are not just creations filling space. Space is infinite, so they could make endless number of models based on look, but no, they are founded on purpose and need. Back in the old days, there were no real racing flats, just a couple of now-historic models, non-available to the public and definitely not in Europe. We used spikeless XC shoes for some of our routines. They were not at all universal, but on the contrary, very limited to certain routines.
In reality the Altra Vanish XC is a Spikeless XC shoe. That was the goal with it and it is achieved. But because of the way they built this model, it becomes non-exclusive to other activities. That is a giant difference between shoes that are built for multi-activities, but perform on a mediocre way during all of those and shoes that are graciously excellent for one or two options and do a well above average job on multiple other fronts !


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