Altra Vanish Carbon Review (2022): A Good Zero Drop Racer?
Last update: March 2023
The Altra Vanish Carbon is a comfortable, light, zero-drop carbon plated shoe that performs during training or race day.
Altra has a reputation for producing zero-drop shoes that don’t interfere with natural movement. The Vanish Carbon is Altra’s entry into the realm of carbon-plated super shoes. The question is, can Altra stay true to themselves while creating a super shoe? Despite a few minor gripes, reviewers generally agree that the answer is yes.
The midsole of the Vanish Carbon is EGO Pro Foam which received good marks for being soft and bouncy. The carbon-fiber plate is a Carbitex half plate that gives runners the desired spring you want out of a carbon-plated racer. The Vanish Carbon upper is light and breathable, but multiple reviewers had issues with the tongue being too thin with the propensity to fold over onto itself.
There are some concerns over the durability of the outsole, especially due to the high price of the Vanish Carbon ($240). The bottom line is that the testers found this shoe to be highly comfortable and impressive despite the few issues.
Please read our full review of the Altra Vanish Carbon for more information.
- Responsive midsole
- Stable ride
- Comfortable shoes
- Smooth heel-to-toe transition
- Good for wide feet
- Thick, long, waxy laces that don’t stay tied
- Thin tongue construction
- Noticeable wear after some use
- Heel and top of foot irritation
- Expensive considering the estimated 150-mile life
Altra Vanish Carbon Complete Review Analysis
Altra made their name early on by modifying other brands of shoes to make them zero drop. For years since then, Altra has kept the zero drop while wowing runners with an ample toe box and natural ride. Eager Altra fans have been waiting patiently for the shoe company to make a move into shoes with a carbon plate.
The fans were less patient after discovering that Cal Neff paced Keira D’Amato’s American Marathon record wearing Altra Vanish Carbon prototypes. The wait is finally over, thanks to the wide release of the Altra Vanish Carbon. Altra combined its previous strengths with a carbon plate to create the first Altra super shoe.
When analyzing the Altra Vanish Carbon, the midsole is where the bulk of the discussion needs to take place. This Altra shoe comprises EGO Max Pro TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomers) foam. The Ego Pro midsole feels hard to the touch but soft and comfortable once the shoe hits the road. The foam is firm yet cushioned. This zero-drop shoe has a stack height of 33 mm.
This shoe also utilizes Active Stance rocker geometry. The rocker is placed at 65 percent forward when measured from the heel. The shoe rolls forward to add explosiveness to each step. An objective that Altra achieved with this shoe.
Then there’s the main event, the Carbitex plate. Again, the goal with this unique carbon fiber plate is to give the boost needed while keeping the natural running motion in mind.
The runners reviewing the Altra Vanish Carbon all agreed that Altra exceeded its goals when it came to the midsole. Responsive, bouncy, and natural were common descriptions. The plate flexes up with energy return from the ground but retains its rigidity in the other direction. It’s the best of both worlds.
The other technologies present in the midsole are the signature Balanced Cushioning and Footshape design. These combine for the most natural and comfortable fit possible.
Foot lockdown (upper)
For looks, the Vanish Carbon upper received positive feedback. Sleek and fast with minimal decoration are terms thrown out to describe the first impressions of the upper. The upper is thin and composed of breathable mesh. The thin material is excellent regarding the weight but not as much when looking at its impact on the stability and durability.
The tongue is thin and wide, which was an issue for runners with small volume and narrow feet. Testers felt secure but had to tie the laces very tight, which bunched the tongue and caused discomfort and the need for adjustments on longer runs. Speaking of the laces, they also gave runners trouble due to them being too long and thick. The heel counter has a plastic feel and some Achilles padding but didn’t give the most secure heel lockdown.
Thankfully the Altra Vanish didn’t completely miss the boat with the lockdown. The midfoot cage provided much-needed structure to compensate for the issues with the rest of the upper.
The Altra Vanish Carbon fits true to shoe size with an ample toe box and wide platform. Altra has a reputation for its large toe boxes, but that is not the case with the Vanish Carbon. Reviewers were worried about going in but were quite happy with a large but not too large toe box.
Grip and durability
The outsole on the Vanish Carbon is hardened EVA foam. There was some concern over the hardness, but those worries were alleviated once tested. Generally, the runners who did rigorous testing were pleased with the grip. They felt confident running on uneven ground and wet pavement with one caveat.
That caveat is that the shoe felt slightly slick for the first run. Once the shoe had some miles under them, the slickness went away, and the grip performed well.
Multiple athletes cited durability as a concern. They reported noticeable wear after a few longer runs. Additionally, the Altra team estimated the shoe’s lifespan at 150 miles. That is certainly something to note when getting ready to shell out $240.
The Altra Vanish Carbon received wide and varied praise for the ride. These running shoes have a bouncy yet controlled ride with a peppy toe-off. Soft, plush, well-balanced, and efficient, whether going on a short jog or running a half marathon. The shoe was also deemed equally capable at slower and quicker paces. Once broken in, there were no issues with comfort or speeding up, even on wet terrain.
The ride was everything testers wanted out of a distance shoe with super foam and a carbon plate. The runners felt the benefits of the low drop and bounce up and forward from the rocker. There was no issue with calf, Achilles, or foot soreness which can be an issue when wearing shoes with a lower drop.
The issues with the tongue and upper were not so much on short runs but on long runs where the distance amplified them. Constant tongue adjustments and wear on the foot are not ideal when selecting a racing shoe. This may not be a concern for runners with a larger, wider foot but is something to consider for those with a small, narrow foot.
One reviewer thought the previously stated issues with the upper were enough to keep this from being a race day shoe but still thought highly enough of the shoe to utilize it for tempo runs.
A runner looking for a low heel-to-toe drop, a carbon-plated racing shoe from a trusted brand like Altra can do much worse than the Vanish Carbon shoe. This is even more true if that runner has a larger, wider foot and plenty of disposable income.
Someone who puts in many miles or prefers a high stack will want to look elsewhere. The same with an athlete with a smaller, more narrow foot.
When Altra decided to enter the super shoe world, they entered with a bang. The Vanish Carbon does all of the things it set out to do. They just fell a little flat when designing the upper, specifically the tongue, heel, and laces.
This shoe is still worth checking out, but hopefully, version 2.0 will consider some of the criticism.
|Heel-to-toe drop||0 mm|
|Heel height||34 mm|
|Forefoot height||34 mm|
|Weight (men)||227 g/8 oz|
|Weight (women)||195 g/6.9 oz|
|Softness (1-5)||2 – Soft|
|Bounce (1-5)||4 – Bouncy|
|Midsole||Altra EgoPRO, Natural Ride System (NRS), Segmented Carbon Fiber Plate|
|Upper||Race-Inspired Upper, Slim Foot Design|
|Distance||5K, 10K, half marathon|
Reference: Altra Running
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Comparisons with other carbon plated shoes
When put up against the Altra Escalante Racer, the Vanish Carbon does very well. The space in the toe box and natural feel is still present while adding the extra boost from the plate.
When compared to other shoes like the Saucony Endorphin Pro and Nike Vaporfly Next% the reviews are mixed. Experts like the Saucony shoe for distances over a 10K but like what the Vanish Carbon has to offer on shorter runs.
The Vaporfly is lighter and has an upper that can be counted on which gives it a slight edge.
2 thoughts on “Altra Vanish Carbon”
Hi, I bought a pair of these in the same size as all the other Altra’s I have. From my perspective the shoebox is considerable smaller then the other models. After the first round of 10k I got blue nails on both feet because my toes got too squeezed. I had to sell them.
@Jerker Anderson, thanks. Your comment convinced me to stay away. I am currently using the best shoes ever made, the Escalante 2.5. Thanks again!!