Aspen Times Weekly: ‘Golden Spike’ Cross-Country Running Shoe |

Aspen Times Weekly: ‘Golden Spike’ Cross-Country Running Shoe


A see-through mesh upper, a foam outsole, and five sharp studs under the forefoot define the Golden Spike, a shoe coming to market next month from Altra.

Based in Utah, Altra is known for its long-distance trail shoes made for training runs and ultra events. The Golden Spike is off the spectrum for the brand, with sprint events, track and cross-country running the venue for the new shoe.

I got an early sample for review. Like race cars for your feet, the Golden Spikes do not disappoint in the speed department — they weigh almost nothing and focus all forward motion from the forefoot.

Altra describes the stride as a “powerful toe-off” motion, and in my first test runs the Golden Spike design convinced me this shoe is for the sprint-minded only. Don’t try and do much distance in these shoes, and don’t even think about pavement.

Altra rose to popularity over the past few years with its “foot-shape” toe box, which is wider than normal, and a commitment to zero-drop shoes that can aid in a more natural stride. The Golden Spikes keep both attributes, but the company tuned the rest of the shoe toward sprinters and cross-country athletes.

I ran about three miles on grass and dirt trails on the first test. The spikes dig in for grip on each stride; it’s especially noticeable on hills.

The shoes were more comfortable than expected. The midsole cushioned despite a chassis with minimal support — roots and rocks were dampened by the shoes’ midsoles, despite a clicking protest when metal met stone.

The upper is thin, a taut material that serves as a breathable shell for the foot. The laces cinch tight both over the foot and around the front of the ankle. I ran across a beach and hardly a grain of sand got inside the shoes.

Beyond the spikes, the sole has patches of rubber for wear-resistance but is mostly a rugged foam. As noted, the shoes are zero-drop, meaning there is no angle down from heel to toe. This flat-footed design discourages heel-strike running, keeping you up on the balls of your feet and on the spikes.

Who should buy these shoes? They are going to be great for high school or college cross-country runners who want a short spike shoe within a wide forefoot.

The shoes are a true racing flat and thus not meant for training runs other than top-speed workouts. But if you’re looking for more speed or a tool for sprint events on turf, dirt and tracks, lace up these Altras for a spin.

Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at

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