Initial thoughts on the Altra Kayenta

Alright folks, we're gonna keep this one short and sweet. I've been running in a few different pairs of Altra's over the past few years...the Torin 3, the Torin 3.5, the Superior 3, the Escalante 1, the Provision 3...and now...the Altra Kayenta.

I have run in a few different brands of shoes (Nike, New Balance, and Brooks), but I always come back to Altra's for the reasons that they are most famous for, the zero drop offset and the roomy toe box. I have weird, messed up toes so getting a little more space is a huge benefit.

Generally, I like to wear shoes that have more cushion since I'm a big dude, weighing over 200 pounds. I wear trail running shoes with less cushion, so that's kind of how I try to offset some of the drawbacks of running on a more cushioned shoe.

Lately, I've been trying to run in less cushioned shoes on the road too. I've used the Escalante which I enjoyed, but after I blew those out I decided to switch it up and try a shoe I hadn't heard much about...the Altra Kayenta.

In this article I'm going to talk about my initial thoughts on the Kayenta running shoes. I've only logged a little over 30 miles on these shoes, so take this with a grain of salt. After putting over 100 miles on them I will write a full, more detailed review.

The Kayenta is a light weight road shoe built for speed. If you're comparing it to other Altra's it's similar to the Vanish or Escalante. The stack height sits around 23 mm tall, which is pretty low especially compared to so many of the maximalist shoes on the market today.

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Let's talk about some of the stat's real quick...

Weight: 5.9 oz (167 g)

Stack height: 23 mm

Heel to Toe drop: 0 mm

Outsole: Footpod Tech

Midsole: Max LT

Alright let's get into some of the more subjective aspects of this shoe, starting with the things I like.

Size and Fit

Overall I think that the sizing is consistent with the rest of the Altra shoes I own. I wear an 11.5 in every other Altra and the 11.5 in the Kayenta feels perfect.

The upper is made up of a neoprene sock liner surrounded by a light, breathable mesh. The neoprene is definitely snug, but even with my fat feet they don't feel uncomfortable. It's a good, tight fit but because the neoprene is so stretchy it doesn't feel constricting.

The lacing system is the A-style lacing system that Altra has in many of their other shoes and I think it works really well. However, there isn't much to talk about here because the shoe fits so snug you barely need to lace them at all.

The tongue, of course, is totally integrated and has a small oval pad on the top to reduce lace bite. In the picture above you can also see the extra padding in the back of the shoe to really lock in your heel. With my Torin's I can tell that they have a bit of a sloppy heel if I don't lace them up properly, but that's not something that happens with the Kayenta.

The only thing I don't love about the fit is the width. It definitely feels a bit more narrow than the other Altra's I've worn. It's still plenty wide in the toe box, but around the arch and heel it's a tad skinny! It make my foot feel like it's "spilling" over the edges of the midsole. Again, it's not uncomfortable, but it's a little weird.

There is a light rand (the toe cap) that runs along the outside of the toebox and although it might not look like much I actually notice the support that it provides. It creates a bit of structure so that you don't feel like your foot is washing out every time you take a corner or a sharp turn. With some other flexible uppers you can feel like you're sliding around inside the shoe, that little bit of structure that the rand provides is enough to make your foot feel pretty secure.

Weight and cushioning

Yeah, these shoes are super light. The Altra website lists them at 5.9 oz each, but apparently that's without the sock liner in them. When I weighed them on my food scale at home they came in at 7.7 oz each. Now, even with that discrepancy, these are still super light running shoes.

And you can really feel the difference. The shoes feel lighter on your feet and because they are so snug you feel nimble and agile. It's a good feeling...until you stop on a rock.

I like to use these for tempo runs, tracks workouts, Fartlek runs, or shorter recovery runs. I still use a more cushioned shoe for my longer runs, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good the midsole felt in the Kayenta.

I expected the cushioning to be really bare bones so I was kinda shocked when I ran on them and could feel the midsole working underfoot. I haven't taken them on anything over 5 miles yet, so I'll have to get back to you after testing them on a few longer runs.

So far, my feet don't feel tired or sore after running on these, and that's a win!

Ventilation and draining

So, we talked about how the upper of the Kayenta is super light weight and super breathable. The ventilation in the upper is great, but it doesn't stop there. In the picture above you can see the two black triangles, one near the front of the shoe, one near the rear/middle. These are vents or weep holes that allow air and water to flow into and out of your shoe. The larger vents can be a blessing and a curse.

They are nice because they allow your feet to breathe better. The hot air and sweat that builds up in your shoe has a way to escape instead of just boiling your foot. They also provide a point of exit for any water that may get in your shoe, and if you're running in the rain with the Kayenta you will definitely get water in your shoes!

However, this vent hole works both ways. If you step on a puddle during your run, that water is going straight up into your shoe and getting your socks all wet. You do have to be a little more particular with your foot placement if you want to avoid wet feet!

Alright, now we are going to move on to some of the things I don't like about the Kayenta so far...

Weird bump in the midsole

I know I might sound a little crazy, but I'm gonna let it all out anyways.

There is a slight bump near the left side of the balls of my foot, but only in the left shoe. It gets weirder. I generally feel it for the first few miles of my run, but then it will usually go away...but not always.

I told you...a little crazy...

Ok, but for real. I'm not really sure how to explain it. It feels like a slight bump or pressure point on the balls of my left foot. It's not painful, but it's definitely noticeable. I went for a run in these shoes 2 days ago just to make sure I wasn't making it up.

So I'm not sure if it's just my shoes, if I got some weird flaw in the midsole, or if this is common among Kayenta's. I'm leaning towards this just being an issue with my shoes. Bummer, but not a big deal.


Because this is built to be a speedy, lightweight shoe, Altra left out quite a bit of rubber when designing the outsole. What we get instead is the lightweight foam which seems to be the general direction of most show manufacturers.

The Kayenta has rubber sections strategically placed in high traffic areas like the balls and outer heels of the shoes. The green areas of the outsole are the rubber sections...

The reasoning behind this is, of course, they want to try to add the tougher rubber to the sections of the shoe where people will strike with each step...hoping to give the shoe a longer life.

The problem is, they skimped a little too much in my opinion. They should have capped the entire heel, not just half, and they should have added more rubber behind the balls of the foot. As you can see from the image below, I've got a good sized "gash" in the foam near the middle of my foot. I didn't notice taking any hard landings or stepping on any big rocks that would have caused this, so I have to believe this is just normal wear and tear.

After only 31 miles I'm a little nervous about the longevity of these shoes...

I guess it's not really fair to say that the durability is something I's just something that concerns me.

I will make sure to track the mileage on these shoes (like I do with all my shoes!) and get back to you about the durability in my full review article of the Kayenta.

Alright, so here's the breakdown...I really like these shoes. They are really light, they are fast, and they are surprisingly comfortable.

I love them for tempo runs, Fartleks, and any other runs where I'm trying to focus on speed and leg turnover. I can't tell you that I don't like them on long runs because I haven't tried them on anything over 5 miles, mainly because I'm worried my feet are going to hate me for it.

I'm also really impressed with the Max LT midsole and the ground feel you get with it. These shoe feel super responsive without totally giving up on the cushioning, which is kinda the best of both worlds right?

I would suggest this shoe for anyone looking to mix a less-cushioned shoe into their road lineup, especially if you like lighter shoes. If you're mainly working on building an aerobic base with longer, slower runs than these may not be the best option; first because they might not provide the cushioning you need for longer runs, second because they might not last long enough to make it worth your while (but I'll get back to you on that!).

Amazon has the Men's Kayenta and Women's Kayenta for a steal right now...check them out if you're interested...

Do any of you own the Kayenta's? How about another Altra shoe? What do you think of them?

Do you have any suggestions for shoes you'd like me to review in the future? Leave a comment below and let me know!

If you know anyone who would enjoy this article or the SeeJakeRun blog, share this article with them!

As always, thanks for reading!


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