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Altra Vanish Carbon: Can it Withstand Matt Miles?
By Matthew Klein and David Salas

While there have been an increasing number of high stack height, plated racers, only one shoe has managed to combine that with a more natural foot position and fit. The Altra Vanish Carbon has been out for some time but still remains the solo "natural" higher stack-plated racer. The Vanish Carbon has torn me more than any shoe this year. While not a true super shoe, it blends elements extremely well to create a moderately bouncy, fast shoe for workouts and races that also happens to feature a wide toe box and a zero-drop midsole. However, its price tag and lack of durability have challenged me a great deal. Whether this shoe will match you and your needs is something you should carefully consider as you read this review.

Altra Vanish Carbon
Price: $239.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 7.6 oz, 215 g (men's size 9), 6.9 oz, 195 g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 33mm / 33mm
Drop: 0mm
Classification: Zero Drop Partial Plated Racing Shoe


Matt: The Altra Vanish Carbon is a zero drop, higher stack, partial length plated racing shoe for those who want Altra's classic anatomic fit with a faster ride. A light upper that fits short sits up top, providing security and lightness with a closer fitting but wide-toe box. Nitrogen-infused EGO PRO foam sits in the midsole with a zero drop heel, providing a moderately bouncy, natural riding and surprisingly versatile ride at easy into faster speeds. A segmented carbon plate runs from the midfoot from the forefoot, providing softer landings at the heel and natural feeling but snappy transitions off the toe. The Vanish Carbon is best for those who want an anatomic fit and zero drop faster shoe for workouts and races and aren't afraid of an expensive shoe that may wear out prematurely. 

David: The Altra Vanish Carbon is a zero drop racing shoe with a heavily rockered ride in the forefoot. The shoe uses their SLIM FOOT platform and gives a solid lockdown throughout and maintains a wide toe box that the company is known for. The Vanish Carbon also uses EGO PRO as the midsole to provide more responsiveness and cushion. The result is a slightly firm but cushioned ride that can tackle road racing.

: Altra Vanish Tempo, Skechers GOrun Speed Freak


Matt: The Altra Vanish Carbon fits me slightly short in my normal men's US size 10. The thin mesh upper sits low across the toes and fits extremely close to the end of my feet. This has been fine over shorter to moderate distances but I personally would consider a half size up over the marathon or ultra distances. The volume of the upper is slightly lower but not extreme. The fit is obviously anatomic with a wider toe box and more snug heel. The fit is NOT classic and fits more slim than other Altra models, true to a more race/workout type shoe. The midfoot features a partially gusseted and thin tongue with additional straps that lock the foot down. The upper is on the snug side, particularly in the midfoot and heel, which combined with the tongue provided enough lockdown that I did not have to lace lock the heel. The heel is also snug and did not have a counter. There was a large amount of internal heel collar padding around the heel that did cause some extra pressure on my calcaneus that has slowly reduced with. Those that are sensitive to counters may still have some sensitivity if they are sensitive to pressure, which does occur from this additional padding. This shoe does require socks and sockless running is not advised. The internal straps from the tongue, the inner padding of the heel and the upper at the toes can all cause rubbing, so socks are highly recommended with this shoe. 

David: The Altra Vanish Carbon fits true to size in my Men's 9.5. The shoe follows their SLIM FIT profile, having a more narrow heel and midfoot with a wide toe box. The fit certainly feels dialed in and anatomical. The length feels a tad short, though not enough to compromise the ride. There is no heel counter, but the lockdown of the shoe holds the area really well despite this. The upper material is thin but still provides decent comfort. The tongue is thin and race ready. It is padded just enough to prevent any biting. The volume of the shoe is on the lower end in the heel and midfoot, though the forefoot feels quite airy. Outside of the length being a tad short this upper is actually really nice otherwise. Security is solid and I have been able to take turns without issue. 


Matt: The Altra Vanish Carbon is a fairly versatile racing and workout shoe. The EGO PRO foam is comfortable, cushioned and allows a variety of paces. I have found the Vanish Carbon to work at all paces including easy runs, tempo runs, fartleks and long runs. If there were not faster options on the market, this would be a top choice for me for races up to the half marathon. However, as comfortable as the EgoPro foam is, it is not the bounciest foam and is not a true super foam. It is some kind of nitrogen-injected foam that feels somewhat similar to Puma's Nitro Foam. The benefit of this is that it doesn't feel weird to run easy paces in this shoe like it does to do so in super racing shoes. That said, the foam and segmented plate still react quite well at faster paces and it is a fun shoe to hammer workouts in. The weight is certainly lighter but feels more like a lightweight trainer than a super light racing flat. This again adds to the versatility of pace tolerance but it can still move quickly when you want to. The heel drop is definitely zero but the great forefoot rocker offsets this. It feels lower drop but not zero all the time.

The transitions in the Vanish Carbon are extremely smooth. Altra has the best heel bevels in the industry with a great rounded heel that transitions well no matter what part you land on. The segment carbon plate starts in the midfoot, allowing for a softer heel landing that begins to speed up once you hit the midfoot. The plate does add stiffness to the forefoot but is not as aggressive as other racing shoes. There is a little rigid feeling while warming up but once you get into an easy or long run it feels quite comfortable. It is not until you really pick up the pace that the snappiness becomes apparent, further adding to the pace versatility of this shoe.

Terrain-wise, the Vanish Carbon is best for road. The outsole traction is fairly normal and is average on smooth wet surfaces. While I have enjoyed this shoe for the above reasons, the outsole durability is absolutely terrible. I ripped through the outsole and into the midsole at about 15 miles. I currently have 32 miles on my pair and am tearing through the midsole. The shoe is still runnable at this point, but I doubt I can safely take this shoe past 50-60 miles. I already started seeing outsole wear throughout the length of the shoe after my first run. Unless you are extremely light on your feet, this shoe may have a brief lifespan for you.

The Altra Vanish Carbon is an interesting racing shoe. The EGO PRO midsole is definitely on the firmer side of racing foams that are currently out. This isn't a bad thing per se, but an observation. The stack height is also at 33mm which is a little bit lower in the heel than other companies. The geometry does feature a moderate heel bevel and a early toe spring. The rocker on this shoe definitely keeps you feeling like you are rolling into the next step. This and the light weight make make for a decently nimble ride that you don't always get with these super shoes. The EGO PRO midsole has decent cushioning and you can certainly take this shoe for long runs or marathons. I will say it does not feel as responsive or bouncy as other foams. This shoe seems to rely on its geometry quite a bit. In a way this shoe feels like it would be an awesome training companion, as  I like it for workouts, rhythmic uptempo running, and even running at daily paces. The versatility of this shoe is quite good, though I am not sure I would pick it for a race personally. The outsole is decent underfoot, though seems to shred up rather quickly. There is a lot of it though, and this may still line up with durability from other brands by the end of its life. The Vanish Carbon is for those wanting a nimble ride and a sensation of constantly rolling of the front of your shoe. 


Matt: The Altra Vanish Carbon is a neutral racing shoe. There are no traditional methods of stability although there are a few methods that do add some mild guidance. The most obvious part is that the sole is wider throughout the length of the shoe to match the shape of a foot. This is most effective in the forefoot, where the addition of the segmented carbon plate provides a large amount of torsional rigidity. There are extremely small sidewalls in the posterior midfoot but these are not noticeable. The medial and lateral outsole gaps at the midfoot do slightly increase motion there as I have felt myself collapse a little more at those points. However, the shoe is still solidly neutral but is naturally stable at the forefoot thanks to the plate and wider platform. 

David:  For being a neutral racing shoe the Altra Vanish Carbon doesn't do too bad in the stability category. It is definitely neutral but has a few things going for it. One thing I think that is often overlooked is upper security. That is actually really good in this shoe and each step feels predictable. The shoe does have some mild sole flaring through the full length of the shoe and does maintain a decently wide platform throughout. The midsole also is a little firmer and does not feel quite as compliant. Outsole traction is pretty decent in the Vanish Carbon as well. It feels like a lightweight neutral running shoe though. 

Thoughts as a DPT: The Challenges of a Zero Drop Super Shoe
By Matthew Klein

While I have enjoyed the Vanish Carbon, it does not technically qualify as a super racing shoe (despite its price tag). The foam is great but does not have the bounce or materials to be considered super. The plate is also only partial length and segmented, which makes complete sense for the natural design of the shoe but does not make it super. Super shoes generally have a full-length plate and some kind of extremely resilient, full-length foam, most commonly PEBA or an injected PEBA foam (Burns & Tam, 2020). Their extremely resilient midsole foams compress a ton then usually bounce back to provide what feels like "energy return." 

We have discussed before how static heel drop measurements are inaccurate. Depending on where you land and how compliant the midsole foam is, the loaded drop can be much different. The Altra Vanish Carbon's EgoPro foam is soft but is not as compliant or resilient as other racing shoes foams. This is not great for the reason that it will not provide the same economy improvements that other racers will have despite having a similar price point. It is great because this shoe is zero drop and if it had a more compliant and resilient foam, heel strikers would be running in an extremely negative drop shoe. The lack of a plate that extends to the rearfoot also would mean a softer foam would compress even more. This could potentially place excessive stress on the Achilles tendon, calf complex and foot/ankle joints, which is the opposite that most of the super stack racing shoes are supposed to do (although their instability can often increase stress, but that is a different post).

The only way to overcome this would be to have a full-length plate and appropriate geometry, specifically a long forefoot rocker, to facilitate a forward transition quick enough for people not to get stuck at the heel. >70% of runners are heel strikers even at faster speeds, so these mechanics need to be considered (Hasegawa et al., 2007). The Altra Vanish Carbon does have an excellent forefoot rocker, which starts early enough that it actually makes the shoe feel like low drop and not a zero-drop shoe. This also as the added benefit of not having any toe spring, which keeps the toes in a neutral position. Many shoes with a forefoot rocker also have a ton of toe spring. Excessive toe spring extends the toes, which also tightens the plantar fascia. The shoe has a soft heel, this can place additional stress on the plantar fascia by tensioning up both the distal and proximal ends of this tissue. The calf and ankle are not the only things placed on stress with an extremely soft foam that can turn into a low drop shoe. 

So the components of what are needed are present to a degree in the Altra Vanish Carbon. There is an excellent forefoot rocker that doesn't extend the toes, there is part of a plate that could also facilitate forward motion. What is missing is an appropriate super foam (Perhaps a Nitrogen injected PEBA foam?) and a full-length plate. The Altra Vanish Carbon is a fun shoe with potential that will hopefully be fully met in version 2 if they hope to keep it at its current pricepoint.


Burns, G. T., & Tam, N. (2020). Is it the shoes? A simple proposal for regulating footwear in road running. British Journal of Sports Medicine54(8), 439-440.

Hasegawa, H., Yamauchi, T., & Kraemer, W. J. (2007). Foot strike patterns of runners at the 15-km point during an elite-level half marathon. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research21(3), 888-893.


Matt: I have really enjoyed my miles in the Altra Vanish Carbon. It isn't quite a super shoe but is a fun shoe to run easy and faster workouts in. It has been a great break from super shoes as I have been focusing on building fitness and keeping my stress low as I finish my PhD and adjust to being a new father. The fit is great except for the slightly short fit and the ride is fun. However, there are still several suggestions I have regarding the fit, outsole durability, materials used and price. The fit is the first thing as it fits short enough that I would not consider using this for long distances. I have been fortunate that I have only used the Vanish Carbon for up to 12 miles but anything beyond that would probably cause some tissue damage to the end of my toes. I encourage Altra to fix the sizing issue here as the length is completely different from all their other models. My second suggestion is to work on the durability. The outsole began to come off my pair at 15 miles. This is disappointing for a $240 shoe and I know I am not the only one as many other reviewers have had similar issues. There are many durable, light materials out there so I suggest Altra invest in this for the future. If they choose not to, then the price point should be dropped by quite a bit. Finally, if the price point is kept, then this shoe needs a full length plate and a true super foam. I highly suggest using a nitrogen-injected PEBA foam and making sure the forefoot rocker/plate protects the heel from bottoming out. Altra has made some fantastic shoes and I really believe that can elevate their racer to the level we all know it can be.

I enjoyed my time in the Vanish Carbon. One thing I immediately would recommend would be to lengthen the shoe a tad. Though it is not a deal breaker, it is certainly noticeable very quickly. The other recommendation would be to play with some midsoles. The geometry on this shoe is fun and nimble, though I don't feel that I get quite as much rebound as I do in other racing shoes. This feels like it would be an A ranking performance trainer, though it is meant to compete with the likes of super shoes on the market. If this shoe was priced at $160-180 and a performance trainer this would be an awesome buy. 


Matt: The Altra Vanish Carbon is a partially plated, versatile, zero-drop racing shoe for those who want a faster ride with an anatomic fit. The fit is slightly short, so those considering this for longer distances should try a half-size longer. The upper is comfortable and secure outside of that, featuring the classic wide Altra toe box. The ride is protective and responsive, so those wanting a zero drop, racer can definitely trust this shoe to keep them going for miles be it at easier or faster paces. However, it will NOT provide the fastest ride as the foam lacks the material properties necessary to be considered a super shoe. This is not a super shoe, but a solid workout/racing shoe that is a great zero-drop alternative for those who may not respond well to super resilient foams. The poor durability seriously detracts from the life and cost-effectiveness of this shoe, so only those who accept that they won't get a ton of miles out of these OR who are light on their feet should consider the Vanish Carbon. An alternative option would be to pair the Altra Vanish Carbon with the Vanish Tempo as a racer/trainer combo, which may help you save some of your miles for race day while having a similar shoe to train in. I again hope Altra can address my concerns about this shoe in their second version.

David: The Altra Vanish Carbon is a neutral road racing shoe for someone that wants a little bit of a firmer ride and likes a lot of rounding through the forefoot. The shoe keeps you feeling like you are rolling forward. This shoe relies on its geometry a lot and does not offer too much with bounce or rebound after landing. In a lot of ways it feels like a great lightweight trainer or performance trainer, but just lacking a little extra umph to compete with the super shoes. The moderate stack and rolling geometry make for a nimble experience that is fun. With that said, the shoe does run smooth and is a nice step in the right direction for Altra.


Fit: B+ (Slim, anatomic fit that is slightly short. Secure fit without stiff heel counter)
B (Solid workout/racing shoe with mid/forefoot plate with versatile pace tolerance. Terrible durability)
Stability: B/B+ [Neutral] (Naturally stable forefoot with neutral, natural ride in the rest of the shoe, midfoot a tiny bit unstable due to lack of outsole coverage and slightly narrowed aspect on lateral side)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Great anatomic design of a racing shoe but falls short despite price tag due to lack of true super foam and only partial plate)
Personal: B+/A- (I have really enjoyed this shoe for everything from easy miles to faster tempos but the horrendous durability has cut my time in this short. Would absolutely not spend $240 on a shoe that lasts 30-60 miles)
Overall: B/B+ 

Fit: A- (Solid fit throughout, very dialed in, does run short though)
Performance: B 
(If this was a performance trainer, its an A. Smooth rolling transitions and a nimble ride. Just not enough pop or responsiveness to compete with the super shoes.)
Stability: B+ (Nothing crazy to rave about but good upper security, slight sole flaring, wide platform, firmer base)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Nice anatomic fit and good integration with the platform, but feels behind the super shoes in midsole development)
Personal: A- (I will use this as a solid training companion)
Overall: B/B+


Altra Vanish Carbon
Price: $239.95 at Running Warehouse

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Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Danbury and Stevens Point areas, we am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Altra for sending us pairs.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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