Altra Vanish Carbon Review

Altra’s carbon racer offers a high level of performance for runners who use zero-drop shoes

Altra Vanish Carbon running shoe
(Image: © Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

Our Verdict

The Altra Vanish Carbon is an accomplished racing shoe that can be used for regular training, but it doesn’t match the performance of the best carbon shoes and is likely to appeal only to those committed to using zero-drop models.


  • Effective rocker
  • Stable
  • Zero drop


  • Zero drop won’t suit everyone
  • Not as fast as others
  • Outsole is not durable

You can trust Coach We give honest reviews and recommendations based on in-depth knowledge and real-world experience. Find out more about how we review and recommend products.

While the Altra Vanish Carbon has the hallmarks of a classic carbon racing shoe, with a fairly high stack of a nitrogen-infused foam and a carbon plate in the midsole, it also differs from the competition in two key ways. 

One is the foot-shaped toe box, and the other is that it is a zero-drop shoe, with a stack that is the same height at the heel and forefoot. Both of these features are central to Altra’s approach to running shoes, and the Vanish Carbon is a great racing option for those loyal to the brand. 

However, if you’re not a die-hard Altra fan and you’re not sold on the zero-drop design, then you’ll find that other carbon plate running shoes offer a higher level of performance.

Altra Vanish Carbon Review: Price And Availability

The Altra Vanish Carbon is available now and has an RRP of $240/£220, but it is frequently available for much less than the RRP. 

Design And Fit

Altra Vanish Carbon running shoe

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

The Altra Vanish Carbon’s stack doesn’t get close to the 40mm limit set by World Athletics, but at 33mm it’s still generously cushioned. The stack height is measured at 33mm at both the heel and forefoot since it's a zero-drop shoe, but the Vanish Carbon does have a pronounced forefoot rocker that rolls you onto your toes.

The midsole is made from Altra’s nitrogen-infused EGO Pro foam, which is light and responsive, but not as squishy and bouncy as other foams used in super-shoes, like Nike’s ZoomX. A Carbitex carbon half-plate is sandwiched in the foam in the forefoot of the shoe to add more propulsion to your toe-off.

Altra’s foot-shaped toe box is a distinctive feature of its shoes. It allows the toes to splay out more naturally during your runs than the tapered toe boxes used by most brands. The Vanish Carbon is still a fairly narrow shoe, though, and I found the fit a little cramped using a shoe that was half a size smaller than my normal size, so I’d stick true-to-size on fit.

Altra Vanish Carbon running shoe outsole wear

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

The mesh upper is light and flexible but has little structure to it and it was sometimes hard to get a solid locked-down fit, especially because the waxy laces had a bad habit of coming undone. I’d swap those laces out as a matter of urgency if you pick up the Vanish Carbon.

Altra has used hardened EVA foam for the outsole of the shoe and there is good coverage on the heel and forefoot so it grips well even on wet roads. However, the EVA foam is showing considerable signs of wear in places after just 55km in the shoe, so I certainly have concerns about its durability.

At 7.9oz/223g for a UK size 8.5 the Vanish Carbon is a pretty light shoe and comparable to the weight of most carbon plate racers.

How I Tested This Shoe

I have run 55km in the Altra Vanish Carbon using it primarily for fast training runs. I’m not accustomed to using zero-drop shoes so the longest run I did in the Vanish Carbon was around 10 miles, because adjusting to the zero-drop design was proving hard on my calf muscles in particular.

Running Performance

As someone who has never used zero-drop running shoes regularly I expected a fairly dramatic difference in ride with the Altra Vanish Carbon, but actually the pronounced rocker smoothed out the ride so it didn’t feel hugely different from shoes I’ve tested with a drop of around 4mm and similar forefoot rockers.

That said, I did notice more strain on my calf muscles when using the shoe, which is what I’d expect from a lower-drop shoe, especially as I am a heelstriker. This meant I didn’t go too long on any one run in the Vanish Carbon and I’d take your time adjusting to the shoe if you are used to a higher drop of 8-10mm.

Altra Vanish Carbon running shoe

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry/Future)

The EGO Pro midsole is not very squishy and the ride of the Vanish Carbon is quite stable as a result, and it’s comfortable to use for pure easy runs. However, it really comes alive when you do up the pace and it has the happy knack of making a fast pace feel easier to maintain, which is what you expect from a carbon shoe like this.

There isn’t the same propulsive feeling that you get from top shoes like the Nike Vaporfly or Saucony Endorphin Pro 3, but the Vanish Carbon is undoubtedly quick and rolling through long tempo runs in it felt great.

I did find that the outsole gripped well on wet roads and it’s more stable when rounding tight corners at speed than many carbon racers are, but the wear shown on the outsole after 55km is alarming and suggests the shoe will lose some of its grip after just a couple of hundred kilometres.

Is The Altra Vanish Carbon Worth It?

If you’re all in on zero-drop shoes the Altra Vanish Carbon is a great racing and fast training option. Even if you’re not a zero-drop devotee, the Vanish Carbon might be an interesting option for a rotation to mix up the drops of your shoes.

However, given the high price, the durability concerns, and the fact that I don’t think the midsole produces as fast and propulsive a ride as the best shoes on the market, it’s hard to recommend the Vanish Carbon to most runners. If you can find it in a sale it’s perhaps worth looking at for training runs, but I’d rather use something like the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 or Puma Deviate Nitro 2 as a fast training shoe myself, and there are many carbon plate shoes I’d use ahead of the Vanish Carbon on race day.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.