Altra Vanish Carbon 2 Review: 0 Drop but Peak Performance?

The masters of zero drop have tried racing shoes before, their last was a decent shoe with some issues. The Vanish Carbon 2 promises better.

Altra Vanish Carbon 2: A Great Leap Forwards

Ivan: The Vanish Carbon 2 marks Altra’s most significant foray into the highly competitive supershoe category. Representing a substantial leap forward for the brand, this model utilises a much softer and dynamic formulation of supercritical TPE-based foam compound. This is a hallmark feature found in many top-tier racing shoes.


Building upon its predecessor, this latest iteration boasts notable enhancements. These include an additional 3mm of foam, a full-length carbon plate, and an updated rubber compound. With these advancements, one cannot help but wonder: could this zero-drop shoe be poised to challenge at the pinnacle of performance? Let’s delve deeper to find out.

Altra Vanish Carbon 2-10
Altra Vanish Carbon 2-02


Weight: 209g/7.37oz in size 8.5 / Eur 42

Stack Height: 36mm/36mm (0-drop)

MSRP: €260/$260/£220

Altra Vanish Carbon 2-08
Altra Vanish Carbon 2-09

Altra Vanish Carbon 2 Upper: A Marvel of a Midfoot

Ivan: Personally, I lean towards race-day shoe uppers that are feather-light yet snug, without feeling sloppy. With a relatively narrow foot, I typically steer clear of Altra’s wider fits. Moreover, their purported “natural foot shape” concept has sometimes left me questioning if my feet align with this supposed norm. Given my longer second toe, I often find myself nudging the front of Altra shoes lengthwise, despite ample space elsewhere. Altra offers three different foot shapes. Here, I was pleased to discover that they’ve opted for the narrower ‘Slim Foot Design’ in this instance.


The upper material possesses a plasticky texture. Yet it feels soft and pliable to the touch and remarkably lightweight. In fact, it’s perhaps the most breathable material I’ve encountered. It resembles an ultra-thin, perforated “net” draped over your foot. On the other hand,  the toe cap lends some structural integrity to the otherwise unstructured toe box  allowing for natural movement. However,  the standout feature is undoubtedly the midfoot wrap. This component provides an exceptional level of security, surpassing any I’ve experienced in race shoes for quite some time. Soft, discreet inner overlays extend from the laces, complemented by a semi-gusseted tongue, resulting in a supremely comfortable and secure midfoot wrap. The tongue, though thin, boasts just enough padding to ward off any potential lace bite.


Surprisingly, the relatively narrow and flexible heel counter, with only a touch of rigidity at the base, hasn’t posed any issues or led to heel slippage. Overall, the upper of the Vanish Carbon 2 borders on masterpiece territory. An unexpected accolade from someone who typically finds Altra’s shoe lasts an issue.

Altra Vanish Carbon 2-04

Midsole: Full Plate = Full Send?

Ivan: To stay competitive at the highest level, incorporating some form of supercritical TPE-based compound has become almost compulsory. Whether it’s Peba, TPE-E, or another variant. While the exact adjustments Altra made to the foam from the original version of EgoPRO remain a mystery, the difference is palpable. A significant softening with a markedly elevated level of energy return. With a stack height increased to 36mm from the previous 33mm, coupled with the introduction of the new foam formulation, the underfoot sensation is not comparable at all and nothing short of amazing.


Furthermore, while the initial Vanish Carbon featured only a half-front Carbitex plate, the latest iteration boasts a full-length carbon plate with asymmetrical flex. This design tweak enhances the shoe’s transition and toe-off, offering a more natural and adaptable feel compared to any other carbon-plated racing shoes on the market. Personally, I’d go as far as to say that this is perhaps the most gratifying running experience I’ve ever had with any running shoe to date.


Regarding the zero-drop configuration. It feels more akin to a 2-3mm drop for me, given my “flat-ish” midfoot strike and the shoe’s slight rocker. While the combination of plush, responsive foam and flexible plate demands a tad more effort over extended distances compared to my usual long-distance racing shoes, the ride remains snappy and efficient.


Although I’ll need a few more runs to determine if it provides sufficient support for a full marathon, it unquestionably ranks among my top choices for distances shorter than that. Moreover, I’ve discovered its suitability for shorter intervals, whether on roads or tracks. However,  pure heel strikers might struggle with the overall zero-drop geometry. While the cushioning is very noticeable in the front, it doesn’t provide the same amount of assistance in the rear. Furthermore, it almost necessitates a weight distribution towards the front part.

Altra Vanish Carbon 2-07
Altra Vanish Carbon 2-06

Altra Vanish Carbon 2 Outsole: Durable, Lightweight Coverage

Ivan: The original version faced substantial criticism for its lack of a durable outsole and insufficient traction. While I can’t speak definitively on long-term durability yet, having just passed the 50 km mark, I’ve observed no significant signs of wear and tear. The shoe offers ample coverage, particularly considering its weight. This time around, the rubber appears softer, and traction has proven satisfactory thus far. 


Notably, the addition of three flex grooves in the forefoot, exposing the carbon plate, stands out. Altra dubs this configuration the NRS (Natural Ride System) and asserts that the metatarsal-specific shapes in the forefoot promote proper and natural foot mechanics. While this claim may hold merit, my primary concern lies in the efficiency and enjoyment of the ride. Thus far, I have no complaints, and I appreciate the notion of incorporating a performance-oriented shoe into my rotation that alters the load and biomechanics compared to my other options.

IMG_9340 Large

Altra Vanish Carbon 2 Conclusion: A Top Tier Competitor

Ivan: While I’m aware that some elite or sub-elite runners already incorporate Altra shoes into their rotation for strengthening purposes, it’s unlikely that many have considered using them for actual races. Although I don’t fall into those categories myself, having extensively tested numerous supershoes, I can confidently assert that Altra, with the release of the Vanish Carbon 2, now offer a top-tier race day option.


While it caters heavily to runners with a mid- to forefoot strike, I’m convinced that most runners could reap its benefits, especially if they already include other uptempo shoes in their rotation. Additionally, for efficient runners with suitable biomechanics, this shoe is undoubtedly a serious contender. Its lightweight construction, coupled with an exceptionally comfortable upper and fit, results in a pleasant, snappy, and efficient ride—exactly what I seek in a racing shoe.



48 years old

180cm (5’9″) – 63kg (138lbs)

Midfoot striker – Cadence runner

Mild pronator


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