Cilantro Reviews the Altra Vanish-R

This review is in partnership with Running Warehouse, which provided products for testing. Salty Running receives a commission on sales made via our Running Warehouse affiliate link, used throughout this post.


Dainty. That was my first thought on opening the box of Altra’s new racing flat, the Vanish-R. So dainty, in fact, that I found myself hoping these would work because they would make it so much easier to pack a carry-on. I was so excited to try these shoes, I immediately took them out for a test run.

The results were mixed, but bottom line: this is a lightning fast shoe. I like it. A lot.


When I started running, I ran in a neutral shoe and even tried some of the heavier cushioned shoes with good results. Once I transitioned from roads to trails and ultra running, however, I found that I preferred more minimal shoes that allowed me to really feel the trail. During my last break, I even started building up mileage (very gradually) barefoot on one run a week to build foot strength, maxing at 3 miles. This preparation meant I was ready for the minimal Vanish-R’s, although I still run in the HOKA Speed Instinct 2’s for longer runs.

Overall Experience

True to their name, the Altra Vanish-R virtually disappears on your foot and in your suitcase. It weighs 4.5 ounces, so basically nothing. The upper is light and well-ventilated, while the sole is flexible without lacking structure. While I couldn’t care less about how my running shoes look (the only area of my life where function supercedes fashion), these look cool too, and I really like how the shoes look with leggings – the lower profile fits better with my longer tights. Out of the box, I was sold.

I started the run in socks, but quickly realized that the Vanish-R’s upper is designed as a sock; the extra bulk of actual socks made running uncomfortable. I took off my socks to finish my run, and immediately was able to feel how responsive and agile the shoes were to the terrain. I run a lot on tarmac, and even with the thin(ner) sole, I felt like my foot was protected from glass or rocks.

These shoes truly shine on the trails. I feel like I’m dancing over the trails, as the shoe and my foot meld together to leap over rocks and down scree-filled hills. Better yet, as I ran, I felt fast – and that is a great feeling, especially as I am coming back from three months off and feel slow and sluggish in general.

My Take

Unfortunately, although I adore these shoes, they are not made for feet like mine, specifically because my second toe is longer than my big toe. From the first run, the second toe on my right foot started to blister, and finally bled through the top of the shoe. Since the left shoe fit well and my left foot is slightly smaller than the right, I think it’s possible that I just needed a bigger size (I normally run in 9’s and these were 9’s), but then I would have lost some of the responsiveness I felt in the shoe. I loved how I ran in these shoes, but the bruised and bleeding toe meant I had to retire them.

Even though they won’t work for me, they are an amazing shoe that I would recommend to anyone looking for a zero-drop, light, responsive shoe. Just try them first and make sure the fit works for your feet.

I award the Altra Vanish-R 5 out of 5 Snails!

Ultrarunner, adventurer, academic, and feminist. Running Across the USA in 2021. I write about ultrarunning, adventuring, and the intersection of endurance athletics and life.

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