The world of running has seen many trends. Most of them come and go, but sometimes the trend sticks around — even if not necessarily in the mainstream. In this case, the trend to which I reference is the zero-drop shoe.
About four or five years ago, it was all the rage, but then it seemed to quietly move to the back again. In the case of the the zero-drop shoe, Altra has been at the forefront.
The company offers different cushion levels, from minimal to ultra. And in the case of the Paradigm, they made sure to give their runners an ultra feel.
These shoes mostly compete against Topo (another zero or low drop company with anatomical foot design), but also has carved a nice niche in the regular shoe market.
Altra Paradigm 4.0 General Info
The Altra Paradigm represents the highest level of the Altra neutral line. It offers the most technology and highest amount of cushion of any shoe the company offers.
This shoe is priced likewise, and because of that is not necessarily the highest seller for the company — sitting behind the Escalante and the Torin — but it offers a plush, ultra ride for runners wanting to log high miles and maintain the zero-drop running lifestyle.
When these shoes arrived, they were quite the pair to behold. They look and feel very large, and while they are on the foot they feel large. However, they are still light enough on the foot that you don’t notice the extra cushion.
They look great, and the feel on the feet is tremendous. They were plush and responsive right out of the box — even my wife who slipped them on just to feel the cushion immediately asked me to order her a pair.
They easily passed the all-day test, as they were amazing to wear in the classroom all day.
Altra Paradigm 4.0 Sole Unit
The Paradigm uses Altra’s highest level of technology in the sole unit. They used a huge amount (31mm) of their Ego midsole compound which is “designed for high energy return” and using a durable material.
This energy return is easily noticeable on all runs of all distances.
Something new for this updated version of the shoe, Altra added “Guide Rails” to the top of the midsole around the upper to help stabilize the heel and add a little structure through your gait.
Beyond that, they use a “StabiliPod” on the outside of the sole unit to increase stability as you progress to your toe-off.
Beyond the stability and large layer of cushion, Altra made sure to include grooves in the foam to increase flexibility and provide for a more natural flex to your foot through your run.
On the outsole, the company continues to use their “FootPod Outsole” which includes pods for each of your toes and groves that allow for firm grip on all surfaces.
This material and the pods were updated in this shoe to improve flexibility throughout your gait.
This unit was put to the test with long runs, tempos and track. They were awesome in all three, although I don’t think I got enough ground-feel from them to want to do real track workouts in them.
However, the regular run, the long run and the tempos were great. The shoe has all the cushion you could want to log the long miles while staying responsive enough to push the tempo a little.
Altra Paradigm 4.0 Upper Info
The seamless knit upper this used by Altra here keeps to the company’s promise of foot-shaped designs. This means that the heel starts medium-to-narrow, narrows more in the midfoot and then splays out into a wide and roomy toe box.
The overall sizing is slightly large, although the length was spot on for a size 13. This knit material is ventilated well and allows for air to come in while keeping dirt and other things out.
The material, however, is such that when the shoe gets wet, it will retain the water and does not drain well. Instead it will take a while to dry, and that can make for a long run if you’re on a wet course.
The other issue I found was that after about 60 miles, I developed blisters on the arch of my right foot during a 5k run. I was caught off guard by this, since I had done 60 miles of blister-free running.
However, after waiting to write the review to add more tests and see why the blisters were forming.
After another 25-to-30 miles I found out that the mixture of old, slightly worn, socks and the narrowness of the midfoot combined to rub my arch raw.
Altra Paradigm 4.0 Conclusions
Overall, this shoe was super solid. I enjoyed running in them, and really like the way they responded over long runs. The upper was breathable and the foot design is something I really enjoyed.
I particularly enjoy the way the toe box splays and your foot is allowed to widen out with each foot strike.
The sole unit on the Paradigms allows for great versatility. They have tons of cushion and lasted quite well on double-digit runs, and yet can turn on for speed work.
Although these shoes are mostly positive, they have some drawbacks. First would be the price tag. At $150, the price is high and can be a bit much to pull the trigger.
Also, the issues I had with the blisters also could be off-putting. However, so long as I wore fresh socks, the issue never arose.
About two weeks after the blister run, I logged 10 miles (and 16 during the weekend) without issue.
The biggest thing is make sure you give yourself time to adapt to the shoe and the zero-drop. If you are not used to zero-drop shoes, they take a couple of weeks to get your legs to the point of being ok with them.
The first few runs will put pressure on your calves and achilles. You should run no more than 3-4 miles in them for the first couple of runs as you get used to it, then you can stretch it out.
Once you’re used to the design, go nuts. These shoes will go nuts with you!
We purchased a pair of Altra Paradigm 4.0 from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.