Altra is a company founded on some core principles they are not willing to change. These principles are built into every trainer they release. These are the Footshape toe box and the zero mm heel to toe drop they are known for. The Paradigm 6 is no exception. What sets the 6 apart is all of the changes around those principles. There are so many changes it almost looks and feels like a brand new trainer from Altra.
Altra offers two stability/support trainers, the Provision and the Paradigm. The Provision is their mid-cushioned option while the Paradigm offers maximum cushion. They share many of the same features. Since the Paradigm is the top tier stability offering, new cushioning or technology is unveiled in it first.
The Paradigm retails for 160 dollars, which is a 10 dollar increase from last year. It places them on the higher end of the price scale in terms of max stability trainers.
Altra Paradigm 6 First Impressions
The Paradigm 5 were the biggest trainers I have ever run in. I said last year they were as big as the Gaviota from Hoka. For the 6th edition they have significantly slimmed down.
This has resulted in more of a tailored fit. They remind me of my friend who made a goal this year to lose 100 pounds and he has achieved it by running. That is how much of the bulk of the shoes they have gotten rid of between the 5th and 6th version.
I had similar sensations when I slipped them on for the first time. They had a tennis ball like bounce to them. Even though they are a max cushioned trainer they don’t feel like one.
Underneath all the bounce is a level of firmness provided by the wide base of the trainer. Initially the guide rails were evident on both the medial and lateral sides.
The maiden voyage of the Paradigm was a relaxed 8 mile route through the city. They were comfortable during the first step and on. The size difference was also noticeable from the first step. I was able to dial in and enjoy the run.
Altra Paradigm 6 Sole Unit
Let’s start from the ground up, the outsole of the Paradigm is covered with a blown rubber typical to other offerings. They use a footpod and innerflex for the outsole as well.
Basically, these aspects come together to form a natural map of your foot. These grooves along with the pattern of blown rubber increases the flexibility of the shoe. Transitions were improved from this increase in flexibility.
Making its debut in Paradigm 6 is the EgoMAX cushioning. It is a new midsole compound Altra developed with two goals in mind. One was to make a lighter weight compound and the other was to give you a little extra bounce along with increased durability. This is all done with a smaller amount of cushioning. I didn’t notice a difference in the amount of bounce between the last cushioning (Ego) and the new EgoMAX.
It isn’t all bounce, there is a base layer of responsiveness. It just gets overshadowed by the EgoMAX. It is a comfortable cushioning that absorbs strikes and delivers ample energy return on liftoffs, even in double digit miles.
They have done away with the dual-density stabilipods. These were dual-density foam pods located in various places in the midsole. The absence of them isn’t noticeable and doesn’t change the experience of the trainer.
Stability is provided by dynamic guide rails on both the medial and lateral sides of the midsole. Dynamic means they engage only when you need them to. They have been made slightly larger than the previous edition, but not in an overbearing way. They provide stability to an already comfortable ride. Since they are made out of the EgoMAX cushioning, they are adaptable to the movement of your feet. They are a strength of the midsole.
The Altra Paradigm 6 sits at 34 mm, which is on the higher side of stack height. Now when you have a stack height this tall sometimes the stability suffers. This is not the case with the Paradigm. The zero mm heel to toe drop helps with this because it keeps your feet balanced. There is an adjustment period for your feet and legs because of this drop. I found it to be not as long because of the amount of cushioning in the shoe.
Altra Paradigm 6 Upper Unit
One of the drawbacks of the previous edition of the Paradigm was the unstructured upper. It was flexible and breathable, but it also added to the bulkiness of the shoe. It struggled to lock down the foot unless you tied the trainer tight. I am relieved to tell you this is not the case with Paradigm 6.
The upper was updated with a new engineered mesh. This mesh is more durable but doesn’t lack in flexibility or breathability. It is more supportive which improves the fit of the upper. It allowed air flow while also keeping the feet warm since these were reviewed in late fall. There are no points of irritation because the upper is seamless.
Another difference you will find in the upper is the addition of Altra’s Innovarch technology. This was a technology introduced in the Provision. The Innovarch is a thin layer of mesh material under the footbed that wraps around the medial (inner) side of your midfoot. While the Provision has two tabs, the Paradigm has one tab of Innovarch. This aids in the fit and stability of the shoe.
The overall slimming down of the trainer is evident in the upper. While the 5th edition had a boxy upper, the 6th edition has a tailored upper. It gives the impression it is a different brand because of the fit. It has a snug heel and midfoot fit while expanding out into the foot-shaped toe box. The foot shaped toe box is a strength of the upper because it encourages your toes to naturally splay out resulting in natural lift offs. One drawback,I wish there was slightly more cushioning in the upper.
The heel has cushioning instead of a counter which works in promoting more natural movement from the heel and Achilles. One small drawback is the amount of cushioning. It is slightly lacking.
One issue I experienced in the Paradigm 6 was the movement of the tongue. This has been an issue for me in all of the Altra trainers I have reviewed. As I ran they slid to the medial side of my foot. This has been an issue in all of the Altras I’ve reviewed. Luckily the tongue is wide enough to still cover the top of the foot.
Altra Paradigm 6 Conclusion
Last year I said “The Altra Paradigm is a stability trainer equipped with maximum cushioning and unique features. Unfortunately, being unique doesn’t mean the Paradigm is going to be the best trainer for everyone.” The unique features are still there but Altra has made some changes to broaden the Paradigm appeal to all runners.
The changes start with the new EgoMAX cushioning. It increases the bounce and durability while decreasing the weight of the Paradigm. The midsole is bouncy, but it is still effective in shock absorption. The tennis ball-like feel was welcome, especially when the miles were hitting double digits. There was a noticeable decrease in weight without sacrificing durability of the trainer.
The guide rails were a strength of the midsole. They provide my feet with dynamic support. You notice them at first because they seem bigger in this version, but get accustomed to them quickly. They stretch and engage only when they need to. They provided me with the stability I needed when it was required.
One of my drawbacks for the 5th edition was the upper and the unstructured feeling of it. This was remedied in multiple ways with the 6th. The new engineered mesh adds stability through the use of a sturdier material. They added a tab of their Innovarch technology to aid in the fit and lock the foot in place, which adds to the overall stability felt while running.
The overall size of the Paradigm has been slimmed down and tailored for the 6th version. This is the most noticeable change from the previous edition. It is a night and day difference in size. This was my favorite change they made. It is still the same shoe but, in a smaller and more effective package.
Last Year I said, “The Altra Paradigm is just as good as any other max stability trainer out there. They took care of my feet and I kept coming back to them.” The new changes make this even more true. The changes have broadened their appeal and truly made them a trainer for everyone. So, if you are in the market for a max cushioned stability trainer you should take a look at the Altra Paradigm 6, you won’t be disappointed.
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We purchased this pair of Altra Paradigm 6 at Running Warehouse with our own money.
Altra Paradigm 6 Price Comparison
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