Updated: March 8th, 2018
Altra Running Shoes: the Definitive Guide 2018

The very first pair of Altra running shoes were created by founder Golden Harper in his basement with his toaster oven.

True story.

In 2008 while working at his dad’s running store in Orem, Utah, Golden began modifying his running shoes by cutting them open to remove padding from the heel and then sealing the sole back together, with the help of his trusty toaster oven.

His hypothesis at the time was that the heel height of most running shoes was leading to many of the injury problems that his customers, and himself, were dealing with on a regular basis.

Once he started running in his zero-drop shoes, as he originally called them, he noticed the difference right away.

It didn’t take long for other runners in the area to catch on, and soon people were asking for the zero-drop shoes in the store on a near daily basis.

Fast forward to today, and Altra is one of the Top-10 most popular brands of running shoes in the world!

What Makes Altra Unique?

There are two distinguishing characteristics that define every pair of shoes that Altra has ever created: Zero Drop and the Foot Shaped Toe Box.

Zero Drop

Zero drop refers to the difference in the stack height of the sole (the amount of cushioning) under the heel and under the ball of the foot.

altra zero drop

Before Altra came on the scene, most running shoes added additional padding to the heels to help protect runners and prevent injuries. As such, many running shoes at that point had a heel-to-toe drop of 8-12 mm (or more). This means that when standing “flat footed” in the shoes, the heels were actually elevated 8-12 mm above the toes.

Altra has made a name for itself by ensuring that all their shoes, no matter how much or how little cushioning is in the sole of the shoe, maintain a zero heel-to-toe drop.

More on the different types of shoes and varying amount of cushion shortly.

Foot Shaped Toe Box

The other feature of all Altra running shoes is that the toe box of every shoe is designed with the natural shape of the foot in mind.

This has led many people to refer to Altras as wide shoes, which isn’t entirely accurate. (Though it is certainly a forgivable offense.)

altra toebox

The biggest benefit of the foot shaped toe box is that it allows your toes to splay, or spread out, while running.

This helps runners to improve stability, strengthen the muscles of the feet, and helps the great toe stay straight which increases the power that is generated with each stride.

Altra’s aim with a foot shaped toe box is to create a shoe that is as close to the human foot as possible. This allows the shoe to bend and flex in a similar manner to the way that a foot bends and flexes while running. This helps to promote proper running biomechanics which helps to improve performance and decrease the risk of injury while running.

Altra Running Shoes: Explaining the Line

Altra is continually tweaking and refining their existing shoe line-up while adding new models regularly.

In 2017 alone, 5 new models have made their debut and most of the models that have been in production for years have been updated.

Altra produces shoes that fall under one of three umbrellas:

  • Neutral,
  • Trail,
  • Dynamic Support

Within each umbrella the models vary from minimal to maximal cushioning. But no matter what, all models are fully cushioned, zero drop, and come with a foot shaped toe box.

Neutral Shoes

The One V3 is the latest iteration of the popular One series. This neutral shoe is lightly cushioned and very lightweight (7.6 oz). The new version of this shoe differs from the previous models of the Ones in that the upper is now reinforced and the sole is slightly stiffer. The changes allow this shoe to be more durable than in the past, while still providing a very smooth and fast ride. $100

The Instinct/Intuition (Instinct for the men, Intuition for the women) 4.0 is the latest upgrade on one of the oldest Altra models. This version is a medium cushioned neutral running shoe. The Instinct/Intuition is Altra’s most versatile shoe, performing equally well on the road, in the gym, and on non-technical trails. $110

The Escalante is a new edition to the Altra lineup in 2017, and it is already one of the most popular models. The Escalante, named a 2017 Editor’s Choice by Runner’s World, is a medium cushioned neutral shoe designed for running and racing on the roads. This lightweight shoe (8.2 oz) is constructed with a full knit upper and AltraEgo mid-sole, which gives the shoe a very comfortable, almost sock-like, feel. $130

The Torin 3.0 is one of Altra’s most popular road shoes. For being a highly cushioned neutral shoe, the Torin 3.0 is still quite light (8.4 oz with 28 mm stack height). The upper of the Torin 3.0 incorporates a quick dry mesh into its construction, which improves the breathability and comfort of the shoe. $125

The Torin IQ combines all of the features that make the Torin so popular with built in sensors that provide real-time feedback on foot strike, cadence, impact rate, and contact time via a free app. The app also tracks your pace, distance, time, etc. so that all of the data is in one place. The sensors add slightly less than an ounce to the overall weight of the shoe (9.3 oz), when compared to the Torin 3.0. $220

Trail Shoes

The Golden Spike is Altra’s first pure cross country racing shoe. The 5-pin spike pattern provides plenty of grip on any course with a comfortable fit to the wearer. As would be expected for a racing shoe, the Golden Spike is incredibly light (5.2 oz) and flexible. $90

The King MT is Altra’s new, minimally cushioned trail shoe. The outsole of this shoe features 6 mm lugs to improve grip and traction in the worst conditions. While this shoe is minimally cushioned with a 19 mm stack height, the built in rock plate helps to keep feet safe on the trail. The upper of this shoe is also designed and reinforced to keep the wearer protected on every run. $140

The Superior 3.0 is an update to the minimally cushioned trail shoe that has been an Altra staple for years. The newest version of the Superior has a more durable upper and improved lug design compared to the previous version of this shoe. The Superior also features a removable stone guard to provide an extra layer of protection from stones, rocks, and other trail debris. $110

The original Lone Peak was the shoe that started it all for Altra, and the Lone Peak 3.5 continues to improve on this traditional model. The Lone Peak 3.5 is a moderately cushioned trail shoe weighing only 9 oz. It also features a built in rock protection layer, to keep feet safe on the trail. New to this version are drainage holes in the upper to help feet to dry after any water crossings. $120

The Altra Timp is a new trail shoe in 2017 that was created to bridge the gap in cushioning between the moderately cushioned Lone Peak and the maximally cushioned Olympus. The Altra Timp is a versatile trail shoe for any runner that loves the trail. The outer lugs are only 4 mm, so the Altra Timp may not be the best shoe for incredibly muddy or slippery trails. $130

The Olympus 2.5 is Altra’s maximally cushioned trail shoe. With a stack height of 36 mm and a Vibram MegaGrip outsole, feet are sure to be well protected on any trail. The upper of this shoe has been reinforced over the previous version for improved durability, and despite the amount of cushion and reinforced upper this shoe is still relatively lightweight (11.5 oz).

Dynamic Support Shoes

The Provision 3.0 is an update to the Provision line of moderately cushioned stability shoes. The design of the Provision 3.0 features dynamic support, meaning it only provides extra stability when needed. This shoe corrects over-pronation with a combination of varus wedge, StabiliPod, and GuideRail technologies. This shoe provides a smooth ride on the roads and most non-technical trails. $120

The Paradigm 3.0 offers subtle tweaks from previous iterations of this maximally cushioned stability shoe. The inclusion of the GuideRail technology allows the Paradigm 3.0 to offer correction when needed. The 32 mm stack height provides ample protection and comfort when wearing this shoe.

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