The AltraFWD Experience is a good shoe for any road runner. It’s a great daily trainer and can be used for some higher-intensity workouts and races. It’s also a good option for someone interested in trying a lower-drop running shoe, but that is hesitnat to commit to a zero-drop shoe.
The AltraFWD Experience is not a good option for runners who appreciate the traditional features that Altra has been known for since its founding: zero drop sole and a foot-shaped toe box. If you love the roomy toe box and zero drop platform of most Altras, don’t bother with this shoe as you’ll be disappointed on both fronts.
The AltraFWD Experience is Altra’s newest road running shoe and it is a dramatic change from Altra’s founding principles of a foot-shaped toe box and a zero-drop platform. The AltraFWD Experience has a 4 mm heel-to-toe drop and a narrower toe box than many Altra models.
It’s very difficult to compare this shoe to any other Altras because of the aforementioned reasons, but this shoe compares quite similarly to many from other running shoe brands. It’s a solid shoe that isn’t spectacular in any area, but also doesn’t have any major negatives (unless you’re an Altra purist) either.
My first impressions of the AltraFWD Experience were quite mixed.
As a general running shoe, they are fine. They felt really good right out of the box, and my first run in them did nothing to change my mind about that fact. Comfortable. True to size. Felt good. Nothing to complain about at all.
Except that as an Altra, and as someone who has worn Altras for 10+ years, there were a couple of issues that were instantly apparent. The AltraFWD Experience continues the trend of having a narrower forefoot than Altra has traditionally been known for.
They aren’t necessarily narrow when compared to most running shoes, but they are more snug in the forefoot than many of the Altra shoes that have been around for a while (Instinct, Escalante, Lone Peak, Superior).
Additionally, the 4 mm drop in the AltraFWD Experience is quite obvious for someone who is used to Altra’s zero drop platform. The drop is obviously small, but it’s not insignificant and I noticed it immediately.
The upper of the AltraFWD Experience is a seamless engineered mesh that breathes well and is quite comfortable. The heel cup is padded to provide a snug, but not tight, fit that is comfortable on the heel while keeping it in place.
The only minor issue I have with the upper is that it’s narrower than I’d expect for an Altra, though this trend of a slightly tighter fit seems to be more common with every new model. That said, it’s not a narrow shoe in general and I didn’t experience any blisters or hot spots in my forefoot/toes from this shoe.
The sole of the AltraFWD Experience is made up of a rubber outsole and a compression-molded EVA foam midsole. The two work well together to provide a very smooth ride no matter what kind of run I was doing-from easy recovery miles to hard workouts. The midsole/outsole combo on this shoe measures 28 mm at the toe and 32 mm at the heel. The AltraFWD Experience provided a nice blend of comfort, protection, and ground feel. I like to be able to “feel” the ground beneath my feet, but I don’t want to feel every piece of debris that I run across, and I feel like this shoe did a really good job of threading that needle.
The traction provided by the outsole has been really good for a road shoe as well. Between a couple of rainy runs and running a downhill walking trail covered in leaves/pine needles, a few slips would have been expected. I can honestly say I haven’t had any traction issues in these shoes, even when conditions were very questionable.
The sole unit of the AltraFWD Experience is different from any other Altra shoe I’ve ever worn for two reasons: the 4 mm heel drop and its rocker shape. Altra claims that the rocker shape “gives the feeling of being propelled forward with each step and provides an efficient toe-off without taking away from your natural stride.”
I didn’t notice any feeling of propulsion while wearing the AltraFWD Experience, but I did notice that I scuffed my feet on the pavement during the swing-through phase of my stride multiple times in just about every run in these shoes, something that I rarely do in other shoes. So to me, the rocker shape did seem to take away from my natural stride at least a little bit.
Overall, the sole unit of the AltraFWD Experience is fine. The rocker shape feature seems more like a marketing gimmick than anything else, but otherwise, I don’t really have any complaints.
I’m not a fan of the 4 mm drop strictly due to it being unexpected for an Altra, but the sole hasn’t caused my feet any issues since I started wearing these shoes.
I think this might have been the most difficult shoe review I’ve ever written for Running Shoes Guru.
On one hand, the AltraFWD Experience is a good shoe. As I said earlier in my review, it’s not really spectacular in any particular area but I also don’t have any complaints about the shoe. It’s a solid “do everything” kind of shoe.
I’ve worn it for short/easy mid-week runs, long weekend runs, and speed workouts, and it’s performed well no matter what I’ve asked of it. I would confidently wear the AltraFWD Experience in a road race, from 5k-marathon, and I’m fully confident that it would be fine in any race environment.
My struggle in writing this review is that as an Altra shoe, it just doesn’t measure up to what I expected. The slightly narrower toe box can be forgiven, but the 4 mm drop is such a departure from what this brand has stood for over the years that I have a hard time looking past it.
In general? The shoe is solid and you can confidently trust that it’ll hold up for many, many miles.
As a transitory shoe for a runner who has never worn an Altra and is maybe a little concerned about jumping right to a zero-drop setup? The AltraFWD Experience could be the right shoe.
But if you’ve been an Altra fan for years and a zero-drop shoe is something you are used to and desire? In that case, this shoe is going to leave you disappointed.
Will I continue to wear these shoes? Yes, I will. This pair of shoes still has many miles of life left in them and I’m not one to discard shoes that are still working for me.
But would I buy another pair of AltraFWD Experiences? No, absolutely not.