You've probably heard of Altra Running Shoes, you've probably heard that they are Zero Drop, but there is a lot more to them than that so we have decided to take a closer look at why you should consider try a pair... 1. FOOT SHAPED…natural, injury prevention, efficiency & comfort…
Altra Shoes have a VERY wide, open toe box and with good reason, take a look at the shape of your feet when your stood on them and you’ll see your toes and forefoot spread out significantly. Your feet do this to help absorb the force of landing on each footstrike. Altra shoes are designed to allow this natural shock-absorbing to take place within the shoe. The natural spread of the foot also allows the toes to remain straighter which in turn enhances your push-off increasing your efficiency.
The foot shaped toe box also prevents pressure on the forefoot associated with the traditional pointed toe box which can increase the risk of bunions, neural compression pain and plantar fasciitis. All-in-all Altra shoes really are Foot Shaped which allows your feet to work as nature intended and from our experience are also perfect for individuals who struggle to find shoes that can accommodate their high volume feet. So if you struggle to find broad enough shoes Altra shoes are definitely worth a try.
The wide toebox is also extremely comfortable and here in the shop we are huge fans of the Altra range for long distance events were comfort is paramount. An additional benefit is that there is very little risk of rubbing or hot spots so your feet are more likely to remain in good condition especially when they start to swell in the heat or over the duration of long events. We have never suffered with blisters or rubbing in our Altra shoes and the extra width is certainly a big contributing factor to this.
2. ZERO DROP…natural, efficient & strong…
Perhaps what Altra is most known for is there ‘Zero Drop’ design but what exactly is this and is it something to be concerned with?
For many years running shoes have been built up with more cushioning in the heel than the forefoot resulting in the heel being elevated compared to the toes, a distance called ‘drop’. Altra shoes are designed with zero drop, that is the heel is the same height as the forefoot. The result is a more natural feel and an encouragement to run with a midfoot strike which is how we are most efficient. The balance This natural balance aligns the feet, back, and body posture for less impact
Some people we talk to about the Altra shoes are concerned that the zero drop will cause them injury or put too much strain on their lower legs and especially their Achilles. However, there is several ways to look at this. By running in a zero drop shoe you lower legs will actually become stronger which will ultimately reduce your risk of getting injured and make you a better more powerful runner. A lot of trail runners already run in shoes that have a relatively low stack height and therefore the transition down to zero isn’t actually that great e.g. an Inov-8 X-Talon 212 has just 6mm drop and the Salomon S-lab Sense Ultra Softground just 4mm. Finally, if you are concerned then introduce the Altra shoes gradually, using them for shorter runs and alternating them with your normal shoes so that your body has time to adjust.
3. FULL LENGTH CUSHIONING…comfort, protection, not barefoot…
Zero Drop is mistakenly associated with barefoot running. Yes, barefoot shoes are usually Zero Drop, but Zero Drop doesn’t necessarily mean barefoot. In actual fact, depending on the model of Altra shoes you choose, they offer quite a significant amount of cushioning and this in turn means comfort, protection and performance.
The depth of the full length lightweight EVA cushioning varies between the models in the Altra range from the low profile racy Superior 2.0 with 21mm, through the 25mm of the Lone Peak 2.5 to the maximally cushioned Olympus 2.0 with a huge 36mm. Each level of cushioning meets the needs of different types of runners and different types of run. The Superior being best suited to light, efficient racers, the Lone Peak to a wide range of individuals running off-road and the Olympus to heavier or ultra-distance runners.
Without doubt Altra shoes are some of the comfiest running shoes we have ever tried! Straight out of the box the spacious toebox feels just right, no pressure points, no flex points digging in and room to allow your toes to move freely. All this is achieved whilst maintaining and secure, well held feel around the heel and midfoot which provides confidence when running across varied terrain.
The secure feel is achieved thanks to the Altra HeelClaw™ which is a unique feature to Altra shoes and is designed to gently hug the calcaneus (heel bone). The design is significantly more comfortable than the traditional plastic heel counter found in many other shoes and also reduces the risk of Achilles irritation or excessive movement in the heel resulting in blisters.
It is important to keep the midfoot secure and often when a toebox is roomy the whole shoe can feel ‘sloppy’. Altra have combatted this with their 'A'-Wrap which holds the midfoot in place and is pulled secure with the excellent lacing system.
A secure, comfortable and natural feeling trail shoe is all well and good but they need to be able to stand up to the demands of off-road running too. Altra shoes meet and exceed these demands offering a range of different outsole designs to provide traction on a wide range of terrains. Both the Superior and the Lone Peak use the Altra Sticky-Rubber TrailClaw™ which has an aggressive lug layout to grip in all but the muddiest conditions but are best suited to demanding, rocky trails where the StoneGurad™ and removable rock protection plate really come into their own. In contrast the superior with its maximal cushioning incorporates a slightly less aggressive lug design with Vibram sticky rubber making it excellent on less aggressive trails and where traction on slick surfaces is required.
The Altra shoes have been a huge hit with both our staff and customers and currently having the Altra Demo Stock in store has enabled a large number of individuals to try them out. It’s safe to say you need to Altra shoes to really understand their benefits so why not pop into store and try a pair?