Altra Paradigm 4 Zero Drop Running Shoes Review | Shoe Reviews at NorthernRunner.com
Altra Paradigm 4 Review
From the start, the Altra Paradigm has been the gateway running shoe for runners not used to Zero Drop, or heel strikers looking for a shoe to help them learn to mid foot strike. So we were very interested to see if the new Paradigm 4 could still play that role.
The Altra Paradigm 4 is actually a very different shoe to the previous iterations. Altra have taken the technologies used in some of their other popular shoes to improve what was already very popular. The first noticeable change is the knitted upper, which has been taken from the popular Altra Escalante. It has more structure to it though, as the Paradigm is designed for the runner who either doesn’t have a strong foot yet and needs a bit more support or for long runs where you might need a bit more support as your feet get tired. Although the upper is still nice and soft, it has a firm hold of the foot, so your feet can gain the benefit of other supports within the shoes. The fit at the heel feels much better to me than in the previous Paradigms too and although the toe box is FootShape and broad, you don’t feel like you are swimming around in an ‘oversized’ shoe, as is a common comment from newcomers with older Altra models! For all but the most gigantically broad of feet there will be enough room for the feet to function well.
To make their brand accessible to runners using orthotic insoles, the Paradigm 4s have been made durable enough and suitably shaped. That means that runners who overpronate a lot can make the transition to a Zero Drop shoe with a suitable orthotic inside and enjoy the form improving benefits they have to offer. In fact, once they have improved their posture and got used to striking with their midfoot, they could even start to get used to running without the orthotic, which would allow their feet to get even stronger.
The cushioning in the Paradigm 4 is supplied by an Ego midsole. This is the same material used in the midsole of the Altra Escalante, which is quickly becoming Altra’s most popular lightweight road running shoe. Although the Paradigm 4 has a stack height of 30mm, the Paradigm is not a soft ‘soggy’ shoe and feels nicely firm and responsive. It is so important that your foot ‘knows‘ it has hit the floor and reacts by spreading out to absorb the shock. The spreading gives you a more stable landing, reducing any potential overpronation. As you lift your foot of the floor, your planta fascia, which is like an elastic band on the base of the foot, recoils and springs the foot up and into the next stride. If the shoe is too soft the foot doesn’t function in this manner and you become heavily reliant on the shoes pushing you forward. The result is weaker feet!
The benefit of a higher stack height is more shock absorption. This is ideal if you are making the transition to Zero Drop shoes as you can sort out your posture without putting your feet under too much stress. It is also ideal for longer runs on hard surfaces. Meaning that you can do your long run on the road on Sunday morning and be more likely to spring out of bed on Monday morning stiffness free ready to run again.
The Altra Paradigm 4 is more stable than previous Paradigms, offering a degree of guidance out of the box for those that overpronate. It does this with a Guide Rail that’s thicker on the inside than out, plus a stability pod in the mid foot to reduce torsion. The Paradigm has always been a stable shoe with a broad base, so these additions have only made it more so. These mechanisms are out of the box and not invasive, so a neutral runner can definitely still enjoy running in the Paradigm 4. However, this more stable Paradigm does open up the Altra range to runners who pronated a bit more than the old Paradigm could cope with. It should also give runners who are running in mild stability shoes like the Brooks Adrenaline GTS, New Balance 860 etc more confidence in starting their progression to running with more of a natural running style and being less reliant on the stability blocks and high heels of the more conventional stability shoes.
All women’s Altra running shoes are made to fit the Women’s foot shape (). They aren’t the Men’s shoes in smaller sizes. The new Women’s Paradigm 4 is no exception.
To go with the durable Ego midsole the Paradigm 4 has a durable rubber outsole. Neither mine or my wife’s Paradigm 4s are showing any sign of wear after 200 miles plus of running. The cushioning still feels as responsive and cushioned as it did from mile one. It has become quite common over the years to hear stories from customers about the epic mileage they have done in their Altra Paradigms.
How They Felt
When running in the new Paradigm 4 I did notice that the shoe was a little stiffer and had a more stable feel to the ride. I wouldn’t say it was a case of feeling better or worse, just different to the previous model. What was really noticeable though was the improved cushioning. It felt great and made me feel like they’ll be a good training shoe for plodding round your Sunday long run (or a great all-rounder for those at lower mileage), but as the cushioning is firm and responsive it’s amazing how effortlessly you can run quickly in them! This was actually something that I found with the previous Paradigms, so it does still do the job of the previous models.
The Paradigm 4 is ideal for those wanting to make the transition to a shoe designed for a more natural midfoot running gait. It’s also a good shoe for those looking for a long road run shoe or everyday trainer who likes a stable feel and a lot of cushioning.