Altra Timp Review | Zero Drop Running Shoes | In Stock at NorthernRunner.com

Altra Timp Zero Drop Running Shoes Review

Having worn Hoka One One for several years I visited Northern Runner for a pair of Altra shoes. My goal for these shoes was a good cushioned pair of trail shoes I could use for some ultradistance races. I settled on the Altra Timp, having been told these are one of the most cushioned shoes in the range. I was aware of the Zero Drop and I was given a few words of advice to alternate shoes while adapting to these. A little jog around the corridor and they certainly felt cushioned and the toe-box was very spacious.

A few days later and I ran a particularly stony and undulating track near Aviemore. On my first outing I really could not feel any difference with the Zero Drop, but I certainly felt some very good cushioning against the lumpy stones I ran on. I was interested to see how the FootShape forefoot on these shoes would fare on bad cambers and steep downhills for foot movement.  There was no such movement and I felt as if my foot stayed central in the shoe. After another couple of similar runs further down in the Pentlands, the response was the same.

After three outings that week, alternated with other shoes I went for a recce in the Yorkshire Dales near Hawes and a 23 mile run including Great Shunner Fell with flag stones, large stony paths and some grass tracks. They excelled. It was a hot day when my feet would likely swell and stayed comfortable throughout.  With the Zero Drop I had anticipated the possibility of my calves working harder without the usual heel lift, but no difference was felt. The following day I was out again for more grassy undulating tracks and another 15 miles completed. I was so impressed and had such confidence in these shoes that after a mere 2 weeks use I would try them out in a 50 mile trail event “Afoot in two dales”. They did not let me down.  I finished 5th of the 216 starters on a very hot day, not a blister in sight and my feet finished in perfect shape.

I then pondered the difference between these and my current Hoka One One and this was my opinion:

  • In terms of looks, not quite such garish colours, which suits me fine.
  • You can see the difference in shape aesthetically with the FootShape Toe Box, but when running I never look at shoes.
  • The uppers feel much tougher and stronger than Hoka (they do tend to fall to bits very easily), time will tell but these shoes had some long grass to battle with, many stony tracks and those squeeze styles that scraped my legs but left no marks on the shoes. There were also fields of thistles that left many needles embedded in my socks and scratched my legs.
  • Altra felt far more flexible and not “fighting” to toe off against stiffer shoes.
  • The heel counter was soft but cradles the heel perfectly, I have frequently turned my ankle in Hokas, nothing in these.
  • I have a low ankle bone, usually I have to cut the lateral side of the shoe between the heel and laces to accommodate this, the flexibility of these shoes and slightly lower cut gave no issues and the shoes are still intact.
  • Similar to the previous point, I often have to cut and adapt the tongue of the shoes to stop them rubbing the top, anterior ankle, again, no such problems. While on the tongue, it is sewn into the shoes around the laces. After removing these shoes at the finish, this area caught much of the debris of long grass and thistle prickles and I removed a few small clumps, but this meant they were not deposited inside the shoe and probably prevented me from having to empty out debris while taking part. The shoes do have a tag at the end of the laces and a Velcro tag at the heel for attaching gaiters, a neat bit of simple design should I need to wear gaiters on future events.
  • The traction had very little to deal with, no mud or slippery surfaces to challenge them, but the lugs look good and only time and miles will tell how many miles I will get out of these – so an update may follow after 600 – 1000 miles!
  • Cushioning felt supreme. The ground has been hard as we have had a wonderful few weeks of dry, hot weather and streams were dried up, my feet felt like they were landing on cushions, there was a mile or two of tarmac roads towards the end of the event, but these equally felt just as cushioned on the roads as the trails. When I first put these shoes on in the shop, my initial response was that they did have a very soft feel to them which is what I like.
  • In terms of foot placement, although the Zero Drop is designed to push you more onto your forefoot, I can’t say I felt this. I am pretty much a heel striker and felt that I was landing on the entire foot as opposed to heel first which may be a slight difference.
  • For sizing, these are similar size to my previous shoes, but must admit when trying several pairs of different models on in the shop there does appear to be a difference in size between models.
  • As for this FootShape design, all I can say is that this really works for me. The 50 miles was a very hot one and my feet would normally swell somewhat after nearly 12 hours of pounding on stones and hard surfaces. My feet never felt as though they slipped or moved in any direction despite a nice spacious toe box and is probably the reason that no hotspots or blisters were created. On a side note to this, maybe slightly to do with foot placement along with FootShape, I am a slight pronator and occasionally blister on the media side of my forefoot to do with rolling in. This is the first pair of shoes that has so far cured this problem too, may be to do with not heel striking so hard and rolling in, rather placing the whole foot on the ground then pushing off.
  • There were many bad cambers, a few steep downhills and not a toenail touched, these Altras somehow seem to really help land centrally and not move within the shoe. Often for ultras I will buy bigger sized shoes to allow for swelling but have known my foot slip on uneven cambers but this did not happen in these shoes.
  • I would only use well cushioned shoes for longer runs. I would not use these for 10km events or shorter when more speed is needed as I feel they are a proper distance shoes. I will keep racing flats with less cushioning for the shorter, faster runs.
  • These shoes are 20g lighter than my current Hokas, so even more benefit to be gained.
  • I am left converted, move over Hoka One One, Altra is my new number 1 for shoes.

by Sharon Gayter – July 2018

Sharon has been a serious ultra distance runner since around 1993. She has competed in over 1,600 races and raced over 30,000 miles! She has run around 200 ultras, over 400 marathons and represented Great Britain at 100km and 24 hour events for 17 years.

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