Altra Running Shoes – Trademark Zero Drop Explained & Altra Shoe Guide
Altra Zero Drop – But Not a Minimalist Shoe
To many runners this description sounds like it is the same as the minimalist or barefoot type of running shoes that where a craze a few years ago. What is different with Altra is that their shoes are not minimal. They have cushioning so you don’t get soar feet from feeling the stones through your shoes. Altra also don’t claim that you can go from a 12mm differential running shoe to a Zero Drop shoe overnight. You need to go through a period of gradual transition.
Altra also produce a range of shoes for every type of runner from those with weaker feet who heel strike to those who have good posture and cadence. All designed to gradually improve your posture when running and reduce injuries.
Altra’s starter shoe for most runners is probably the Altra Paradigm (LEFT). The shoe looks very chunky but, is very light. It has the foot shaped toe box as all Altra shoes do and is Altra’s most cushioned road running shoe. The midsole is 34mm thick to give plenty of shock absorption. However, this isn’t the very soft cushioning you get from other running brands. This is firmer so, that your foot knows it’s on the floor and spreads out when it hits the ground absorbing some shock and allowing the planta fascia to be stretched like an elastic band helping to spring your feet up into your next stride. To encourage you to increase the speed of your cadence the Altra Paradigm also gently rolls you forward. This helps you maintain good posture and encourages you not to bend forward at the waste. I particularly noticed this on longer runs as I was getting tired.
Altra Torin 2.0
The Altra Torin 2.0 (RIGHT) is the next shoe in Altra’s road running shoe range. It is still a very well cushioned shoe with a 27mm thick midsole. The shoe is more flexible than the Altra Paradigm allowing the foot to take a bit more load as it hits the floor. Therefore stretching the planta fascia that bit more allowing it to give a bit more spring as you lift your foot from the floor. The Altra Torin doesn’t roll you forward like the Paradigm so it relies on the runner’s style to be that bit more refined.
Altra Instinct 3.0
The Altra Instinct 3.0 is the everyday shoe for the efficient runner. It still has a lot cushioning in its 24mm thick midsole but, it is firmer in feel loading the foot a bit more on impact. It is also flexible enough to allow the foot to work that bit harder but, still offers enough protection to run miles and miles.
The One2 (soon to be The One 2.5)
The final road running shoe in Altra’s range is The One2 (soon to be The One 2.5). This is essentially a racing shoe. If you are an efficient quick runner this shoe can take you to the marathon and beyond. If your running style isn’t quite so refined it is a good 5km race shoe and speed work shoe. The One2 has minimal dense rubber on the outsole which makes it more flexible and reduces weight. The stack height or mid sole thickness is 23mm but, this is a lighter less durable compound than the training shoes. To reduce weight and make this a faster feeling shoe. The shoe weighs just 167 grams in a UK size 8.
Altra’s trail running shoes are arranged in the same fashion. The Olympus being the most supportive and cushioned shoe in the trail running range in effect the trail version of the Paradigm. The Lone Peak 2.0 (LEFT) is the trail running version of the Torin and the Superior 2.0 is the off road version of the One2. All the trail shoes have additional trail features like rock plates/stone guards, grippy outsoles and uppers less lightly to tear due to grit or brambles.
Altra’s Zero Drop, foot shape and the improved posture that you get from this usually prevents over pronation and the shin or knee pain that comes with it. For those who find their feet still roll inwards Altra has designed a shoe called the Provision 2.0. The Altra Provision 2.0 comes with a stability wedge that runs the full length of the shoe. Coupled with stability pods on the outsole this reduced the inward roll of pronation to reduce shin and knee problems.
A Brief Altra History
Northern Runner has been selling Altra Running Shoes in the UK for 2 years now. Altra is a relatively new running brand and was created in a small specialist running store in the Wasatch Mountains, USA. What makes it different is that is wasn’t developed by a shoe company wanting to sell more shoes by developing a marketing concept that would catch on. Instead the developers where runners who were selling running shoes in a specialist running store every day. Getting frustrated with the shoes on offer because their customers where still struggling with injuries. After years of lobbying the running shoe company’s unsuccessfully to alter their designs, Golden Harper gave up and started developing footwear himself.
Golden Harper started by using a toaster oven to melt off excess heel elevation from shoes. This returned his customers posture back to what it should be and reduced the injuries they were getting. Harper called these shoes ‘Zero Drop’ as they had the same midsole height or thickness at the back of the shoe as they do at the front of the shoe. Essentially they are flat. Runners tended to heel strike less and be lighter on their feet. Standard running shoes had developed a heel height that is usually in excess of 12mm higher at the heel than it is in the forefoot which encouraged runners to land on their heel heavily or point their toes in order to land on their forefoot. The heel striker was in effect stopping themselves and then pushing off again. Which is inefficient and hard on the body. The forefoot striker was hitting the ground with a foot and ankle that was ridged as the toes where in a pointed position. Which means that the calf and achillies had to take more force than was ideal.
The reason that the standard shoe had an elevation so high was simply because it made shoes feel like they were well cushioned and marketing had told us that cushioning was the thing that would protect our joints. Marketing also told us that cushioning or shock absorption is soft. So, to make it soft they needed to have some depth for the heel to drop into. What wasn’t considered was that by raising the heel height of the shoe the running style and posture of the runner was altered. To see this illustrated you just need to look at some YouTube clips of runners in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. The shoes still have a cushioned midsole but, the difference between the heel and forefoot height was minimal and the shoes where fairly flexible. So, most of the runners had a quick cadence so their foot spent less time on the floor making them light on their feet and their feet were landing under their centre of gravity. So, there was no breaking force.
The other major difference that Altra Running Shoes have to other brands is they are foot shaped. Not pointy. This allows the foot to spread out and help with stability and cushioning which is what it is suppose to do. It also means that you don’t get rubbed toes.