Why You Might Consider Altra Zero Drop Running Shoes
Finding the right shoe can be exhausting. Falling in love with a shoe and having it discontinued (or updated with a version you no longer love) that can be devastating.
I had been running in the same shoe since 2010 – and it 2014 it went through a significant update. I took just a peek at the specifications for the 5th generation and quickly realized it would no longer be my go-to sneaker.
I found myself asking others – “what do you run in” and recognized I was breaking one of the commandments of running. So, I headed to my local running shop for some guidance. After much contemplation – I landed in the Altra Intuition1.5 (for training/running) and the Altra 3-Sum (for racing/triathlon).
Who is Altra?
Founded in 2009, Altra is a relatively new brand that carries a full line of zero-drop shoes (meaning there is zero height change from the heel to the toe). Additionally, the line features a wide toe box allowing the foot to splay in a natural position – putting greater emphasis on natural barefoot-like running without going barefoot!
Out of the box, the Altra is not what I’d call a ‘pretty’ shoe. The wide toe box (and it’s wide) felt strange at first. I had room to move my feet around and it was an unusual feeling that took a little getting used to. Once I started running, that was a different story. They felt amazing – my feet could breathe and do what they were supposed to do!
The Intuition comes with two insoles; one with a bit more cushioning and arch support and the other a nearly flat ‘strengthening’ insole. I found the supportive insole a bit much and quickly switched it out for the flat/strengthening one.
Although my current running shoes had a 4mm drop, I was still cautioned that I’d need a transition period to the zero-drop. I began with a ½ mile run in the Altra and then finished my run in my existing shoe. Each run, I increased my time in the Altra (adding just a ¼ to a ½ mile each run) and decreased my time in my existing shoe.
It took about 5 weeks but the patience (and treadmill runs) were worth it.
Don’t be fooled – no shoe, no matter what it claims, will change your running form. You have to work on improving your form. I spent most of last year sidelined with an injury and worked painstakingly on the techniques of Chi Running. I read a book, took a workshop, got a coach and had my run filmed and analyzed at least a ½ dozen times throughout the year.
Running in the zero-drop, wide toe box Altras didn’t magically make me a runner with efficient form, but they have made the form I’d been working on for 8 months easier to attain.
I saw a fun fact that a few individuals have had a single pair of Altras for over 1,000 miles! Due to the lack of extra cushioning of some of their models – there is little ‘breakdown’ happening in the shoe’s sole. I’ve been running in my Altras for over 5 months and have seen/felt little wear – which is a great to know I won’t be running to buy another pair every 300 miles (as was the case with my previous shoe).
While the heartbreak I experienced parting ways with my current shoe was difficult, change is a good thing and in the end I couldn’t be happier with my new love.