Altra Zero Drop

ALTRA-Low-Res-web

Why Altra Zero Drop?

We love Altra Zero Drop Footwear shoes for a number of reasons, but the bottom line is they allow your feet to work the way they were intended to work: They have a great "foot-shaped" toebox, they provide the ability to strike the ground naturally while providing options for actual cushioning, and the founder of Altra shoes is named Golden Harper. Really - that's his name. And that's just cool.

So why are these attributes so great? Well, the Golden Harper thing is self-explanatory - we wish our parents had the nerve to run with something like that. The other two items do deserve a bit of conversation, though.

The Altra Foot-Shaped Toebox: Your toes are the part of your body responsible for transmitting the force of your stride (your physical output) to the ground. In traditional shoes, the toes are pushed together at the ends, and that makes them less efficient at doing the job they're supposed to do. Here is a picture demonstrating the difference between the Altra toe box and traditional shoes:

You know where else we see this phenomenon? Here's a real-world image that shows how this can be taken further in the name of fashion.

Look - many of us are willing to make sacrifices to look fabulous at work and at play, but Altra proves you don't have to continue that trend while exercising. A foot-shaped toe box allows you to run more comfortably, more efficiently, and with fewer stresses, and no one does toe boxes quite like Altra.

The Altra Zero-Drop Footbed: Altra is so focused on a natural foot strike they actually patented the term "Zero Drop". Every shoe Altra makes is perfectly flat from the heel to the metatarsals, just like your foot when you don't have any shoes on at all. The big difference here is that Altra provides cushioning and protection from the elements, which your bare feet do not. Some Altras have a lot of cushion, and some have only a little, but their goal is to ensure that you don't have to be uncomfortable to enjoy the benefits of a solid, whole foot landing when you run, walk or play. Don't call Altra "minimal" (they don't like that, and besides - its just not an accurate description), but they certainly don't mind when you call them comfortable and good for your feet.

         

Altra Zero Drop at the Ultra Running Company

The Ultra Running Company stocks full size runs of the following Altra Zero Drop shoes:

Road Running:

 

The One 2.5: The One 2.5 (yes, they've dropped the old "One Squared" moniker) is an incredibly lightweight Natural Drop, Transitionally Cushioned Road Shoe. This shoe has just what you need for a comfortable run, with absolutely nothing else, and we find that terribly exciting. While not a truly "minimal" shoe with respect to padding underfoot, the One 2.5 fills the space of the beloved and departed Instinct 1.5 as Altras least cushioned road shoe. We're big fans of proprioception (the way your foot feels and reacts to the ground) around here, and in the past maximizing this aspect of the running experience meant almost no cushion between your feet and the pavement. With the One 2.5,  Altra has succeeded in adding both cushion and flexibility, which is a rare feat. Putting the One 2.5 on feels like putting on a bedroom slipper, but not many bedroom slippers have the street creed to run a 5k, 10k or marathon!

We find the One 2.5 to be a smooth, effective and exciting ride. The major benefit of the recent upgrade from the One2 is an adjustment to the toe box that means they fit much more true to size...meaning less confusion when you come in the store and confirmation that no, that 5' 1" young lady who just came in is definitely not a size 11 shoe! It remains the lightest weight shoe in our store, but despite the featherweight materials has proven to wear well in comparison to other shoes in its category. Come try this shoe on, experience its foot-shaped toe box and sneaky-good looks, and leave the store a happy runner!

The One 2.5 is Currently Available ($100).

The Instinct 3.5 / Intuition 3.5: A Natural Drop, Transitionally Cushioned Road Shoe. Altra skipped right over the 2.5 designation to introduce a full reboot in the Instinct/Intuition 3.0, and the Instinct/Intuition 3.5 is a really nice evolution of that design. The "Point Five" designation means a completely new upper (the part that surrounds your foot) while the midsole (the part that sits under the foot) remains unchanged. That may seem like a small thing, except for the fact everyone in the store agrees this is one of the best updates to an upper Altra has come up with to date. It just looks fantastic in almost every color, while maintaining the straighter last (vs. the Torin, below) and comfortable level of cushioning - a level we feel is both more responsive and provides superior road feel. With a scant 3mm less cushioning than the Torin 2.0, this shoe remains on the upper end of the transitional cushioning scale. One important note is that while the Instinct/Intuition combo maintain the "Foot-Shaped" branding of all Altras, we feel this is the most traditional looking shoe they have introduced it date. Don't underestimate the cosmetics of this shoe, however (which, as we've said, are fantastic): Even though the shoe tread is 10mm narrower at its widest point (men's size 10.5 measured), the interior width is exactly the same as the 2.0 version. Talk about an engineering feat! For the record, the Instinct is the men's version, and the Intuition is the women's.

The Instinct 3.5/Intuition 3.5 are Currently Available ($110).  The Instinct 3.0/Intuition 3.0 Remains Available in Select Sizes.

 

The Torin 2.0: A Natural Drop, Comfort Cushioned Road Shoe. Talk about a changeup. The Torin 2.0 is a complete departure from its predecessor; if you loved the Torin 1.5 you will love this shoe as well. Or perhaps you won't...the two are that different. To be very transparent we recommending the two models to different folks until we worked our way through the Torin 1.5 inventory, and we've fallen in love with the Torin 2.0 since the day it was introduced.

The Torin 2.0 has - as is the current trend with Altra - added cushion to its base, and although it is a mere 2mm that is enough to push the shoe up a level in our cushion category (from Transitional to Comfort cushioned). In addition, a lower cushion density completely changes the feel of the shoe on our feet. The toe box remains vintage Altra, meaning it fits a variety of feet with plenty of clearance for the toes to move and stretch - activity we feel is essential to building muscles in this area and controlling your motion throughout the body. Finally, the fit around the ankle itself - both in the front and the back - is as solid as we've seen on an Altra road offering (and comparable to our local trail fav, the Superior 2.0).

So what does all that mean? It means we're digging this shoe, and it has quickly become a go-to offer here at the store. We have very few issues fitting it on folks' feet, and once they try it we rarely see them walk out with another option. We mourned the Torin 1.5's passing as a unique offering in the industry, but we're very happy to have such a capable and comfortable replacement.

The Torin 2.0 is Currently Available ($125)

The Paradigm: Altra seems to be on to something here. This is a Natural Drop, Comfort Cushioned Road Shoe offering a massive amount of cushioning underfoot and delivering on the promise of an amazingly lightweight shoe capable of protecting runners from all but the most ridiculous road obstacles. Really. We have identified giant concrete blocks, massive scraps of rebar, and possibly a rogue chainsaw as being the only items you'll feel if you step on them in these puppies. While a number of manufacturers have tried to jump on the "maximally cushioned" bandwagon of late, we think Altra is the only one who has - in our opinion - managed to do it right. They did this not by copying existing products, but by differentiating themselves from the benchmark Hoka products with a wider (uh, foot-shaped) toe-box and their signature "Zero-Drop" footbed. In doing so, they have created an exceptional shoe we truly enjoy wearing and recommending to our customers.

The Paradigm is Currently Available ($130)


Mixed-Use Running:

The Olympus 1.5: A Natural Drop, Comfort Cushioned Mixed-use Shoe. Following up on its successful debut last year, the second generation of Altra's most cushioned trail shoe has improvident the one place we felt there was room: sizing. With an increased toe box height, the Olympus 1.5 has room for running without sizing up dramatically. While we don't necessarily notice the extra 2mm of tread depth as much as we expected, it certainly doesn't detract from the shoe's grip or lifespan. Bottom line: this shoe is changing minds across the country and in our store. Folks who never believed they could wear a low drop shoe are going all the way to zero and loving every minute of it. With a tread aggressive enough for all but the most challenging conditions yet unobtrusive enough for the local streets and sidewalks, the Olympus 1.5 provides the most cushioning in the industry in a package you'll be happy to put on day after day.

The Olympus 1.5 Remains Available in Select Sizes ($135)

The Olympus 2.0: A Natural Drop, Comfort Cushioned Mixed-use Shoe. OK, look: we really struggle to call this a "Mixed Use" shoe. Altra has gone back to the drawing board and created an amazingly beefy, rugged shoe that carries on the family name and tradition, but goes after a more hardcore market than the original Olympus. Case in point: the tread is MUCH more pronounced than the original shoe, with brand name trail cred almost guaranteed by incorporating the bulletproof Vibram MegaGrip into the soles. The manufacturing process seems to be more seamless, and we think overall durability and consistency in this highly cushioned product is truly world class. The upper feels fantastic, and the sizing is far more consistent with other Altra products.

So is all this a good thing for you? Well DANG RIGHT IT IS, if you're a trail runner. Any concerns you had about flexibility, sure-footedness, and durability? Eliminated. This is a shoe that will serve you well on even the most gnarly terrain. It's amazingly comfortable as well, and our feet are happy after whole days of running. We've run in mud, snow and dry conditions in the Olympus 2.0 and loved every moment of it.

The one caveat? Well, Altra claims its still a great shoe for "all terrain", and we've continued to place it in the "Mixed Use" category as a result. We're a little dubious of the 2.0s appropriateness for road use - for now we're taking their word for it. No doubt it remains comfortable on the tarmac, but we're taking a wait-and-see approach to its lifespan if used in this application. We're counting on the MegaGrip to outlast the rubber on the Superior 2.0 when used on roads (that's why we have the Superior 2.0 in the "Trail" section below: the rubber just burns off too fast during road use, despite the fact it may be an even more comfortable everyday shoe than its Mixed Use predecessor, the Superior 1.5).

The Olympus 1.5 is Currently Available ($150)


Trail Running:

The Superior 2.0: A Natural Drop, Transitionally Cushioned Trail Shoe. Talk about a change-up! The Superior has long been on of ur favorite low-cushion mixed-use shoes, but for 2015 Altra chose to mix it up and create a true trail-racing contender. The Superior 2.0 adds an excellent level of cushioning to its structure (both soft enough to provide comfort and stable enough to provide solid trail feel) and really dialed in the fit around the heel and instep - making this the most responsive trail running shoe we've seen from the company.

The Superior 2.0 is currently available ($110)

The Lone Peak 2.5: A Natural Drop, Transitionally Cushioned Trail Shoe. Building on the success of 2013's Runner's World Editor's Choice Lone Peak 1.5, and a much improved Lone Peak 2.0, version 2.5 gets virtually everything right. The newest Lone Peak is an amazing combination of "just right" cushioning, grippy tread, and aggressive good looks. We love this shoe no matter the terrain: we keep asking it to do more and more and it looks back at us, grins, and says "bring it on, friend!"

We had pretty much the same thing to say about the Lone Peak 2.0, so what did they change? Well, in line with their 0.5 approach to changes, its all about the upper: the material around your foot is more flexible, more forgiving, and more durable. It moves with your foot in a way the Lone Peak 2.0 did not, so while we liked that version (a lot), we think the LP 2.5 is a clear improvement. No changes to the tread or midsole, so same great cushioning and protection there. Enjoy this shoe. Its a good one.

The Lone Peak 2.5 is Currently Available ($120)

 

Casual Wear (Running Late For A Meeting...):

The Intuition/Instinct Everyday: OK, we admit it. This isn't a running shoe. But that doesn't make it any less awesome. The fine folks at Altra Zero Drop took the sole off of the original Instinct/Intuition, sewed on a kicking' suede upper, and gave us a gift in the form of a casual shoe at home in both the board room and the living room. So is this still a Natural Drop, Transitionally Cushioned Road Shoe? It sure is. Would we run in it? Well, we've proven we can...but its not exactly as breathable as the mesh upper on the running version, so we'd probably refrain unless it was really important to get those TPS reports in on time.

The Intuition/Instinct Everyday are Currently Available ($130)


ANYTHING YOU DON'T SEE HERE:

We work really hard to offer a full spectrum of Altra shoes to meet the needs of all our customers, and we stock full size runs of everything we carry. If there is an Altra shoe you don't see here, it doesn't mean its not a good product...just that we decided it wasn't part of our core offering. Please don't let that stop you from coming in - we'll work with you to identify the correct product and fit for your specific goals, and we'll even order it for you at no extra charge.