Moving to Zero Drop - Why Altra Makes Sense!
Posted on January 22 2020
Having been a runner now for almost 30 years, like many people, some things I find hard to change. Generally, if it works, stick with it ... shoe choice is one of those things.
I started with pretty traditional running shoes, initially the Asics Gel-Kayano and then slowly transitioned into lighter, faster shoes such as the adidas adizero Adios and Boston but generally all with a fair amount of drop. Whilst I have been lucky to avoid major injuries, there was always a periodic calf pain especially after a speedy track session.
I was intrigued to hear the back story around the creation of the Altra brand from Brian Beckstead and Golden Harper and how the concept of "zero drop" shoes came about.
Other brands have tried to follow, but Altra was the first to truly embrace the concept of balanced cushioning where the stack height under the forefoot and heel is the same. When you think about it, its fairly logical that shoes like this reduce the knee inflection with every step compared to shoes with a drop and as the force on the cartridge increases the more the knee bends, this obviously reduces the risk of knee injury.
I have never really suffered significant knee problems but the other effect is to create a more natural running shape where the calves are strengthened. Perhaps a solution to my problem.
From my birthday this year I set myself the challenge of running every day, at least 5km, for a decade. Many people have done this and more, but for me it was an interesting challenge and one I felt would motivate me to continue running at times when I would be tempted to stop.
But what about injury? I don't want to have to miss a day so I decided to embrace the concept of zero-drop. I have now been running in Altra for the best part of 6 months. Namely the Torin Plush 4 and the Timp 2.
The Torin Plush 4 is a 100% road shoe with about 28mm stack height combined with the usual Altra characteristics of wide toe-box and of course, zero-drop.
The Timp 2 is Altra's alternative to the Hoka ATR Challenger with about 29 mm stack height and Maxtrak outer sole which make this a Road/Trail cross-over shoe.
I have been totally impressed. Both shoes feel very similar to run in with the Quantic mid sole compound feeling soft and nicely cushioned. I don't have wide feet but nevertheless the ability to spread my toes and have a straight big toe on push-off feels really good.
Despite the room for my toes the shoes lace well and and my feet feel well supported and the shoes have a nice well formed feeling
I feel I am running in a more comfortable relaxed way as a consequence and so far, touch wood, no incidence of calf problems despite averaging around 300 - 350 km per month. That for me is a big plus.
The only slight downside is I find the mesh used in the vamp on both shoes to be a little stiff and I have heard of incidents of this mesh irritating the top of the foot at the point where folds develop on bending. I personally have not experienced this but I can imagine it would impact some people with a particular foot shape.
Altra recommends a period of transition when you first start to run in zero drop but I found, maybe because I was already running in shoes with fairly minimal drop anyway, that this transition period was pretty short.
Therefore I am a convert, The Torin I use for my daily road training without concern and when a bit of trail is involved then the Timp feels like I am wearing the same shoe but with a different set of tires. This is something I have never experienced and truly wonderful.
Altra also make a big effort to tailor their shoes for women also. Not just a policy of "shrink it and pink it" but a real effort to understand how women's feet are different in general. Both shoes come in women's versions and have 4 specific design aspects based on considerable research.
1. A longer arch for women means the inflection point for women's shoes is moved to 73% rather than 69% on the men's version.
2. A narrower heel to forefoot ratio
3. A higher instep
4. Larger metatarsal spread specifically designed for women.
This just demonstrates the depth of thought the founders of the ALTRA brand have instilled into the shoes and why they are rapidly becoming the shoe of choice in North America on trail and road.
Sincerely recommend you include a pair of Altra's in your collection.