Last Friday was the quintessential "Black Friday", the day of days to do shopping. Or if you're somewhat of an introverted person like I can tend to be, this is the day you hole up, don't go outside, and of all things, dear God please stay away from the shopping malls. However, there were a few places I had interest in taking a look at, so I took a stab and went out with one of my wife's friends who was visiting us for a few days.
She needed some new running shoes, so I decided to take her to the local tri shop, Endurance House. They do a great job fitting people in running shoes. Taking into consideration the type of running you do and administer a foot-strike analysis that you yourself can view side by side as you try out different shoes.
I was just there to look around and keep my daughter from getting into trouble and breaking expensive things. However, I came across the "Scratch and Dent" table. A table filled with recently returned shoes during their trial period. Figuring the best shoes had been picked over already, I didn't pay it much mind at first. However, on my second time around the store chasing my daughter, I stopped to look and saw a pair in my size. A pair of Altra Superiors.
I tried them on quick, and with the whole table being marked at $25, I couldn't pass them up. They looked nearly fresh out of the box, with apparently very minimal running done in them. I was pretty stoked. My brother has a couple pair of these shoes, and I wasn't set on jumping on them, but for this price, I couldn't resist. I'd at least have another pair of running shoes to wear at work or around town.
I haven't had much time to get outside running for the past few days, but finally was able to this morning. It was a nice 20 something degrees with a heavy wind out of the West, so I decided to stay close to home and out of the wind and wind chill.
At first I was a little hesitant to plan anything longer than just a couple miles on the new shoes, but when I laced them up again, I was reminded how comfortable they actually are. Of which I will go into shortly.
The cool thing about the Altra brand is their zero drop mantra. Unlike some other zero drop shoes, these actually still look like normal running shoes. They don't take on some weird, out of the ordinary upper, or make you look like you're wearing track spikes. They are just running shoes. Nearly all of Altras shoes take on this same look. Not too outlandish, but still have this zero drop thing going on.
Now what zero drop does is kind of cool. Most running shoes have an offset from the heel to toe in the shoe platform. Essentially, the heel is placed a bit higher up than the toe (or toe box I should say), giving the shoe more padding at the heel for the vast majority of people out there that 'heelstrike'. Of which, the verdict is still out, in my opinion, as to whether this is actually bad for you or it's just heresay to boost sales of this new style of running shoe. Most shoes seem to be in the 4-10mm range, with some being higher and lower, but that seems to be the most popular range. The way I look at it, is if you're more of a forefoot/mid-foot striker, there's no need for that extra support in back, which will make the shoes lighter on your feet.
Besides the zero drop mentality, Altra goes another step and actually thinks about how your foot strikes the ground. Newton shoes do a good job of creating a post in the forefoot to give sensation and work on running form, but they lack what Altra does, as do all other shoes I have ever run in. The toe box is actually larger than "necessary" for the shoe to feel like it fits. Which makes the fit seem a bit weird, and from above, the shoes look a little like clown shoes. But there is a method to the madness...
Try walking barefoot across the floor and watch your foot, especially your forefoot and toe box area. Watch it as it's in the air and then as it strikes the ground. Notice anything? Yea, it spreads out when pressure is applied.
What Altra has done is taken this knowledge and applied it to their shoes. Creating a larger toe box than other standard running shoes, giving your feet room to spread out when you contact the ground. Have you ever noticed towards the end of your runs or even during a longer run that your shoes start to feel tighter as you go on? Your feet will also tend to swell a bit from usage. So that larger toe box in the shoe gives you feet the room to do that as well. Such a cool concept!
So, like I said, I finally got out running on these shoes this morning. The first few strides felt a little strange, but once I found my stride, everything felt natural. Having developed more of a mid/forefoot strike, the lack of heel support in the shoes was basically unnoticed. Having been used to running mostly in Newtons for the last couple years, the lack of a 'post' under my forefoot felt a bit strange. But that, again, subsided as I ran longer.
With the added room in the toe box, I wasn't sure how my feet would act as I took a corner. I was pleasantly surprised. No sliding inside the shoe! It's almost as though they fit perfect as my foot hit the ground. Whereas when wearing other running shoes, I tend to feel my foot is going to roll over the edge of the outsole as I take a sharp corner or have to change directions quickly. Especially shoes that have a cushier outsole or midsole.
Lastly, as I have talked about in other articles about my style of running, I absolutely love the instantaneous ground contact I feel in these shoes. With minimal underfoot, but a nice sturdy posting through the mid-foot, these shoes were amazing. I got through 6 miles of light tempo running with some good up and down hills to really test them out, and I will be honest. They felt great the whole way.
With any other products I recommend or endorse on here, these are my personal opinions and I am not going to tell you these shoes are for you or that they are the best out there. However, they are a great shoe to give a try. Especially for those looking for lighter shoes with no drop. Give them a try and feel free to share your thoughts about them with me!