Run the way you were born to. Altra, a Utah-based company, sells running sneakers with zero heel-to-toe drop and a wide toe box to let runners run naturally, the way they were born to. I first heard of Altra brand running sneakers from a July 2014 Wall Street Journal article, “The Just-Right Running Shoe,” about running sneakers that fall between the super cushioned supportive styles and the minimalist styles. The article discussed a consumer guide released last spring by the American College of Sports Medicine recommending running sneakers with a heel-to-toe drop of no more than 6 mm to prevent injuries. Most traditional running sneakers have a heel-to-toe drop of 12-16 mm. The guide also recommends a neutral style running shoe and extra room in the fore-foot for toes to wiggle. Basically, the guide recommends running shoes that aren’t meant to alter the way we run.
Altra sneakers, mentioned in the article, were founded by Golden Harper, a competitive runner, while experimenting in his family’s running store. He found that after taking out heel cushioning and using heat from a toaster oven to stretch out the toe box of sneakers, customers experienced fewer injuries. Founded in 2011, Altra sneakers encourage a lower impact running technique with Zero Drop and FootShape toe box.
FootShape Toe Box
The unique toe box allows toes to spread out naturally with each stride, rather than be cramped in a tight, pointy toe box. Other benefits include allowing the big toe to stay straight and push off for maximum running performance, and allowing the foot to naturally stabilize excess pronation. Altra’s website words it well: “The human foot is an anatomical masterpiece. It’s designed for stability, speed, and to get you from point A to point B. At Altra, we choose not to mess with perfection and simply let your foot do its thing.” Makes sense.
Zero drop puts the heel and forefoot at the same distance from the ground, promoting better running technique, form, foot landing and posture. In addition, Zero Drop strengthens Achilles and calf muscles, which become weakened running in shoes with elevated heels.
A representative from Altra visited Runologie last Thursday for a Demo Run. We got there a little late and there was a big crowd so we didn’t have many styles to choose from – but luckily our sizes were still available! Mike tried the Instinct 3.0 with moderate cushioning and I tried the Paradigm with max cushioning.
Altras will be my next pair of sneakers. I loved running in them! The Paradigm had too much cushioning for me so I’d likely consider the Torin (high cushioning) or Intuition (moderate cushioning) style. As soon as I put the Altras on, I noticed a difference in my posture; I was standing straighter. I never really noticed the heel elevation in my Saucony Omnis (which is just 8.4 mm) until I tried on the Altras and noticed a big difference. While running, I felt my calf muscles, ankles and core kick in more than usual. My posture felt straight and my core felt engaged. My abs were actually sore the next day!
I also really liked the wide toe box. I was concerned that the wide toe box would make the shoes feel too wide and feel like just too much shoe. Trying them out on the run, I didn’t get that at all and I even had narrowish feet. The wide toe box allowed my toes to move naturally. Actually, while running I didn’t even think much about it because there was no rubbing or cramped feeling at all. It felt as if I was running barefoot (with more cushioning). Although the wide toe box looks a little silly, it’s worth the different look for the comfort and the improved running form.
To learn more, visit Altra’s website where there’s an extensive section on proper running form, transitioning to Zero Drop and how to achieve the perfect fit.