One of my favorite new companies is Altra Zero Drop, who dropped onto the scene in 2011, and has become a pretty huge force in the world of running and triathlon. I'm a really big fan of all of their stuff, particularly the 3-Sum. So whenever Altra has new stuff to show me, I'm happy to pass it along to you. Today I'm going to look at three very different shoes from the Zero Drop specialists. The first is something you might not be expecting: a casual shoe for ordinary, non-athletic use.
The Everyday is a unique animal. Its suede upper isn't exactly what you'd call a "performance fabric," and it isn't meant to be. The Everyday has the DNA of Altra's pure running shoes, wrapped in a cover that will let you wear this shoe at the office, semi-formal events, and the like. It's basically a well-designed running shoe meant to be worn when you aren't running. For the Zero Drop zealots among you, no further explanation is needed. For the unconverted, I'll explain: once you've been in zero drop shoes long enough, anything else feels really weird. I'll bet that this turns into a pretty popular set of kicks among the Altra fans, if not other zero-drop fans.
I set mine up with a set of Lace Anchors, to tidy up the look a bit and prevent the need to tie them. I set them just slightly loose, so they'd be easy to get in, and although I don't plan on doing any workouts in them, the fit is reasonably secure, no heel slip for me.
Having gotten so used to Altra over the last few years, I really enjoy having these as an option for, well, everyday use. (And just as an aside, I'll state that I'm happy to see "Everyday" actually being used properly. That's the word that means "ordinary" or "commonplace." If you want to talk about something that occurs daily, you have to add a space, and write "every day." It's a big pet peeve of mine when I see something like "we have a sale everyday of the week!" because that's wrong. Okay, rant over.)
Next up, the update on my favorite tri shoe ever.
Altra 3-Sum v2
The Altra 3-Sum v2
When I reviewed the original Altra 3-Sum, I called it "Altra's Masterpiece." It's an amazing shoe, with a lot of great features. And the basic idea has not changed in the updated shoe. It still has Zero Drop construction, the same general space envelope inside the shoe, integrated elastic laces from Yankz, and the same outsole and midsole. But the devil is in the details, and I'm not too excited with the revisions to what I thought of as a perfect shoe.
3-Sum v2 (left) and v1 (right)
v1 vs v2
Compared to the original, I have to say the new version falls a little short. The only changes Altra made are, in my opinion, things that should have been left alone. Of course, that's almost an inevitable plight of the distance runner: you find your perfect shoe, and then they change it! So, what did they tinker with, and why? The first and perhaps most important change is that they added a little elastic webbing in the upper, changing it from a single seamless piece into one with just a little extra fabric and stitching involved. For me, this proved to be the death knell. I can no longer run sockless in the new 3-Sum, because that webbing rubs against my feet and makes them blister.
They also traded the integrated finger holes in the shoe, which were ample and easy to grab, with smaller sewn-on loops of fabric, which are harder to get at and don't work quite as well. Maybe someone suggested that the prior version could rub on the Achilles, but I've personally had an Achilles rupture and subsequent surgery, and my heel isn't bothered in the slightest by the original loops.
Fortunately, the original version of the 3-Sum is still available. Because of a perhaps irrational fear of it being discontinued, I bought about six pairs from various shops closing them out in anticipation of the new one. But they're still available on Altra's website, and several other online shops.
Finally, we'll take a look at the last pair, the Paradigm.
The Altra Paradigm is a fairly neutral training shoe with a bit of extra padding
In committing to their philosophy of zero drop shoes, Altra had to know that some ardent heel-strikers would be interested, but perhaps unable to make a complete switch too quickly. And some runners, regardless of gait, might simply not want to run in cushioning levels as thin as on the 3-Sum and One models. For them, Altra has a new level that they call 'max cushioning' in the Paradigm.
For me, the Paradigm feels a bit on the "mushy" side, but that's because I'm so used to the much-thinner 3-Sum (which is honestly more of a racing flat). The Paradigm is decidedly comfortable, but offers a little bit less of what the running types will call "road feedback."
I think this is probably the perfect transition shoe for someone interested in trying out the whole Zero Drop thing. If it's hard for you to adjust to the slightly different gait afforded by zero drop shoes, you'll at least have the extra cushion to ease that transition.