I have to admit that our reviews of running shoes have been a bit one-noted. With a couple exceptions, we have focused almost exclusively on Altra Zero Drop running shoes. To be clear, this has nothing to do with an intrinsic bias; we have never sold ads to Altra, and we have no financial interest in the company at all. What happened was that I found a design ethos that just clicked with me. In my first review of the Altra Instinct, I found the "perfect marriage of barefoot and traditional shoe styles," and called it "probably the best shoe I've ever used." In the time since then, my love for Altra has only grown.
For me, the magic of the shoes is in their very design ethos. The "zero drop" and "foot-shaped" themes of their shoes aren't just marketing lingo. For me, they have been a game-changer. Anecdotally, running form and speed have improved, my recovery time is lower, and my incidence of injury is decreased. This is my experience for the four years I've been running in these shoes compared to the several years prior. I now use zero drop shoes all the time, whether working out or just walking. When my Altras reach the end of their running life, they often become walking shoes for a while.
It takes some time to transition to a zero drop shoe, after spending a lifetime in raised heels. It took me many months to do so back in 2012. Since then, I've dabbled in some other shoes from time to time, but once I was used to zero drop, I could never tolerate anything else long enough to do a real review. I've become a dyed-in-the-wool convert, fully drinking the Altra brand of Kool-Aid. Since 2013, my staple has been the original 3-Sum shoe, which earned a perfect five stars at the time, and remains my favorite shoe ever. I love it so much, I bought a number of pairs to stockpile in reserve, slowly deploying them as I eviscerate them one by one. Sadly, Altra has discontinued the 3-Sum (bring them back, please!), but still has many excellent pairs in its quiver. Today I'll be getting into their lightweight running flagship, the Altra One. It's now on its third iteration, called the One 2.5.
The original One was a very different beast from the current iteration, but the previous-gen One 2 and the current One 2.5 are definitely of a piece. I've run through a couple samples of each, and by "run through" I mean that I've basically worn through the entire outsole. Interestingly, the One 2 and One 2.5 only have outsoles on a few small patches under the big toe and outside heel. The rest remains uncovered, meaning you strike on the cushy midsole. This makes for a very cushy ride and a very light shoe, albeit one that's a bit more sensitive to wear than their training staples like the Instinct and Intuition. Still, I found myself training in these shoes a lot. They were amazingly comfortable, and work brilliantly even while sockless. One feature I particularly love is the off-axis lacing. Instead of following the line of your tarsals and metatarsals, the laces are at a slight bias angle. For me, this meant significantly greater comfort, especially while using elastic laces. The shoe still features Altra's signature "foot-shaped" (read: wide) toe box, although it has a design aesthetic that helps it look a bit more traditional (early Altra shoes were criticized for looking a bit weird in the toe box).
While not quite the sublime perfection I found in the 3-Sum shoe, the Altra One 2 and One 2.5 are a very close second-place. In the sad (tragic!!!) event that Altra doesn't revive its 3-Sum platform, I'd be content running in these babies once my stockpile of 3-Sums runs out. I've been extremely encouraged to see Altra do so well over the last four years. Again, neither myself nor TriRig has any financial interest in the company, it's just one of those magic brands we absolutely love. They make my running and triathlon life better, and I want to see them keep making their excellent products.