This might smell like another Paul Ryan “I ran a sub 3 hour marathon” story, but it just so happens to be true. This weekend not only did I meet many known running legends, but one that I really hadn’t ever heard about before…Golden Harper the creator of Altra Zero Drop Shoes.
It should come as no surprise that a boy who runs that fast was raised in a family that owned a running shoe store. Or that they would tinker with shoes at home in the toaster oven…hmm sound familiar, remember that whole waffle iron story and Nike?? It seems all shoes start in someone’s kitchen.
WHAT IS ALTRA?
ALTER + ULTRA = Altra. The name came to be from a crazy path of Golden altering regular shoes to create a zero drop with cushion…it slowly became a bit of a black market thing. Where people would literally buy a shoe from the running store owned by his family and then ask him to rip it up and remake it as a zero drop! Suddenly he realized they were doing this for nearly a 1,000 people…maybe making a shoe would just be easier.
And yes all of this happened before the barefoot craze that was popularized by Born To Run and one of my running crushes Scott Jurek. What’s the big deal about this shoe compared to things like Vibrams?
“this shoe delivers many of the benefits of barefoot running with the comfort, cushioning and support that distance runners love”
This is the predominate shoe run by Ultramarathon runners, which makes me think it’s got to be great for those of us doing the measly little marathon in comparison right?? Plus you can get up to 1,000 miles on a pair of shoes because they don’t compress. Endorphin Mom was there and she has been training in them for ultras and agrees they are perfect.
WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT?
Zero Drop: Altra Zero Drop as named is a zero drop shoe, but is NOT a minimalist shoe. Wait how is that possible? A minimalist shoe would be something like the Vibram Five Fingers which literally provides only a layer of rubber to protect your foot and no cushion or support.
As you can see here the Altra on top provides that desired cushion, but with a consistency to the shoe that removes the thicker heel. A thicker heel will naturally hit the ground first when you stride, thus turning you in to a heel striker whether you meant to or not!
- Wearing a stability shoe actually weakens your arch. Overtime you consistently need more support.
- Wearing a thicker heel changes your stride (see below)
- No scientific studies actually show that a stability or motion control shoe prevents injury…but many show they cause injury.
Foot shaped: This may sound a little odd when you first hear that they make a foot shaped shoe, but once you see it things begin to click. I don’t know about you, but my toes aren’t shaped like the image on the left. This design allows your toes to spread out, which provides you with the ability to get more power from each stride.
Gender Specific: Having been inside places like the New Balance technology area, I know that every company makes a male and female last. (A last is the model that is used to form shoes.) But Altra has taken it even further with their last, making changes that truly account for the differences in a woman’s foot:
- Narrower heal
- Longer arch
- Different upper for our foot shape -- ever notice how women often get pain on the top of our foot and then need to do some fancy trickery with our laces to relieve pressure?? Yup it’s because shoes aren’t made for that.
Note the above pictures are not to discredit any brand, but to help provide an example of how these are different.
Altra fitted each of us in the Fitfluential group visiting Runner’s World for a pair of shoes and then spent time talking with us about form and why these shoes are different. Yes they literally sat each of us down, asked what we currently run in and then went through a couple of sizes to see what would work best.
KatieKey with her new trail Altra Superior shoes and Larissa modeling her Altra Intuition.
Since I have been running in the Kinvara and Asics Gel Excel for awhile, I am already a super fan of low profile shoes. Barefoot running didn’t work for me because I felt without any cushion my feet simply hurt or my joints didn’t feel right.
I ran in the Intuition 1.5 during our 3.8 mile shake out run with Bart Yasso and definitely felt great. I didn’t have an calf soreness which often occurs when people transition to a more minimal shoe.
Umm yes that is Bart Yasso in the orange and me in the teal with my Oakley tank and Altra shoes.
After that run I talked with the Altra team about attempting the half marathon on Sunday in my pretty new pink shoes, but the consensus was not to shake things up until after the NYC marathon. I think this was smart, but I am really excited to spend some time in these shoes and see how everything feels.
All right so now you know what a Zero Drop shoe is and why I will be testing it out for my training. Have you ever tried these shoes? What do you think of all the talk about shoes changing our natural stride?
I am grateful for frozen vegetables making it possible to eat healthy when I get home from a crazy weekend!