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We love Altra Zero Drop Footwear shoes for a number of reasons, but the bottom line is they allow your feet to work the way they were intended to work: They have a great "foot-shaped" toebox, they provide the ability to strike the ground naturally while providing options for actual cushioning, and the founder of Altra shoes is named Golden Harper. Really - that's his name. And that's just cool.
So why are these attributes so great? Well, the Golden Harper thing is self-explanatory - we wish our parents had the nerve to run with something like that. The other two items do deserve a bit of conversation, though.
The Altra Foot-Shaped Toebox: Your toes are the part of your body responsible for transmitting the force of your stride (your physical output) to the ground. In traditional shoes, the toes are pushed together at the ends, and that makes them less efficient at doing the job they're supposed to do. Here is a picture demonstrating the difference between the Altra toe box and traditional shoes:
You know where else we see this phenomenon? Here's a real-world image that shows how this can be taken further in the name of fashion:
Look - many of us are willing to make sacrifices to look fabulous at work and at play, but Altra proves you don't have to continue that trend while exercising. A foot-shaped toe box allows you to run more comfortably, more efficiently, and with fewer stresses, and no one does toe boxes quite like Altra.
The Altra Zero-Drop Footbed: Altra is so focused on a natural foot strike they actually patented the term "Zero Drop". Every shoe Altra makes is perfectly flat from the heel to the metatarsals, just like your foot when you don't have any shoes on at all. The big difference here is that Altra provides cushioning and protection from the elements, which your bare feet do not. Some Altras have a lot of cushion, and some have only a little, but their goal is to ensure that you don't have to be uncomfortable to enjoy the benefits of a solid, whole foot landing when you run, walk or play. Don't call Altra "minimal" (they don't like that, and besides - its just not an accurate description), but they certainly don't mind when you call them comfortable and good for your feet.
A Really Important Note Regarding Stability: We'll say it here and anywhere. Stability is a marketing concept used to sell shoes, and we're not a fan of companies pretending to solve something with it. For 95-97% of the population (yes, this includes YOU...don't pretend you're special in this way!) there is no need for correction regarding pronation or supination. With that said, Altra does have a few shoes in their lineup they categorize under the "Guidance" classification. This is a crock and they know it, which is why they avoid using the word "stability" but give you the impression that is what you are buying with the "Guidance" categorization. The upside of this from the Altra standpoint is that they hedged their bets by NOT using classic stability techniques such as "posting" and "shanks". For Altra, stability means a combination of a marginally wider footprint and - in at least one model - the inclusion of a "varus wedge" to promote outward roll. Do we like this? No. Does your body need this? No, it does not (and there is some evidence that increased stability can cause long-term issues, an idea we tend to support). But we get that they made a decision to do what every other company in the world does, and they don't ask us for marketing advice. So in the spirit of full disclosure, there are a few Altra models we don't carry because of these minor tweaks. Everything else, though? Game on.