So I scored some Altra Torin and Intuition 3 shoes to review, yay! (And, in the interests of full disclosure, got to keep them). And, better yet: one lucky Cranky Fitness reader can win a pair of Altra's of their choice. Cool, no?
But those of you who are already hip to Altra's are probably going: WTF, Crabby? The Torin's and Intuitions are running shoes, not walking shoes, you misinformed nincompoop!
Why is this Mostly an Altra Walking Shoe Review and not a Running Shoe Review?
But in my defense, I thought I would be running again by now! My back seemed to be getting better. I was all set to hit the trails again--and I thought the Altra zero drops would make an intriguing choice to give that a shot with.
I swear I wasn't being a totally unscrupulous scheming greedy product-whore.
And heck, I did do some running. At least enough to form an impression of both pair, which I will of course share with you. But this is mainly a review of the Torin and Intuition 3's in terms of how they fare as walking shoes. I figured, surely I'm not the only chronically injured, yet eternally optimistic runner-wannabee who spends a lot of time walking?
Then, in a very happy development, I 'fessed up to the Altra Rep about the walking thing, and was assured: No problem, Crabby, LOTS of people use Altra's for walking! Race walkers in particular were early adapters of the Altra brand. The Altra folks are even introducing a new walking shoe for working stiffs who are on their feet all day, in employment-appropriate blacks, whites, etc. These may or may not have hit their website as this review goes live. Whew!
So... what did I think about the shoes? And what's the deal with the giveaway?
Why I Was Intrigued by Altra Zero Drop Shoe
Altra's are known for ditching the built-up heels so many athletic shoes have. (Thus they have "zero drop" from heel to toe. They even invented that term). This encourages runners to use a forefoot strike. And the shoes are more naturally "foot shaped" and thus have a have a wider toe box than traditional shoes, so your tootsies can spread out. Yet their shoes generally supply a lot more cushioning than barefoot-style shoes.
They come in a variety of styles with varying degrees of cushioning and support, from minimal to maximal, and they look... well, like actual shoes!
Meaning they don't have the creepy toe-sleeve design like Vibrams do.
The inserts are removable too so that you can decrease the amount of cushioning in your pair as your feet get stronger and you become more of a hard-core natural running beast like your cave-dwelling ancestors.
As it happens, part of my current rehabilitation plan is to try to strengthen my feet more, and rely less on footwear for cushioning and support, whether for walking or (mostly hypothetical) running. I've begun to suspect that so many years of being propped up by orthotics and cushioning and coddling have not fixed my various biomechanical problems at all. Instead, I'm wondering if that hasn't made things worse, rendering my foot muscles weak and passive, and my toes barely functional at all. My balance is as crappy as a drunken peg-legged blindfolded sailor making a getaway on a stolen pogo stick.
Anyway. I was eager to check out some shoes that I hoped might give me a more natural foot strike and starting easing me into minimalism more gradually.
Walking Shoe Review of the Torin's and Intuition 3's:
Altra is terribly careful about warning you to get into zero drop shoes gradually and incrementally, and give you lots of information and instructions.
And perhaps the transition is more of an issue for runners racking up lots of miles, or for women prone to wearing high heels during the day. (Which this unfashionable blogger is not.) For me--no transition time needed at all. I was expecting calf pain but... nope, no problems there. I can walk for miles and miles in these shoes and they feel great.
Here was the most interesting thing: the shoes are springy enough that I actually prefered both models with the inserts removed, even though the underneath part looks a little forbidding. I'm not sure this is a model that they encourage insert removal on or not, but whatever, it worked great. I just laced them up a little tighter.
I like the roomy toe box, and the way I can feel my toes working more. In fact, the next time I buy a pair of Altra's I think I may go even more minimal, with light cushioning, at least for walking purposes.
The biggest downside for me? The "coral" color of the Intuitions 3's!
As it happens, I liked the Intuitions slightly better since they have less cushioning. But the bright orange look just ain't me.
I do know this is a hip look, but let's review: I am not hip. Everything I own that has a color clashes with these shoes except for one shirt I use as a pajama shirt. Though it will be nice to know I am fetchingly color-coordinated should I ever wear my athletic shoes to bed.
The Altra's Intuition 3 and Torin Running Shoe ReviewLet's pretend I am still a runner!
I tested at the nearby park, running a few hundred yards on first sidewalk and then grass.
So, ok, I have absolutely no f--cking clue how these would perform for real runners running real distances.
Also, for kicks, I ran barefoot as well, just to see the contrast. I miraculously avoided encountering any glass, rocks, or dog shit, but again, just a few hundred yards because I didn't want to push my luck.
My impressions? Both pair of shoes were very comfy and springy! However, the comfort and give of the cushioning combined with my abysmal body mechanics meant I had more leeway to splay my feet and veer my knees in unhelpful directions than I did going barefoot. Going barefoot was tougher on my feet, but seemed to activate more corrective stabilizing muscles. Or maybe it was so creepy and laborious that I went slower and could pay more attention to my running form.
My stability improved somewhat with the inserts out, but since running is a lot more impactful than walking, I would probably leave the inserts in until my feet got a lot stronger. Especially on pavement. In my case, I probably need more hip and feet strengthening work before I take the running show on the road.
And I just noticed that Altra sells a Stability Wedge, which adds support without putting it all in the arch, and I may check these out when (or sigh, perhaps "if") I eventually go back to running.
Bottom line: I liked these shoes a lot! I just need more models available in black and other drab colors and I'll be all set!
So, anyone want to win a pair?
About the Altra Giveaway:
According to the Altra folks, you get to choose your pair, "anything from the super light Superior to the Ultra Cushioned Paradigm." Go to Altra Running to see what they've got!
Enter by leaving a comment below; winner will be chosen randomly in a week. IF YOU WIN AND DO NOT CHECK IN AND EMAIL ME BY FEB 23 TO CLAIM YOUR SHOES I WILL RE-DRAW! This is too cool a prize to go unclaimed. If you win, email is crabby mcslacker at gmail dot com.
I'm afraid I forgot yet again to ask if you have to be a U.S. resident to win. I have a query in, and you can either wait or just enter, but if you don't live in the U.S. it would be great if you let me know in your comment so if it turns out we're screwed, I don't announce you as a winner and then have to say "sorry, tough luck" and then redraw.
Any thoughts on footwear this fine monday morning?