I’ve been running in what I will call minimalist shoes for 6 or 7 years now. I made the transition slowly, but never looked back.
I caveat this because I include Hoka One One® shoes in this minimalist category – what I consider a minimalist shoe is one with a minimal heel to toe drop.
My go to shoes for years have been:
Trail: Vibram FiveFingers®, Hoka One One® Challenger ATR & Salomon S-lab Sense, depending on trail conditions.
Road/Triathlon: Hoka One One® Clifton
My only criteria for a shoe: Does it feel good when I run?
On the trails, my preferred “shoe” has been the FiveFingers. It is amazing to run with almost nothing on your feet! Trails are a more forgiving surface so I don’t need or want the excess cushioning. My Hokas come out when my feet are feeling beat up or when it is just too cold for the FiveFingers. And you can’t beat Salomon for traction on technical or winter trails.
On the roads, I had become a Hoka only runner. But I found myself falling out of love with my Cliftons over the years. I’m not sure what changed – me, or the shoe – but they weren’t delivering that happy run feeling anymore. So after years of devotion to that shoe, I needed a change.
My search took me to the Altra Footwear website. Seemed promising. Zero drop, supposed soft cushioning. After debating with myself on cushioning vs. weight, I realized that what I really love is the feeling of having next to nothing on my feet. So I ordered a pair of the Altra One 2.5 [*newer version is the V3*]. Weighing in at 5.2 oz. [for other people, with small feet. But even my large size is impressively light] and with light cushioning, they seemed like a promising mix.
Out of the box, my first reaction was “I am wearing clown shoes”! Altra shoes have a wide/funny shaped toe box [they call it the Altra FOOTSHAPE™ Toe Box]. Exactly like clown shoes. But I’ve been running in foot gloves and moon boots [children of the 80s will know what I’m talking about], so adding clown shoes to the mix didn’t seem like such a stretch.
I have skinny feet so I was a little worried that all this space in the toe box would be problematic. And I had to go with the larger size because I also have long feet. So they felt a bit roomy which was concerning. **If I had read the Altra website, which I did not, I might have noticed that they say “If the fit is correct, it may feel “too loose” around your toes and may take a day or two for your feet to get used to spreading out”.**
If there is such a thing as love at first run, this was it. It took a few tries to get the lacing tightness right – my instinct was to lace them tight around the toe box because I wasn’t used to the space in there [and because I hadn’t read the info on website…]. I’ve never worn clown shoes after all. But that wasn’t the right approach, so about a mile in I loosened them up significantly and that made a huge difference. All that space was supposed to be there, I just needed to get used to it.
I normally wouldn’t go on a longer run the first time out in new shoes, but after a couple miles they felt so good that I just kept going. 8 miles later there was not one hot spot, my feet and legs felt great. I’m not sure what magic they put in their shoe, but it worked on me.
This past weekend I put them to the true test at Santa Rosa 70.3 and they delivered. No socks, no problem. No blisters, no hot spots. And while I suspect to onlookers it appeared I was doing a sad slow plod, it FELT like I was running on air. And that’s what really matters.
I will be testing out the Altra Superior 3.0 on the trails over the next few months. I’ll let you know what I think!
Important note on minimalist running:
If you do decide to try barefoot / minimalist running: Proceed slowly. I advise my clients to start with only 5 minutes at the end of a run. Then 10, then 15, you get the point. You are changing your stride and the support structure your feet are used to, so give them (and the rest of your musculature) time to adjust. PLEASE don’t just throw them on and go out for an hour long run. You will a) regret it and b) pay for it! You’ll get there, but be patient.
Note that the Altra Footwear website has some good information about transitioning to minimalist drop shoes. https://www.altrarunning.com/run-better
Also note that I have no affiliation with Altra, they didn’t send me free shoes or ask me to do a review. I wish. But just in case: Altra, if you are reading this, size 10.5 women’s.