Monday, October 10, 2011

First Look: Altra Zero Drop Running Shoes

After 30 years of shoes primarily designed to control how the feet move while running, there's been a major shift in thinking toward shoe designs intended to accommodate the natural movement of your feet and optimally efficient running form.

At the crux of this movement is the notion that the foot can do a better job at self-stabilizing and balancing the weight of the body when it can move freely and is allowed more, relatively unencumbered, natural contact with the ground than when it’s in a shoe that is thickly cushioned or overly correcting by design.

Embracing the less is more movement, Altra Zero Drop Footwear has introduced a line of gender specific Zero Drop™ running shoes designed to accommodate the natural movement of your body and feet. Thanks to the good crew at Altra, our Gumption Field Team has the opportunity of vetting the men’s Instinct and women’s Intuition running shoes. 

The Intuition (Left) and The Instinct (Right)
On Style and Design
For a first generation shoe, both the Instinct and Intuition are sharp and eye catching without being overly bedazzled with bright colors or gaudy designs. Admittedly when you pull the shoes out of the box, the unassuming design can easily lull one into perceiving these shoes as a basic minimalist runner. Yet simply tossing these shoes into the one-size-fits-all minimalist category does them no justice.

Our crew quickly discovered that every element of these shoes is based upon an underlying premise of a shoe designed to develop a more natural, optimally-efficient running form.

Both the Instinct and Intuition are built with a natural foot shaped design presenting a wide forefront to the shoe. Any preconceived notions and duck foot jokes regarding the unconventional shape quickly faded as our testers found that the wide cage provides a relaxed fit and feel, allowing the toes to splay naturally as they would in your favorite pair of slippers. While it seems contrarian to think that a foot-shaped shoe can be considered an innovation, in this instance that is exactly the case – these shoes were built to run.
There’s nothing fancy about the Altra outsole… just a whole lot of innovative goodness. Altra's FootPod outsole maps the bones and tendons of the human foot allowing for maximum flex and responsiveness. With canted lugs mapping your foot, this unique outsole is intended provides a natural all-purpose traction system which thus far has served our crew members well on a variety of surfaces from dirt roads to treadmills and a world of running surfaces in between.

The Zero Drop™ Platform…
By name, you'd think zero-drop shoes are yet another addition to the “minimalist movement” sweeping the running landscape. While some “zero drop” shoes can be categorized as minimalist – certainly not all minimalist shoes are Zero Drop, nor are the Instinct and Intuition designed specifically as minimalist runners.
Most Running Shoes are built on a 2-to-1 heel-to-toe ratio (Twice as thick in the heel as the forefoot). Zero Drop footwear by ALTRA has been built on a 1-to-1 ratio meaning that the heel and forefoot are the same heights off the ground just as Mother Nature intended.

The Altra Zero Drop shoes offer cushioning and protection while mimicking the foots’ natural zero drop build. This means the usual aggressive heel striking that occurs in a normal running shoe is replaced with a more natural running motion in which the runner lands on the mid to fore foot region.
This means that moving to the Altra line-up of shoes is a transition that takes some time. To their credit, the company makes no qualms about that fact and properly informs their customers about the adjustment period.

Despite going through their own adjustment period, our team's initial impressions of the Zero Drop line-up are overwhelmingly positive. Over the coming weeks our field team will continue to put the miles on both the Instinct and Intuition continuing to test the fit, feel, durability and performance of these shoes over the long haul.

1 comment:

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