Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Review: Altra Torin (Women's) Zero Drop, Maximal Running Shoe

(This review is for the original Altra Torin, 2013. The current version is the Torin 2.0)

Altra Torin, a Zero Drop, Maximal Running Shoe

The Facts

The Altra Torin is a Zero Drop, high stack (aka maximalist), neutral running shoe. Like all Altra brand shoes, the Torin is made on a foot-shaped last, giving it their signature FootShape toe-box which allows natural toe splay. The Torin has a stack height of 27mm and weighs about 7.5oz. The shoes come with two insoles, one labeled contour that is 5mm and the other labeled strengthen that is 3mm. This version originally retailed for $115 but can now be found for as low as $50.

The Down and Dirty

Image credit: AltraRunning.com
What first attracted me to Altra was the fact they their shoes are Zero Drop but still offer a beefy cushion underfoot. While I normally appreciate some road feel, I was looking for something to wear on longer runs, when my Saucony Mirages were just too hard towards the end. The foot shaped toe-box was also a big draw. If I ever get blisters from running shoes, it's always in the same spot, the medial ball of my foot where the edge of the shoes' insole hits my skin. I've never been told I have a wide foot, but most running shoes seem narrow across my metatarsals yet too roomy in the heel. I purchased the Torin in my normal 8.5, and feel it runs slightly small, but not enough for me to want a 9. While the Torin allowed more room for my toes to move around, I did still occasionally have a little discomfort at the ball of my foot. It was a big improvement compared to other running shoes, most notably, the Saucony Kinvara 3, which rubbed me in all the wrong ways. However, with the roomier forefoot came a slight heel slip; I wanted to use some different lacing methods to lock my heel in, but found all laces to be really short for these shoes. I ended up replacing them with lock-laces which helped a lot with the slipping and eventually the slipping disappeared altogether.

I didn't start tracking my shoe mileage until I had already been running in these for a couple of months (while rotating with other shoes), so I'm not sure how many miles are on them. If I were to guess, I'd say around 200 miles. I've rarely used them for short runs as I feel they are just too much shoe for that, but I did almost every long run while training for my first half marathon in the Torin. Most of my runs were on asphalt and concrete, but I did do a 12 miler while in New Orleans that was mostly on the hard-packed dirt of the streetcar lines and the slightly rooty trail around Audubon Park. My feet still felt pretty good in the Torin near the end of my long runs, making it my choice shoe to wear for my first half marathon.

Altra Torin clownish?
Now for the main negative of the Torin: the look. Because of the FootShape toe-box, all Altra shoes have a different look compared to conventional running shoes. I once asked my husband to bring me a pair of running shoes to put on when he was meeting me after a bike ride and he brought the Torins, I was disappointed. This is not a shoe I would wear casually. I actually think of them as my clown shoes, they just have this odd, chunky look to them that I can't get over. While the Torin is pretty light weight for a maximalist shoe, it seems heavy, probably because of the chunkiness. The shoe has a lot more upper than I think is necessary, and they're not a breathable as I would like.

Altra Torin outsole wear (bottom of picture is lateral edge)
While I already mentioned the heel slip I experienced, it's worth mentioning that it did get better with time. I can now wear these shoes without noticing much slip, and what I do notice is while walking, not running. So I think they require a little breaking in time, while I'm mainly in the camp of those who believe running shoes don't need much to break-in.

I think what impressed me most about the Altra Torin was how well the outsole has held up. I typically have noticeable outsole wear on the lateral forefoot early on and in these you can see that is not the case, they've worn fairly evenly.

Conclusion

The Altra Torin was my first experience with a shoe that could be considered "maximal," and it performed as I expected. It was great for long runs and Altra's FootShape toe-box gave my forefoot the extra room it likes. The Torin is cushy without being too soft, it is still responsive but not a fast shoe. I would recommend it for long, easy runs or recovery runs.

For well groomed, hard-packed dirt, or grass trails the Torin will be fine, but for softer trails I'd look for another shoe (like the Altra Superior, review coming soon). On pavement, however, it rocks and kept my feet more comfortable than any other shoes I've worn on long runs before. The downside is that it has a chunky, clown shoe look which makes it seem heavy, when at 7.5oz for a maximal shoe, it's really not. While the Torin may feel sloppy at first, after some time it breaks-in and holds to the foot better, though I do wish it cupped my heel more.

If you are a heel striker, any zero drop shoe is going to have an adaption period and you may need to slowly add a shoe like this to your running rotation or you will experience some calf soreness. I'm a forefoot striker already, so this was a non-issue for me.

While I wouldn't call it a favorite, the Torin definitely has me interested in trying other shoes by Altra.

I bought the Altra Torin out of my own pocket and while this review contains affiliate links, I have not been otherwise compensated to write it and all opinions are my own.

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