For those of you that just want the low down and would rather skip the details, I LOVE THIS SHOE! This is the shoe that will replace my Merrell Trail Gloves for the foreseeable future. The Altra Adam is a true zero drop, lightweight, flexible, minimalist shoe with a great ground feel, and a very spacious toe box, whats not to love. Want to know more? keep reading.
There are four primary features I look for in a minimalist shoe.
- Zero Drop
- Ground Feel
- Toe Box
The Altra Adam is a true zero drop shoe. This is one of the things I love about the Altra company. Altra is dedicated to producing zero drop shoes. Zero drop refers to the height differential between the heel and the forefoot. In a zero drop shoe the differential is zero. In other words, the heel height and forefoot height are even. In my opinion, the closer to zero drop the better.
A true zero drop shoe such as the Altra Adam best replicates the natural running form present when running barefoot for the obvious reason that when barefoot the heel is not lifted. By contrast to the Altra Adam, the New Balance Minimus has a 4mm heel-toe differential. The Nike Free 3.0 heel-toe drop is 7mm.
The Altra Adam has an amazing amount of ground feel. The 3mm outsole allows the feet to feel and react to the terrain while still providing adequate protection from sharp or otherwise dangerous objects. The trade off with ground feel is that after a certain number of miles your feet are likely to become sore from not having that familiar cushion between your foot and the ground. As I primarily run on trails, I found I could get in about 12 miles before the ground became uncomfortable. Road running is much more forgiving in this respect. If you prefer a little less ground feel, the Altra Adam comes with an two variety of insoles, each of which provides a little more protection, and a little less ground feel. If you want even less ground feel Altra has a whole line of zero drop shoes, such as the Altra Instict, that are not as lightweight and flexible, but do include a midsole.
The Altra Adam weighs in at under five ounces making it lighter than the Merrell Trail Glove (6.2 oz), or New Balance Minimus (7 oz), or even the Vibram FiveFingers KSO (5.7 oz). The lighter the shoe the more efficient each stride and less torque on the joints. The featherweight quaility of these shoes makes them amazing for speed work, especially on the track.
When you first see the Altra Adam you immediately recognize that the toe box is shaped a little different than most running shoes. Altra took the novel approach of making the toe box shaped like a foot. Not so much like a foot that you need special toe socks, but enouigh like a foot that the toes are allowed to naturally splay without being impeded by the side walls of the shoe. The roomy toe box of the Altra Adam make it amongst the most comfortable shoes I have worn. If fact, I got the Altra Adam to run in, but have found myself wearing them as my everyday running around shoes as well.
These are the most important features that make up a minimalist shoe, but there are other features that will probably interest you as well.
I found the Altra Adam fit true to size. In the past I have taken to wearing a half size larger for a little extra room in the toebox. The already roomy toe box of the Altra Adam make this unnecesary.
This is the only department were I found the Altra Adam to be lacking. In most running scenarios this is not a big deal, but when running down a steep hill in the mud a little more traction would be nice. This of course is another factor that would alter ground feel.
rather than laces the Altra Adam has two velcro straps. These shoes fit my foot so well I actually found these straps to be unessesary as the semi-elastic upper mesh held the shoe snuggly in place.
Socks or no socks?
Strangely enough, I get this question often. Just as with any other shoe, I strongly suggest that you wear socks. No socks = stinky shoes = less friends. Don’t like how socks hold in moisture? Try Smartwool.
About Transitioning to Zero Drop Shoes
If this is your first pair of zero drop shoes you will want to take some time to transition. Most importantly you will first want to ensure that you are running with a natural forefoot stride and maintaining good natural running form. If you are not sure if you are doing this consider hiring a natural running coach such as myself. If you are not in the Bay Area, check out the Altra Learn to Run Initiative.
Even if you have perfected natural running in a shoe with a raised heel, when transitioning to a zero drop shoe you will likely notice your calves will become more sore than you are acustomed to. There is nothing wrong with this, they are simply deconditioned and will take some time to recondition themselves to running naturally.
Start with just a few miles per week with the zero drop shoes and slowly add more milage as is comfortable. Just like with any other kind of training doing to much to fast will lead to injury. If you do not want to sacrifice mileage while you transition, supplement mileage with the shoes you are most accustom taking extra care to maintain a short stride and avoid heel striking.
Have you tried the Altra Adam or Eve? leave your comments below.