Initial Impressions of the Altra Adam

Published by RunningPoint on Thursday, 03 Nov 2011 16:23 EDT

Altra Running was the first company that I contacted when we started RunningPoint. They were also the first company to show any significant interest in what we were about and what we were trying to do with the site. I like to attribute this to that fact that RunningPoint and Altra are very similar in approach and motivation, although we produce an extremely different product. We were motivated to start a website that was written from the perspective of two normal guys who love to run in and talk about minimal shoes, much like the guys at Altra who are runners that decided they could design a better shoe because they couldn't purchase anything that made them happy. We have followed the development of the Altra line and were overjoyed when the time finally came that they could send us a sample of their shoes to test and review. I received a pair of their “barefoot” shoe, the Adam, and Ronald got a pair of Altra's road shoe, the Instinct, which he will provide an initial impression of soon.


When I opened the box, I was greeted with an excellent graphic on the inside of the lid that outlines the basic tenets of the Altra Learn to Run Initiative. Altra immediately lets you know how they feel about proper running form, how their shoes should fit, and how in their opinion you should transition to running in minimal footwear. I am a huge fan of the way they have structured the Learn to Run Initiative and I find it to be one of the simplest and most straightforward presentations on minimal running that I have seen to date. I was really excited to see that they had continued with the simplistic trend in the presentation on the box lid.

Digging deeper into the box, I found a pamphlet that was more in depth than the box lid graphic and also provided a comparison chart for all the present models of Altra footwear (and a few future models that look pretty exciting). I also found the extra set of “Support” insoles which provide the runner with a more traditional type insole with a tiny bit of arch support and a heel cup. Altra has really taken the time to consider the runner that is transitioning to a minimal shoe, and the Support insole has plenty of padding and support to help ease the transition.

Initial Impressions

When I got the actual shoes out and unwrapped, I was immediately struck with how light they are and how the lack of weight does not at all promote a feeling of lack of quality. The fit and finish on the Adams is really impeccable and I was blown away from the first time I touched them. As I looked them over, I found that there was yet another insole that comes installed in the shoe. Altra calls this one the “Strengthen” insole and it is made of their proprietary material, A-bound. The Strengthen insole has no support structure to it whatsoever and is completely flat. The A-bound material provides an extra layer of protection, but is very non-compressive so it does not provide as much padding as the Support insole does.

I swiftly removed the Strengthen insole so I could get a feel for the shoe in its most minimal incarnation. I really like what I found under that insole; a soft, nicely textured footbed that feels like it is glued to the top of the rubber sole and a seamless interior that begged for me to put them on my bare feet, and that is exactly what I did. The upper of the Adams is very sock-like and snug fitting and honestly felt great on my feet even before I cinched down the velcro straps that cross the foot at 2 places, over the top of the foot where you would tie a traditional shoe and across the forefoot. After a few minutes of testing fit and adjusting straps, I decided that I like upper strap to be snug, but that I would leave the forefoot strap loose so that my foot could move around the toe box at will.

The Altra website says that the sole is 3.4 mm thick and I found that it does one of the best jobs (for any traditional shoe that I have tried on yet) of convincing me that it is in fact not there. I felt no compression in the sole at all while I walked around and the flexibility easily rivaled my 4mm Connect Invisible Shoes huaraches. The toe box is wonderfully roomy and my feet had all the room they needed to move completely naturally. I didn't feel hindered at all by the shoe having an upper as I do in pretty much all of my other traditional shoes.

First Run

I set out on a beautiful day to run my first 5k in the Adams and I realized right from the start that these shoes were truly minimal. The ground feel is simply excellent and again rivals my Invisible Shoes, which along with the Soft Star Moc3, I use as the gold standard for proprioperception. I also noticed that an issue that I have with a lot of shoes was missing, the feeling that there is a sacrifice in flexibility caused by the connection between the upper and the sole. The Adams just seemed to work in harmony with my body and I quickly forgot that I was even wearing shoes.

As I progressed through my run and started to hit the elevation changes, I found that the Adams were very stable on my feet and did not slide around at all. I have had a few issues with other shoes where my foot moves around in them excessively, but not with the Altras. As I said earlier, I even opted to effectively not use the forefoot straps at all and there were no movement issues. The only thing I could really focus on was how much I was enjoying running in the Adams and how surprised and impressed I was that I didn't miss the nice warm sun on the tops of my feet or the wonderfully stimulating textures of the sidewalk and asphalt on the soles of my bare feet. The Adams give me that same special feel that my Invisible Shoes do and for me that is saying a mouthful.


The Altra Adams were the first minimal shoe that I got really excited about as I watched the evolution of them from a concept to a finished product. I had a lot of time to contemplate what the shoe would be like and how they would feel. Altra did a great job of giving out just enough information that I had hyped the shoe up in my mind to be pretty epic, so my standards for review were exceptionally high in this case. I had studied the Adams, I had speculated about them, lusted over the pictures and the specs, and quite honestly just really really really wanted a pair. How do I feel about them now that I have a pair? Two words are all that I need: Blown away. So blown away in fact that I am doing 100% of my road based training for my January 2012 50k ultra trail run in the Adams and I may even give them a test on the trails. I have about 50 miles on them already and I love them a little bit more with every run.

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