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Altra Torin: Guest Review by John Shepard

Altra TorinJohn Shepard (@runsheprun on Twitter) and I are kindred spirits in a way. We both are fathers of three kids (he writes about his on the Suburban Father Alliance blog), we both fell in love with running and footwear, and shoes have become a second career of sorts for both of us. For me it was starting this blog and writing about running shoes, for John it was selling them out of his house and car (very much like the early pioneers of Nike!).

Here’s how John describes his business, which is called Take it on the Run:

“Take it on the Run started with a love of running and an annoyance of not being able to find great shoes in my home town. Sure I could go to the local stores, get any major running brand I wanted, have someone fit me improperly, and leave with lighter pockets. But I didn’t want that. I wanted to try different brands that weren’t so readily available in my area.

So if you have come here looking for the latest and greatest from the big running giants, sorry. I can’t help you. If you did come here because you believe in the brands I sell, lets make a deal…”

John is a big fan of the startup shoe company Altra, and as a vendor he gets advance pairs to try out prior to deciding on whether to sell the shoes. He indicated to me in December that he had a pair of the new Altra Torins, and I asked if he’d be willing to write a review for me. That review follows:


Altra Torin Review by John Shepard

As a disclaimer for this review, I own a running “store” that sells Altras. However, I will not let that skew my review of the Torin. I run primarily in the Altra Instinct 1.5s & Altra Superiors.

In the last year and a half, I had the good fortune to run in just about every type of Altra shoe that they made. Altra came on the scene almost 2 years ago with the simple Instinct and have built a pretty significant following in that short period of time. They have since released about 6 other models, with a couple more coming out in the Spring of 2013. Exciting stuff!

The Altra Torin is a newly released model that is described as follows in the Altra Catalog:

“Now, you never have to give up cushion for good form. Altra Footwear added more cushioning to the Zero Drop™, foot-shaped shoe. With a 15 mm, 2-layer A-Bound™ midsole, The Torin™ shoe provides maximum foot relaxation, stabilization and power. Run in it, work out in it – you’ll feel the difference.”

Below is the catalog page for the Torin:

Torin Catalog Page

Construction

When they arrived in the mail I was pretty impressed with the construction of the shoe. I was glad to see that the upper was NOT of the same style as that on the Instinct 1.5’s – it was just 1 layer of mesh like previous Altra models (a few customers and myself have experienced ripping of the upper in the 1.5’s). However, what sets these shoes apart from all previous models is the sole. It measures at 28mm (total stack height) and the midsole is made from their A-Bound™ EVA material. It’s thick when compared with their other models (Instinct = 22mm stack, Sampson/Adam = 10mm stack). I could not find the specs on the outsole – it seems to be a bit thicker than the Instinct 1.5 outsole, but is made of the same blown rubber compound. Although the overall thickness of the sole is a major departure from other models, Altra did a really good job maintaining a foot shaped design with the characteristic enormous Altra toe-box that everyone loves.

Altra Torin sideAltra Torin top

The Fit

Now that I’ve obliged with the technical specs, I’ll get into the feel of the shoe and how it performed. As mentioned above, the toe-box is spacious and may even be just a smidge larger than that of the 1.5’s. The shoes are a bit stiff compared to other models. This is to be expected with the extra layers of cushion they’ve added. As such, they feel like more of a stability shoe, but with a wee bit of squish on the inside. Not enough to make them feel too soft, but enough to provide a substantial difference from other models. If you are a proponent of so called “ground feel,” the Torin probably isn’t the shoe for you.

Altra Torin LateralThere was one issue that I noticed right off the bat with these shoes: the lacing.  I feel like an eyelet was missed towards the top of the shoe. One of Altra’s selling points for previous models was their “Heel Claw,” but that seems to have been omitted from these. As a result, during my first run in them with standard lacing techniques I experienced a lot of heel slippage. I have since re-laced the shoes to provide more grip up around the ankle, but as mentioned, I’d really like to see another eyelet up top to help with this. I feel with the way they are now, the knot goes across more of the top of my foot than I’d prefer.

My second run in the Torins was on a pretty technical trail on the outskirts of St. Louis. The trail hits just about every type of terrain that you can imagine (single track, soft river beds, through a field, and up some pretty crazy Billy Goat terrain). All in all about 7 miles. The shoes did well for most of the run, but I did have to stop and re-jigger the lacing 3 or 4 times (I can chalk that up to me trying out a new lacing pattern). Towards the end of the run, I did roll my ankle in the shoes twice. I think this could be equal parts user-error and shoe-error. I’m not used to being this high off the ground so it’s very easy to conclude that I just wasn’t used to the height. However I did notice that while Altra went up with the shoe, they didn’t go out at the bottom. I think a bit of a wider base may help to prevent this.

My final run (and this could have been a dumb mistake) was a 16 miler, mostly on pavement. This distance is farther than I have ever gone before. With my previous long runs I’ve noticed that foot fatigue has given me the most trouble, but I didn’t experience as much fatigue with these shoes. I had no hot spots, no weird rubbing, or blisters. They performed exceptionally on this run.

Altra Torin Lat2Closing Points

· Zero Drop awesomeness with lots of cushion

· Worked well on pavement both long and short

· Take it easy on technical trails

· Altra continues to do better with their design

· Lacing was an issue for me

· Heel slippage with standard lacing

· Would prefer a bit wider base

To learn more about John’s approach to selling shoes, or to buy a pair from him, visit Take it on the Run (disclosure: I do not have an affiliate relationship with John, just helping out a friend and fellow shoe junkie!).

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Dave Follansbee says:

    I’m enjoying the Torins although my longest run has only been 6 miles on road. The heel slippage is annoying but after a little while I didn’t notice it anymore.

  2. Chris Puente says:

    So what kind of lacing technique were you using to prevent heel slippage?

  3. Robert Osfield says:

    I believe the problems with the heal slippage isn’t just related to the lack of eyelets, but is fundamental problem with having a thick sole at the forefoot – it requires far more bending moment to get it to flex during toe off than a shoe that has a thin sole at the forefoot. The more bending moment required to flex the shoe at toe off the greater the force through the laces and also the greater the pressure on the top of the foot.

    Top spring/sole rocker can help reduce the amount of forefoot flex required, and notably the Torin has very flat underside, little ro rocker or top spring. Normally one sees a toe spring/sole rocker on thick sole shoes to compensate for the lack of flexibility.

    Adding an extra eyelet would allow one to apply more bending moment through the shoe at toe off but it’ll also put more pressure on the top of the foot. A few years back I tied my laces too tight on a pair of Nike Pegasus and end up with tendinitis on the top of my foot so this issue isn’t necessarily a minor one.

    Having loosing lacing and heel slippage on each toe off isn’t ideal either – I’ve found in shoes that have this problem my Achilles gets irritated and becomes sore.

    Forefoot flexibility is an important aspect to shoe design, from the looks of it the Torin seriously fails in this respect, and doesn’t even try to compensate for it by use of toe spring/rocker, or any sole groves at the metatarsal heads that might enable better flexibility. The lack of the extra eyelet is the least of it’s problems.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Excellent point – lack of flex combined with a missing eyelet could make for a double whammy for heel slippage. The Hokas for example have that rocker probably for this very reason, but they also have a rather soft sole which may help. If a sole is both thick and stiff, a toe spring might be very much needed to prevent this.
      Sent from my iPad

      • Robert Osfield says:

        Personally I find toe spring/rocker a poor solution as they both have knock on effects, deep groves in the outer and mid sole would be my preferred solution such the sole of the Nike Free and clones.

        However, I can’t help feel that thick soled shoes are really dumb idea from several perspectives, they cause all manner of problems for shoe design let alone the impact on the bio-mechanics of the wearer.

        I am rather perplexed by Altra, they seem to get the fact that we need a proper anatomical last and that zero drop is desirable but epically fail in so many other regards to what makes a good running shoe.

    • I added the Nathan bunjee laces to this shoe and now they’re great. The laces as delivered from Altra were way too short and thin. I tie the bunjee laces with a loop through the extra eyelet and I feel no heel slippage. They also take a lot of pressure off of the top of the foot while maintaining an “attached” feel. 3rd model of Altra’s for me and I’m still wearing all 3.

  4. John Shepard says:

    Thanks for letting me post here Pete… I was in touch with Altra as well and I’m still not 100% sure if the 6 eyelet or 7 eyelet is “correct”. I’ve had a client mention to me (before this was posted) that he would’ve like another eyelet and sure enough he has a 6 eyelet. Would like to see if anyone out there ends up with one of the magical 7 eyelet shoes and see if the heel slippage is an issue.

  5. About the eyelets – the picture of Torin at Running Warehouse shows one more eyelet than your shoes have: http://www.runningwarehouse.co… But again their blue version seems to have the same number of eyelets as yours! Same with the women’s Torin: one colorway differs from the other in the amount of eyelets.

  6. .

  7. Jeff Giedt says:

    I’ve got over 60 miles in this shoe so far and fully agree with the heel lift/lacing issue (as previously mentioned in a comment on your 2013 shoe review). My first few runs were in sub-zero weather so the sole was both new and stiffer than usual. Heel lift was obvious. It has softened up since and I’ve been running in some 45° weather too. Things are much better now, but if you take the fewer eyelets, the small, round laces, the thick, stiffer sole all together, it will be a problem for some runners. Thankfully I know some good knots and lacing techniques, but those who don’t (and you can see dozens at any race/group run) will not like this shoe.

    I’ve had three mid-distance runs up to 16 miles in them and appreciate the cush. It will be nice to have when I get into some long runs. All my miles have been on the road. I find it surprising that John even bothered to take this shoe onto the trails. I wouldn’t even cross my mind to do that, especially when you consider how smooth the outsole is. There isn’t even a thought of a lug there.

    All-in-all, I’m pleased with this shoe, but acknowledge there is room for improvement. I will certainly try the Instincts next time instead.

  8. MilerHighClub says:

    Great review and intriguing stuff! There’s a lot about these being aimed at ultra runners (Hoka competitors) but I wonder how appropriate they’d be on technical terrain, given the lack of aggressive lugs (or any really). The thicker midsole will provide more protection from rocks, roots, etc., but they don’t strike me as something I’d want to do a ton of technical trail running in, as almost no high stack-height shoe feels particularly stable to me on technical trails.

    • Used them on a -not very technical- ultra-trail
      (I know it’s actually a road shoe, but the sole is so cushy that I wanted to give it a try).

      The outline of the sole under the heel is quite narrow (thus affecting the lateral stability), and I think it could be a reason why I had strong underfoot pain during the race (and a couple of weeks after the race).

      But on the other hand no blister, no pain in the knees and great confort for the toes (issues I usually have with more “conventional” shoes on such distances).

      Next time for this race I plan to use the Altra Olympus or the LonePeak 2.

  9. Any idea how they compare to Hoka One One’s?

  10. I know I’m a year late on this, but I have in front of me three sizes of the women’s Torin, and all three have 7 eyelets.

  11. A problem with my Torin’s coming untied. During a 4 mile run in had to stop 7 times to retie!

Trackbacks

  1. […] and Instinct both have 7) which adds to the difficulty of securing your heel, as noted by John Shepard in his Torin review on Runblogger.com. I’ll address the practical application of this missing eyelet, as well as some other issues […]

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