In 2011 I decided to tackle six 100 mile races in a single year. One of the biggest sources of stress leading up to the first race was deciding which shoes to wear. I had recently discovered Altra, and had fallen in love with the Altra Instinct. After completing the Western States 100 in the Instincts I was contemplating using Hokas for the next race, the Vermont 100. The race was only three weeks after WS and it consists of mostly hard packed dirt roads. I wanted the extra cushioning of the Hokas, but really wasn’t a fan of the Hoka uppers and was concerned with getting blisters.
|My Hoka/Altra mutant hybrids|
What I wanted was an Altra shoe with a Hoka sole. Since that didn’t exist, I built it. It wasn’t easy – I took a pair of Hoka Mafates (I hated the upper of that shoe), separated the upper from the sole with a band saw, and glued the Hoka sole onto a pair of Instincts. I called it the “Altrahoka”.
|Getting my hybrid shoe induced blisters lanced at mile 70|
Unfortunately, I didn’t get it quite perfect and ended up getting pretty severe blisters during the race (you can read my 2011 VT100 race report here). After 70 miles I changed back into a pair of standard Altras and finished the race in a little bit over 20 hours.
I know that Brian from Altra saw my post and the pictures of my hybrid creation, and was surprised last November when Altra posted pictures of a new maximum cushioning shoe called the Torin. Now I’m not going to say that I was the catalyst for that shoe, but it was nice to see that I wasn’t the only person who wanted a shoe that was both flat and highly cushioned.
As soon as the pictures of the Altra Torin started showing up on the internet, it seemed like every question related to how it compared to the Hokas. In my opinion, it doesn’t. And that’s not a bad thing. Hokas are low drop, maximum cushioned (ie: squishy) running shoes (and I have run a lot of miles in various Hokas – I even ranked the Hoka Bondi Speed as my top trail shoe of 2012). The Torin fits into its own category, and it’s a category that I’ve been waiting for somebody to fill for a long time. The Torin is a zero drop, well cushioned running shoe with a 28mm stack height. And for me, it’s a home run!
|A shoe that is shaped like your foot? What a concept!|
Altra shoes are known for two specific things. 1. They are zero drop, meaning that the forefoot and the heel are the same height. 2. They have a foot shaped last with tons of room to splay your toes. Although I read that the Torin is built on a new last, those characteristics are still present in the shoe. I actually think that it’s the best fitting shoe that Altra currently makes. The fit is similar to the Instinct, but perhaps a tiny, tiny bit more tapered in the toebox. The sizing fits about 1/2 size smaller than the original Instincts. I wear a 11 in the Instinct, and a 10.5 in the Torins fits me perfectly.
Altra has claimed a weight of 8.6oz (presumably in men’s size 9). My size 10.5s weigh in at exactly 10oz. I find that completely acceptable for a long distance shoe. For you folks still looking for Hoka comparisons, I just took a brand new Hoka Bondi Speed 2 out of the box and it weighed in at 12.5oz.
|6 lace eyelets|
The Torin isn’t terribly flexible, but it doesn’t run like a stiff shoe. It has a fairly distinct pivot or hinge point when you try to flex the sole. There have been some complaints about heel slippage from early users, possibly relating to a missing eyelet near the ankle, but I haven’t found heel slippage to be severe or even bothersome. It looks like the early models had 7 lace eyelets, but the production ones have 6. I have found that the more I run in them, the more flexible they are getting. I would describe the level of cushioning to be just like a traditional stability shoe with a medium level of firmness. It is smack dab in the middle between something like the instinct and the Hoka Bondi.
The tread pattern on the Torin is very minimal, and I have not yet had a chance to really test the traction. I have been running purely on roads and the treadmill in these shoes. My longest run so far has been a quickly paced 17 miler, and I was extremely pleased with how comfy they were.
Although Altra was going to send me a pair to review at no charge, I was so excited that I decided to purchase this pair as soon as they came out (i.e., this was a personal purchase and not a media sample). The suggested retail price for the Altra Torin is $115, and it is available for sale at Running Warehouse.
I highly recommend this shoe to anybody who is looking for a low/zero drop shoe and wants more cushioning than most other flat shoes on the market currently offer.
Now…if we can just convince them to build a grippy off-road version…
Runblogger Note: This is the second review of the Torin published on Runblogger, for another take read this Torin review by John Shepard.
|Nate Sanel is an ultrarunner and author of the Dirty Runner column on Runblogger. You can find more of Nate’s writing on his personal blog, Biker Nate, or follow him on Twitter.|