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Dirty Runner: Altra Torin Shoe Review

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.

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Recent Posts By Category: Running Shoe Reviews | Running Gear Reviews | Running Science
About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. 28mm stack height, so its basically as high as a Kinvara?

    • Kinvara is 19/23mm, so not even close.

      • BryanEW710 says:

        Does kind of depend on who you’re asking. According to Running Warehouse, the Torin is 20/20, while the Kinvara is 19/23. The Asics Gel-Nimbus, for comparison is 23/32.

        • According to the review and Altra’s website, it is 28. If the reviewer is comparing them to Hokas, I’m guessing RW is the typo.

          • BryanEW710 says:

            RW and Altra measure the heights differently. It’s not a typo. I purposely posted measurements for the Kinvara, Torin, and Nimbus from the same source for comparisons.

            Point is, the Torin may be highly stacked for a minimal shoe, but it’s still nowhere near the height of a traditional cushioned shoe.

          • Pete Larson says:

            Time to get my calipers out for confirmation…

  2. Paul Parker says:

    If you can push them along to come up with a trail version of the Torins, it would be much appreciated. I’ve already pleaded with them multiple times.

    The Torin has now replaced my Kinvaras as my go to road shoe. But like you, I need a trail version and I am set!

  3. BryanEW710 says:

    What blows my mind is that at the quoted 20mm heel/forefoot that Running Warehouse posts, it’s STILL less than most traditional “high cushion” shoes!

  4. wow, it is then a very high stack…

  5. RW Runner says:

    Altra is not entirely consistent with how it measures stack heights for its models. For the Torin, the 28mm height they list includes both the Support Insole and Strengthening Insole that comes with the shoe. These add up to 8mm. Our 20mm measurement, as it is with all shoes, is with all insoles/sockliners removed. Hope that helps clear up the confusion!

  6. The last looks different, wider in the mid-section than the Instinct; could you post a picture side-by-side of both soles? Or perhaps just measure them somehow?


  7. Ive been running in Hokas for a while. I run ultras and am looking for something comparable in terms of cushion and drop. How does the Torin compare to the Kinvara or Virrata? Also, how does the Torin compare to the Instinct 1.5? Any insight is appreciated.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Much more cushion, and softer than the Instinct. More cushion also than the Kinvara/Virrata I think, and has the really wide forefoot whereas those two have a more tapered toebox. I’ve only run once in the Hoka, but it’s in a different league than all of the other shoes mentioned, but among the alternatives the Torin is probably closest.

      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
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      • Thanks for the quick reply. I see the Kinvara EVERYWHERE. Is it really that nice? Does it hold up to mileage? I’m just really hesitant to change because the Hokas hold up so well for a ton of mileage and provide good cush for a daily trainer. But they are sooo expensive.

  8. Steve Kooyman says:

    Just bought some Torins after returning a pair of The Ones that ran small. Great feel… almost like my Merrill MixMasters with a little more plushness when you get running. Interesting to note that in the 12.5 Men’s size, Altra has added the missing 7th eyelet (though it’s a tiny pinhole that will remain closed if you never use it). Seems the company does respond to feedback, so maybe a trail Torin will appear!

  9. Michael Busch says:

    I just received a pair of Instinct 1.5’s, and Torins. The Instinct’s seem to fit my foot perfectly, but the Torins feel snug, especially on the inside of the foot by the ball of the foot behind the big toe. Does this seem consistent with other peoples experience? The article says to size down in the Torin from the Instinct, but I was wondering if I don’t need to size up. Both are my normal size of 9.5. Thanks!

  10. Robert Day says:

    I like the idea of this shoe but am a bit worried about a zero drop shoe . My doctor thinks I got a stress fracture from running on a shoe with a lower drop than I had been used to . I’m looking for something like this to accommodate a large bunion on one foot . Does such a shoe exist ? Does this company carry one that is not a zero drop but has the attributes of a roomy toe area and a snug heel ?

  11. David Burns says:

    Pete, I been thinking of trying these, but have heard the heal collar is loose. I hate a loose heal, did you find it loose

    • To be honest I never ran much in them. Had two guest reviews so didn’t have a pressing need to put miles on them myself. That being said, they are my wife’s favorite shoe these days :)

  12. Bill Black says:

    Have you had a chance to review the Torin 1.5’s? I picked up a pair of Torin’s and Instinct 2s in the same size, and although the Instinct is supposed to be wider, I too found the fit of the Torin to be better — might try a half size up in the Instinct? My forefoot is pretty wide, putting me in 2Es for most models (which greatly limits me). Thanks!

  13. Steve Smith says:

    Hi, Just bought a pair of the Torins and as i am new to minimal running,i have read a lot about going slowly in them to change my gait. My question is if i run a couple of kms 2-3 times a week do i put my normal shoes on for the rest of the run? i think that would defeat the purpose so for fitness while i am building up the kms is it best to go stationary bike?
    Regards Steve

    • You could just use the new shoes on a short run or two the first few weeks then use your other shoes on your longer run days. It’s ok to mix things up. Torins have a lot of cushion, but since they are zero drop you might experience some calf soreness.

  14. Peter, how do these compare with the Brooks Pure Flow (3)? I know the Brooks is a 4mm drop and certainly a more slim vice roomy toebox shoe like the Torin. That said, any thoughts. I am starting to switch from traditional shoes (Saucony Ride 7, NB890 v3) to something a bit better/appropriate for an efficient forefoot/midfoot strike. I have worn out both my traditional shoes – the forefoot foam is deeply divoted/compressed after 285ish miles but the shoes have tons of tread left and both look practically new. I am realizing that all the tradionals heel cushioning isn’t that important and it may me working against me. I still like a softer shoe in the forefoot, especially on those longer 13+ runs. I am just curious as to your thoughts on these shoes comparatively, oh and I just slightly under pronate.

    • Unfortunately this review was written by my buddy Nate – I never ran in the Torin. My guess is that the Torin would be a bit more cushioned, but if you are transitioning downward the Flow might be a better first step to allow your calves to adapt to the lower drop.

  15. Curious if anyone has compared this to the Virrata? Looking for a suitable replacement…want zero drop but cushioned and this seems to be the one based on the review. Using Merrell Bare Access 4’s at the moment and not very happy with them compared to the Virrata…too stiff, not enough cushioning for my taste.

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