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Altra The One Guest Review

Altra The One GreenEditor’s Note: Guest reviewer Christian Messerschmidt is a 38 year-old runner from Germany and has lived in the Carolinas for ten years. He’s been running for 20 years and switched from heavy heel-striking to a more graceful stride 2 years ago- just for fun. After a 10 year work and family related competition hiatus, he has started preparing for races up to the marathon at the beginning of the year and is still trying to get close to his personal bests established in his 20s. His dream is to finish a Western States 100 with a silver belt buckle.

As a recent convert to Vibram Five Fingers and numerous racing flats (it’s been two years since I ditched my traditional stability shoes), I had been longing for just “a little more shoe” between me and the road. It has been ridiculously wet all summer in the Carolinas and so I have had to shift many runs back to the pavement owing to the trail conditions – hence, I wanted to treat myself to a bit more cushioning in a zero-drop shoe.

I chose the Altra “The One,” a newly released neutral performance trainer by the strong new contender to “The Big Seven” shoe companies.

Altra markets this shoe as being able to “handle any run on any occasion,” from track repeats to the marathon to a leisurely recovery run.

Sizing and first impressions

I had some initial issues with sizing – most of my running shoes are 12.5 US, yet this one felt a bit short on the 3 little toes in this size and overly roomy in a size 13 US. I recommend you research the fit for yourself in Shoefitr if you mail order this shoe, it can fit slightly tricky. Also, it tends to fit somewhat smaller than the “Instinct”. I settled for the 12.5 as the toe box was roomy enough for me and I felt more comfortable being “in touch” with the shoe. Altra customer service was courteous and quick in handling the exchange and did not charge for shipping. (Editor’s note from Pete: I just purchased The One myself and opted to go a half size up from what I wear in the Instinct 1.5)

Altra The One Top

The first no-sock run in the Altra in the rain confirmed what we already knew from Kermit The Frog: “It’s not easy being green”- I emerged from the shoes with bright green feet- the color washed off easily enough and did not irritate my skin, so this was really more of an amusement. Indeed, the shoes broke in very easily, I ended up running a 10K race in “The One” after an easy initial 3 mile recovery session. I appreciated the extra cushioning on the hilly road course (running downhill was pain-free when compared to my Vibrams), but was less impressed by how heavily soaked the shoes got in the pouring rain. The quick dry mesh on the upper and drainage holes in the soles were heavily challenged by these conditions.


I am very impressed by how Altra manages to give the runner a roomy feel in the forefoot without compromising control and while allowing anchoring of the big toe. I attribute this both to the comparatively low toebox and the “contour footbed” insole that molds to your toes and provides good grounding.

Altra The One Side

The heel fit is medium wide and the upper is not too bulky – the asymmetrical lacing gives you plenty of options for a more personal fit. The laces themselves are freakishly long, so I just cut and burnished the ends to prevent the threads from coming apart.

The mesh upper breathes well and feels durable. After 2 months and 150 miles in the shoes, there is no sign of tearing or excessive stretching of the material. Running without socks has given me no blisters or hot spots.

Similarly, while the blown rubber sole is starting to show a wear pattern (see below), I am confident that I will get at least 500 miles out of this pair. The sole provides decent traction even on wet roads and handles gravel and non-technical trails very well. Overall, I am very impressed with the build quality of this shoe – great workmanship and all materials used seem to be of a superior grade with an organic feel to them.


The shoes weigh in at around 8.5 ounces for my size and the stack height of 18mm provides a sound compromise in terms of ground feel, flexibility and cushioning.


I am very happy that I’ve been able to add a new shoe to my rotation for long runs and easy recovery runs. While it is not “The One” for me as I will continue to race in the likes of the New Balance Minimus Zeros (MR00) and do all my track work in Vibrams, this green performance shoe has filled an important void as a comfortable and reliable road trainer and I give kudos to Altra for real innovation and added value in today’s running shoe market.

The Altra The One is available for purchase at Running Warehouse, Zappos, and (20% off right now at Amazon with code NEWFALL2). Altra can also be shipped to locations outside the US if purchased from Optimal Run or Take it On the Run.

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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. Fred Wagner says:

    Took two weeks for my green toes to go away after a hot, sweaty long Austin, Tx run. Got some funny looks at the pool.

  2. Brian Hazard says:

    The One has been my go-to shoe since March. I wear a 9.5 in it and the Lone Peak 1.5, versus a 10 in the Instinct 1.5 and Torin.

    Just wanted to share a word of warning about trying to get 500 miles from the shoe. In my pre-minimalist days, I’d always swap out my Brooks Adrenaline GTS at about 375 miles. I’d start to get achy, I’d buy new shoes, and the ache would go away.

    In this case, I figured there’s so little foam, and the Abound material is supposed to last longer, I could push it farther. In fact, I tweeted @AltraZeroDrop and they said if I was still getting traction, it was fine.

    Turns out it wasn’t, for me anyway. After putting 450 miles on the shoes, I’ve been away from running for nearly three weeks now with a case of peroneal tendinitis. I think it’s because the rubber has worn away in the outer back of the shoe (see photo). I land midfoot, then drop back to my heel. Presumably because of the worn away rubber, I’m dropping back and out, putting extra stress my peroneals. That’s my theory anyway. To be fair, it is just one pair of shoes in my rotation, but it gets more than half my weekly 50-ish miles, and it’s the only pair with over 150 miles on it.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love them! I tried on the Newton MV3 (pushes my big toe over) and the 3-SUM (upper too restrictive, lacing too finicky) to see if they’d work better, but The One is just perfect, with just the right amount of cushion – despite the fact that all my socks are green.

    This time I’ll be extra cautious, and won’t go past 400 miles.

    • Looks like you’ve worn away the inner, not outer back part of the shoe.

    • Robert Osfield says:

      Hi Brian,

      Wear on outsoles tends to be due to friction rather than loading, so where you see wear is where you are likely to be landing with the foot still moving forward slightly. So rather than mid-foot landing all the time I think it’s likely you are landing with a very mild heel strike at least some of the time, with the foot almost flat to the ground but still moving forward on landing. It’s the moving forward part that will be doing all the wear as you’ll be skidding just a little bit on each landing (almost all of us do it.)

      If you can tweak your gate so you foot is nearer tp stationary relative to the ground then you should be able to reduce the wear. I have found running without socks helped me get a better appreciation of horizontal speed of my feet on landing so would recommend going sockless when you want to work on your form.

      On the injury front, it could well be combination of wear on the outsole, midsole and insole that is resulting in a shoe that loads your foot differently during stance. It could be compression of the foam elsewhere in the shoe is responsible, or perhaps it’s nothing to do with the shoe at all…

      If it is the shoe causing the injury then it’s certainly time to swap them out.

      • Pete Larson says:

        I would agree here, wear like that is due to friction and is most likely caused by scuffing the heel first on landing. My shoes tend to wear similarly. I typically make initial contact on the heel, but load mostly through the mid and forefoot, or so the fancy treadmill at Saucony told me :)
        Sent from my iPad

      • Brian Hazard says:

        Thanks Robert and Pete! That makes a lot of sense.

        I feel like I land midfoot, but I know a high percentage of self-reported midfoot strikers are in fact heel strikers, so I don’t put much faith in my perceptions. One quick video I did showed a consistent midfoot landing, but that was in Vapor Gloves, which would be much less forgiving of a heel strike.

        That said, the rubber under the metatarsal heads is also worn away on my old The One’s, versus the new pair I just got (see pic – left=new, right=old). I’ve been very conscious of my gait the past few months, and have certainly been “mixing things up” a bit!

        • Robert Osfield says:

          The wear under your matarsal heads is likely due to bend in the shoe nearing toe off. As the heel rises off the ground while the toes are still firmly placed on the ground the sole close to the pivot point gets stretched and part of it actually gets pulled backwards, it’s this small movement under load that wears the sole at the pivot point.

          You can also get more general wear at the forefoot on toe itself, especially if you are rotating your foot on toe.

          In each of these instances it’s late stance that the wear occurs, rather than landing.

          If you were to land completely on your forefoot then you could get wear due to friction on landing, but even forefoot runners one would expect to see this wear appear on the outside/forefoot.

          To understand how this all works play with a shoe on table and bend the shoe to recreate the motion in late stance as the heel comes off the ground.

  3. packrats999 says:

    If the picture of the outsoles is from 150 miles, then that’s pretty significant wear, especially on the right foot shoe.

  4. It seems that according to some reviews in Altra website, the One has sizing issues:

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