An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

A conversation with Altra

Just about an hour ago, I finished up a conversation with Brian Beckstead from Altra Footwear. Why would I be talking directly with a shoe company like Altra?

A little over a week ago, right after I had stopped by the Born to Run store and tried on the Altra Lone Peak, I sent Altra an email regarding
my impressions. They were very interested in talking to me directly, mostly wanting to ferret out whether the issues were of design, or maybe a manufacturing error.

Brian was in Boston, promoting the Altra line, and took time out of his schedule to call me.

So imagine a shoe company that wants to talk to you directly about the issues you have with a particular shoe model. Nike has never called me about any of their shoes. Nor Brooks, New Balance, or even Merrell (though I've had public conversations with Emily Snayd on the
Minimalist Runner forum). But Altra is that different, apparently, enough so that they wanted to really make sure they understood my issues.

We talked about the exact pressure point I was feeling in the shoe, theorized on why it was present, and in the end both determined that there really was no issue with the shoe itself so much as it just didn't work with my particular physical make-up, specifically the shape and prominance of my 5th metatarsal. Not a big deal -- not every shoe fits every one, and the Instinct works just fine for me. I had mentioned a comment made by another shopper in the store who said that the forefoot of the Lone Peak seemed very stiff. Brian said that the rock plate and midsole do seem stiff at first, but loosen up within about 25 miles, and the shoe flexes much like the Instinct after that point.

The conversation lasted maybe twenty minutes, and we talked about the shoe design, some of the changes coming up in that shoe (in particular the construction of the insole), and some coming models.

He said I'd be really excited about the shoe coming out next May. I asked, "You mean the Samson?"

He answered, "No, that's coming out in February. The one coming out in May, which is as-yet unnamed, will be essentially a pared down version of the Lone Peak." Hmm... A "more minimal" Lone Peak? Yes, I'm definitely interested.

If you haven't seen the literature that's stuffed in the boxes of Altra shoes, then you may not know that Altra is still planning on coming out with several more models. The Samson is much like the Adam, but with laces. They also have a "more minimal" version of the Instinct in the works.

So while the Lone Peak didn't work for me, as it seems I need a more pliant upper material along the outer edge, the company has one model, the Instinct, that works for me like it was custom made. And they have some exciting things in store.

Well, not IN the stores. Yet.

Stay tuned.


Andrew B said...

Being a dedicated Instinct runner, I wanted to let you know I have about 30 miles on my Lone Peaks right now and they have loosened up significantly. I have a 2E foot that protrudes at the 1st and 5th metatarsals, although I noticed the rub more on the inside of the 1st metatarsal in my initial wear testing as my foot sort of spills over the footbed in that area. I had similar worries to the point I only wore them around the house for the first week in case I decided to return them due to this issue. I finally bit the bullet and started trail running in them and I haven't had a single blister or hot spot so far. They have loosened up to the point where I have even started wearing them to drive home after a run, which is something I almost never do in any of my running shoes. I will be using them for my 14 mile trail race this weekend, which should provide some great data.

Aaron said...

I have the same pressure point issue with the shoes on my left foot. In the 5th metatarsal head area I have a tender spot under a thick callus. In both of the two pairs that I've used, size US 10.5 and 10, the edge of the foot bed puts uncomfortable pressure on it with the insoles out and minor discomfort with them in. By the way, I ended up sizing down from my usual 10.5.

Unknown said...

Ugh, I keep wanting to buy new shoes based on your reviews. Stop that!