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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Altra Adam Review - Dec. 18th, great Saturday run

Altra - The Adam

I was lucky enough to receive a test pair of Altra’s Adam shoe. After walking around in them for a few days, I took them out for a 40 minute test run today (Saturday). Saturday is my easy run day which for me means I try to run 2:00-2:30 minutes per mile slower than my hard day workouts (I alternate between easy and hard days). I ended up running a 7:45 pace for 40 minutes in the Adam’s which I’m actually not that happy about as that’s a fit faster than I prefer as I like to save my legs for my long tempo run tomorrow which should be about 8 miles on hilly terrain, around a 6:30 pace. However, this was an indication of how easy it was to run in the Adam’s.

My primary shoe is the Terra Plana Evo and what I love about the Evo is that it does not do much as it just protects the foot and does not interfere with the natural functioning of the foot. Well, the Adam is on equal ground (literally) with the Evo. The Adam is extremely comfortable and there’s no problem maintaining my natural forefoot/mid-foot landing (I don’t heel strike but I’m pretty sure it would hurt to heel strike in the Adam’s).

For those that love the KSO (like me) the Adam is an improvement on the KSO. Why do I say this? Well, first I’m not a fan of the toe design of the KSO and the Adam provides a traditional toe box but it’s a very wide toe box which allows your toes to spread. This also relates to performance because you can run easier and faster when your toes are engaged and the Adam allows for such engagement (it’s easier to push off at the toes when the toes are not restricted as they are in all traditional running footwear).

The Adam - Design & Performance

The Adam has a nice trail type design and I would compare it to a Vibram in terms of the overall look and feel. The Adam weighs in at about 5 oz., for a men’s size 11.5. It has 2-strap system which is a great design feature as you can adjust the fit at the toe box level as well as the top (as a side note, my wife thinks they look very cool, for what it’s worth, and she wants a pair just based on the look and design).

It was easy to run pretty fast in the Adam as it allows you to run pretty effortlessly. I ran 20 minutes on hard surface (asphalt and concrete) and 20 minutes on hard packed dirt trails and roads, and the Adam performed great on both surfaces. I did a few surges and took my pace down to sub 6:00 pace and they felt great but I backed off as today was an easy day run (those are my paces for tomorrow). However, as for the real tough stuff like mountain terrain with sharp rocks, I don’t think the Adam (nor the KSO or Evo) would provide sufficient protection but the Adam is not marketed as a trail shoe necessarily (on easy/medium trails, the Adam would perform great).

The Adam features a 3 mm rubber bottom, which is similar to the KSO. You are provided with two insole options. One is a flat 3mm insole and the other is a thicker 5mm insole for those that prefer more cushion and slight arch support. I do not like arch support (or any other type of support), so I opted for the 3mm insole.

Of course, one of the key questions many will want to know is “How is the ground feel?” Well, at a high level, it’s very good. To dig deeper, you have to analyze it with and without the insole options. Without the insole, the Adam has a 3mm rubber bottom and feels very much like the Vibram KSO. With the 3mm insole option, the Adam feels like the Evo. With the 5mm insole, there’s no direct comparison but it has slightly less ground feel than the KSO (although I’ve never worn Bikila’s, I suspect it is similar to the Bikila).

The Adam - Fit

The Adam provides a comfortable fit with the 2-strap system. There are no laces as this is a strap design shoe like the Vibram’s (except the Speed’s). The toe box is the widest of any toe box I’ve experienced and Altra should be absolutely applauded for that design feature. Finally, a running shoe that isn’t too narrow, especially for those runners’ with wider feet. Additionally, it allows the entire forefoot and toes to spread and maneuver in their natural manner. I have to admit, the toe box is so wide that it took me a while to adjust but I have regular medium feet.

The wider toe box is an interesting feature for someone like me and I’ll need to log many more miles before I can provide valuable comments on that design feature. I prefer a slightly tighter feel around the foot as I tend to prefer shoes that fit like a durable slipper; hence the reason the Evo is my primary running shoe.

As for the size, I opted for the men’s 11.5 although I wear a size 11 in the Evo and KSO. However, although I rarely run in traditional running shoes anymore, for reference, I wear a size 11.5 in Nike XC’s, Katana’s, Inov-8 F-Lite 195’s, and MWU3’s. However, the 11.5 in the Adam fit just fine.

I’m use to feeling the sides of the toe box area and the Adam gives you plenty of room such that it didn’t feel as snug as the Evo, for example. This will come down to individual preference but the wide toe box is awesome. I probably could wear a size 11 in the Adam but I would stay with the 11.5 because my big toe had just enough room to move around (I’m always fearful of jamming my toes so I opt for more room). Furthermore, I lined up my Evo’s and Adam’s side-by-side and my size 11 Evo’s and 11.5 Adam’s were identical in size, with the only difference being that the Adam feels roomier because of the wide toe box.

The Adam - Summary

First, let me say that I will provide a follow-up review of the Adam after about 50-75 miles as that will give me a much better feel for the Adam. However, at this point, for the most part, I will put the Adam on the same level with the Evo. I will put the Adam ahead of the Vibram KSO because of the wide toe box and the fact that with a traditional toe box, your toes can stay warmer as they generate heat off one another and, additionally, you could even add toe warmers on those exceptionally cold days.

I would absolutely recommend the Adam at this point. Personally, I put the Adam right there with the Evo although I would give a “very” slight advantage to the Evo because of my personal preference of a running shoe that fits a big more snug. I also will admit that from an aesthetic standpoint, I prefer sleek racing shoe designs like the Evo and Mizuno Wave Universe 3, however that’s an individual preference of mine.

I applaud Altra as this is a great running shoe and I’m sure they will only continue to improve on the design. I haven’t tried Altra’s Instinct model which is a more traditional “zero drop” running shoe because it has a bit too much cushion for me (for the Instinct, I would recommend that Altra reduce the cushion by 50-60% so that it is similar to Inov-8’s F-Lite 195 model). Personally I believe “less is more,” so depending on the surface, I want the minimal amount of shoe that will allow me to run on the selected terrain.

Unless something changes as I put more miles on the Adam, I will add the Adam to my rotation (currently, I only run barefoot and in Evo’s). Great job Altra!!!



  1. I'm excited to see how these shoes perform over time. Provided they can keep the price down to a reasonable amount, the Adam's and Eve's will be a great choice for people who want a reliable minimal shoe without spending out the nose.

  2. Excellent review Harry. I want a pair. Can't wait for spring and all the new minimalist shoes--Altra, Minimus, Merrell,'s a great time to be barefoot or minimalist!


  3. Good review Harry. I have been wearing mine around the house for the past couple of days, and plan on getting them out tomorrow. So far, based in my initial impressions, I would rate the fit as better than the Vivobarefoot for my wide feet. I absolutely love the toebox. Finally a shoe manufacturer that is getting things right!

  4. Awesome review Harry - look forward to trying these!

  5. Agreed. The toe box in the Adam is amazing and for anyone with a wide foot, they are going to love them. I think Altra has the opportunity to grab a valuable niche market as I suspect there are a good group of niche buyers that have been waiting a long time for a shoe with a wide toe box and designed in accordance with the human foot.

  6. There's no such a thing you've referred to as KSO size 11. Could you be more specific? What is your foot length or otherwise the Vibram-specific size of your KSOs (and the color of those KSOs)?

  7. Oooh don't push off at the toes in minimalist shoes, perfect set up for a stress fracture! Have to *lift* the foot. It's much easier then pushing off :) (try doing it barefoot, doesn't feel very good) - if it doesn't feel good with no shoes on, shouldn't do it WITH shoes on!


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