As well as the much-advertised baby, I also got a brand new pair of Altra’s One 2.5 for Christmas: Altra’s intention with this shoe is for it to be the one road shoe we need, for all runs. An ambitious goal, which I initially dismissed as one of the more extravagant claims to have come out of footwear marketing departments, but I was drawn to the concept of a light, zero-drop shoe with just a bit more cushioning than my usual flats.
I have run 200km (124m) in them since, so how have they fared?
Well, I am impressed! They are feather-light, blisteringly fast and very, very comfortable!
In fact the feeling of comfort was what struck me as I took my first steps in them: they felt very light, with a comfie wide toebox (I love that with the Altra shape) but keeping your foot firmly in place around the mid and heel, and with just the right amount of cushioning.to put a bounce in your step and allow you to keep going without punishing your feet too much.
The second thing I noticed was that these are shoes that are just made to go fast! And I am not talking about racing or speedwork yet, even on a relaxed 8k (5m) run around the neighbourhood, I have noticed that what is “comfortable pace” in the Ones is about 15 – 30 seconds per km (25 – 48 seconds per mile) faster than they would be in another shoe.
So I wore them on relaxed runs and they helped me… I was going to say “glide along” easier, but that’s something that proper athletes do – but you get the idea: shuffle along with a modicum of grace.
Then I wore them on speed workouts and their small weight (179gr according to Altra, 181gr by my measurement) and bounce really came into their own!
A few Parkruns next, and I’ve run two best times since my three-year old PB! I’m not suggesting it’s only the shoe, but they are unobtrusive, don’t get in the way, absorbing just enough of the impact when you put an effort in, but at the same time allowing your feet to flex naturally and your legs push and lift with hardly any noticeable weight.
And so I decided to test the “this is the only road shoe you’ll ever need” assertion: I wore them on a 23km (14m) run, and then on a 30km (19m) one the week after.
Now anyone will tell you that you should grow accustomed to new shoes, increasing the distance gradually, and that does not mean running 5km, 23km and then 30km! The thing is no one had told my Altras: I kept going and going and whatever else I felt (cold and blown sideways on the 23km one, much happier on the 30km one), I never once felt any discomfort related to running a long run with what are essentially racing flats! And I am not only talking about the soles of my feet, but also all those other pains and aches which come about when one link in the chain weakens or fails and you try to compensate putting the load elsewhere: At the end of my 30km run my hips, knees and ankles felt as fresh as they ever have after a run of such distance, and I felt no aches the following day. During the run itself, whenever I turned my attention to the shoes all I felt was the reassuring cushioning every time my foot made contact with the road, and a welcome lightness as it had to lift for the next stride.
They look quite good as well! Their wide toe box design means that they can never look as aerodynamic as a racing car (but hey, our feet are not made in that shape, and for a reason: cram them tight shoes at your peril), but I think Altra have done a pretty good job in the design department. They come in a selection of colours, but I prefer the “hornet” (black and yellow to you and me) – it matches our club vest!
Construction wise, the upper is made with a mesh wish combines light weight with durability. Personally, I have had shoes with much uppers which have lasted over 1200km (745m), so perhaps this is an area Altra will be a bit more brave in when it comes to designing the next version of the One. The midsole is made with a double EVA layer, and the outsole has a grid design, allowing the foot to flex naturally.
At 200km it’s too early to comment on durability, but I have noticed very little wear, and my only other pair of Altra road shoes (the Instinct 3.0) are aging remarkably well, and at 682km (423m) the upper is as good as new, and the sole looks like it still has miles in it: So I am not concerned in that respect.
So in summary, I think this has just become my favourite shoe! I love the speed, comfort and lightness that they bring, and I am genuinely amazed that they can go long so effortlessly! Subject to a successful dress rehearsal in Ashby 20 (my practice race), I can see these being the shoe I wear in London.
The one area of improvement would be a more aggressive examination of the upper, to see if they could be lighter still: but as weight is one of these shoes strength, this is just me being greedy! Also, as this is almost a two year old design (launched in Spring 2015), I would expect the next model to be updated to keep up with the leading designs in the style department, but without compromising its form or shape.