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Road Running Shoes • August 15, 2019

Altra Duo 1.5 Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Max-LT midsole is a good balance of cushioning and responsiveness
  • Over a half-ounce heavier than the OG Duo at 9 oz. for a size 9M
  • The collar is a cut above the rest, and not in a good way
  • Googling “Greyscale” may be very confusing if you’ve never watched Game of Thrones

Erin: All right, let’s do some real talk about the Altra Duo 1.5. But first, a little background: I’m a huge fan of Altra’s trail offerings, with the Superior and Timp ranking near the top of my all-time favorites list. Their road shoes, however, have been hit or miss for me. Escalante racer and Solstice? Great shoes. Torin? Meh. So how did the Duo 1.5 fare for me?

Hopefully better than Jarrett’s “tourist hitchhiker lost in Eastern Europe” horror experience.

Jarrett: Hey Jigsaw, I do not want to play a game. But I guess I have to since I’m a shoe reviewer. Here we go.

altra duo 1.5 upper

The Good

Erin: When I put these on, I immediately liked how they felt underfoot. It feels rocker-like and the Max-LT midsole is a pretty good balance of cushioning and responsiveness (though leaning more toward the cushioning side of things). I also have to give a shout-out to the navy/pink colorway I received, if only because most of my Altras are in greyscale. (Side note: I gave “greyscale” a goog just to make sure it means what I think it means and, wow— I need someone to tell me why the entire first page of results was about Game of Thrones.)

Just kidding, don’t tell me because I don’t care.

Shop Altra Duo 1.5
altra duo 1.5 upper 1

The Bad

Erin: These feel better walking around than they do running. It’s so weird. I was expecting them to basically be a Clifton 5 that doesn’t make my pinky toes fall asleep. That they are not. They’re not terrible, but I’m kinda surprised that Altra presents them as a race-day shoe, because they don’t feel performance-fast to me, at least not like the Escalante racer.

I liked them just fine for regular training runs and don’t have any specific complaints about the feel, but I have to say I missed my Cliftons while running in the Duo.

Now we need to talk about what truly makes these shoes terrible, and that’s the tongue. What in the actual what is this thing? It’s so bad. It’s like half a micrometer thick and folds all up under itself the second you try to put your foot in the shoe.

In order to get the tongue to lie flat, you really need to unlace the entire shoe, which is a process in itself because of course, the laces are egregiously long. So long, in fact, that I was able to fashion the Duo into a sort of running shoe/gladiator sandal combo. Yes, it is possible. No, it is not a good look.

I’d love to know Altra’s reasoning behind this. My first thought was that they were trying to reduce the weight of the shoe, but it’s a half-ounce heavier than the original (Altra’s site actually lists it as a full 1.5 ounces heavier)!

The heel collar is also annoying; the previous Duo had a nice lightly padded collar, while with the 1.5 some genius clearly suggested using the SAME EFFING CONSTRUCTION AS THE TONGUE LORD HELP ME.

In case you needed one more reason to be annoyed by these shoes, the tread is oddly spaced so that literally every rock you step on gets wedged in there.

Jarrett: I’ve only got one section for this review because the issue was a deal-breaker for me. What is “the issue” you ask? Well, it’s the heel collar.

It’s rumored that it drew inspiration from Razor Ramon’s signature move— the Razor’s Edge. Out of the box, I could actually scratch myself with the collar if I rubbed it against my arm.

The heel collar is a super thin material with barely any padding and that’s fine. Lots of companies are thinning out the collar. However, Altra has lined the top with a small strip of material that wraps around. I’m guessing this was to keep the upper together better.

On my first step in to see how they felt, I got nervous about whether my feet would be slowly cut off Saw-style. No, I don’t want to play a game. I’ve seen the movies and the games are never fun!!

Eventually, I sucked it up, put on some high socks, and went outside for what was supposed to be a 4-5 mile run. I made it 3 miles before giving up.

Every step was the same scratching at my socks just trying to get to my Achilles. Thankfully I was near my apartment and was able to divert back. Otherwise, I would have taken the shoes off and walked back through the streets of Baltimore in just my socks. I can’t figure out if that’s a really good review of our city’s streets here or if I was that desperate to get out of the shoes (it’s the latter).

I knew if I pushed another mile or two I would have been bleeding. If I went for a run the next day in them I may have ended up with blisters. The heel collars on my shoes were a train wreck.

So take my thoughts with a grain of salt, but I just don’t have that time to risk cutting my ankles while I’m in the middle of marathon training.

And for those reasons, I’m out.

Shop Altra Duo 1.5
altra duo 1.5 outsole

Altra Duo 1.5 Conclusion

Erin: I mean, this could be a good to decently good shoe. That’s it. That’s all I got.

Jarrett: If you have calloused Achilles or you’re going all Pokemon and catching all the Duos, then you can pick the shoe up at Runner’s Warehouse for $129.95 using the shop link below.

Shop Altra Duo 1.5

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Mark B. says:

    The heel collar on the OG was thick and high enough to make it so my wife couldn’t even walk in them wearing short socks without getting rubbed raw. I’m pretty sure that’s why they made it thinner… but why not make it shorter instead? She still likes them quite a bit and they’re significantly discounted on some sites.

  2. Brian F. says:

    I have never been able to run in any Altra (OG Escalante aside but that shoe is too floppy) without the heel collar or heel cup being a blister machine. They absolutely, unequivocally DO NOT know how to engineer this portion of the shoe. And it’s a shame because the rest is usually exactly what I need.

  3. Todd B says:

    I loved the original and hate the 1.5. Totally different for all the reasons you mentioned. Your are spot on. I bought two extra pairs of the originals on sale on their site. There was no need to change those. Sending the new ones back. Altra should discontinue the duo 1.5 immediately!1

  4. Stephanie says:

    I wish I would have read your review before purchasing these. Your comments are spot on. Laces are ridiculously long. Tongue always bunches up. Both my heels are blistered from just walking in them for an hour. I tried them again for a quick run on the treadmill because I didn’t want to be far from home. I wore blister bandages and thicker socks – I could still feel the friction. I do want to try a different style of Altras because they did feel cushier underfoot and my toes felt pretty good. The majority of my toenails are bruised so I’m hoping the wider toe box is going to alleviate this problem.

    1. Robbe Reddinger says:

      You should be able to send them back, most companies are good about that. We will always give you an honest review!

  5. Mike says:

    Why is shoe weight such an issue these days ? Surely the point of training is to put the body under stress so it recovers stronger.
    Seems to me that everyone wants to run personal best times in training so wants light weight when training in a pair of shoes that are just a standard 9/10oz ( which is not heavy ) and forgetting about how fast you run, is a much more sustainable/sensible approach. Racing is a different issue of course.

  6. magnus says:

    My first run with the shoes: After 4 km it started to feel uncomfortable. Stayed, re -tied the shoes, said some ugly things, turn back (4k) and, surprise, surprise, my right heel was bleeding from two different places when I got home (light rain and 2 degrees above freezing so barefoot was not an option).

    Too bad. This is my second Altra. Viho was too narrow over the left (?midfoot?) but it could be forced into a working shape. After that, it has been a very knee-friendly shoe. I was hoping that these would be just as gentle on my knees without the weird mid foot. Instead, they left me bleeding. 🙁

    If I had done a quick Google search, I would have known better than to get Altra’s two worst models. Tuition fee I guess.

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