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Road Running Shoes • May 22, 2024

Altra Experience Form Review: Not in Perfect Form

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What You Need To Know

Weight

9.6 oz. (272 g) for a US M9,

7.8 oz. (221 g) for a US W7.5

Stack Height / Drop

Men: 32 mm in heel, 28 mm in forefoot (4 mm drop)

Women: 30 mm in heel, 26 mm in forefoot (4 mm drop)

Best For

Gym-ready stability

Key Features

Rocker shape geometry, GuideRail technology, Standard Footshape

On The Run
Guiderails add great stability Well, it's a roomy toebox It's a firm one, alright
Price / Availability

Available now for $145

Introduction to the Altra Experience Form

CHAD: Until last year, I had never tried to run in zero-drop shoes. I had run in low-drop shoes (4 mm), but until reviewing the Altra Paradigm 7 and the Topo Athletic Magnifly 5, that was the lowest I had gone. While I didn’t mind the ride of either shoe, I just didn’t feel like zero drop was for me, especially given that I have a surgically repaired left ankle with reduced mobility. I assumed that meant that Altra was going to be a no-go for me in the future.

However, Altra recently made the decision to buck tradition and began offering shoes with a 4 mm drop. The first shoe to launch, the FWD Experience, received mixed reviews despite being highly celebrated by Altra as it represented an expansion of their brand. Shortly after, word came that two other low-drop shoes would be coming out: the Experience Flow and the subject of this review, the Experience Form. Oh, and the trail-focused Experience Wild.

The Altra Experience Form features 32 mm of compression-molded foam in the heel (30 mm in the women’s pair) and is a stability offering that Altra likens to the Brooks Adrenaline, the Hoka Arahi (zoinks), and the Saucony Guide. The stability comes from Altra’s GuideRail technology, combined with a rocker, to provide a stable ride and transition.

SAM: Altra is a shoe company that reminds me of what shoes used to be like. Known for its zero-drop shoes, Altra promotes a more natural and efficient running gait through its construction and materials. Recently, though, Altra’s product line has been updated with racing shoes and tempo shoes packed with new-age materials and geometries. With some of their recent updates, Altra has shown that it can keep up with the big dawgs.

But then we get shoes like the Experience Form, and we’re back where we started. The Experience Form is the stability model in the Experience line and has a low-ish stack and a low drop. Before getting this shoe, I was excited to give Altra a fair go and see if my assumptions were justified. What was our experience like in this shoe? Read on to find out.

What we like about the Altra Experience Form

CHAD: If you’ve read my reviews in the past, you know I do my absolute best to highlight everything I can that I like about a shoe, even if it’s a shoe that I didn’t get along with. In this review, this section is going to be brief. I do enjoy the fit of this shoe, with the anatomical Standard footshape fit and the comfort level of the upper. Additionally, the stability elements in the shoe provide unobtrusive guidance through the stride. That’s… about all I got.

SAM: Overall, I didn’t mind running in the Altra Experience Form. That is not the most positive first sentence to start off with, but that’s what I’ve got. I wish I had more information on what the goal of the Experience line is, but I cannot find much. What I have surmised is that the goal is to create lightweight, cushioned shoes that still give ground feel and an efficient ride. I think they nailed that goal with this shoe, but it does not necessarily mean it is a great shoe for everyone. I thought the fit of this shoe was great, and it is a very comfortable shoe to wear. It has great lockdown, has a comfortable upper, and my foot adores the wide toebox. So, after the immediate step in, I had some high hopes for how this shoe would feel while hitting the bricks.

As far as feel on the run goes, it’s extremely stable, and I am a big fan of the Guiderail stability. It’s similar to what Brooks does with its GTS line and is my favorite type of natural stability. I also thought the 4 mm drop was a nice touch to give your stride what it needs without taking away from the natural feel of the shoe. Outside of these things, the only other positive I have is that I found the Experience Form to be great as a gym shoe. The transition to hitting some squats after a few miles on the treadmill was seamless, and that is something I think can be underappreciated in running shoes, especially when our job here is to focus on the running part.

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What we don’t like about the Altra Experience Form

CHAD: I’m on record saying I prefer my shoes to have a slightly firmer feel, but MAN, the compression molded midsole on this shoe is firm… nay, it’s firmer than firm. It almost felt like I was running directly on concrete. This shoe was so firm it literally sent shockwaves up my ankles and made the top of my ankles and shins ache both on the run and afterward.

The first run I took the Experience Form out on was supposed to be six miles, but my legs felt so beat up I took a detour and shortened it. I tried again a few days later and also kept that run short because I kept having the same sensation. I figured the foam might loosen up a bit, but run number three felt just as firm and inhospitable to my legs as the first two runs.

Because of the firmness and uncomfortable feel of the shoe, I didn’t notice any appreciable rocker feel during my runs, which I expect to feel in a lower drop shoe to help roll through the stride.

SAM: While this shoe promotes efficient running and is great as an all-around use option, it’s not the most cushioned or comfortable shoe money can buy. I don’t believe Altra’s claims about the 32/28 mm stack height, and I think that’s more indicative of the height of the sidewalls than the amount of foam underneath your foot. There’s little to no cushion to this shoe, and for the most part, the main experience for your feet is experiencing the ground. The minimal cushion and firmer foam for stability result in a shoe that really forces you to have a quick stride. That’s the purpose of Altra’s shoes in general, so take this with a grain of salt, but I believe most people will not find this shoe comfortable to run in at all and won’t wear it for anything more than a quick jog around the running store before going back to their comfort shoe brand.

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Final thoughts on the Altra Experience Form

CHAD: I try very hard to be a positive person, and I do my best to look on the bright side of things. I applaud Altra’s effort to reach a new audience of people who need a little drop in their lives. If this shoe had a slightly softer foam, this review might have gone completely differently. But as it stands right now, this was a swing and a miss for me.

SAM: I don’t really have much else to say but to repeat my first comment on the shoe. It was fine. If Altra is your thing, and you want a model that is efficient, stable, and useful for activities other than running, this shoe is for you. If you need some more cushioning or want a shoe that the majority of people would consider comfortable to run in, I would look elsewhere.

You can pick up the Altra Experience Form for $145 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.

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Authors

Chad Zimmermann
Clydesdale Reviewer
  • Instagram
  • Strava

An attorney by day, Chad lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife and three kids. Never much for running growing up, Chad began running as a way to improve his physical health. He went from his first 5k in 2015 to running the Paris Marathon in 2016.  Given his larger physical build, Chad is the resident Clydesdale runner, providing shoe and gear insights for those with a bigger build and taller stature.

More from Chad
Shoe Size

11.5

Fav. Distance

10K

PRs
  • 4:58

    Marathon
  • 56:33

    10K
  • 26:34

    5K
  • 2:11:05

    Half Marathon
mercer
Mercer Alden
College XC/Track Reviewer
  • Strava
  • Instagram

Mercer is a collegiate athlete at the University Of Lynchburg, majoring in being awesome. He’s also extremely talented at folding shirts during GRIT packing at the Believe in the Run HQ.

All-time favorite shoes: Asics Gel-Kayano Lite, Hoka Clifton 6, On Cloudmonster

More from Mercer
Shoe Size

9.5

Fav. Distance

5K

PRs
  • 57:50

    10 Mile
  • 15:55

    5K
  • 9:01

    3K
  • 4:35

    Mile
sam sheldon3
Sam Sheldon
Baltimore Road Reviewer
  • Strava

Sam tried every other sport before settling on running as a senior in high school. He’s never looked back. He can be found doing workouts in Patterson Park, talking shop with the Faster Bastards, or hitting long runs on the NCR trail. When not running, Sam is a teacher in the Baltimore City Public School District. His other loves are cooking, coffee, breweries, books, basketball, and alliteration. 

All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Endorphin Speed 2, Nike Vaporfly Next%, Asics Novablast 3

More from Sam
Shoe Size

9.5

Fav. Distance

Mile

PRs
  • 2:54

    Marathon
  • 1:10

    Half Marathon
  • 14:58

    5K
  • 4:21

    Mile
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