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Altra Paradigm 2.0 Performance Review

By Austin Bonds
Like Hoka One One in 2010, Altra too has revised the manner in which runners think about their running shoes. I attribute this shift to two key characteristics present across all Altra models: Zero Drop and FootShape. In the words of Golden Harper, founder of Altra, “Zero Drop was just one of the steps we took to return runners’ feet to their natural position. We built the distinctive FootShape toe box specifically to help alleviate foot problems, including bunions, neuromas, and plantar fasciitis. It also enhances stability and comfort while providing a more powerful push-off.”

The Altra Paradigm 2.0, a max-cushioned road shoe, is my second encounter with Altra footwear. I owned the original Instinct back in 2012, a model that is now in its 4th generation. Though the design was lacking in the original Instinct, the spacious toe box and adequate cushioning more than made up for the absence of vivid colors. In a March 2011 review of the Instinct, the Runblogger (Peter Larson) had this to say: “It’s odd to think that a foot-shaped shoe might be considered an innovation, but Altra has done something unique with this shoe.” They have indeed, and this philosophy continues to serve the company well.

altra paradigm 2.0
The Good

As the Altra site makes abundantly clear, the Paradigm 2.0 isn’t lacking in protection. I slipped them on and no longer felt the asphalt beneath my feet. 31 millimeters of cushioning in the heel and 31 in the forefoot make for a soft platform. That said, the Paradigm is an excellent choice for easy runs or recovery runs. Based on the sizable midsole, I’m not inclined to reach for it from a speed standpoint based on the softness. The toe box is superb; all ten toes have ample room to freely wiggle without feeling cramped.

What of the ride? Smooth, just like the shoe. As I noted moments ago, I pulled the Paradigm from the garage shelf for runs at an easy pace, the times that my weary feet sought refuge from unforgiving pavement. The upper is solid. A light mesh (with no overlays) provides sufficient ventilation to keep the feet dry (though socks play a role in this as well). As for color, the light blue, paired with a vivid yellow, make for a color combination that pops. The black and white color arrangement is also classic.

Altra Paradigm 2.0
The Bad

Only two critiques have emerged from my time with the updated Paradigm. The first concerns arch height. After slipping the shoes on, I instantly felt the higher arch profile. Before running in the Paradigm, I employed it as an errand shoe for a few days to ascertain some initial thoughts on fit and comfort. My arches were sore after walking around town a handful of hours, but no soreness appeared during or after runs. That said, I still prefer footwear with a slightly lower arch profile.
The second critique is strange but still of note: the length of the laces. I’ve run in shoes before with unacceptable lace length, but the Paradigm laces exceed what’s necessary. I applaud Altra for the generous length, but I followed the standard first knot with a second – and then I coiled the surplus string into the upper to keep it from dragging across the ground.

Altra Paradigm 2 Conclusion

As a growing fan of Altra, I’m eager to see how their footwear continues to evolve in the coming years. I hope to acquire the Superior, a lightweight trail shoe, sometime soon for some welcome time away from the roads and in the woods. Another shoe of note from Altra is the Escalante. Now available for $130, the Escalante utilizes Altra Ego, a midsole foam that’s being compared to Boost from Adidas. In comparison to the Paradigm, which is too much shoe for me, I’m intrigued with the Escalante – as are many other runners as the shoe is simply exploding in popularity.
Like other footwear companies, Altra is developing a line of shoes that is garnering widespread appeal for every type of runner. But they are doing it with two constants: Zero Drop and FootShape. That sounds like a fresh and lasting paradigm.

Get the Altra Paradigm 2.0


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