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9.9 oz. (279 g) for a US M9,
8 oz. (226 g) for a US W8
30 mm in heel, 30 mm in forefoot (0 mm drop)
Zero-drop recovery miles with added stability
Revamped design, engineered mesh upper, Ego Max midsole
CHAD: When I was scrolling through Instagram and saw that Altra had just released the Paradigm 7, I asked Robbe if we could get some to review for the site, despite having never run in a pair of the brand’s shoes. Why you might ask?
Well, there are two reasons. First, Kara Goucher…ever heard of her? I assume the answer is yes, but if not, climb out from under that rock you’ve been living under for the last 15-plus years and look her up. She’s a legend, and this is her signature shoe. Second, about five years ago, I fell down the stairs in my house and tore my ankle apart and broke my fibula. After two surgeries and a year of rehab, my ankle still has never been 100% when it comes to range of motion. I was curious to see how it would respond to a zero-drop shoe and whether it could help activate my normally stiff ankle joint on my runs.
I trust that Austin will be able to provide more insight in this review than I can about what makes this shoe different than years past. But Altra proclaims that the Paradigm 7 got a full redesign this year, with a new engineered mesh upper and an updated Ego Max midsole foam. A stability offering, Altra states that its GuideRail system provides medial support to those who need it.
AUSTIN: Let’s rewind the clock back to 2018. What cultural moments were happening in the world? Black Panther became the third highest-grossing film ever in the US; Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer; Harry and Meghan tied the knot in England; Banksy destroyed his own art; and I reviewed the Altra Paradigm 4 (complete with GuideRails and ankle-cutting StabiliPods).
After praising the Rivera 3 back in February, I was stoked to revisit the Paradigm after a five-year hiatus. Incidentally, in a recent Instagram post, Chad indicated that the Paradigm is dubbed the “Kara-digm” by some fans based on design input from Olympian Kara Goucher. “I love the way it feels, I love how it kept me healthy, I love that I can train in it,” said Goucher about the Paradigm 6. Does the love carry over?
CHAD: There are a lot of things I really like about the Altra Paradigm 7. Just like the Topo Athletic Phantom 3 that I reviewed earlier this year, Altra uses an anatomically shaped toebox that I’ve actually come to enjoy (despite my initial hesitations). It’s really nice to be able to have my toes splay out on the run and not have the piggies all cramped in. The lacing system provides a solid lockdown with standard knotting (no need for a runner’s loop), even with my narrow right heel, and the initial step-in was comfortable.
On the run, I would say that the Paradigm 7 performs like what you would expect from a stability daily trainer. The Ego Max foam is moderately cushioned and has what I would call a mid-level stack height of 30mm, but I wouldn’t call the ride bouncy or responsive. It gets the job done while not being particularly exciting. That said, with the Paradigm slotting in as a stability daily trainer, getting the job done is the name of the game. It keeps me moving forward while limiting my medial roll-in with the GuideRail system. I can’t ask for much more than that.
AUSTIN: Honestly, I didn’t think I’d run six miles at a 7:37 pace to christen the Paradigm 7. But the legs felt fresh (despite the ghastly morning humidity), and I decided to see if it would accommodate a tempo pace out of the box. Of course, I anticipate easy efforts in the coming weeks as Summer GRIT concludes, but the slog of summer simmers through August and September in Georgia.
The Paradigm 7 is heavy on paper, but the shoe felt light in hand. At least it did in the maiden run. Truthfully, the weight may be more evident on days when my legs are feeling less like springs and more like anchors. Weight aside, there’s a lot to like about this daily trainer. Step-in comfort feels great. Among Altra’s three FootShape Fits, the Paradigm is Standard (sandwiched between Original and Slim). An engineered mesh, flat laces, a padded tongue and heel collar, and some discreet overlays round out the roomy upper.
As for the ride, Chad provides a succinct summary: “Not particularly exciting.” The Paradigm 7 skews firm, but it doesn’t provide the responsiveness I hoped for. Yes, I soared in the first run, but I hoped for a bit more bounce with each step. Indeed, this is a grind, “gets the job done” shoe for easy runs, long runs, and recovery runs. Tempo? You decide. The full-length carbon rubber outsole will keep this trainer’s traction humming along in the summer scorch and summer storms when the roads are soaked.Shop Altra Paradigm - Men Shop Altra Paradigm - Women
CHAD: Walking around in the Paradigm 7, it seemed that the midfoot was a bit narrow, and it felt like the insole was digging into my medial arch a bit. I didn’t feel it as much as I was running, but I could tell afterward that my arch had been rubbing and compressed. Luckily it didn’t cause any blisters, but with the right conditions, it probably would. My other main complaint was that the upper was not as breathable as advertised. I finished a 6-mile run in a pair of lighter socks, and when taking the shoe off, I realized my feet were swampy as all hell. I did end up getting the black colorway sent to me, so perhaps that led to some overheating, but it’s hard to tell.
This is a personal observation and maybe something that only applies to me, but I felt like my runs required a bit more effort on my part to get the legs to turn over in this shoe. It might just be that the zero-drop was a new sensation that my legs hadn’t fully adjusted to or that my mechanics are more suited to a shoe with a rocker and more considerable toe spring. I think it’s something that I could adapt to over time, but is that in my best interest? That’s debatable.
AUSTIN: As for gripes, I don’t have much to say. The laces were long, but that’s minor. I did have to stop after a few minutes into some runs to retie the laces for a tighter fit, but I’ll blame my narrow feet meshing with the Original FootShape Fit for the occasional disconnect. Finally, I think the gray and black colors are bland; go for blue or blue and white.Shop Altra Paradigm - Men Shop Altra Paradigm - Women
CHAD: I would classify my first time experimenting with zero-drop shoes from Altra as a success overall. The Paradigm 7 was comfortable underfoot, provided solid stability, and performed adequately on the roads. Overall a great daily trainer option for those who enjoy low or even zero-drop shoes and need a little stability in their lives (on their feet, of course). I’d definitely be interested in trying other Altra models in the future.
AUSTIN: In summary, I liked the Altrsa Paradigm 7. I rarely run in true stability shoes, but I like the GuideRail approach that manufacturers are pursuing. There’s less weight and a smoother ride. At 30mm, the Paradigm provides ample cushioning for any run except for tempo or track sessions. But if you’re feeling fast, kick the tires and light the fires.
You can pick up the Altra Paradigm 7 for $170 from Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) using the buttons below.
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
Austin, who lives north of Atlanta, is a stay-at-home father and running store part-timer (year eleven). Based on his inability to provide a 10K or 5K personal record, he should probably race those distances more. It’s rare to not see a party size bag of peanut M&Ms in his pantry and a pair of Shokz on his ears during a run.
All-time favorite shoes: OG Altra Escalante, Saucony Kinvara 3, Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%More from Austin