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Altra Paradigm Review

Thomas: The MAX cushion shoe trend continues. Altra hangs their hat on making zero drop running shoes with a wide toe box. Their shoes vary in stack heights and they have models to accommodate speed workouts, every day trainers, trail, and now MAX cushion shoes. The Paradigm is their most cushioned shoe yet. Altra sent Jenny and I a pair to review.

The Good

Jenny: IT’S SO FLUFFY (in my best Despicable Me voice)! Just when I thought shoes couldn’t get any cushier, they are taken to a whole nuthuh level. The good news is despite having a 34mm stack height, the Paradigm doesn’t look nearly as goofy as a Hoka, it’s comparable competitor. Weighing in at 8.7oz (on my home digital scale), they’re just as light.  I put mostly road miles on them but hit some gravel/grass where I could and never felt a thing. I was running on super yummy clouds the whole time. There is a great rock to the shoe that gave me a little push forward. With the low heel to toe offset, my midfoot strike felt just right. The upper is made of a wide double layered breathable mesh and the minimal welded seams are perfectly placed. In the past, Altras have looked a little masculine but this new round, I think there has been a big effort to feminize the women’s versions.

Thomas: So comfortable on the foot. It looks so big but feels so light weighing 10.85 oz. in a size 10.5. That may not sound light, but for this much shoe it feels light. I mostly used the shoe on recovery runs and it does a brilliant job with tired legs that need a break. The cushion is ideal and reminded me a lot of another max shoe the Skechers GOrun Ultra. They feel pretty similar, although the Altra Paradigm has a slightly firmer ride and a bit wider forefoot. The addition of a bit of grippy rubber on the toe gives the Paradigm a nice toe off for such a plush shoe. The overlays and upper materials are really well put together and make the shoe about as good looking as the platform shoes can get. No hot spots for me.

The Bad

Jenny: This shoe runs small…so small that I *almost* lost a toenail.  I’m ASSuming these are a sz 8, since the Superior shoes I received are an 8 but because they’re a prototype/sample, I couldn’t find a size anywhere. When I initially tried them on, I knew it was going to be tight but wanted to put miles on the shoe regardless. I’d say they’re a good half size on the short size and maybe even a wee bit more. My poor big piggy is nursing a half purple nail–nothing some OPI polish can’t cover but phew, that was a close call. It’s flip flop weather and the pool opens in 3 weeks! The only other minor issue I had and I think it’s an issue with my own foot, but high cushion shoes tend to give my big toes a hot spot. I started to feel a little friction towards the end of my runs but again, this happens with all similar shoes, so I don’t blame the Paradigm.

Thomas: I can’t run fast in max cushion shoes. This isn’t the Paradigm’s fault. I just don’t run fast in any of the super cush shoes. Maybe it’s in my head, I just can’t make it happen. I feel like the turn over is there but the Garmin says no way. I found angles where the shoe looked pretty good, however, looking straight down on them I thought of Ronald McDonald. If you are more concerned with comfort than fashion then you won’t care. For me looking fast helps me feel fast.


Jenny: With the next size up, I can absolutely see this shoe turning into my high mileage/ultra training. I have a 50-miler on the calendar and if there’s a way to lessen the impact of road miles, I’m all for finding the right shoe. The paradigm is going to give the Hoka Bondi 3 and Conquest a run for their money…I just have to swallow my pride when it comes to less than sleek-looking shoes.

Thomas: One of the top Max shoes I have tried out. It delivers on light weight, super comfortable, quality materials, and the beloved Altra fit some runners swear by. If miles of comfort is what you are looking for this shoe is a good choice. these are a good shoe to have for recovery runs or long miles. I will bet the Paradigm will be well received by the Altra faithful. Sorry I don’t have any specs from Altra like stack height etc. These were pre production samples.


Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Brian Kibler says:

    Thomas, did you find that the men’s version of the paradigm fit true to size of other shoe brands? Or would you echo Jenny’s recommendation that the men’s shoe should also size up?

    1. I was good with my regular size. Lacing on the Altra seems to make a difference.

  2. Jeffrey Smith says:

    This shoe is perfect for my wide, long toed foot. I would agree it runs and bit small. Have been out on it three times and love it. It is the best fit for me so far, I am ordering a second pair because I wore my Asics to the gym today ( just to save my Paradigns) and I couldn’t stand the toe pinch. Thank you for this shoe!

  3. Ethan says:

    How many miles do you have on the paradigms now? are they holding up alright? have you been able to do any sort of tempo run in them?

    1. Well over 200 miles. Cosmetic scuffs on the foam but the shoe is holding up well.

  4. Rick says:

    I have about 25 miles on these so far and I’m not feeling the love. I had hoped for more cushion, but the ride feels overly firm and the shoes feel stiff and clunky. I’m a huge fan of the One2 and the Superior 2. But the Paradigms may be relegated to the “shoes that didn’t work out” pile for me.

    1. They took awhile for me to appreciate them. They are good for recovery days and days I want to take a break. Have you tried either the Skechers Ultra or Hoka Clifton?

  5. Rick says:

    I haven’t tried the Hokas because I’m a little concerned with the narrow toe box. I do like the GoRun Rides a lot (both the 3 and 4.) I haven’t tried the Ultras.

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