TAYLOR: With 2020 well underway, and now two years into its ownership by VF Corporation, Altra has developed a more focused and streamlined approach to its offerings. While some models have been discontinued, and others merged into newer lines, a few new faces are sneaking into the mix.
One of those is the Altra Viho, a shoe with a simple purpose: give runners a budget-friendly option to see what Altra has to offer. Sample the product and get ‘em hooked (our words, not theirs).
The mere mention of an “entry-level” shoe has the tendency to drive away experienced runners, but don’t write the Viho off. It’s a comfortable and versatile daily trainer that can accompany any runner, regardless of experience or skill.
ERIN: Back in early 2018, Altra released a new road model that they were billing as an “entry-level” Altra shoe. The Solstice was one of my favorite road shoes of 2018: very (very) light, fast, no-frills, and less than $100. It wasn’t particularly durable, with no outsole to speak of, and while I loved it, I’m not sure I’d have characterized it as “entry-level.” While not technically classified as a racing flat (that’d be the Vanish), it’s about as close as you can get.
Like the Solstice, the Viho is advertised as an entry-level shoe– entry into the Altra zero-drop realm, at any rate. And while I may have taken issue with that characterization re: the Solstice, I think the Viho absolutely fills that role.
TAYLOR: The bottom always sucks, and it’s usually the same deal for the low-level price-point for shoes too. While that may be traditionally true, it’s definitely not the case with the Altra Viho. Simple is my favorite and the Viho is simple. This is a quality piece of gear that will give you a very good idea about Altra’s design philosophies for only 100 clams.
Altra is known for comfort. The whole premise of their shoes is a natural comfort via a zero-drop platform, balanced cushion, and a last that mimics a splayed foot. Every time I step into a pair, I think: “Why don’t I wear these more often?” Same with the Viho.
In the most recent iterations of Altra’s shoes, comfort is taking on a slightly different persona. Whereas the “old” fit was more comparable to a mitten, the 2020 models are starting to even out the bulges, taking on more of a “glove” type fit. Don’t worry, there is still wiggle room for your piggies with the foot-shaped design. The midfoot and forefoot have been trimmed ever-so-slightly. This probably appeals to the general public, but maybe not as much to past Altra lovers.
I found the fit very secure and comfortable, very similar to how the Altra Timp feels. The engineered mesh upper helped with the secure feeling and it’s as breathable as a cleared sinus. Because of that, I said heck with it and hit some trails! The fit (along with some other aspects that we will get to in a moment) really allows this shoe to be a good choice for anything from the gym to trail runs on light terrain.
Underfoot, the ride is pretty buttery. I took the Viho on some steady-state runs, easy daddy-daughter stroller miles, and some faster-paced workouts that dipped close to a 5-minute/mile pace. I loved it for all of those miles.
It’s a shoe that feels lighter than it is (10 oz. for a men’s size 10.5). It rolls really smoothly through each stride with virtually no hindrances (if you tend to be heel heavy, it probably won’t feel quite as smooth). The Viho has a softer EVA midsole with moderately-high arch support. Though there isn’t “pop,” per se, the foam was mildly responsive and recovered well stride after stride after stride.
Versatility is probably what I appreciate most about this shoe. Being lighter and responsive it was easy to pick up the pace. The 19 mm of foam underfoot is able to accommodate longer runs, and I would definitely have no problem running up to a half marathon in these. Also, the rubber outsole, which is probably thicker than necessary, offered substantial grip on a variety of surfaces. Wet pavement, dry non-technical trails, and gravel roads were all nothing to be afraid of.
ERIN: I love this shoe, and I’m not just saying that to prove that I’m not an Altra hater (just a Timp 2.0 hater). The Viho is a solid daily neutral trainer that fits in with the likes of the New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon and the Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte. No bells, no whistles, just a great neutral shoe.
Its stack height allows for considerably more cushioning than the Solstice. The standard EVA midsole reminds me of the Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte but maybe slightly firmer– it actually feels very similar to the Topo Athletic MT-3, which I’ve worn on road and trail.
The Viho also has a less-aggressively wide toe box compared to other Altras; this may be a negative for some, but for me, there’s still plenty of room in there. In this way, the Viho also resembles a Topo Athletic shoe. I’d say that the main difference between this and a Topo road shoe is the drop: the Viho, like all Altra shoes, is zero-drop, while Topo Athletic shoes are 3 mm.
This is a shoe that you put on, run in, and don’t think about while you’re running, which most shoes aren’t able to pull of these days. I don’t want to worry about heel slippage, stopping to tighten or readjust mid-run, or taking turns at a walking pace because there’s no outsole.
The mesh upper is comfortable and provides a secure fit, and the rubber outsole (with “foot pod” technology that allegedly maps the anatomy of the foot) is durable and provides great traction in wet conditions. I’ve put over 60 miles on these and they’re showing minimal wear.Shop Men – US Shop Women
TAYLOR: I found myself in the predicament of not having much to say here. For the shoe’s price and purpose, this is just a really good shoe. BUT I guess there’s always something to improve on.
So, let’s talk shoelaces. The Viho has a “spaghetti noodle” style lace. It’s about the same thickness and feels as if they were only par-boiled. They were firm out of the box and I’ve had to stop to tie my shoes more than any other pair of shoes (only like twice in 30-ish miles). I am not sure if this was a bad attempt at style, or what, but function wasn’t a strength.
Another potential tally on the bad side would be Altra’s new slimmer fit in the midfoot and forefoot. Ultra Altra fans may be disappointed. The sleeker design works for me, and probably for most other runners, but I think some loyalty could be lost here.
ERIN: This isn’t necessarily a negative, but more of a caveat: the zero-drop thing is– in my opinion– a bit gimmicky. I regularly run in shoes that range from zero to 8 mm and when I hear people say they won’t run in anything that isn’t zero-drop… I mean, hey. You do you, and if that’s your preference, great. But there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with a non-zero-drop shoe. That said, my caveat here is that if you aren’t used to running in a zero-drop shoe, for the love of Pete, ease into it. Maybe it won’t bother you, but maybe you’ll end up with tight calves that force you to hobble around for a few days. Or worse.
The laces aren’t too long, which is great, but they’re round and thus somewhat difficult to double knot. They can also create extra pressure on the foot – not an issue I’ve had with these (yet), but just… don’t use these laces, Altra, OK?Shop Men Shop Women
TAYLOR: I get excited over shoes costing $100 these days… which is just sad. The Altra Viho performs better than its price point. It is a really good picture of what you’ll get across the board with the newest era of Altra shoes. So, if you’re looking to get into the zero-drop foot-shaped game, the Viho could be a fine choice for a daily trainer that could spread its purposes even farther than running roads.
ERIN: The Viho is a great lightweight, durable, comfortable, neutral daily trainer that costs less than a hundred bucks. I’ve run in several of Altra’s road models, including the Escalante Racer, the Torin (mesh and knit versions), and the Solstice, and this one is hands down my favorite. You done good, Altra.
You can pick up the Altra Viho for $100 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Men Shop Women