Best Altra Running Shoes of 2023: What We Know
Our takeaways from The Running Event 2022 in Austin, Texas
Highlights from Atra include the Torin 7, Paradigm 7, and Lone Peak 7 (now go play a slot machine)
Gotta say, the design team has been really improving the looks of Altra recently
Not fully inclusive of all 2023 shoes
The cult of Altra (aka “The Caltra”) is strong these days. We’re talking about the au natural foot fam, those who want more wiggly for the pigglies and a zero drop package to run wee, wee, wee all the way home.
Started in 2009 by co-founders Brian Becksted and Golden Harper, the little-company-that-could established a rabid fanbase of runners who wanted something different; that is, a more natural feel while running, without sacrificing comfort and protection.
Of course, all indie bands sell out sooner or later (we’re not judging, we’d do the same thing), and in 2018, Altra was bought by VF Corporation (home to brands like The North Face, Supreme, Vans, and Timberland). Since then we’ve seen some changes that have both embraced the legacy of Altra, while looking to expand the consumer base.
One of those changes– and a big one at that– is the range of Footshapes that debuted in 2022, essentially different fits for different shoe models. Marketing translation: legacy Altra shoes look like clown shoes made for GORPers and they needed to make these things look good on the feet so people outside of running will buy them.
While the standard Original Footshape is still available in a few models, Altra has broadened (and by broadened, we mean slimmed down) the upper fit to now include a Standard Footshape (e.g. Torin, Escalante, Paradigm), and a Slim Footshape (e.g. Vanish Tempo, Vanish Carbon).
Other recent changes include a creative Matrix-style bend of the “zero-drop” technicality by employing a very noticeable rocker, and also much better designs across the board.
For us, this is all a net-positive, but the changes have been a bit of a thorn in the side of hardcore Altra fans who have been collecting Kool-Aid cult points since the beginning. To which we say: even Bob Dylan went electric.
As we look to 2023, we see some of those changes continue to become the standard going forward. And while not every shoe on this list is a major upgrade, there are some overhauls on core models within the Altra lineup.
Of course, you know we’ll review them all and give you our full thoughts as soon as they’re available to us.
STACK: 30 mm
WEIGHT: 9.8 oz. (278 g) for a US M9, 8.1 oz. (230 g) for a US W7
RELEASE DATE: June 2023
NOTABLE FEATURES: The Torin has no doubt been one of our favorite shoes in the Altra family for some time. For awhile, it was a very confusing shoe, as there was a half-numbering system and a plush and non-plush version, whatever that meant.
However, it’s been simplified over the last couple of years, so now we simply have the Altra Torin 7. Looking back at our reviews, apparently we never reviewed version 6, but we still enjoyed version 5, and luckily the price remains unchanged after two years ($150).
So what is this shoe? Essentially it’s a neutral daily trainer with just enough cushion to give you a ton of comfortable miles, but also light enough that you can pick up the pace if necessary.
This year’s model has a lot of new features, including a higher stack Ego Max midsole (30 mm), a redeveloped tongue for a more plush comfort, and a molded heel collar for added comfort and locked-in feel.
While it’s not the lightest shoe at just under 10 ounces, it’s still completely acceptable for a daily trainer and should remain the reliable workhorse it’s always been.
STACK: 30 mm
WEIGHT: 11.8 oz. (336 g) for a US M9, 9.5 oz. (270 g) for a US W7
RELEASE DATE: July 2023
NOTABLE FEATURES: We’re not calling things stability anymore, but this is essentially the stability shoe in the Altra lineup.
There’s a lot going on in this one, from the Altra Ego Max midsole with a 30 mm stack height to the GuideRail for medial support (when it’s needed). A more plush tongue and collar provide additional comfort for an altogether supportive ride.
However, all of those details come with a price (both literally and figuratively). The weight is chunky at almost 12 ounces for a US M9, making it one of the heavier shoes out there. It’s also $170, which puts it at the top tier of the price range for Altra (aside from its racing shoes).
That said, if you loved the Paradigm in the past for either running or walking, the updates here are enough to offer improvement without changing the overall nature of the shoe. So we expect Paradigm fans to be pretty happy with this version.
STACK: 28 mm
WEIGHT: 9.8 oz. (278 g) for a US M9, 8.2 oz. (232 g) for a US W7
RELEASE DATE: February 2023
NOTABLE FEATURES: When people say “Keep it simple, stupid,” they’re actually talking about the Altra Rivera. This is the most basic model in the Altra lineup (aside from maybe the Escalante), so its features are minimal, but it’s a shoe that embraces the roots of the brand. Except for the Slim Footshape, that’s more of a newer thing.
Anyway, this version of the shoe does have an increased stack height of 28 mm, on the base-level Altra Ego midsole foam (traditional EVA). According to Altra, the ride has also been improved by redesigning the outsole as the flex grooves in the last model didn’t have the smoothest transitions. That said, these changes do come with a cost– the shoe has picked up almost an ounce and a half over last year’s version, which is pretty significant. So instead of a light and uptempo shoe, this now falls more in that daily trainer category.
Save this shoe for shorter runs, or if you just want an Altra walking shoe that’s simple and comfortable.
The price has increased a bit to $140 in this version.
They should be more than excited about the newest top-to-bottom updates, which includes a more durable and secure upper and an Altra Ego midsole underneath (kind of interested what an Ego Max midsole would’ve looked like on here, but whatever). Altra removed the stitched-in overlays from the last version, and instead opted for welded overlays on a ripstop-style upper.
A MaxTrac outsole with multi-directional lugs provides great grip across any terrain, while a StoneGuard rock plate helps with foot protection on technical trails. This is one of the few models that retains the Original Footshape, so hardcore Altra followers can breathe a sigh of relief there. Plenty of room for toe splay. Gaiter attachments on the front and back allow for customization and additional protection.
STACK: 21 mm
WEIGHT: 9.5 oz. (269 g) for a US M9, 8.1 oz. (230 g) for a US W7
RELEASE DATE: May 2023
NOTABLE FEATURES: We get another solid design in the Superior 6, a shoe that’s made for trail runners who like more of a ground feel over light to medium terrain. At only 21 mm, this is the lowest stack of any Altra shoe out there, including the Escalante. So you’ll definitely get plenty of ground feel.
Updated ripstop quarter panels provide protection while lessening the weight load of the shoe. Speaking of weight, it’s relatively reasonable at 9.5 oz. (269 g) for a US M9. All in all, this looks to be a fun option for those wanting to pick up the pace and feel at one with the trails.
The changes come in the upper, focusing on improved durability without sacrificing comfort or breathability. As with last year, this is a Slim Footshape design, so it’s definitely a more traditional fit, but still offers room for some toe splay.
This is just one of those shoes that’s an all-arounder– good for getting out on the trails for a quick run, an adequate hiker, and a capable road shoe. Great for traveling or just “one shoe to do it all.”
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Everytime I read an article or watch a video about Altras newest release or latest lineup I feel the need to comment and share my opinion. Even if it’s unwanted or unheard by who really needs to hear it. Bring back the original footshape!
I suppose you might classify me as part of the Altra cult (Caltra). I’ve basically bought nothing about altras for the last 6 years that I’ve been running regularly. I’ve tried other brands (new balance, brooks, saucony, hoka) but nothing ever felt as great as Altras. I won’t lie and say that it was love at first sight with Altra. My first shoe was the provision 3.0 reccomended by a local running store after a gait analysis. It was the ugliest shoe that I had ever seen, the toes looked like a clown shoe and I had zero idea what zero drop even meant or why it mattered. Little did I know at that time that it was the magical formula that would keep me running in comfort for years.
I have tried a variety of Altras over the years and have owned well over 25 pairs in the last 6 years racing everything from 1 mile to my first marathon. My best and most fun and comfortable races have been in the escalantes. The last great escalante was the 1.5(favorite shoe of all time). Now you can only find the original footshape in altras trail shoes. I’m a road racer and rarely do I do trail races. I just prefer roads and paved trails. Running in trail shoes on the road is not preferred.
I feel as though altra needs to bring back the original footshape to more of its road shoes and I don’t believe I’m alone in thinking this. The biggest thing that made Altra stand out is what has now been put on the back burner for a more commercial look and appeal. Everyone else already makes a “slim fit” or “standard fit” shoe. Why did altra feel the need to FIT in with the rest of the industry instead of staying true to their core and filling the needs of their niche following. Money of course is the primary reason that comes to mind. I just wish they would make a return to its routes, especially the Escalante 1.5(seriously I’m such a fan girl over this specific shoe, Men’s size 12 if anyone wants to sell me some unused ones). Because as of now my sips of the Altra kool-aid are becoming less frequent.
Amen to this comment! Well said…
The problem is, there is more money to be made in making ‘sporty’ shoes and apparel than true performance equipment.
Article is relevant. It would be beneficial to read information on which of these shoes are also available in Wide version. For example, Altra Torin 7 is available in both Wide and Standard width. Altra Wide versions are truly wide at the toe-box, are comfortable and perform well.