Altra One 2.5 Review

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The Altra One is a wonderfully light, comfortable shoe that I love to run in. Putting on the One makes me feel like I'm putting on a comfortable slipper rather than a running shoe. However there are two problems; the One wears out quickly, making it an expensive shoe in terms of cost per mile, and the best shoes are either lighter or better cushioned (or both.) (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Altra The One 2.5 top
Altra The One 2.5 bottom
Altra The One 2.5 inside
Altra The One 2.5 outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. It's a softly cushioned, lightweight shoe that's designed for a human foot. The Hoka Clifton is much better cushioned, but a little heavier, the Asics Gel Hyper Speed is a little better cushioned and a lot lighter.
  • Cushioning . The One is softly cushioned, and comfortable underfoot. The cut away parts of the midsole add a bit of an egg crate effect, but not enough to cause problems.
  • Drop. In theory Altra shoes are zero drop but I measured a 3mm drop unloaded, which reduces to 2mm when worn, which is close enough to zero drop for most people.
  • Structure. This shoe uses single density of foam, but there is quite a bit of shape to the midsole. You might think that "zero drop" means a flat midsole, but it doesn't. There is a fair rise under the arch, though it didn't cause me any problems. The heel is quite cupped, which keeps your foot centered in the shoe without attempting to interfere with your biomechanics.
  • Flexibility. The One is a remarkably flexible for shoe due to the deep grooves in the bottom of the midsole, and the shallow grooves in the top. (The top cuts are hidden unless you dissect the shoe.)
  • Outsole. There is almost no outsole, just a couple of tiny patches of the extreme front and rear of the shoe. The bulk of the bottom of the shoe is exposed foam, which helps keep the shoe light as the harder rubber used on shoes is quite heavy. However, the exposed midsole wears very quickly and dramatically, and I've got only a little over 200 miles from mine before they needed retirement. Other shoes seem to do much, much better, even with exposed midsole.
  • Shape. The shoe is the classic Altra shape, which follows the outline of the human foot much better than other makes. It has a broad toe box, but I find there is not enough height for my toes and I still have to cut the toe box open. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is reasonably thin and unpadded in the front, morphing into a thin layer of padding below the ankle opening. The ankle opening itself is nicely padded.
  • Tongue. The One has a classic tongue, but it's partially attached on one side to keep it positioned, which I like a lot. It has minimal but adequate padding.
  • Lacing. The flat laces work well and remained tied, though they are unusually long. I found they tended to catch on things, so I had to tuck the ends under the laces at the front.
  • Heel Counter. There's really nothing you could justify calling a "heel counter", which is nice.
helping-hand.jpg

2 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

3 Visualizing the Attributes of the Altra One

How Altra One compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Altra One compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Altra One compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Altra One compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

4 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

4.1 Altra One 2.5 and One 2

I'm assured the 2.5 is different from the 2, but it's hard to spot the differences. Apparently the upper has been redesigned, but I can't spot anything even on close inspection. The toe box has slightly more height, but it's still woefully short. The 2.5 also has "improved fit", but again, I couldn't spot anything. The biggest change appears to be that the 2.5 comes in different colors, so buy whatever's cheaper. (The sizes have changed; a size 11 in the 2.5 is the same size that a 10.5 was in the 2.0.)

Altra The One 2.5 top
Altra The One 2.5 bottom
Altra The One 2.5 inside
Altra The One 2.5 outside
Altra One2 top
Altra One2 bottom
Altra One2 inside
Altra One2 outside
helping-hand.jpg

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via these links.

4.2 Altra One and Hoka Clifton 2

I like running in the Altra One, but the Hoka Clifton 2 is a far superior shoe. The Clifton offers vastly more cushioning for only a couple of ounces more weight. However, the One is a lot more slipper like, with more flexibility and a more comfortable upper. It's not that the Clifton is uncomfortable in any conventional way, but because the midsole is so thick and inflexible, the upper has to be more sturdy to keep the shoe attached to your foot. The Clifton is also a lot cheaper shoe in the long run, as even though it has exposed midsole it does not wear as quickly as the One.

Altra The One 2.5 top
Altra The One 2.5 bottom
Altra The One 2.5 inside
Altra The One 2.5 outside
Hoka Clifton 2 top
Hoka Clifton 2 bottom
Hoka Clifton 2 inside
Hoka Clifton 2 outside
helping-hand.jpg

4.3 Altra One and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

The Asics Gel Hyper Speed offers nearly the same forefoot cushioning, and more real cushioning than the One, and it does so at a considerably lighter weight, and it lasts a lot longer. The One is shaped more like the human foot than the Hyper Speed, but I still find I need to cut open the toe box of either shoe. For fast, efficient running I'd always choose the Hyper Speed over the One.

Altra The One 2.5 top
Altra The One 2.5 bottom
Altra The One 2.5 inside
Altra The One 2.5 outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside
helping-hand.jpg

4.4 Altra One and New Balance RC5000

Compared with many shoes, the One is lightweight, but it's more than twice the weight of the New Balance RC5000. The RC5000 is the fastest shoe I've tested, providing just enough cushioning to improve Running Economy. The RC5000 suffers from being too cushioned to be a pseudo-barefoot shoe, but not cushioned enough for most runners used to a traditional running shoe. However, if you're efficient enough to be happy with this level of cushioning at your chosen distance, and you're looking for every edge you can get in a race there is nothing else that comes close. By comparison, the One is soft and luxurious. If the One is a Porsche 911 (reasonably fast, but comfortable), then the RC 5000 is a purpose built race car (speed is everything, and forget the comfort.)

Altra The One 2.5 top
Altra The One 2.5 bottom
Altra The One 2.5 inside
Altra The One 2.5 outside
New Balance MRC 5000 top
New Balance MRC 5000 bottom
New Balance MRC 5000 inside
New Balance MRC 5000 outside
helping-hand.jpg

4.5 Altra One and Asics GT 2000

I tend to compare shoes against my benchmark "normal running shoe", the Asics GT 2000. The GT 2000 is over engineered and these features go against The Science of Running Shoes, causing more problems than they solve. The One stands in stark contrast to the GT 2000, offering better cushioning, greater comfort, with less weight. The One is designed for the human foot, both in shape and function, while it seems like the designers of the GT 2011 never even seen a foot before. Compared with the One, the GT 2000 feels like you're running in a wooden clog.

Altra The One 2.5 top
Altra The One 2.5 bottom
Altra The One 2.5 inside
Altra The One 2.5 outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review

Brand Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review Asics 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 6
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 8
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 7
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 4
Hoka Clayton Review Hoka Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 5
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton 2 Review Pending $150 9.1 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.5 6
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Hoka Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 6
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 8
Hoka Conquest Review Hoka Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 3
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Saucony Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 5
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 7
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 6
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 6
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 8.0 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 6
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 7
Puma Faas 100 R Review Puma Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 9
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 8
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Topo Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 6
Nike Free 4.0 Review Nike Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 6
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 7
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Asics Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review Skechers GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 5
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review Skechers GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 7
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 4
New Balance Hanzo S New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 6
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 5
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 7
Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review Altra Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 6
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 7
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 6
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review Nike LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 6
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 7
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 3
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 5
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 4
Altra Olympus Review Altra Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 4
Altra One 2.5 Review Altra One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 8
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Review Pending $100 6.1 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.4 7
Altra Paradigm Review Altra Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 4
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review New Balance RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 8
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 9
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 9
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 8
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 2
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 6
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 6
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 5
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 6
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Merrell Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 9
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 7
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Merrell Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 6
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 7

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.