Altra Paradigm Review
The Altra Paradigm is a Maximalist shoe, rather like the Hoka range, but it has zero drop and a nice wide toe box. There's a lot to like about the Paradigm, but it doesn't match the Hoka Clifton for lightweight cushioning (but then, nothing does.) I've rated it as "Highly Recommended." (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.)
- Why you'd buy it. The Paradigm is a nice shoe, but I think you'd be better off looking at the Hoka Clifton or the Altra Olympus.
- Cushioning. The midsole of the Paradigm is similar to the Olympus or One2 Altra shoes. It's not quite as soft as the typical Hoka foam, but it's softer than the earlier Altra shoes were. Like many shoes, it takes a few miles from the initial firmness to wear off. Note that it's much softer than some of the other Altra shoes such as the Altra Torin.
- Drop. Like all Altra shoes, the Paradigm is zero drop, but this does not mean sole is flat. Instead, the thickness under the ball and heel is approximately the same but there is a little bit of rise under the arch. For my foot this is enough to provide a little extra medial support to the ball of the foot, but not so much that it pushes up on the arch of my foot which would cause problems. The Paradigm tapers gradually from the ball of the foot to the front, unlike Hoka which tends to have a rather more abrupt taper at the very front of the shoe. The very rear of the shoe is cut away slightly, which may reduce the chance of accidental heel strike. The midsole does wrap around the lower part of the foot to create some additional stability. This helps overcome some of the problems you get with a thick sole creating a stilt like instability.
- Structure. This shoe is made of a single type of foam which is painted at various levels to make the shoe look a little less clunky. Thus there is no variation in foam density within the midsole to interfere with the movement of the foot on the ground.
- Flexibility. The Paradigm is reasonably flexible for shoe of this thickness. The shallow grooves cut into the sole do help a little. The flexibility tends to increase over the first few miles as the foam breaks down and softens.
- Outsole. The Paradigm has harder rubber over most of the contact surface of the sole. This reduces the wear on the outsole, but there are areas around the little toes that are exposed midsole which will wear more quickly. See the picture at the top right for more details.
- Shape. The shoe is the classic Altra shape, which follows the outline of the human foot much better than other makes. This gives it a broader 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 a thin seamless material that is reasonably breathable. There is good padding around the ankle opening.
- Tongue. The Paradigm has a classic tongue rather than a tongue-less sock style of upper. The tongue is partially attached on the inside edge to keep it positioned, which I really like. The tongue has minimal but adequate padding.
- Lacing. The flat laces work well and remained tied. Like many Altra shoes, I find the position of the uppermost eyeholes a little old, with the top hole too high and the next hole a little too low. The shoes come from the manufacturer laced in a way that indicates they think you should do a "heel lock" style of lacing, which I hate. I find that approach is very hard to get the tension right.
- Heel counter. The Paradigm has a surprisingly firm heel counter, but there are no strongly defined edges, so it should not cause a problem. The heel counter comes as far up the back of the heel as is normal for running shoe.
This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the
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 Paradigm
4 Compared with Altra Olympus
The Altra Olympus and the Paradigm are remarkably similar shoes; the Olympus is a little thicker and heavier, it has slightly better and off road capacity, and its outsole is rather longer lasting.
- The Paradigm is road only, where the Olympus will handle both road and some mild trails. (Choose the Hoka Mafate for all –terrain use.)
- The Olympus is slightly thicker (36mm v 26mm) and slightly heavier (11.8 v 10.2oz).
- The outsole on the Olympus is quite hard, and can it lack traction on smooth rock or on a treadmill at steep incline.
- The Paradigm is slightly more cut away at the base of the heel to produce more of a rocker effect.
5 Compared with Hoka
Compared with the Hoka range, the Olympus/Paradigm is not quite as well cushioned, but has a much better toe box design. I also prefer the way the Olympus/Paradigm tapers the midsole towards the front of the shoe creating a more gradual rocker effect. However, the remarkable Hoka Clifton offers similar cushioning at a much lighter weight.
7 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes
If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.
For a more detailed on running 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.
|Saucony Type A6 Review||Saucony||A6||Highly Recommended||$100||8.2||6.1||9.5||17||21||4||5.0||7|
|Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review||Adidas||Adios||Worth considering||$140||4.7||8.6||13.4||17||27||11||4.0||6|
|Hoka Bondi 5 Review||Hoka||Bondi||Recommended||$150||6.1||11.6||18.1||38||42||5||7.1||2|
|Hoka Clayton 2 Review||Hoka||Clayton2||Highly Recommended||$150||9.1||8.3||12.9||23||28||1||7.5||5|
|Hoka Clifton 4 Review||Hoka||Clifton4||Worth considering||$130||7.7||9.3||14.5||30||35||10||7.2||3|
|On Cloudracer Review||On Cloud||Cloudracer||Worth considering||$130||5.7||8.2||12.8||19||27||5||4.7||7|
|Mizuno Wave Cruise Review||Mizuno||Cruise||Worth considering||$120||6.6||5.9||12.5||17||20||7||3.9||6|
|Newton Distance IV Review||Newton||Distance||Worth considering||$155||7.5||9.1||14.2||26||31||3||6.8||5|
|Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review||Asics||DS Racer||Worth considering||$110||8.2||7.0||10.9||21||26||6||5.8||5|
|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||5|
|Altra Escalante Review||Altra||Escalante||Best of the Best||$130||9.1||8.7||13.5||28||25||-1||7.9||6|
|Saucony Fastwitch Review||Saucony||Fastwitch||Highly Recommended||$90||9.5||7.1||11.1||20||22||4||6.8||7|
|Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review||Topo||Fli-Lyte2||Highly Recommended||$100||6.7||9.1||14.2||24||26||3||6.1||5|
|Saucony Freedom Review||Saucony||Freedom||Recommended||$160||5.4||10.7||16.6||25||29||3||5.8||6|
|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||4|
|Asics GT 2000 Review||Asics||GT 2000||Not recommended||$120||4.8||11.2||17.4||28||35||5||5.4||2|
|New Balance Hanzo S Review||New Balance||Hanzo||Worth considering||$110||7.6||6.9||10.7||21||19||2||5.2||5|
|Hoka Hupana Review||Hoka||Hupana||Recommended||$115||6.1||8.9||13.9||31||36||7||5.4||4|
|Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review||Asics||Hyper Speed||Highly Recommended||$75||10.9||6.3||9.8||22||26||5||6.8||6|
|Altra Instinct 4.0 Review||Altra||Instinct 4.0||Worth considering||$120||6.0||9.8||15.3||29||25||-1||5.9||5|
|Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review||Asics||Kainos||Worth considering||$130||10.0||6.9||10.7||17||27||9||6.8||6|
|Saucony Kinvara 8 Review||Saucony||Kinvara 8||Best of the Best||$110||9.3||8.6||13.4||26||31||3||8.0||5|
|Nike LunarSpider R5 Review||Nike||LunarSpider||Recommended||$125||6.9||6.7||10.4||17||21||3||4.6||6|
|Hoka Mafate Speed Review||Hoka||Mafate||Best of the Best||$170||7.6||11.9||18.5||39||40||4||9.0||1|
|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||4|
|Hoka Odyssey Review||Hoka||Odyssey||Highly Recommended||$130||8.5||9.4||14.6||37||45||5||8.0||3|
|Altra One 3.0 Review||Altra||One||Recommended||$100||6.1||8.8||13.7||23||23||0||5.4||6|
|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||6|
|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 RC5000v2 Review||New Balance||RC5000v2||Best of the Best||$125||14.2||4.0||6.2||13||21||6||5.7||7|
|Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review||Skechers||Ride||Worth considering||$85||5.9||8.5||13.2||18||28||6||5.0||8|
|Nike RN Distance 2||Nike||RNDist2||Review Pending||$120||8.0||9.2||14.3||25||28||4||7.4||7|
|Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review||Inov-8||RXT-220||Worth considering||$120||5.2||8.0||18.2||14||17||3||4.2||8|
|Topo ST-2 Review||Topo||ST-2||Highly Recommended||$90||8.2||7.3||11.4||20||18||0||6.0||7|
|Hoka Stinson Lite Review||Hoka||Stinson||Highly Recommended||$160||7.3||11.6||18.1||35||40||6||8.5||0|
|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||5|
|Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review||Adidas||Takumi Sen 3||Highly Recommended||$160||7.7||6.6||10.2||17||21||4||5.1||5|
|Altra Torin 2.0 Review||Altra||Torin||Worth considering||$125||5.8||9.6||14.9||28||25||-1||5.5||4|
|Hoka Tracer Review||Hoka||Tracer||Recommended||$130||7.2||7.4||11.5||21||24||2||5.3||5|
|Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review||Merrell||Trail Glove 4||Best of the Best||$100||3.4||8.4||23.8||13||13||0||2.8||10|
|Topo Tribute Review||Topo||Tribute||Recommended||$100||5.9||7.3||11.4||20||18||-1||4.3||6|
|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 3 Review||Merrell||Vapor Glove 3||Highly Recommended||$85||2.1||6.1||27.6||6||5||0||1.3||10|
|Nike Vaporfly 4% Review||Nike||Vaporfly||Best of the Best||$250||10.4||7.2||11.2||25||37||8||7.5||2|
|New Balance Vazee Pace Review||New Balance||Vazee Pace||Worth considering||$110||6.0||8.6||13.4||18||24||6||5.2||5|
|Asics TartherZeal 3 Review||Asics||Zeal||Worth considering||$140||10.9||6.3||9.8||17||27||9||6.8||6|
|Saucony Zealot 3 Review||Saucony||Zealot3||Recommended||$130||8.9||9.5||14.8||29||32||4||8.5||6|
|Nike Zoom Fly Review||Nike||Zoom Fly||Worth considering||$150||8.3||8.7||13.5||29||36||8||7.2||3|
It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
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, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.