Altra Solstice Review

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Running shoes frequently surprise me, and normally not in a good way. The Solstice is that rare exception when I have low expectations but find myself pleasantly surprised. Altra market the Solstice for "everyday wear or shorter road races", and they seem to think of it as an "entry level" shoe. My initial impressions were suitably underwhelming, as the Solstice is not terribly light, or unusually well cushioned, and it doesn't have any remarkable features. Nothing remarkable that is, until I started putting some miles on them, and discovered just how much my feet liked them. Unlike some shoes, where I have to push myself to put the miles in with them, I found myself automatically reaching for the Solstice. And when I tested other shoes, I found myself missing the Solstice. While the solstice is not ultralight like the long gone New Balance RC5000‏‎, or massively cushioned like the Hoka Clifton, or amazingly fast like the Nike Vaporfly 4%, it is remarkably comfortable. Like all Altra shoes, it's near zero drop, and has an outline shape that matches a healthy human foot. Unlike most Altra shoes, the Solstice has a reasonable amount of headroom for the toes, allowing for a more natural foot movement. I was surprised to find myself packing of the Solstice for a vacation instead of my venerable Nike Zoom Streak LT 3, which have been my companion on every vacation for the last few years. I'm rating the Solstice as "Highly Recommended", and I hope you enjoy your running in them as much as I am. (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.)

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The Solstice has reasonable, but not great cushioning for its weight. In fact, you can get similar (or better) cushioning for much less weight, with shoes like the Asics Gel Hyper Speed or the Nike Zoom Streak LT. The Solstice reminds me somewhat of the Nike LunarSpider; it's not light for its cushioning, but it's well-made and comfortable. The cushioning is reasonably springy and resilient for an EVA foam shoe, though not up to the levels of a TPU foam shoe like the Altra Escalante. I found the Solstice was fairly insulated from the ground, so if you're looking for a slightly minimalist style shoe that lets you know every detail of what's going on under your feet, the Solstice is probably less ideal than you might expect from its sole thickness. On the other hand, if you like a little bit of protection I think the Solstice is a good compromise.
  • Drop. The Solstice is almost zero drop, with just 1-2mm less forefoot than heel height.
  • Structure. The Solstice uses just one density of foam and doesn't attempt to manipulate or interfere with your natural biomechanics.
  • Flexibility. While the Solstice is moderately flexible and quite springy, though I doubt if there's any performance benefit to be had.
  • Outsole. There's only a small patch of harder rubber outsole on the back outer edge of the heel, with virtually all of the soft midsole foam exposed. I found the solstice lasted far longer than I might have expected (see below for details.) There are no outsole lugs, or sticky rubber to improve grip, but I found the exposed midsole was pretty good on asphalt or other hard surfaces. On slippery surfaces, such as a thin layer of wet mud, there is very little grip, so use caution.
  • Shape. Altra shoes are some of the few that attempt to actually fit the human foot. The Solstice does a great job of fitting the outline of the human foot, and unlike some other Altra shoes there's a little headroom for your toes. In fact, there's enough headroom that I didn't feel the urge to cut open the toe box.
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  • Upper. The upper is unpadded except for a tiny bit around the ankle opening. The upper is inflexible, rather than elasticated, something I prefer. I find the elasticated upper puts continual pressure on my feet that causes a little discomfort. If I compare the Solstice to the Altra Vanish-R, I found the Solstice to be a lot more comfortable.
  • Tongue. The Solstice has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. There's a bit of padding towards the back half, but not much. The laces are closely spaced, so most runners shouldn't have issues with pain across the top of the foot unless you're quite sensitive.
  • Lacing. The thin flat laces came untied way too often, and I had to remember to tie the knot tightly and tuck the loops out of the way.
  • Heel Counter. The Solstice has no noticeable heel counter.
helping-hand.jpg

2 After 200 miles

As you can see from the images above, there's surprisingly little abrasion on the exposed midsole after 200 miles. Typically, I'm gentle on my shoes, partly due to my weight (140Lb/64Kg) and partly a soft foot strike. As with most shoes, the limiting factor is more the compression of the foam than abrasion, but after 200 miles the compression is fairly modest. Most of the compression is actually the insole rather than the midsole, so if you can find some decent Replacement Insoles, they could prolong the life of the Solstice.

3 After 400 miles

Altra Solstice 400miles.jpg

After 400 miles the Solstice is still going strong. There's still relatively little abrasion on the exposed midsole as you can see from the image above. There's some compression on the midsole, but far less than I'd have expected. The insole has continued to collapse, but ironically now that more of the insole is flat, it causes less problems. Instead of being compressed under just the ball of my foot, it's compressed over most of the forefoot, so there's not the twisting forces anymore. The Solstice has become my "go to" road running shoe, and the more I run in it, the more I appreciate it. I occasionally get caught out by the laces coming undone, which can be really annoying, but that's about my only quibble.

4 After 500 miles

I really wasn't expecting the Solstice to last anything like this long. There is now some noticeable abrasion on the sole, mostly under the middle of the forefoot. There's a little bit of abrasion on the outside edge of the heel, and most of my shoes have more wear in this area. This leads me to suspect that I'm running a little more efficiently in the Solstice and some of the shoes. There is a far less compression of the midsole than I would expect, something I confirmed by comparing with a new pair of Solstices. The new shoes are quite a bit firmer, showing how the foam has become more compliant with use. While there's quite a bit of compression under the ball of the foot, most of this is in the insole rather than the midsole. The Solstice is now borderline for continued use, but I may continue to put more miles on them as the opportunity arises.

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

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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.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 was my top pick, but the latest version (LT 4) falls short of it's predecessor. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills, but all have their weak spots. Probably the best option at the moment is the Altra Vanish-R, which offers great cushioning for just over 5oz/150g.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. For trail running, I've become a fan of Altra, and I think their best shoe is the the Altra Timp, though the Altra Lone Peak is really close.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

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.

Full Review

Brand Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A Review Saucony A/A7 Recommended $100 6.0 6.7 12.1 19 22 1 4.1 7
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 7.7 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 4.7 7
Saucony Type A8 Review Saucony A8 Highly Recommended $90 7.1 6.2 9.7 19 20 -1 4.4 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.4 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 3.8 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 5.7 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 6.7 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 8.6 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.1 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.2 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 6.7 3
ON Cloudflash Review On Cloud Cloudflash Worth considering $180 4.2 8.3 14.6 19 26 7 3.5 6
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.4 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.4 7
ON Cloud X Review On Cloud CloudX Not recommended $140 4.3 8.3 16.3 21 27 7 3.6 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.3 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.7 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.1 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.4 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 7.8 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.4 5
Altra Duo Review Altra Duo Recommended $130 5.6 8.4 13.1 29 29 1 4.7 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.3 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.0 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 7.5 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 3.8 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 6.8 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 6.8 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 8.6 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.5 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.0 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.4 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.4 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 5.8 5
Reebok Floatride Run Review Reebok Floatride Worth considering $150 7.2 9.6 14.9 28 34 10 7.0 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.1 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.4 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 5.7 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.3 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.1 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.1 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.5 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.1 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.1 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 4.9 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 5.7 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.1 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.2 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.4 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 5.7 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.6 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 9.4 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.4 6
Altra King MT Altra King MT Recommended $140 4.1 10.7 20.8 19 21 -1 4.4 5
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 8.8 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 7.5 5
Altra Lone Peak Altra Lone Peak Highly Recommended $120 4.9 11.4 17.7 23 25 -2 5.6 4
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike LT3 Best of the Best $80 8.3 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.5 5
Nike Zoom Streak LT 4 Review Nike LT4 Recommended $90 9.2 5.5 8.5 15 21 5 5.0 7
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.5 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.3 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Highly Recommended $170 7.1 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 8.5 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.5 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 4.9 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.1 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.3 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.0 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 7.5 3
Altra Olympus 2.5 Review Altra Olympus Highly Recommended $150 6.9 11.8 18.4 34 34 2 8.2 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 5.8 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.1 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 9.5 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.0 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 5.7 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.5 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.5 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.2 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.3 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.6 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 13.4 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.4 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.6 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 4.7 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Review Nike RNDist2 Worth considering $120 7.6 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.0 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 4.9 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 3.9 8
Salomon Sense Ride Review Salomon Sense Worth considering $120 8.0 10.0 15.6 24 29 3 8.0 4
Altra Solstice Review Altra Solstice Highly Recommended $90 6.6 8.1 12.5 23 25 1 5.3 6
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 7.7 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 5.7 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 6.9 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.0 0
Altra Superior Altra Superior Highly Recommended $110 5.4 9.9 15.5 23 25 0 5.4 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.3 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 4.8 5
Altra Timp Review Altra Timp Best of the Best $130 5.4 11.6 18.1 28 31 2 6.2 3
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.4 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.2 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 6.8 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.0 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.2 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.7 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.6 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.1 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.1 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.1 9
Altra Vanish-R Review Altra Vanish-R Recommended $100 9.7 5.3 8.2 19 21 0 5.1 8
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.0 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.2 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 9.8 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.1 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 5.6 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 4.9 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.3 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.4 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.4 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.0 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 7.8 8.7 0.0 29 36 8 6.8 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.