Altra One2 (One Squared) Review

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The Altra One2(One-squared) is a wonderful blend of light weight and soft cushioning, and is a shoe I love to run in. In many ways it reminds me of the legendary Nike Mayfly, though it is not as light weight as that groundbreaking shoe. The One2 is not as softly cushioned as a Maximalist shoe, but it is a lot softer than the Saucony Virrata or the Mizuno Cursoris, and lighter the Adidas Energy Boost. However the One2 does not last very long, making it an expensive shoe in terms of cost per mile. (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 One2 top
Altra One2 bottom
Altra One2 inside
Altra One2 outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. It's a softly cushioned, lightweight show that's designed for a human foot. The Hoka Clifton is better cushioned, but a little heavier.
  • Cushioning . . The One2is softly cushioned, but because of its thinness it does not offer the same protection from rough ground that a true Maximalist shoe would.
  • Drop. Like other Altra shoes, the One2 is zero drop but with a slight rise under the arch. The One2 tapers more gently from the ball of the foot to the front than most Altra shoes, mostly because it's so much thinner. The rear of the midsole is very slightly cut away to create a hint of a rocker.
  • Structure. This shoe uses single density of foam, but they are deep grooves cut into the bottom of the sole, and some shallower grooves in the top of the midsole. (These top cuts are hidden unless you dissect the shoe.)
  • Flexibility. The One2 is a remarkably flexible for shoe due to the deep grooves in the bottom of the midsole, and the shallow grooves in the top.
  • 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 is part of the reason the shoe is so light as the harder rubber used on many shoes is quite heavy. However, this does dramatically reduce the wear characteristics, and I got only a little over 200 miles from mine before they needed retirement.
  • 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, but more substantial than you would expect from a shoe this light. It has excellent padding around the ankle opening.
  • Tongue. The One2 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.
  • Heel Counter. The heel counter is quite soft, and comes as far up the back of the heel as is normal for running shoe.
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This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don't get "reviewer specials" that are better than the retail versions.


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 One2

How Altra One2 compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Altra One2 compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Altra One2 compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Altra One2 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 One2 and Hoka Clifton

Comparing the One2 and the Hoka Clifton:

  • Similarities
    • Both are top picks.
  • Advantage Altra One2
    • Weight. The Altra One2 is a lot lighter, but that lightness is due to less cushioning.
    • Shape. The Altra One2 has a much better toe box.
    • Drop. The Altra One2 is zero drop though the Clifton drop is smaller than a traditional shoe.
  • Advantage Hoka Clifton
    • Cushioning . The Clifton has a lot thicker cushioning.
    • Trails. The Clifton has a lot more protection on rocky trails.
    • Longevity. Both shoes have a lot of exposed midsole, but the Clifton wears much better.

4.2 One2 and Saucony Virrata

Comparing the One2 and Saucony Virrata:

  • Similarities
    • Weight. Both are light weight.
    • Flexibility. Both are extremely flexible.
    • Drop. Both are zero drop.
    • Outsole. Neither have much grip.
    • Longevity. Neither last very long, with the exposed midsole wearing quickly enough to make the overall cost per mile quite high. (The Virrata lasts a little longer than the One2.)
  • Advantage One2
    • Cushioning . The One2 is more softly cushioned.
    • Shape. The One2 has a much better toe box.
  • Advantage Saucony Virrata
    • Price. The Virrata is often available at a lower price.
    • Availability. The Virrata is easier to find, as Saucony is widely stocked.
Altra One2 top
Altra One2 bottom
Altra One2 inside
Altra One2 outside
Saucony Virrata top
Saucony Virrata bottom
Saucony Virrata inside
Saucony Virrata outside

4.3 One2 and Mizuno Cursoris

Comparing the One2 and Mizuno Cursoris:

  • Similarities
    • Weight. Both are light weight.
    • Flexibility. Both are extremely flexible.
    • Drop. Both are zero drop.
    • Grip. Neither has much grip.
    • Shape. Both have great toe boxes (but the Cursoris is slightly better).
    • Longevity. Neither last very long, with the exposed midsole wearing quickly enough to make the overall cost per mile quite high.
  • Advantage One2
    • Cushioning . The One2 is more thickly, softly cushioned, though the Cursoris is pretty good.
    • Availability. The Cursoris is hard to get hold of and is discontinued.
  • Advantage Mizuno Cursoris
    • Price. The Cursoris is often available at a much lower price (if you can find it).
Altra One2 top
Altra One2 bottom
Altra One2 inside
Altra One2 outside
Mizuno Wave Runner Cursoris top
Mizuno Wave Runner Cursoris bottom
Mizuno Wave Runner Cursoris inside
Mizuno Wave Runner Cursoris outside

4.4 One2 and Altra Torin

Comparing the One2 and the Altra Torin:

  • Similarities
    • Drop. Both are zero drop.
    • Shape. Both have good toe boxes.
  • Advantage Altra One2
    • Cushioning . The Altra One2 is a lot more softly cushioned.
    • Weight. The Altra One2 is lighter.
    • Flexibility. The Altra One2 is a lot more flexible.
  • Advantage Altra Torin
    • Trails. The Altra Torin has better protection on rocky trails.
    • Longevity. The Altra Torin lasts a lot longer.
Altra One2 top
Altra One2 bottom
Altra One2 inside
Altra One2 outside
Altra Torin top
Altra Torin bottom
Altra Torin inside
Altra Torin outside

5 Gallery

The One2 and the Altra Olympus from the outside view.
The One2 and the Altra Olympus from the inside view.
The One2 and the Altra Olympus from the top view.
The Adidas Energy Boost, Saucony Virrata, One2, and the Mizuno Cursoris. (Top to bottom, left to right.)
The One2, Adidas Energy Boost, Mizuno Cursoris, and the Saucony Virrata. (Left to right.)
The One2and the Adidas Energy Boost from above.
The One2and the Mizuno Cursoris from above.
The One2and the Altra Torin from above.
The One2and the Saucony Virrata from above.
A close up of the cross-section through the midsole. Each of the blocks should be roughly the same thickness, but you can see where one of the blocks has been worn down quite a bit.
Another view of the wear on the outsole after a little over 200 miles.
Altra The One2 cross section

6 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 1.5 Review 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 3.5 Review 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
Altra Paradigm 4.0 Review Altra Paradigm Highly Recommended $150 3.6 11.0 17.1 28 30 3 4.0 9
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 13.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 5 5.5 8
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 4.3 9.7 15.1 26 29 4 4.2 6
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 7.1 6.5 10.1 16 19 5 4.6 8
Altra Escalante Racer Review Altra Racer Highly Recommended $140 7.1 7.6 11.8 24 26 6 5.4 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.4 5.6 8.7 15 21 6 4.7 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 17.6 4.0 6.2 13 21 4 7.0 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 4.6 8.5 18.9 18 28 3 3.9 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Review Nike RNDist2 Worth considering $120 8.7 9.2 14.3 25 28 3 8.0 4
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 6.6 8.0 12.5 14 17 1 5.3 6
Salomon Sense Ride Review Salomon Sense Worth considering $120 5.7 10.0 15.6 24 29 0 5.7 7
Altra Solstice Review Altra Solstice Highly Recommended $90 9.9 8.1 12.5 23 25 6 8.0 0
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 7.3 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 5.4 5
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 4.1 11.6 18.1 35 40 4 4.8 5
Altra Superior Altra Superior Highly Recommended $110 6.3 9.9 15.5 22 25 2 6.2 3
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.9 6.6 10.2 17 21 -1 5.2 4
Topo Terraventure Topo Terraventure Review Pending $110 4.6 10.8 16.8 24 24 2 5.0 5
Altra Timp Review Altra Timp Best of the Best $130 2.3 11.6 28.8 30 31 0 2.7 10
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 4.2 9.6 14.9 31 25 -1 4.1 6
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 4.2 7.4 17.3 22 24 1 3.1 9
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 6.0 8.4 13.1 13 13 0 5.1 8
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 1.7 7.3 29.5 20 18 0 1.2 10
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 22.9 3.1 4.8 9 12 8 7.1 2
Altra Vanish-R Review Altra Vanish-R Recommended $100 9.2 5.3 8.2 19 21 6 4.9 5
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 10.6 6.1 9.5 6 5 9 6.4 6
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 11.1 7.2 11.2 25 37 4 8.0 6
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 7.9 8.6 0.0 18 24 8 6.8 3
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.3 6.3 0.0 17 27 1 6.4 5
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 6.0 9.5 0.0 29 32 0 5.7 7
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 6.6 8.7 0.0 29 36 -1 5.7 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, 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.