Altra Paradigm 4.0 Review

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The Altra Paradigm is a well cushioned, but it's not quite a Maximalist shoe. It aims to be like the Hoka range, but with Altra's zero drop and a human shaped toe box. There's a lot to like about the Paradigm, even though it doesn't match the Hoka Clifton for lightweight cushioning (but then, nothing much does.) While not as softly cushioned as some shoes, it does have a reasonable level of bounce from the TPU midsole, and so far, appears to be quite long-lasting (see update below.) My only real quibble with this shoe is the padding around the ankle opening which extends too far down, so the Paradigm doesn't quite grip the heel in the way running shoes normally do. 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.)

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning. The midsole of the Paradigm uses Altra's EGO foam, which is TPU based like the great Altra Escalante. TPU foam has more bounce, and is much longer lasting than traditional EVA foam. While the Paradigm has some of those characteristics, it's not as bouncy I had hoped. It's also not quite as soft and cushioned as I had expected, and is quite a bit firmer than the Hoka Clifton. It's not even quite as softly cushioned as the Escalante, which is a little surprising. Having said all that, the Paradigm is still a remarkably comfortable shoe, just not quite up to the standards of a Maximalist shoe. I feel like the Paradigm should be a few ounces lighter, as its cushioning-to-weight ratio is a little off the mark.
  • Drop. Like all Altra shoes, the Paradigm should be zero drop, and my measurements showed that it is remarkably close.
  • Structure. This shoe is made of a single type of foam which is painted at various levels to make the shoe look a little more structured. There is no variation in foam density within the midsole to interfere with your biomechanics. Remember that zero drop doesn't mean a flat sole, and there is a modest bulge under the arch that could irritate the plantar fascia, though it never caused me any issue. The heel is cupped, which provides a little passive stability, but mostly acts to keep your foot centered in the shoe.
  • Flexibility. The Paradigm is reasonably flexible for shoe of this thickness. The gaps in the outsole help a little, and 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; see updates below for details on how it holds up over the miles.
  • 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 less height for my toes than I'd like, but I didn't 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 modern, seamless woven material that's very slightly flexible, and lower friction than many uppers. I found it to be quite comfortable, and reasonably breathable. The ankle opening is nicely padded, but here in lies one of the few real flaws in the Paradigm. In every shoe that I can ever remember testing, the padding around the ankle opening is a ridge that holds the rear of the shoe on the heel bone. For the Paradigm, this padding around the ankle opening extends nearly to the insole, so while this is nicely padded, it really doesn't hold the rear of the shoe in place very well. This didn't cause me any significant problems, but it was rather disconcerting, and a little less comfortable than would otherwise be the case.</br>
    The forefoot, backlit to show some of the weave pattern.
  • Tongue. The Paradigm has hybrid tongue/sock liner. It's a little hard to describe, but there is a slightly thicker weave where a traditional tongue would be, and then thinner, elasticated sides sown into the rest of the upper that go part way along the tongue. This sown in section ends at the fourth eyelet up, where the tongue becomes a traditional free section of material. I found this hybrid approach worked really well, and I hope to see it more often. The tongue is unpadded, but stiff enough to provide some protection to the top of your foot from the laces.
  • Lacing. The flat laces work well and remained tied.
  • Heel counter. The Paradigm has no noticeable heel counter, just the shape of the upper.
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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.


2 200 Mile Update

After 200 miles

After 200 miles, there is a small amount of wear on the outsole. I tend to be rather gentle on my shoes, and the level of wear is very slight. There's a small amount of erosion under the ball of the foot and on the extreme back outside edge of the heel. The insole has compressed little, which is not surprising given how fragile most insoles are. As you would expect for a TPU foam midsole, there is very little compression so far. After 200 miles, this seems to be almost no change in how the Paradigm feels under foot.

3 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.