Altra Paradigm 4.0 Review
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.)
- 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>
- 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.
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, 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
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 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.