For this review of the Altra Paradigm 1.5, I used a group of wear testers to gauge the overall thought on the shoes, while drilling down for specifics from each reviewer. The test group consisted of male and female runners from different running backgrounds. The first opinion in each section is mine, the quotes following are those from the group.
Overall: The Altra Paradigm 1.5 is a cushy zero drop, maximalist and light weight road shoe with a slipper-like feel that could be used for training or racing road ultras or well-groomed trails.
1. First impressions. What did you think when you first opened the box? How about when you first put them on?
Me: Holy cow, these are colorful! Not overly impressed with the build quality, but nothing was amiss either. Just seemed like “shoes.” Didn’t realize Altra made road shoes, so this will be fun. They’re super light. Slipped them on and they’re quite comfy with a definite maximalist feel. I couldn’t help but jump up and down in them. Super bouncy and soft.
“When I first opened the box my first impression was that these shoes look big and bulky. Not quite Hoka but close. They are very light weight however. They feel really great on my feet, the wide toe box is always great and it was quite comfy. The stack height makes me feel 5 inches taller. I knew quickly that there was no way I could take these on a trail run. I would break an ankle.”
“My first impression of the Altra Paradigm was pretty mixed. First of all, I thought the Paradigms were a pretty good lookin’ shoe, especially for a more “maximal” shoe style. Also, I like Altras in generally, especially the characteristic wide toe box and zero drop, and in those areas the Paradigms did not let me down. I also liked the nice soft outsole, as well as the cushioning around the sides.But there was something strange with the fit that I couldn’t really get a handle on at first that just didn’t seem quite right. I felt like it was tight around the top of my foot, nearer to my ankle, then loose elsewhere. Walking around in them, something just seemed a little off, but it took some time to put my finger on it. Only after several runs (and mixing in some of my other running shoes) did I start to figure out what was going on.”
“I love them! The softest shoes I’ve ever felt. They look really bright, but at least the colors are cool. I don’t want to take them off.”
2. Do they fit true to size? What size are you regularly? What type of shoes do you regularly run in? First time in Altras?
Me: I wear a size 12 in most shoes and those these felt great around the house, they ran a tad small on the road. I can feel a ridge at the front of the shoe that wouldn’t be apparent in a 12.5, but that shoe would be far too large. I run in a variety of shoes, from zero drop Skoras to maximalist Hokas. I’ve only run in Altras once (a few years ago) and these are my favorite from the brand.
“I mix up my running shoes a lot, and have fun in everything from big bad Hokas to more minimal Nike Free’s and a lot in between, which leads to a variety of sizing across types of shoe and manufacturer. In Altras, I tend to wear either an 8 or an 81/2. The shoes I tried were 8’s.
These shoes fit pretty true to size, but because of the shape and design of the shoe, the size wasn’t really working for me. I think what was happening was primarily due to 1) the shoe’s shape and 2) the lacing system.
The first issue, with the shoes shape, was mostly an issue around the ankle. Compared to some of my other shoes, these ankles seemed very large. I laced them all the way back, and still felt like I couldn’t get a snug fit. This turned out to be a very big problem, because I also had a hell of a time getting my ankle back in the sloped section of the heel. The heel kind of slopes inward to the back of my ankle, and I couldn’t get my heel to stay back in there, especially with the large ankle that I couldn’t secure they way I wanted.
Second, the lacing system didn’t really help. In addition to it not going far enough back to really give me a secure fit around the ankle, I also felt like it didn’t go far enough forward toward my toes to give me a good mid-foot fit. The toe area felt loose (almost too loose) because I didn’t have laces there to adjust. I appreciated the width of the toe box, but I wished I had the ability to bring the top down just a little, and that was lacking in the lacing system.”
“I own 2 Altra shoes so I know about the wide toe box and zero drop. These shoes are a size 10 but they feel half a size too big. I had the same issue with the Superior 1.5. Also the material the inner part of the heel is made of makes it feel like you are always slipping out of the shoe( especially if you wear synthetic socks) so my foot doesn’t quite stay in the shoe. The wide toe box is great but if the shoe is too big and the laces aren’t tight then you tend to slip around going downhill.”
“I usually wear an 8 or 8.5 but these are a 9 and they fit me perfectly. No complaints at all, but I’d definitely recommend trying them on before buying them.”
3. How do you like running in them? Squishy? Hard? Sloppy? Fast? Slow?
Me: I was nervous about putting miles on them, as my zero-drop obsession led to a horrible case of Achilles Tendinopathy that sidelined me for the better part of 2011. For whatever reason, I haven’t had the same issue with these. The ankle collar is decadently soft and the ride is squishy (about the same as Hoka Clifton.) For those of you who like toe splay, these provide it in spades. Soft foot strike, then ahhhhh, the foot spreads out in the toebox. I wouldn’t call them a particularly fast shoe, but they’ve certainly been comfortable to walk and run in.
“My runs in these were overall pretty good and pretty comfortable. I found that I was wishing for 1) either a bit more of a flexible sole or 2) a built-in rocker (a la Hokas) to make the roll through a little easier. Other than that they were soft, comfortable, and really a pretty nice ride overall. They didn’t feel like a terribly fast shoe, but the kind of shoe I might like for long slow runs, recovery runs, etc.
These shoes, for me, were road runners through and through. The few times I tried to take them on even the slightest bit of trail (the packed dirt/leaves on the side of the bike path), I felt like I was slip sliding and really losing my grip. I use a lot of road shoes on my easy trails around my house, and these were NOT one that would fall into that category. For me, these are road-only. This would be a shoe I would consider using for road marathon training (if they got those fit issues sorted).”
“The first run I took them on was a gravel/dirt road. The outsole is rigid and not flexible so that made my heel slip out of the shoe. I tried tightening the laces and it work better but I felt like the blood circulation to the foot was cut off. As a consequence I experience some numb feelings in my toes. After a while the shoes seemed to warm up and become a bit more elastic. It took about 4 miles before It felt fine.
Although the shoes look bulky they don’t feel like it when you run. Very light weight and I felt quite fast. It was comfortable but I didn’t have much ground feel.”
4. What do you think of the build/quality? Do they feel like they’ll last? Does the price ($130) seem appropriate?
They held up fairly well over a few hundred miles. One shoe has recently developed a tear on the tread which is disapointing, but overall they’re better than expected. $130 seems about right for a nice pair of shoes these days.
“At $130, these shoes are pretty good quality. I tried to be moderately hard on them (you know, for a road shoe) and they didn’t shoe any signs of wear or tear at the end, either on the outsole or the bottoms. They really held up, and I think they’ll give you an awful lot of mileage for the price.
The quality of the shoe is quite good. The thin upper hasn’t torn yet and when I run without socks the inside feels great. I like running sockless and usually some part of the inside rubs the wrong way and I get a small blister but so far I haven’t had any issues. The only sign of breaking down is bottom part of the shoe that has no sticky yellow material. It seems to be disappearing fast. I think this could be a 500 mile shoe.”
“I wouldn’t pay 130$ for them though, maybe $100. I say that because I own the superior which is a great trail shoe and the One2 is a great road shoe so I don’t see this shoe taking over.”
“The price seems about right for lightweight maxi shoes. I’ve only put 200 miles on them, and I hope they last a bit longer.”
5. How’d they handle the road? The trail? What are they best for?
This is a road shoe. Though I’ve taken them on finely-groomed trail, they’re much better suited for the road, and there’s no need to apologize for that.
“This shoe is definitely a road shoe. I took them on some rocky and uneven trails and I had to end my run short because I thought I was going to break my ankle. The stack height was not something I was used to so I kept rolling my ankle on rocks. The shoes also weren’t gripping the ground as much as the Superiors. I know this is a road shoe but I like some versatility. The shoe was better on the road because I didn’t have to think about where I was stepping. The cushiony feel was great because my feet felt fresh after a long run on hard pavement.”
“I wear road shoes on the trails and trail shoes on the road and have had no problem with these on the trails. They’ve worked fine but I don’t like to get them dirty.”
6. What would you change about them?
What I would change about them (a tighter toe box) is what most people like about them, so I’ll leave that one be. And hey, where’d that cool foot on the sole go?
“I would change a couple of things. I would lower the stack height by a few millimeters. Maybe almost half an inch. It would decrease the weight even more. I just want to grab a knife and do it myself. It would be such a better shoe.
I would also remove much of the padding on the heel and around the ankle. It’s just too much. I had the same issue with the Superioir 1.5. I performed some surgery on the Superior by removing all the padding around the heel and the ankle and the shoe was way better. No more slipping and lighter. I wanted to do the same with the Paradigms but I wanted to test them out in their pre altered form. I’ll send you some pictures of when I do!
Last thing, the sticky yellow material on the outsole should cover the entire bottom not just 80%. I tend to land on the front right, exactly where the material doesn’t exist so the tear is more than usual.”
“This is my first time in Altras and I like everything about them. I like how bouncy they are, they look great, and they’ve stayed in good shape after two months of wearing them. I can’t think of anything to change.”
I’d recommend the Altra Paradigm 1.5 for zero-drop devotees who want a light weight road shoe. I’d also recommend them as post-run shoes, as their slipper-like fit feels great after a tough day on the trails.
“This shoe is for a base building period where you just need the miles and don’t care for the speed or the terrain. It is really stable unless you are running on road with a slight incline or a trail.”
“Overall, if you are focused on road running, and you like Altras and their zero-drop/wide toe box, but you want a little more cushioning, these seem like a pretty good shoe for a pretty fair price. That said, I HIGHLY recommend trying them on in the store and getting a good move on in them to see if those fit issues will plague you the way they plagued me. It could be a deal breaker.”
More info here on the Altra site.
34mm stack height
10 5/8 oz for my size 12M
8.5 oz for women’s 8 1/2.
Disclaimer: Shoes were provided to URP test group as product samples free of charge. All words and thoughts are those of respective authors. Big thanks to Guillermo, Tara, and Samantha for providing opinions and pics.