Altra Paradigm

8.0
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Altra Paradigm Review Facts
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Let’s consider maximalist running shoes for a moment. Maximalist shoes have more cushioning than a traditional running shoe with less height difference (drop) from the front to the back. Many runners are surprised when they first put on a pair of maximalist shoes by the softness and comfort of their ride. They’ve become popular with ultrarunners who require more cushioning, while regular runners that look for comfort in their trainers also seek out the maximalist style.

The Altra Paradigm is a maximalist running shoe that gives other maximalist shoe lines a run for their money. Its 34mm stack height of EVA cushioning provides an incredibly comfortable and supportive ride. The highly durable midsole keeps its spring even after 200+ miles on the road. This material also provides more responsiveness than other maximalist shoes that have a gel or foam midsole. Much more stable than most running shoes with a notable toe box, which allows for toe splay, long distance and ultrarunners will be surprised at the lack of slippage even on 20+ mile runs.

Although this extra comfort carries a slightly higher price tag than regular running shoes, the Paradigm is a reasonably priced maximalist shoe. Neutral long-distance runners will appreciate the Paradigm’s cushioning. And for a maximalist shoe, it is actually very well-priced. Featuring Altra’s signature zero-drop platform but with an incredibly high stack, this thickness under the ball and heel of the foot provides extra medial support. Ideal for long and ultra-distance runs, this trainer is cushy but light, stable but soft, and maximalist without being plush or with a loss in responsiveness.For runners who go the distance and then some and need to keep their feet as comfortable as possible while also wanting the benefits of a zero-drop shoe, the Altra Paradigm is a maximalist shoe with style.

Pros
  • 42mm EVA midsole provides extraordinary amount of comfort
  • A zero-drop shoe that doesn’t skimp on its comfort or design
  • Highly durable and long-lasting at a great price
  • Surprisingly lightweight for a maximalist trainer
  • High amount of stability for a non-stability shoe
Cons
  • Not for harsher terrains; thin mesh top won’t offer much protection
  • Not specifically a support or stability shoe; for neutral runners only
Outsole
Outsole

Outsole

Cushioning is a common theme throughout all parts of the Altra Paradigm, including its outsole. The hard rubber that covers the contact surface of the sole provides great impact support, reducing wear on the outsole. There is also a rocker placed near the toe to aid when changing stride or body position. Its FootPod outsole design protects metatarsal heads, which will be a welcome relief for midfoot and forefoot strikers. In addition, there are deep flex grooves in the midfoot and along the length of the midsole. With a super-wide landing platform, Paradigm’s outsole aids in giving the runner a natural feeling while running and offers both flexibility and additional comfort during a run.
Midsole
Midsole

Midsole

As a maximalist trainer, its midsole construction is front and center. With a soft and smooth feel from first toe-off, the Paradigm provides excellent shock absorption when pounding hard surfaces. The midsole of the Paradigm is softer than many earlier Altra shoes, but even though it’s soft, it’s not plush. Instead, its EVA midsole lands somewhere between soft and semi-firm, providing a great amount of stability. Neither overly soft or mushy, it has a fairly good amount of responsiveness and fortunately is of sturdy construction that retains its comfort and performance even after many miles and long running sessions have been put on it.
Upper
Upper

Upper

With the classic Altra shape, the Paradigm’s upper follows the human foot’s outline to provide a natural fit. Made of a thin, seamless material that’s highly breathable, one thing runners may first notice about its upper is the somewhat “funny” shape it has: the forefoot is visibly wider than many other running shoes. This is because the Paradigm allows for ample room in the toe box so that natural toe splay is allowed for, which makes the run far more comfortable and natural. With a good amount of padding around the ankle, a thin tongue, and a secure fit after lace-up, the Altra Paradigm’s upper is as comfortable as the rest of the shoe.
Weight
Weight

Weight

Maximalist shoes have gotten some flack for being heavier than comparable regular running shoes, but this is to be expected. After all, the Paradigm offers a 42mm midsole of high stack EVA, which is naturally going to add weight to the show. However, weighing in at only 9 ounces/255 grams, the Paradigm is actually lighter than most maximalist shoes and could even be seen as a contender within the lightweight realm of trainers.
Breathability
Breathability

Breathability

With a thin material that covers the upper, so much that its rib cage is visible through it, the Paradigm aims to be a highly breathable shoe. Although some have complained that its overlays are slightly noticeable when wearing the Paradigm, overall its lightweight construction and open-mesh upper allow for the foot to breathe and provides a good amount of ventilation.
Comfort
Comfort

Comfort

This is what maximalist shoes are all about: comfort. Featuring a 42mm EVA midsole, a thick rubber outsole, and a wide toe box, the Paradigm is in the maximalist market for runners who demand more comfort in their trainer. Its multi-layered EVA midsole provides step-in comfort without being overly plush and has surprised many runners at its lightweight feel and responsiveness when on a run. For those looking to try out a zero-drop trainer but are afraid that the minimalist nature of many shoes that feature that may be uncomfortable, the Altra Paradigm may be the first zero-drop trainer you try and stick with because it offers such comfort.
Style
Style

Style

There’s something appealing about Altra’s designs--something retro. Like they’re a sneaker that you wouldn’t be surprised seeing a picture of someone wearing from 30 years ago. Maybe another word for this is classic.
Almost like a stealth take-off of the famous Nike low-cut trainers of the past, the Altra Paradigm revels in a straightforward simplicity. Perhaps this is to hide the maximalist nature of the shoe, but in either the subtle black-and-white color configuration, the eye-popping red-and-white retro line, or the more modern green-and-blue combo, whichever one you land on it still retains that classic sneaker look. Even with its extra-wide toe box, which is somewhat noticeable at first glance, the Paradigm also looks like the kind of sneaker you’d kick around on the weekends in. Sleek, simple, and familiar, maybe the Paradigm won’t win any fashion shows but those with a muted sensibility, or an appreciation for classic style, will find a pair appealing.
Durability
Durability

Durability

This is a trainer made for the long haul. For long runs, marathons, and ultrarunners who go 20 miles at a clip and still can’t get enough, the Paradigm seeks to provide great comfort throughout a multi-mile campaign. And their durability speaks to this. The blended EVA and tough outsole will reflect no wear or compression, even after 200-plus miles. Besides some slight wear after a long period of usage being noticeable on the outsole’s forefoot, which still doesn’t affect its performance. Long story short: this shoe is in for the maximal haul.
Protection
Protection

Protection

Being a maximalist shoe, the Paradigm offers a great amount of impact protection from foot strikes on hard surfaces. With its thick midsole, one would hope, after all. In addition, it has a relatively tenacious outsole with deep flex grooves and made of sturdy, durable rubber, so going over gravel and light trails won’t be a problem. However, its seamless upper, made of a thin mesh, is not going to offer much in the way of protection against the elements. This is not a trail running shoe. So although it may go the distance for those who enjoy a long run, standing up to the elements isn’t its strong suit.
Responsiveness
Responsiveness

Responsiveness

The Altra Paradigm’s thick, comfy EVA midsole is also surprisingly responsive. With no loss of rebound and providing an excellent response during toe off and between transitions, this 42mm-thick midsole is not only comfortable but highly responsive. Although common knowledge is that the thinner the midsole, the better the toe-off, the Paradigm seems to have found a way around that by creating a thick midsole out of responsive EVA and integrating this with a deep flex line in the forefoot. With deep flex grooves on its tenacious outsole, the Paradigm is a maximalist shoe with the responsiveness of a minimalist trainer.
Support
Support

Support

This is a neutral running shoe and as such, is not specifically a support shoe. While its thick midsole will provide an excellent amount of comfort, and its overall design is one that will provide a good amount of support for the neutral runner, for the runner who needs extra support, the Paradigm is not it.
Terrain
Terrain

Terrain

As a relatively lightweight running shoe, the Paradigm is best on the sidewalks, asphalt, and springly running surfaces of the track. Even some light trail running can be performed in these shoes. But for those looking to hit rougher terrain than that, the Paradigm is simply not up to the task.
Price
Price

Price

One of the most attractive attributes of the Altra Paradigm is its price. Certainly far less expensive than many other maximalist shoes, and with the comfort level and durability they offer, runners will be pleased to find that they can find a pair at slightly above a budget shoe price.
Traction
Traction

Traction

With deep flex grooves at the heel and forefoot of the Paradigm, and its sturdy rubber outsole lined with pods to aid in gripping the ground, runners will find the traction on these trainers something that complements the exceeding comfort of these shoes.
Flexibility
Flexibility

Flexibility

Firm but flexible is perhaps the best way to put the flexibility of the Paradigm. The thin upper mesh and its tongue will provide security throughout a run without slippage, while the flex grooves on its outsole also allow for a fair amount of flexibility. However, the Paradigm is also a relatively firm maximalist shoe, so for those looking for ultra-flexibility in their zero-drop experience, perhaps barefoot shoes are more their style.
Stability
Stability

Stability

One notable compliment the Paradigm has picked up is how stable they feel. Perhaps it’s their heel counter, which keeps the foot firmly in place, or maybe it’s the thick outsole that’s zero-drop but is also slightly wider to allow for the foot to sit naturally in the shoe. While not specifically a stability shoe, the Paradigm has found its fans with neutral runners for the stability it does offer.
Drop
Drop

Drop

Altra has been known for producing some of the best zero-drop shoes on the market, and they continue this tradition with the Paradigm. A zero-drop maximalist shoe, which almost seems like a contradiction of terms, this is a shoe for those who have already adjusted to zero-drop shoes. Transition time may be needed for those new to the zero-drop style.
Key Features
Key Features

Key Features

- Ultra-comfortable midsole without feeling too plush
- Thin mesh upper allows for excellent breathability
- Fantastic, appealing classic aesthetic
- Extra-wide toe box that allows for natural toe splay
- Keeps the foot firmly in place, even during long runs, with no slippage
Bottom Line
Bottom Line

Bottom Line

Maximalist fans will find maybe their favorite new shoe in the Altra Paradigm: exceedingly comfortable, very responsive, reasonably priced, and with a retro style that never looks like it’s trying too hard to look cool (but succeeding anyway), this zero-drop shoe may even be some runners’ introduction to that practice. Not much else to say but that if you’re looking for comfort, a zero-drop shoe with style, and want to go on ultra-long runs without feeling like your feet are on fire, the Altra Paradigm may be the next shoe for you.