Altra Solstice Review Facts
There are many brands of footwear that have consistently created excellent products that can service a wide range of needs at affordable prices. However, only a few of these products and manufacturers are immediately recognizable to consumers, which has the unfortunate consequence of limiting exposure and sales to the top 3 or 4 companies. More often than not, Altra is one of those companies that tend to fall by the wayside despite their excellent footwear offerings. They are most well known for their excellent trail running shoes which can safely navigate treacherous environments. However, the Altra Solstice is a different breed of shoe entirely that demands attention for the unique suite of features it provides.
The easiest way to determine the specific model of footwear for a given shoe is to observe their outsoles. This is where the intended environments and exercises
are most obvious through a few key design decisions: trail shoes have large tread patterns, running shoes are highly flexible, track shoes have detachable spikes, and so on. The Altra Solstice has an outsole that does accommodate certain activities and terrains, but its style may still throw off some observers. It’s mostly flat, suggesting a cross-training shoe, but the underside still has a highly flexible design emphasizing forward movement, suggesting a traditional running shoe. The truth is that this Altra product offers both forms of functionality as a road running/cross-training shoe.
The use of high-abrasion EVA foam for the Altra Solstice’s midsole was a wise decision due to the material’s ability to withstand a great deal of pressure and stress
without degrading. This material is also widely adopted for midsole construction due to its ability to efficiently store and disperse runners’ kinetic energy, resulting in high responsiveness. However, the most notable aspect of this shoe’s midsole is its Zero Drop design, meaning that no difference in elevation is present between the forefoot and heel. As a result, wearers can easily use these shoes for general fitness training such as weightlifting alongside most forms of casual running.
The primary component used to construct the upper portion of the Altra Solstice is mesh. This material is commonly found in shoes like these due to the dual benefits of comfortable padding and high ventilation that they provide. However, some individuals don’t like shoes that rely this heavily on mesh due to the fact that they can’t offer the same support
or stability found in footwear with sturdier upper components. In order to mitigate these concerns, key areas of this shoe’s upper are made of more concentrated mesh in order to provide targeted support for important areas on the wearer’s feet. The Solstice’s upper also incorporates Altra’s popular FootShape technology, meaning it is form-fitting and considerably more stable.
Thanks to the lack of significant midsole padding and an upper made entirely from mesh, the Altra Solstice weighs incredibly little. On average, a men’s version weighs just under 7 ounces and a women’s weighs slightly over 5 ounces. When compared to most running shoes and cross-training
shoes on the market, these are far below the average weight, making them some of the lightest possible footwear offerings for engaging in those forms of activity. The weight class for these shoes is closer to that of minimalist road running shoes, such as those made by Vivobarefoot. And while there are some structural differences between these shoes and barefoot-style runners, they also have some similarities.
It should go without saying that a shoe such as this one, with its upper being made almost entirely from highly perforated synthetic mesh padding, will have a significant amount of ventilation. However, it’s still worth mentioning that the specific layout of the Altra Solstice’s upper portion allows for the wearer’s feet to breathe and maintain a comfortable operating temperature
. Another design aspect that enhances this feature is the lightweight lower half: since the midsole and outsole are thin and feathery in composition, the entire shoe feels surprisingly unobtrusive and will go a long way toward preventing the accumulation of moisture from sweating.
The most comfortable aspect of the Altra Solstice is the fact that it weighs very little, which means that wearers won’t feel sore around their calves or ankles
if they wear them for a long time. They may still experience soreness from exercise, but fatigue due to heavy shoes is completely avoided. The mesh padding that comprises its upper also provides a modicum of comfort due to the way it can effectively control the internal temperature, as well as its soft consistency serving as a rudimentary cushion. However, the lack of any significant padding and the thinner than average midsole/outsole makes the Solstice a far less comfortable running or training shoe than other models that are heavier and place more emphasis on support or cushioning.
Part of the reason why Altra has yet to achieve the same level of success and popularity as the top athleisure brands are because they don’t have a unique sense of style. Upon first glance, people can easily mistake their products for something made by Asics
due to the similarities they share in terms of logos and color schemes. However, Altra manages to be more visually appealing than Asics on average due to a more subdued logo and design aesthetic, which can be clearly seen when observing the Solstice. This training/running shoe comes in a decent variety of colorways that make an impression without coming across as loud or gaudy. Additionally, the placement of the logo and accents along the lateral side is stylish and subdued.
There are two major reasons why the Altra Solstice is disappointing as far as durability is concerned. First, this shoe’s outsole is very thin and offers sparse coverage. The majority of the Solstice’s bottom half is comprised of their proprietary Zero Drop midsole, with only a light coating of abrasion-resistant rubber on the bottom. This means that the EVA foam is exposed to damage underfoot which can greatly reduce its longevity if used on certain forms of terrain. The second durability-related caveat is the Altra Solstice’s upper. Although the synthetic mesh material used for this portion offers significant benefits in terms of weight, comfort, and breathability, the fact remains that it is considerably more susceptible to tearing and breakage from abrasion than most other commonly used upper materials.
In much the same way that these Altra training shoes are a durability disappointment, they also fail to provide an adequately impressive level of foot protection. They will certainly cover the wearer’s entire foot and can provide a considerably more ideal running session than if one were to simply run barefoot; however, the difference in protection from injury is minor. These shoes can really only provide adequate protection from skin damage and irritation due to the mesh and foam foot covering and above-average breathability. In the face of repetitive stress injuries or gait discrepancies, the Altra Solstice is powerless to prevent injuries.
On one hand, the Altra Solstice provides a fairly impressive degree of responsiveness simply due to the fact that it weighs so little. As a result of this design element, wearers of these shoes won’t need to exert themselves as much in order to move their feet, which can provide a near-instantaneous feeling of responsiveness. The high-abrasion EVA midsole found on these running shoes also guarantees decent response times due to the nature of its construction and functionality. However, the fact that it is designed so thinly and without any heel drop means that runners used to more traditional running footwear
with more significant padding around the heel will likely notice a lack of responsiveness in comparison.
In order to provide a modicum of support, Altra designed the upper portion of their Solstice training shoe to have slightly more concentrated synthetic mesh around the midfoot and heel. Thanks to this small feature, these shoes are able to provide some extra support to these parts of the wearer’s feet without sacrificing any breathability or adding any weight to the rest of the shoe. The midsole’s shock-absorbing EVA foam construction also helps to provide some underfoot support, but it pales in comparison to the support provided by thicker running shoes. This is a consistent theme throughout the entirety of the Altra Solstice’s construction when it comes to support: acceptable, but far from impressive.
These shoes offer a greater amount of versatility than the average athletic footwear since they can function as both a cross-training shoe and a low-intensity road running shoe. The secret to this lies in the outsole and midsole, which provides design elements that accommodate both of these pastimes equally. This means that the most ideal terrain for wearers to encounter while wearing the Altra Solstice are those that are man-made. For example, gyms with concrete, rubber, or hardwood floors are ideal, as are running tracks and artificial turf fields. These shoes can also function adequately on a sidewalk or asphalt road, provided that they are well-maintained. Using these shoes on any other forms of running terrain is discouraged due to structural deficiencies.
On average, a decent pair of training shoes will cost a bit more than a decent pair of casual running shoes. Even though trainers are often lighter and smaller than runners, this price increase is due to a more focused design that often requires more effort and resources. With the Altra Solstice, however, their price is much more in line with that of a typical running shoe. They are slightly higher on the cost spectrum, but they are well below the average price for cross-training shoes. This means that a shrewd customer looking to save a buck will want to seek out this Altra product since it combines two forms of athletic footwear into one at a very reasonable cost.
The Altra Solstice’s approach to underfoot traction is interesting since it effectively combines the attributes of two fundamentally different forms of footwear into one. In order to provide the kind of traction needed for cross-training activities such as weightlifting and gymnastics, its outsole is flat with evenly spaced treading. The result of this is a decent amount of grip from multiple directions, which can then accommodate different forms of exercise. In regards to running, the way these shoes provide adequate traction is by having all of the evenly-spaced lugs face forward, offering a type of grip that helps to build forward momentum without losing control.
The nature of this shoe’s construction lends itself to an impressive degree of flexibility. Since the Altra Solstice is remarkably thin and lightweight, the natural result is a significant amount of give that allows it to bend in a variety of directions. Some guidance is provided in order to prevent this from causing the wearer to lose control of their footing, taking the form of front-facing horizontal flex grooves along the Solstice’s outsole. It’s not the perfect balance between stability and flexibility that most shoes strive for, but it’s close enough to avoid any unforeseen injuries.
As previously mentioned, these running/cross-training shoes are too lightweight and thin to really provide any solid stability. A noble effort was made on the part of Altra to provide some, however, through their use of a tight FantomFit upper with concentrated mesh pockets near the midfoot and heel for extra support. The flat outsole and midsole provide some assistance in this area as well by facilitating an even weight distribution. However, the flexibility present in many of these components far overpowers its stability, meaning the Solstice veers much farther into the former category than the latter. It will be stable enough to handle training sessions in controlled environments, but some caution should still be exercised.
One of the major selling points for the Altra Solstice is the fact that it is a zero drop shoe. This means that the midsole features no difference in elevation between the heel and forefoot; for comparison, most traditional running shoes will add some extra cushion to the heel in order to accommodate runners that prefer to strike the ground with this portion of their feet. By eliminating this elevation, a bit more stability and multidirectional traction are provided, which is the secret to this shoe’s versatility as both a training shoe and casual runner. However, many runners will likely miss the extra heel cushion and may feel some initial discomfort when wearing these on the road.
- Hard rubber outsole
- High-abrasion Zero Drop EVA midsole
- FantomFit upper made from synthetic mesh
- Extremely lightweight with no heel drop
- Even and flat tread pattern for multidirectional traction
The Altra Solstice is a unique specimen. There simply aren’t many shoes on the market that offer similar features to this one at the same low price. Individuals interested in a highly versatile pair of shoes that can accommodate gym training and street running will certainly want to consider this product, but two things should be kept in mind. The first is that these shoes are fragile and will require regular maintenance in order to avoid falling apart. The second is the fact that while these shoes can function as both running and training shoes, they don’t offer the same competence in either of these fields as a dedicated running shoe or dedicated training shoe. Anyone looking to seriously train in either of these fields will probably want to get high-end pairs of each kind of footwear rather than a product that combines them into a slightly mediocre package.