Altra Zero drop

Running in Altra Zero Drop Shoes – My Transition
June 30, 2016

From a 12mm Drop Heel Striker to Zero Drop

At Yorkshire runner and Northern runner we have written the odd Altra Zero Drop running shoe review. However, this time we’ve asked one of our team members Ian to write a piece on how someone who is used to a 12 mm heel drop transitions to the Zero Drop trademarked technology from Altra.
First the reasoning behind the idea…
I am a real heel striker and have been so for all my running years. Recently I have taken on board a lot of coaching experience and I often try to practice what I preach, namely in the field of running efficiency. So to stop braking with each stride i.e. that heel strike is important to me. I typically slammed my heel down and as a result needed huge amounts of additional energy to “push” myself over the hill of each and every stride. I would like to have a much easier, more efficient run.
Back to shoes. I’m used to Brooks Glycerin/Ghost, Mizuno Wave Enigma/Rider. All great shoes but with a traditional “high heel” i.e. the heel is somewhat higher (around 12 mm) than the forefoot. I have done all my marathons and ultras in this type of running shoe, that’s almost fifty marathons! The great idea then (!) was to buy a shoe that would encourage me to foot strike further forward (more onto the mid foot) thus being far more efficient with each stride.

The
Altra Paradigm is a shoe from the range which lends itself to those like myself with a hard, aggressive heel strike wanting to; experience the Altra range and as such try a much lower heel and be encouraged to land on my mid foot. Its a well cushioned road running shoe, which makes it the ideal choice for me. The exceptionally broad toe box gives me lots of room for movement and is unique to Altra. That was ideal for me (and my bunions)! Most people don’t realise how restricted their foot and toe box can be in a shoe which has more of a standard or narrow shape.
The shoe testing routine follows a lot of the standard advice that we give in the shop to customers initially. After getting properly fitted in store and trying them in our corridor, I wore them for about three hours that night around the house. My first impression was that it’s a very comfortable shoe; the toe box really lets your foot spread which is how it should be. The next day I wore the shoe again indoors for over half a day. All still felt good. Sizing wise I went for half a size longer than my other road shoes, getting a thumbs width at the end of the shoe between my longest toe and the end of the shoe.  This would allow plenty of room for expansion on any length of run. No black toe nails or blisters here!
First run out was with my coached walk / run group at the running club. I initially noticed that I was bolt upright on my toes like a sprinter. However after a few moments I was experimenting with how low I could drop my heel without slapping my foot down. Total distance was three miles of walk/run.
Second run was at our efforts session a few days later, and now I seemed to be getting an easier foot strike was not so ‘bolt upright’ on my toes.. nor was I slapping the ground as much!  The shoe itself has lots of cushioning and it really does feel very comfortable. The effort session went well. My calf’s were tired though, I did expect that, but it did ease considerably soon afterwards. In the meantime I was using a pair of different shoes with a 10 – 12 mm heel height for other runs. So changing from a higher heel to a zero drop was being done gradually. Long runs were being done with the higher heeled shoes.
My
third run in the Atlras was a fairly brisk seven mile run. Running now I seemed to be getting far more used to striking my foot at an acceptable point on my foot. Not on my toes, nor my heel. Felt good. Cavles: not as tired or tight. Again I mixed up runs with my other shoes.
Fourth run was going to be, in my eyes, the most interesting to date. It was twelve miles, again on roads (that’s pretty standard for me). Conditions could be considered ‘lumpy’, not flat and a mix of tarmac and concrete. I really started to get into the foot strike onto the mid ball of my foot, it felt highly cushioned and so roomy on the toe box. Finished the run, feet and calf’s felt OK. I suspect as I do a lot of running in a few different shoes my calf’s will be a bit more robust than some, so do expect some tightness for a day or so, in the first few runs certainly.
Again other runs are still with my other shoes.
Fifth run. Back to efforts. Warm up with slow walk, brisk walk, slow jog, easy drills then dynamic drills. A solid warm up. Session was 20 x 30 s efforts followed by a cool down jog back to the club base and then stretching out the lower legs. 
Sixth run was the next day. Ten miles easy pace. Now I was landing with a good foot strike, not too much on my toes and no where near the heel strike I was doing. I do like the great toe box idea by Altra, lots of room, plenty of cushioning too gives a nice feel.
I went back two days later to my other shoes and it was very strange! It just didn’t feel how it used too, certainly not how it was feeling a while before hand.
Overall it’s gone great, I like the principle of efficiency so a shoe type to help me do that better is ideal. Plenty of cushioning for my long miles is important to me too. The toe box is ideal, plenty of room and your toes can spread out. That’s how it should be. Next road marathon could be Windermere (Brathay), which is where the
Altra Paradigm will be getting their marathon debut!
Top Tips:

    Iain Singer
    Yorkshire Runner and Northern Runner Team (& ran close to fifty marathons!)

    Do your running shoes fit?

    Do your running shoes fit you ?
    A lot of niggles and running related injuries are caused by your running shoes simply not fitting. Most people think that your shoes should feel snug or tight but, this stops the foot from functioning correctly. This can lead to common complaints such as in grown toe nails and bunions to name but a few.
    If your shoes feel heavy towards the end of a run or you get pins and needles in your feet then your shoes are either too tight or the wrong shape for your feet. When your foot hits the ground during running it can expand by over a centimetre in length and 15% in width. The purpose of this is to absorb shock and to load the planta fascia to spring your foot of the floor. So, if your shoes are an incorrect fit then you loose both shock absorption and propulsion.
    In addition to this you will also loose stability. If your foot is unable to spread on impact you are less likely to pronate or supinate. Therefore reducing the need for a more structured shoe to prevent injuries.
    A lot of shoes get narrower towards the toe when your foot actually gets wider. That’s why the good specialist running shoe brands are broad in the forefoot and why at Yorkshire Runner we stock shoes in both ½ sizes and width fittings from brands like New Balance, Brooks and Inov-8. As well as brands like Altra that have a more rounded foot shaped shoe to give the foot room to work correctly.
    Your running shoes should fit around the heel and your mid-foot but, then splay out in the forefoot. When you are stood up in your shoes with your full weight on your feet your should have a thumbs width between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Unless you are running a very long Ultra or a very hot event then this should be enough room for most people to maintain foot function even after your foot has warmed up and expanded a bit. Width wise your feet should not be splaying over the edge of the shoe. Your toes should be free to wiggle and move around.
    If your running shoes fit correctly then you should be able to feel your foot spread out as it is loaded when it impacts the ground and the spring when you lift your foot up. If you are new to running or have always bought a snug fit then even a little bit of room in the shoes makes them feel like clown shoes. However, even in the time it takes to try a few pairs of shoes on and have a test run on the treadmill or outside most customers find that the extra space feels more comfortable.
    A way to see how much space you have in your running shoes is to pull out the insole from a worn pair. The insole will show the outline of your foot. You can therefore see if you have space at the end and sides of the shoe or not.

    Gait Analysis Find The Right Running Shoes

    Why have your gait checked ?
    Everyone runs differently. This is easily illustrated when you go and watch a race. If you know the runners you can usually tell who is coming by their running style or gait before they get close enough for you to see who it is. To help make running easier and to reduce injuries the specialist running shoe companies make different shoes for different runners.

    At Yorkshire Runner we stock lots of different types of shoes so we can find the perfect shoe for every runner. As all our staff have over 20 years of experience in the running specialty market they can help you select the best shoe for you. To do this we will have a look at your foot shape to decide if you need a broad shoe, or a narrow shoe. Is your foot flat and flexible, high arched and stiff or something in between. Do you land heavily on your heels and need plenty of cushioning at the back of the shoe or do you land mid-foot and not need it.

    These are just a few of the considerations that Yorkshire Runners staff will make before selecting shoes for you to try. The next part of the process is much more personal. Do you like the fit and feel of the shoes ? We have an unsprung treadmill in the shop so you can give the shoes a test drive. This way you can decide if you like the ride. Are they too soft ?, do they slip at the heel ? All these questions can be answered.

    If you would like Yorkshire Runner to help you pick the perfect pair of running shoes. Then pop in to see us. There is no need to make an appointment but, do give yourself enough time to try on a selection of shoes and give them a test drive. It is also a good idea to bring in your preferred running socks (although we can lend you some if you forget) to be assured of the perfect fit. It would also be good to see your last pair of running shoes if you used them just for running. The impression on the insole, wear pattern on the outsole and knowing whether you liked or disliked the shoes will help us help you select the perfect running shoes.