After 30 years of shoes primarily designed to control how the feet move while running, there’s been a major shift in thinking toward shoe designs intended to accommodate the natural movement of your feet and optimally efficient running form.

If you ponder it for a moment it makes sense doesn’t it?  The simple notion that the foot can do a better job at self-stabilizing and balancing the weight of the body when it allowed more, relatively unencumbered, natural contact with the ground.

While many of the big brand name shoe companies are quickly jumping on the minimalist bandwagon, there is one company that was actually founded on the premise and concept of designing shoes that not only reduce injury but promote proper technique for the most natural run possible: Altra Footwear.

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©Ryan Eisberg

After making a name for themselves crafting beautiful Zero Drop running shoes, Altra Footwear has now introduced a barefoot styled shoe in a gender specific fit.  The Adam™ is the men’s version of their new minimalist shoe and one of the latest additions to the world of performance based minimalist footwear.

A breathable stretch fabric upper with limited seams provide a glove-like fit with maximum breathability to keep your feet comfortable all day long.  A velcro based secure-cinch strapping ensures you can lock in the right fit for your run, training session or walk-about.

One of the great features of the Adam is that, like all Altra models, this barefoot shoe comes with two insole options: a support insole that has a slight arch and a little bit of padding, and a strengthening insole that is completely flat and less than 2mm thick.  You also have the option of removing the insoles altogether  This not only allows for maximum customization, but more importantly it provides multiple options to help your body and feet adjust to the minimalist lifestyle.

The Adam boasts a grippy 3.4 mm BareSole™ which is slimmer thanboth the Vibram Fingers KSO and the Merrell Pace Glove.  This slimmer profile provides a feather weight and natural fit that is not only closer to Mother Nature’s intent but still boasts enough traction to grip wet and dry surfaces alike. Now let’s dive into the details….

Pros…

  • In my opinion, there can be no doubt that the best feature of any Altra shoe is the natural foot design.  As all of the Altra shoes, the Adam provides a toe box that mimics the shape of your foot allowing the foot and body to absorb shock more naturally while also providing for more powerful toe off.
  • Razor-siped soles provide tremendous grip and traction on nearly any surface from slick rock to dusty trail.
  • Breathable stretch fabric upper and secure-cinch strapping combine for incredible comfortable performance whether cranking out the miles or simply putting in a quick 30 minute workout at the gym.
  • This varitable cornucopia of options is a tremendous benefit for the individual who can adjust the fit and feel of the shoe as your feet and body adjust to your new barefoot lifestyle.

Cons…
This first note is more of an informational note than “con”… but be prepared for an extended adjustment period.  To their credit the team at Altra does an outstanding job of educating the customer on the path to minimalism.  However if you’re making a straight shift from the traditional platform of a normal shoe you can expect some time to adjust.  As the owner of the Altra Instict (Altra’s Zero Drop men’s running shoe) the adjustment period was nearly non-existent for me.

  • If you’re planning on using the shoe for serious trail outtings you may find that the razor-siped soles don’t provide the traction you require on downhill runs laiden with loose rock or schaal.
  • The inside collar of the shoe that hugs just below the ankle is not as smooth and comfortable as I would like.  It is the one place on the shoe where the seams did prove to irritate the skin.
  • In terms of style and design the Adam is pretty plain.  In future iterations I’d love to see Altra add a little more flash to the shoe similar to some of the work New Balance has done with their minimalist line-up.
  • As one might imagine  the velcro based secure-cinch strapping system provides a different fit than a lace styled closure system.  This does create different pressure points on the top of the foot which may take some time to become accustomed too.

The Bottom Line…
As someone who owns the Altra Instinct as well as the Adam I admit to being a fan of the brand.  Altra has done an incredible job of designing quality footwear at an incredible price point and as such I would recommend the brand to anyone.  The Adam is a worthy introduction into the world of barefoot shoes and the multiple insoles are like an added bonus that will help ease you into a more natural way of running.   What the shoe lacks in aesthetic value it makes up for in terms of performance at a price that cannot be beat.

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The Adam ©Ryan Eisberg
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