Are you seeing a pattern yet? Yes, I am becoming a huge fan of the 6 year-old running shoe company known as Altra. As I have been instructing clients in form techniques, and have found that most of the models Altra manufactures, lend themselves to my favorite principles.
The Altra Impulse is no different.
What I like about the Altra Impulse
As with all of Altra’s models, my favorite advantage is their FootShape™ Toe Box. This is the incomparable wide toe box that Altra is known for. The toe box is makes any of Altra’s models recognizable from a good distance away. That is how wide it is. I enjoy the ability splay my toes and have my feet firmly hit the ground without them being cramped up. Wider toe boxes also allow the feet to develop more strength because the shoe is not tightening around the ball of the foot or the toes. The toes can move around, and tackle all kinds of terrain.
As you can see from the x-ray below, the amount of splay the toes are allowed in the Altra vs a traditional toe box. Imagine having access to the full splay of your foot while you run. What is amazing is that most runners do not even realize the limits that a traditional toe box causes. (Hmm, maybe there is an idea for a full post.)
The Altra Impulse is no different in this department. The FootShape™ toe box has been incorporated and has all the comforts of the other models I have run in.
I love the Zero Drop™ technology that Altra incorporates. When I run I have the ability to utilize the full power and flexibility of my calf not to mention I can run as if I was barefoot, as our bodies were intended. Most traditional running shoes have a 12mm heel drop. This means that the heel is 12mm above the ball of the foot.
When we are barefoot, the heel and the ball of the foot are equal which is a Zero Drop™. This also helps with heel striking. Have you ever tried to heel strike while running barefoot? Even if you are a regular heel striker in shoes, it is almost impossible to heel strike while bare foot running. A huge effort has to be made to do that.
So, why runners continue to heel strike? If your heel is more cushioned in the shoe, then of course you will want to hit that area first. (Another post may be needed to explain a little more on this too…stay tuned.)
I love the Innerflex™ which are grooves at the bottom that create a more flexible sole.
One of the huge differences with the Altra Impulse is that they also incorporated their patented StabiliPod™ technology along side the Innerflex™. Now you have a stability shoe that is also somewhat flexible.
I have decided to put this feature as a liked feature more for others than myself. As a pure neutral runner I prefer to work allowing my body to support me, not my shoe, but Altra is marketing this shoe not only for running and triathlon, but for cross training as well.
The StabiliPod™ technology does really help in moving laterally, which is not something that is usual for runners, and especially those of us whom usually stick to the pavement. This is why I do like this feature.
My absolute favorite feature of this shoe are the drainage holes in the sole. My very last test run with the impulse was an 8 mile run, immediately following a huge rain storm here in Tampa, Florida.
My route took me through numerous ankle deep puddles and while my socks remained damp, the shoe was clear of water within a few yards of the puddle. There was no squish from the sole of the shoe or my sock because as my foot pushed down on the shoe, the holes squeezed water out the holes. No more blisters from soaked uppers and water log socks release water as well.
The Altra Impulse also continues with Altra’s A-Bound™/EVA blend compound which sits directly under the foot and adds a return of energy and reduces ground impact.
The upper is a light material and does have a noticeable difference from the other models. The tongue and laces are curved with the shape of the shoe which differs from the straight tongue of traditional running shoes.
I actually enjoyed this new feature. The fit of the shoe felt more comfortable with the tongue falling in the same curve as my foot.
I rarely run without socks, but I did end up having to do go out for a couple of miles one day without socks, and they were extremely comfortable. While the upper is not seamless it is very close. There are only a couple of seems that surround the tongue, but they are covered with a light fabric that helps reduce any friction.
What I wasn’t so crazy about
This is probably a very individual issue, but even though I sized up to a 10 from a 9 and a-half, after a few miles my toes still ended up moving forward till I they hit the front of the shoe. This probably has to do with the fact that I only lace my shoes tight enough to lock in my heel.
If you like your shoes laced up tight this probably will not be an issue.
The price point for the Altra Impulse is $120 dollars, which while competitive in the market place it still is a little expensive. In this day and age where people are scrounging for liquidity, I really would like to see at least one company come out with a quality shoe that retails for under $80. Of course that is my opinion and my opinion only.
How did the Altra Impulse Rate?
Quality – 4/5
Upper – 5/5
Outsole – 5/5
Flexibility – 4/5
Appearance – 4/5
Cost – 3/5
Overall – 4.2/5
Have you ever run in an Altra Running Shoe?
What were your experiences?
Which model do you like best?
I have been a fan of the Altra line for a little while now, so I was so honored to be given a chance to review the brand new Altra Torin 2. I reviewed the 1.5 version when it first arrived, and it became my shoe of choice for long runs.
What I love about the Torin 2
One of Altra’s significant differences in the complete line of shoes is their zero heel drop and since my coaching methodology includes an emphasis on our body’s natural movement while running this is obviously one of my favorites. (I have included a explanation of what “Zero Drop” means in my previous Altra Torin 1.5 review.)
Wide Toe Box
The other difference between Altra and their competition is the wide toe box, or as Altra calls it, a “FootShape” toe box. The ability to splay the toes plays a significant role in injury prevention and the strength of the feet. This allows the runners body to support itself, rather tan relying on a shoe for support.
The upper has been improved in the 2.0. The Torin 1.5 was made with a thick upper which added unnecessary weight and reduced flexibility of the shoe. The 2.0 has been upgraded with a much thinner mesh material that breathes better and allows for more flexibility.
Here is where some of my favorite changes were made. First, they moved from the heavier EVA to their lighter proprietary “A-bound” material that for me seems to add a little more spring to the ride of the shoe. When my foot strikes the ground the material seems to not only protect from the natural impact, but reacts driving me forward.
The weight in the previous show was 10.1 ounces which was up from the original Torin which was 9.5 ounces. The Torin 2 comes in at 9.1 ounces which is one of the lightest in this category, if not the very lightest.
Altra added what they call Innerflex which are groves in the outsole and midsole that bend with your foot allowing substantially more flexibility than the previous models. This too me was the single most important change they made. The Torin has always classified as their High Cushioned shoe which most companies have traded flexibility for cushion. Altra has found a way to give runners the flexibility I love with the cushioning I want and without giving up any of proprioception.
The have now included a Foot Pod technology which maps the bones of the foot with the Innerflex so the shoes flexes where the runner needs it to, allowing a near customized fit.
Altra went ahead and removed the toe guard and heel rudder as well. In my opinion this not only allowed them to shed some weight, but also added to flexibility and comfort. In a road shoe I never really thought either added any value. These two advantages are best left for trail specific designs.
What I don’t like about the Torin 2
Obviously, not much.
The new Abound foam tends to soak in water and sweat which makes the shoe feel a little heavier during training and racing. Even with the mesh material the shoe does not seem to drain well. I would love to see a version of this shoe with drain holes, but of course that is the triathlete in me talking.
After about forty miles the new Abound material started to squeak while just walking ,and only in my left shoe This does not seem to happen when I run in them, but it is a little noisy when walking through the store. I think it may be just a problem with this pair, but nonetheless it is something I dislike. However, it did not change the performance of the shoe.
The price of $125 is a little high in my opinion. A better price point would be the $100 – $110, but of course that is very minor for shoe of this quality.
Let’s see how the Torin 2 ranked on my scale:
Quality – 4/5
Upper – 4/5
Outsole – 4/5
Flexibility – 5/5
Comfort – 5/5
Appearance – 4/5
Cost – 3/5
Overall – 4/5
The Altra Torin 2 is available in men’s whole and half sizes 7-12.5, whole sizes 13-15 and in three color patterns. It is available in women’s whole and half sizes 5-10.5, whole sizes 11-12 and in three separate color patterns.
Purchase the new Altra Torin 2.0 Now
Have you ever ran in a pair of Altra Torins (any version)? How did you like them?
Please feel free to comment on your feedback.
I can hear it now….”Know wonder they call you a Goof…you are crazy.”, “So, if I run slower I will get faster? You are out of your mind.” It was not to long ago I used to think the same thing, but as with everything I post, there are reasons and science to back it up.
Let’s face it, logic would dictate that pushing the pace of your easy days, as close to race pace as possible, would help you get fit faster and help you speed up, right? A lot of coaches, including myself, will tell you to run slow on your easy days, and easy days should be making up anywhere from 50-75% of your weekly mileage.
I have clients continuously asking me, “why are my easy days so slow?” The latest is my famous sit downs with my runners telling them to slow down after examining their data and finding them running tempo speeds during an easy day.
The answer to the question is what Arthur Lydiard and most other coaches would call the aerobic system. The aerobic system, or aerobic development, is the one of the most important fundamentals into unlocking your true potential.
Let us first check the stats on the energy contribution the aerobic system provides for races. As you can in the chart below, even the shorter events like the mile, over 80% of the energy required to run the race is produced via the aerobic system.
Aerobic System? What is it?
Aerobic training is the scientific fact that to move your body at higher intensities, the body needs to break down sugar and convert it to glycogen so it can be used as energy.
The aerobic system plus oxygen starts a chemical reaction known as Aerobic Glycolysis which continuously powers continuous endurance activities. In the aerobic system energy ATP is produced through Pyruvic Acid and Lipid/Protein fragments entering the Kreb Cycle and the Electron Transport Cycle.
During aerobic respiration (yeah, that’s breathing) the body uses all the oxygen it needs to power the muscles. When you are running in your “aerobic zones” (easy runs), your muscles have enough oxygen to produce all the energy they need to perform.
See? Improving your capacity to transport and efficiently use all the available oxygen to produce energy will enable you to race faster since this makes up 85-99% of the energy needed to race.
Since running easy is aerobic development, what better way is there to train the aerobic system? There is none.
What goes on in the body during aerobic development?
Capillary development – capillaries are the smallest of the body’s blood vessels and they help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscle tissues while exporting waste products out. The larger the number of capillaries you have surrounding each muscle fiber, the faster you can transport oxygen and carbohydrates to your muscles.
Aerobic training (easy running) increases the number of capillaries per muscle fiber, thus improving how efficiently you can deliver oxygen and fuel to your working muscles and how quickly they can clear waste products.
Myoglobin is a protein in the muscles that binds the oxygen that enters the muscle fiber. When oxygen becomes limited during intense exercise, myoglobin releases oxygen to the mitochondria to produce more energy.
The more myoglobin you have in the fibers of your muscles, the more oxygen is transported under aerobic stress. Like, uh, during a race. Aerobic training increases the amount of myoglobin you have in your muscle fibers.
Mitochondria are microscopic organelle found in your muscles cells that contribute to the production of ATP (energy). In the presence of oxygen, mitochondria breakdown carbohydrate, fat, and protein into usable energy.
Therefore, the more mitochondria you have, and the greater their density, the more energy you can generate during exercise, which will enable you to run faster and longer.
Aerobic training increases both the number and the size of the mitochondria in your muscle fibers.
Suffice it to say that aerobic development is the single most important factor to long-term development.
Of course, track workouts, VO2 max sessions, tempo runs and cross training will increase your fitness and are still incredibly important to racing faster. However, nothing will help improve continuously like developing the aerobic system.
Aerobic development is dependent upon running in your aerobic zones (for my runners Zones 1-3). This is why running faster on your easy days develop the aerobic system. Once you step out of those aerobic zones, on easy runs you diminish development of your aerobic system, but you also increase the chance for injury. Nope, two negatives do not make a positive in running.
This is one of the single biggest mistakes runners of all experiences make in their training.
As a coach and trainer I have always distinguished myself because I am always able to give my clients and readers the “why”. (Sometimes my clients end up telling me to just shut my mouth. when I am training with them because I am continuously telling them why they are doing each movement of an exercise or workout. I guess it may not be an advantage all the time. Go figure.)
Optimal Aerobic Development
Scientific research has been able to identify how the aerobic system adapts and responds to certain training paces. Physiologically we know:
- Capillary development appears to peak at between 60 and 75 percent of 5k pace.
- Maximum stimulation of myoglobin in Type I muscle fiber (Endurance Muscles) occurs at about 63-77 percent of VO2max. 63-77 percent of VO2max is about 55-75 percent of 5k pace.
- Two researchers, Holloszy (1967) and Dudley (1982) published some of the defining research on optimal distance and pace for mitochondrial development. In short, Holloszy found that maximum mitochondrial development when running at 50-75 percent of V02 max. Likewise, Dudley found that the best strategy for slow-twitch, mitochondria enhancement was running for 90 minutes per outing at 70 to 75 per cent V02 max.
It is pretty clear now right? Your optimal easy run pace for aerobic development is between 55 and 75 percent of your 5k pace, with the average pace being about 65 percent.
It’s also evident that running faster than 75% of your 5k pace on your long run has very little additional physiological benefit.
In fact, the research indicates that it would be just as advantageous to run slower as it would be to run faster. Running around half of your 5k pace is pretty easy right? Wouldn’t you know it, the evidence is clear that it still provides near optimal aerobic development.
Feel free to let me hear your feedback. I welcome any other case studies, personal experiences and other research as I am always learning. I provide you with the best content I can, but I have an open-mind and know that there may be other research out there that may negate information I post.
I believe I have started to write this post on injuries, a number of times, trying to be as clear as possible without seeming conceited or that the information I am giving is absolute. That being said I am giving this disclaimer:
The information in this post comes from experience, my personal research and conversations with Physical Therapists, Bio-mechanical experts, Orthopedists and other athletes. I am not a physician or medical expert, so please take this information as opinion based on cognitive research. Also, there is an exception to every rule and another explanation. I do welcome comments that give constructive criticism, but I make mention to this disclaimer first.
What causes injuries?
You might be surprised to hear that there are only two reasons runners (and other athletes) get injured; accidents and imbalance. Accidents are obvious right? For example; rolling the ankle stepping off a curb, falling, being hit by a bicycle, etc.
Imbalance will cover the why’s of the rest of the injuries. The human body is designed for every system to work in synergy, therefore when one piece of the puzzle is not operating a full capacity or efficiently, the other systems have to do more work. This is when the imbalance occurs.
When talking with Physical Therapists and Bio-mechanical experts I was shocked at some of the stories I heard. One story I heard was of a football player who was training, running 100s up and down the field carrying a ball. He had extended his shoulder just barely beyond its usual range of motion, and he ended up with severe pain in his opposite quadricep. “What?!!!!” was my initial reaction, however, I was then educated on the connective tissue (ligaments, tendons etc) which can be traced from the very top of our skull, down through our torso and into the extremities. Everything is connected.
As another example, one of the most popular injuries for newer runners are the dreaded shin splints or medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS).
Scientifically it is caused tiny micro tears of the fibers connecting the medial soleus fascia through the periosteum of the tibia where it inserts into the bone. Due to the soleus becoming so week that the constriction starts to bow the tibia. In more layman’s terms, the calf becomes so tight due to weakness and inflexibility, that the connective tissue pulls on the bone. (There is some physiological proof and complaints that more runners are getting shin splints and other injuries due to training in calf sleeves and other compression gear, but I will address this in another post.)
This same weakness, fatigue in the calf muscle can also cause another popular injury. Plantar Faciitis. In this case, instead of the connective tissue weakening through to the soleus is pulls on the plantar fascia causing inflammation which can be debilitating.
An injury can be traced either by the athlete themselves or by a professional to a point of imbalance. Most likely somewhere within the full spectrum of the athletes, body, behavior and, do I dear say it, attitude.
How can injuries be prevented?
As a coach and trainer, my first rule, and one that I increasingly live by, is “Do no harm.” Therefore, I am always asking questions starting at a high level and continuing to get more specific. (The examples below are catered more toward running, but can be used in any sport.)
- Is the effort balanced through each week? (So, no high intensity days back to back)
- Is the volume balanced? (No consecutive high mileage days)
- Is the duration balancing?
- Is there enough recovery?
- Does the periodization allow for peaking at race time, but still allow for enough rest prior to the race?
- At what time in the plan does strength training make sense?
- This can be critical. If the strength routines are not designed to not only strengthen the muscles used for the sport, but strengthen them for the way they will be utilized, it can be detrimental. For example: Heavy squats for a runner. What is targeted? The glutes, and hamstrings. How are they being utilized in a downward and upward motion causing the hamstrings and glutes to gain size in that direction. How do we run? In a forward motion right? Well if there is more pull on the glutes in the sitting position gravity will work to pull backwards. That is working against what we want. It would be better to do air squats or light dumbbell squats where the motion is more forward which would be utilizing the muscle the right way.
- Are the exercises within the workouts specifically designed to strengthen a muscle, or group of muscles, in the same way they are utilized within the sport?
- Are the intensities, duration, reps and sets balanceing within the weeks of that period in the plan?
Form and Technique
- Does the plan take into account work on form and technique either as a full workout or within workouts?
- Is it enough? Or Is it too much? (This is obviously specific to the athlete)
- When looking at the athlete do they look symmetrical? Are there any imbalances to the eye? (over-pronator, supinator, flares,)
- Is the athlete in the right shoes and equipment?
- Is the nutrition in strategic balance, fueling the muscles properly for the sport?
- Is there enough calories? Are there too many calories? Are the calories nutritional dense?
- Is this the right time in the athletes life for this race?
- Do they have a support system?
- is the plan fitting in the athletes life with minimal impact, or is there planning for the impacts ahead of time?
- What kind of attitude does the athlete have towards training and does the plan fit that attitude? Or should there be an adjusting of attitude?
There are definitely more questions I ask, however, I think these examples give a good idea of why balance is so important.
The term “overuse” is being used quite a bit, but what is it? It’s an imbalance of planning or lacking thereof. Tracing Injuries is completed from the highest level which would be the training plan, all the way down to the balance of strength and flexibility within the connective tissue of the body. Personally, I think it is amazing that on one hand our bodies can endure a lot, but if we don’t notice those little weaknesses, it will create an imbalance that could cause and injury that may or may not keep us from doing what we love most.
Balanced Plan -> Period -> Weeks -> Workouts -> Balanced Form -> Body -> Mind