Barefoot Shoes

Altra Adam First Look

I was fortunate enough to meet the guys from Altra at the 2011 CrossFit Games. They were very friendly, and very staunch advocates of a wide toe-box, and zero heel drop. All of their shoes, they explained, are built on variations on those two themes. Th…

I was fortunate enough to meet the guys from Altra at the 2011 CrossFit Games. They were very friendly, very staunch advocates of a wide toe-box and zero heel drop. All of their shoes, they explained, are built on variations on those two themes. The one shoe that jumped right out from the pack was the Altra Adam. At that point The Adam was very new, and the only pair they had handy was a size eight display pair, if I remember right. Upon handling the display model I could tell that besides the roomy toe-box, and zero heel that this shoe was also very lightweight and flexible, and more like what I was looking for than any other shoe they carried. Whatever size it was, it was definitely too small for my size twelve feet, so I didn’t get to try them on. Fast forward to now, and I have a pair of twelves in front of me! After the jump I’ll share my initial thoughts (and photos!) on these ultra minimalist shoes!

Altra Adam Initial Thoughts

Immediately on first sight of the Altra Adam last year, I remarked that it reminded me of a toe-pocketless answer to the Vibram KSO. I know that model is the be-all-end-all shoe for many of you VFF fans out there, but this shoe is about as close as you can get without going full-on toes. Like all of Altra’s other shoes the toe-box of the Adam is plenty roomy and the heel is zero drop, but like the FiveFingers KSO the sole is also lightweight, and extremely flexible (Contrast this to the Altra Lone Peak’s beefy sole). In fact, it is so flexible that it requires very little effort to fold the shoe in half with one hand, as pictured below. The weight of it is certainly a bit heftier than the VFF KSO, but it’s not terrible. I would put it on par with my Inov-8 Road-x Lite or The NB Minimus Trail.
The Altra Adam has a removable insole that allows you to adjust the ground feel to your preferences.
The Altra Adam has a removable insole that allows you to adjust the ground feel to your preferences.
Like all other Altra shoes that I have seen, the shoe ships with two sets of interchangeable foot beds, one labeled “Strengthen” and the other labeled “Support.” These are exactly what you probably suspect they are. The Support insert offers a little bit of arch support, for those weening off of decades-long marshmallow shoe addiction, and while they are more supportive than a true minimal shoe, they are by no means as thick as a traditional running shoe. The Strengthen insert is thin and completely flat, offering your foot the chance to do what it is supposed to. While they don’t give any specific instructions on when to use either, the ideal would be for a newcomer to minimal shoes to slowly ween from support to strengthen. Since I have already been through the weening phase, I will jump right to the strengthen insert.
Photos of the Altra Adam from both sides.
Photos of the Altra Adam from both sides.
The profile of the shoe has a very earthy feel, which I like very much. On the rear, just above the heel there is even a nice little green leaf “tattoo.” I also like the change of pace from the bright, garish colors that minimal shoes seem to inspire. Here we get just simple black and grey, with a few reflective highlights. Function and form meet especially nicely in the interesting two-way, zig-zagging Velcro straps. You have one Velcro adjustment to make just around the mouth of the shoe, like most VFF shoes, and another the goes across the middle that is in roughly the same placement as the thick rubber strap across the toe-box of the NB Minimus Trail. I liked that touch on the Minimus, but here you actually get to adjust it and control the snugness of it, which I like even more! Between that and the removable footbed, I am excited to see how customizable the level of fit and comfort are with these bad boys. Obviously, I am just taking them out of the box now, so I have no way of knowing just yet, but my one concern is durability. I could be wrong, but I don’t get the feeling that these shoes will hold up very well for long with the stresses I put my shoes through. Fifteen hour work days at the gym, two to three CrossFit workouts of my own per day, plus six hours of teaching classes, and various personal training sessions. Like I said, I could be wrong. Time will tell. Here are a few more photos of the Adams: All in all, I think it’s a very promising shoe, and after taking a few short strides around my apartment I them, I like the fit and feel too. I look forward to putting them through their paces and reporting back. Anybody else out there given these a shot yet? What did you think? Fall in love? Hate them? Let us hear about it in the comments below and stay tuned for a full review!

By Joey

I'm a strength and conditioning coach, running coach, and Owner of a [url=]CrossFit Gym in Thousand Oaks, California[/url]. When I first discovered the "barefoot" movement, and minimal shoes in 2009, I jumped in too far, too fast and messed up some toes. I needed a transitional shoe to ween myself off a 30 year addiction to cushion and padding. Yes, I said addiction. Bad shoes are like a drug. It's time to break the habit!

13 replies on “Altra Adam First Look”

Thanks! been wanting to hear more about those for a long time, one of the few non-VFF alternatives that caught my eye, will be pleased to read a follow-up, with size recommendations compared to VFF`s perhaps?

I don’t have the average foot. My big toe is so much longer that my toes create more a 60 degree angle with a wall, rather than the usual 30-40. I can’t wear VFF’s, which saddens me deeply because I have tried them on and the rest of my foot feels so comfy, except the toes. So, I gave this shoe a shot.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I wear it all over the place and love that it’s so flexible that I can almost just put them in my back pocket to pull out and slip on after any event. The only problems I have faced have been running. The front of the shoe slaps the ground a little bit when I run because there is so much room up there, but also, it doesn’t fit quite like I see in other peoples pictures because of my toes. I think my arch touches the wrong place and the straps aren’t quite so conveniently placed for me. I can’t wait for the Samson, to see if laces fix that problem for me.

The other issue I have with this shoe is stitching. I love the materials, there are so soft and comfy, but I can’t wear these barefoot because the stitching bugs my foot. Any shoe that has stitching on the inside bugs me. It was my only qualm with the Merrell Trail Glove too. Well I hope that is a good addition. My experience has been that this show is amazing for everything except running. I would rather just run barefoot.

Grest point about the garish colors on the minimalist movement. What’s the deal with that? Btw: your bio says you jacked up your toes. What happened exactly? I’ve lost feeling in one toe, bit it’s starting to come back slowly.

Can’t wait to see how these go for you as a crossfit shoe Joey. I’m becoming a minimalist shoe addict but use them mostly for crossfit. So far I’ve found some good for agility/bodyweight/running, others better for Oly-lifts especially heavy overhead etc.
I like the overall concept of these but wonder about the wide-open toe-box (sometimes good for running but not so for other movements).

a nice looking shoe. i noticed in the review that you said “The Support insert offers a little bit of arch support, for those weening off of decades-long marshmallow shoe addiction, and while they are more supportive than a true minimal shoe, they are by no means as thick as a traditional running shoe”

VFFs have a large amount of arch ‘support’ due to the shape of the footbed. its not possible to place your arch flat on the floor in them, thus support. A more appropriate term may be encouragement, who knows, but this is something that needs to be recognised with VFFs. Happy running!

Good, comfortable shoes; very flexible. I ran about 50 miles in them but finally had to quit using them:

1) The toe seam and my large toenail kept snagging. The toenail finally got too sore to continue.
2) I really like that one can adjust the snugness of the shoes but I frickin’ hate velcro; I prefer laces.
3) The shoes pull over one’s foot like the VFF KSOs using a stretchy material. I’ve never really liked that. The Adams, and the KSOs, fit my right arch fine but my left arch is thicker and the Adams, and KSOs, squeezed my left foot more than I liked.

Overall the shoes are quite comfortable. If Altra had made them using a standard lacing system, I would still be wearing them.

@Nathan: thanks for your thoughts.

Yes, the shape of the VFF shoe does follow the curve of the arch, but that curve is made from a material that is not exactly going to bare much load in that position, and its not anchored from below by a corresponding flat out sole and contour midsole. I will definitely give you that your foot will certainly be aware of the difference of the VFF arch as opposed to a barefoot arch, but it isn’t built in a way that can provide much, if any, real support. Does the make sense?


That does make sense. The only thing that will provide any physical arch support is orthotics. If im not in VFFs i live in orthotics, if i try a minimilist shoe with a wider arch section my foot ‘seeks’ the floor, leaving me flat footed when walking and fatigued (clearly not running). I had no arch trouble (or any other) transitioning and i still use orthotics in all my other footwear. I believe this ‘arch encouragement’ of VFFs is underrated, as is sole design in relation to so called ankle suppport in boots.

Thanks for taking the time to reply!

@James I could be wrong, but I think they have a lace up version in the works.

@Horse Rider: yeah, you are right. Thanks. Spellcheck missed it because ween is an actual word, just different meaning. Oops..

These shoes look like a great product, but I can’t help but think “ballerina slipper” when I see the pictures… is it just me?

I love these shoes. I bought them on the night before the Marine Corps Marathon in late October. I have 168 miles on them so far. I do agree with James (with the caveman picture) that sometimes the toenail snags the inside seam. This happens when I’m walking around, but doesn’t happen when I run, and doesn’t happen when I wear socks with these shoes. I got these so I could more comfortably run in the winter with socks. I don’t run with the inseams at all. I can’t run without socks, they rub the inside arch where the velcro strap is. That doesn’t bother me so much since I got these so I could run in cold climates, anyway.

Good initial impressions post.

I don’t know about these. Seem really gimmicky and in possession of an identity crises.

The sole seem alright, but that lacing system doesn’t seem very durable.

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