February 14, 2013
One of LetsRun.com’s goals of attending The Running Event (TRE) in Austin, Tx – industry trade show for specialty retailers – was to highlight some of the newer shoe companies that our visitors may never have heard of.
Altra Zero Drop Footwear is a young brand. However, you may have heard of them as they recently had commercials on ESPN.
Altra Zero Drop was started by some hard core runners including Golden Harper. Name sound familiar? Well Golden broke the course record at the Foot Locker High School National Cross Country Championships in 1999. The only problem was 9 other guys led by Dathan Ritzenhein were ahead of him and they all broke the record that day as well. Who finished 2 spots ahead of Golden? A guy named Alan Webb.
After that, he competed for BYU and BYU Hawaii in college. Before all of that, he was an age-group ace as he ran a 3:08 marathon at age 10, a US best 2:57 marathon at age 11, and a world’s best 2:45 marathon at age 12 (this age-group site list 2:46 as the best in history for a 12 yr old).
Enough about Golden’s running exploits, he probably rather have you learn about his shoe company.
The Altra Zero Story and Line
Co-founder and trail runner Brian Beckstead explained to LRC the history of Altra Zero which “started with 3 guys in a basement.”
The 3 guys in a basement were from the get-go focused on the biomechanics of running and trying to come up with a better running shoe.
One thing that was obvious to them was that the when we are not wearing shoes our heel and toes are on the same level. There is “zero drop” (hence the name) between heel and toe.
Tinkering with traditional running shoes they started by taking the heel out of shoes. The end result was a shoe that left the heel and the toes on the same level. They still wanted the shoes to have cushioning. As Brian said, “zero drop but fully cushioned.”
The Altra Zero team talked to a bunch of shoe companies about making “zero-drop” shoes and none of them jumped at the opportunity. So Altra Zero eventually started making their own shoes instead of just taking the heels out of existing ones.
Now, the Altra Zero-Drop line runs from racing shoes to motion control shoes. Altra is not able to trademark the term “zero-drop” but all of its shoes are zero-drop. Another unique feature is a wider, more natural toe box.
Altra dropped was acquired in 2011 by ICON Fitness, the owners of NordicTrack. Thus the ESPN TV commercials and rapid growth. Brian said Altra is now the 9th largest shoe company in specialty running, “soon to be #7.”
Altra’s Shoe Line
Brian did a nice job of taking us through the Altra line in the video embedded below this article, but first a brief overview.
The flagship shoe of Altra Zero Drop is the Instinct 1.5. The original Instinct won Innovation of the Year in Competitor magazine, and Best Debut in Runner’s World magazine. It’s the standard cushioned Zero-Drop trainer.
A new shoe this year is the Torin which has maximum cushioning.
The Provision is a stability shoe that provides stability with a stability wedge.
Looking for more info? Below co-founder Brian Beckstead answers some questions from LetsRun and goes through this year’s Altra line.