Normally I like to get a decent amount of miles on a shoe before writing a review, but sometimes it only takes a few runs to form an opinion, and that’s the case for me with the newest offering from Altra, the Torin. I’ve already had a good amount of experience running in Altras, as I own and enjoy both their Instinct and Provision, so read on to see how the Torin held up!
Altra recently beefed up its design department and it shows. The Torin looks sleek and stealthy for a highly-cushioned, zero-drop shoe with contrasting shocking yellow and electric blue accents (they’re also available in a more restrained blue and white colorway). They are a welcome departure from Altra’s earlier offerings and definitely one of the better looking shoes I’ve seen this year, super-wide toe box and all. I know some bloggers have been comparing them to Hoka One Ones in terms of function; thankfully, the Torins don’t nearly look as much like raver boots. The midsole has 20mm of cushioning, which makes for a soft feeling underfoot, but not one that feels sloppy or heavy. The added midsole cushioning also makes the Torin look more like a conventional trainer than Altra’s previous offerings, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Up till now, Altra’s outsoles have been made entirely of blown rubber, making them very grippy and stable but not as flexible or light as they could be. The Torins outsole features something Altra calls MetaPods, or in non shoe-maker jargon: exposed areas of midsole, segmented by pieces of blown rubber. So, while the Torin isn’t as flexible as, say, the Nike Frees, it is as flexible if not more-so than the Provision. Again, I wouldn’t call this shoe a marvel of flexibility, but I think that would be a stretch for any shoe with 20mm of cushioning. The grip of the outsole is still stellar, despite the reduced amount of blown rubber, and the shoe weighs in at 9.6 oz. in a size 10.5, which is pretty light when you take into account the substantial upper, midsole, and outsole.
I was pleased to see the Torins fit true to size (that’s a 12 for me, and I have about a thumb’s width at the end) as I felt Altra’s Provision ran a little small. Altra typically uses an anatomical, foot-shaped last with a wide toe box and the Torin doesn’t deviate in this respect, so my toes have plenty of room to wiggle. The upper nicely conforms to my foot, and the new material and non-stiched overlays feel generally well-constructed. Overall I was pleased with the upper, and the open mesh means it should probably breath well in the warmer months.
One of the things I was surprised to see missing from the Torin was Altra’s “Heel Claw” feature, that helps lock down the heel for added support and a more secure fit. The Torin also has only six eyelets (the Provision and Instinct both have 7) which adds to the difficulty of securing your heel, as noted by John Shepard in his Torin review on Runblogger.com. I’ll address the practical application of this missing eyelet, as well as some other issues I found with the lacing system, below.
The Torin feels very stable and surprisingly springy for such a highly cushioned shoe. At moderate speeds I appreciated the width of the platform, which felt stable despite the taller midsole height. I felt the slightly upturned toe allowed for a quicker turnover at faster speeds, and I was surprised by how responsive the shoe felt during a long set of build-up intervals I did at the end of one run. The shoe definitely rewards a fore-to-midfoot strike, but the ample cushioning nicely protected my feet when I forced myself to heel strike. That being said, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this shoe to heel strikers (or for lots of speed work).
Sounds great so far, right? Well, as much as I’ve liked Altra’s earlier offerings, and as much as I wanted to like this shoe, I had some significant problems with its performance during my runs. To start with, the laces are very thin, round, and made of cord-like material, and they frequently loosened during the course of the run, despite the use of various lacing patterns. The laces are also much too long, as with the Provision, and I ended up with comically long bows no matter how I tied them.
My major issue, though, was with heel slippage. WIthout that seventh eyelet near the ankle collar, I found it exceedingly difficult to secure my heel. On one run I had to stop and re-lace them six times, each time using a new pattern, until I could finally get stop my heel from popping out. By that point I had them tied so tightly that I felt a hot-spot start to form on the top of my foot. Normally this would make me think I had on too large a size, but an 11.5 definitely wouldn’t fit in length.
I think having a seventh eyelet would give runners more of an ability to secure their heel, while allowing for a greater variety of lacing patterns. It seems like Altra may have actually tested a version of this shoe with seven eyelets, as an eagle-eyed commenter on the Runblogger.com review pointed out that there are pictures on the web showing the Torin with both six and seven eyelets. I called Altra’s customer service department and their representative told me that in his marketing brochure the shoe was also pictured with seven eyelets, so I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here. Is this a production error or a slip-up in the graphic design department? Even RunningWarehouse.com’s product page originally showed the Torin with seven eyelets, but as of today it has been updated to reflect the six-eyelet model:
The other construction problem I experienced was that the stitching came loose on the piece of fabric used to prevent the tongue from slipping sideways (see below). This material is also used to hold the laces instead of eyelets in four places in the middle of the lacing system, and the way it’s stitched on doesn’t necessarily inspire the greatest confidence.
I think Altra makes some great shoes and there are things I really like about the Torin, but it’s not a shoe I can recommend in its current form. I think a few tweaks could make the Torin a great option for those wanting a zero-drop show with more cushioning. Sadly, the issues I had with the lacing system, both in terms of fit and construction, meant this shoe just wouldn’t work for me.