Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Gear Closet: Altra Duo Running Shoes Review

Lightweight and agile running shoes are fairly common in the athletic footwear industry with nearly all of the major players offering something that fits into the category. But often times designers shave ounces at the expense of comfort with the idea that runners who want to go fast are willing to sacrifice a little to achieve their goals. That isn't the case with new Altra Duo, a shoe that manages to be nimble out on the road without making you pay the price. 

If you're already familiar with Altra, you probably also already know that the company has made a name for itself by designing shoes that have a shape that conforms to the natural contours of the foot. This includes a toe box that allows the toes to splay out as you run, increasing power and stability in a more natural way. Altra athletic shoes also feature zero heel drop too, which keeps the foot in a more neutral position and lessens the impact of foot strikes. This approach can feel a little unusual at first, but most runners who have given Altra shoes a go come away as complete converts, this reviewer included. 

The Duo sticks closely to the Altra formula and as a result, the shoes feel great on the foot. This is of course a bit subjective, but for my money the company delivers the most consistent fit and support of any running shoes that I've tried, and I've pretty much tried all of them.

Built for the road, the Duo tips the scales at just 7.9 ounces, although they often feel lighter than that on foot. The cushioning is perfectly shaped and places as well, providing plenty of shock absorption without loss of stability. Surprisingly, even after running 10+ miles, my legs and feet still came away feeling refreshed and strong. That hasn't always been the case when I've tested minimalist shoes in the past. 
One of the sources of contention for the Duo that I've seen online is over the lightweight, mesh upper. Some reviewers have indicated that the fabric isn't particularly durable with reports of rips and tears being noted. I've logged more than a hundred miles in the shoes however and haven't seen any of these issues yet. In fact, other than a little dirt here and there, my pair looks practically brand new. Perhaps Altra has discovered some issues in early production models and corrected the problem, but my experience has shown these shoes to be just as rugged as the other models that I've tested from the company. 

The mesh upper does have one massive benefit for runners who live in hot and humid conditions. I've found these shoes vent excess heat and moisture very well, keeping my feet drier for longer. In fact, on some of my shorter runs (6-7 miles/10-12 km) I've come home completely drenched in sweat, but my feet have remained relatively dry. That isn't typically the case where I live, so this has greatly endeared the Duo with me personally. Anything that helps me run more comfortably in sweltering conditions is a big plus in my book. 

Built for those who like to go fast, the Altra Duo is a comfortable, lightweight shoe that is sure to be popular with the minimalist crowd. But those who don't necessarily fall into that category will likely find a lot to love here too. If you've been reluctant to try a lighter shoe, this might be the one to convince you. It's foot-shaped design, breathable upper, and well-cushioned sole are a fanatic combo, particularly for those of us who have to run in the summer heat. And if you haven't looked at the calendar in awhile, we still have a good chunk of summer yet to come. 

Priced at $130, the Altra Duo is ultra-competitive compared to similar shoes offered by other brands. The shoe offers a lot of bang for the buck, making it even easier to recommend. If you're already an Altra convert, you'll love them. If you're not part of the tribe yet, they are the perfect gateway shoe to see what all of the noise is about. 

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