Altra Viho Review

Altra Viho Review
My new Vihos kept good traction on damp pine straw, grass, and asphalt.

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the 2020 Altra Red Team and purchased these shoes using a team discount.

I can’t overstate how excited I was to see the impending release of the Altra Viho. As a longtime Altra Intuition devotee, the Viho looked like it would perfectly fit the hole in my heart left by the demise of the Intuition (ok, maybe an exaggeration, but I really loved the Intuition).

I ordered the Viho as soon as it went live on Altra’s website. I chose Ice Flow Blue but would’ve been happy with any of the colors. The other options were Deep Teal and Purple. I haven’t had light-colored running shoes in a while, so I opted for change. My new Vihos arrived yesterday, and as soon as I opened the box, I was happy with my choice.

Specifications

I prefer to focus on fit and function when I talk about how shoes fit me, but specs are important, so here you go. Altra posted these details about the Viho: stack height, 26 mm; midsole, InnerFlex™; outsole, Rubber FootPod™; weight, 7.4 ounces; and upper, Multi-Directional Mesh. And, of course, they’re on Altra’s hallmark zero-drop, balanced-cushioning platform, meaning the heel and forefoot remain level within the shoe. They’re listed at $100, making them more affordable than most quality running shoes.

Sizing and Fit

Altra Viho
The insole on the left is from my size 9 Altra Intuition. On the right, my size 9 Altra Viho. Dog hair courtesy of my babies.

I’m consistently a size 9 in women’s Altra shoes, with a few random exceptions over the years. One pair of Superiors fit me in 9.5 several years ago, and the latest Torin was best in 8.5. Otherwise, I’ve always been a 9. The Viho fits me best in a size 9. I pulled the insole out of my old Intuitions and compared it to the Viho insole and the size 9s are almost identical in width and length.

Altra Viho side view
The Viho upper reminds me somewhat of the fit of the old Intuition version 1.5, but with more give and fewer overlays.

The upper is stiffer than the last (final) version of the Intuition, and it felt a little too snug at first. However, after walking through my house for a few minutes, the upper began to feel more forgiving and comfortable. I have a pair of miserable tailor’s bunions from a lifetime of stuffing my feet into soccer cleats, so I’m very sensitive to shoes if the forefoot is narrow. I was concerned about the Viho at first, but after my short stroll around the house, the upper felt like it softened up and made room for my bones.

As with all Altras, the overall footprint of the shoe matches much more closely to an actual foot than most shoes do. The toebox allows my feet to function more naturally than they can in tapered, pointed-toe shoes. I stand most of the day at work in a chiropractic/PT clinic. Not only do I feel the positive effects of foot-shaped shoes on my own feet, but I see the ramifications of ill-fitting shoes in my patients. No shoe or brand is right for every foot, but I’m a big believer in Altra. The Viho is definitely one of my new favorites. And, yes, it seems quite similar to an updated version of my beloved Intuition.

The Altra Viho on the Road

The storms finally stopped the day after my new Vihos arrived, so I took them for a jaunt around the park near my house. It was almost 70 degrees in the morning (ugh, in freakin’ February), and the upper on the Viho allowed my feet to breathe as much as feet can in heat plus 100% humidity. They provided a springy but not mushy feel underfoot. The rubber outsole felt secure on damp roads and damp grass.

As with any new pair of shoes, it took me a few minutes to get used to them, but once I did, I was in love. The laces are tubular shaped and stayed tied (I always double-knot for safety). The heel is padded but not overly structured, and the tongue is fairly thickly padded. I adjusted the laces a few times during my first outing, as I do with all new shoes. Once I got the fit just right, I didn’t want to take off the Viho.

Durability

Altra Viho
The sole of the Viho has sufficient rubber for solid traction and durability but also is nicely segmented for lightweight flexibility.

I can’t speak to durability since I just got the Viho, but the rubber outsole looks substantial and the upper seems solidly made. I could imagine the heel breaking down a bit if you get into the habit of cramming your foot in without thoroughly unlacing, so if you’re prone to that, maybe budget an extra couple seconds to loosen the laces and slide your foot instead of shoving it. (If you’re a shover, I know you– I, too, used to break down the heels of shoes by convincing myself I was saving time by not really loosening my shoes enough. Stop. I promise it’s worth it, and it’s better for your feet, anyway.)

I get a lot more miles out of my running shoes than most runners, in part because I run mostly on grass and dirt instead of concrete and asphalt. I’ll update this review after I get substantial mileage on the Viho.

Verdict

The Viho is a win for Altra in my book. It’s not overly cushioned and also not minimal, and will likely appeal to people who like neutral, versatile running shoes. Even though it’s a completely different shoe, I view it as a solid replacement for the Intuition. If the snugness of the upper is an issue for some women, it’d be worth trying on the men’s Viho to see if it provides a little extra room. As for me, I’m sticking with the women’s and I’m very happy with my new shoes.

Running Gear Favorites

I write about serious health stuff a lot, but I also love to talk about lighthearted and upbeat topics. Life’s about balance, right? So, along with my very serious Lyme disease post, I’m also finishing 2019 by writing a quick highlight of three of my favorite pieces of running gear that I acquired this year.

Altra Kayenta

altra kayenta
The Altra Kayenta shoes are light and flexible enough for agility workouts in addition to running.

I was ridiculously devastated when Altra decided to discontinue their Intuition, but their new Kayenta helped dry my tears. They’re different from any shoes I’ve ever worn, but once I got over the novelty, I fell in love. They’re lightweight, flexible, (zero-drop like all Altras), and shaped like my feet. I like the colors, too.

Headsweats Hats

headsweats bigfoot
Headsweats makes trucker hats that actually fit my head rather than swallowing it. And they have Bigfoot on them! Well, not on all of them, but on several. This one’s my favorite.

I spent 2019 as a first-year ambassador for Team Headsweats, and it was such a cool experience. Not only did I get to connect with other outdoors-loving athletes, but I also got some really awesome gear from Headsweats. It’s hard to pick my favorite, but their Bigfoot collection wins in my book. I usually run in their high-visibility race hats and hike in the Bigfoot trucker. All of them are comfortable, have a black underside to the brim, and help keep sweat and sun out of my eyes.

AfterShokz Titanium Mini

aftershokz
I can hear cars, people, and animals just fine while also singing along to some embarrassing songs that shall go unnamed. Side note: that’s a Headsweats hat I’m wearing, and it doesn’t interfere with the Aftershokz headphones.

Many years ago, I ran with a tiny iPod shuffle and conventional headphones. After almost getting hit by a car– like, really almost getting hit– I never wore headphones outdoors again. I ran the wire up my abdomen and stuck the earbuds in my bra. Turning the volume all the way up basically turned them into tiny, horrible-quality speakers, and I sometimes got little raw circles on my chest from where the headphones rubbed. And then (cue the movie music for the big reveal) I read about AfterShokz, a company that produces open-ear, bone-conduction headphones for athletes. They’re life-changing. This photo is of them in action, not bouncing, rubbing, or making me deaf while I run across an intersection. The sound quality is excellent, although I refuse to admit to some of the bizarre and embarrassing stuff that’s on my playlist.

Did you get any new favorite running gear this year? If so, I’d love to hear about it. And here’s to the new year!

Summer Trail Running

It’s not quite Thursday yet, but here’s my TBT to some awesome hiking and trail running this summer. I can’t wait until my iron deficiency clears up and I can hit the trails again! My new Altra Lone Peaks were barely broken in before my ferritin level dropped so low that I couldn’t run, and every time I see them in the closet, they look sad and ready to go. I can definitely relate!

It’s finally cooling down a little here in FL, which means prime trail running weather is almost here. The Florida Trail, which essentially runs from Pensacola Beach to the Everglades, is a great, diverse trail system. My favorite sections to run are through Blackwater State Forest and through the Gulf Islands National Seashore/Ft. Pickens property. I hope I’m well enough to run before November, but if I have to wait, so be it. My Lone Peaks and I will grit our teeth and wait. I’ve been through a lot this year, but I’ve never lost sight of my goals, hopes, and dreams. Onward, friends.

trail running
North Carolina is my favorite trail running destination.
altra lone peak
My new Altra Lone Peaks served me well and look quite nice next to a turkey feather.
female trail runner
I usually don’t wear headphones while trail running, but AfterShokz allow me to hear nature and music at the same time because they use bone conduction technology rather than blocking the ears.
mountain view trail running
I saw some of the most gorgeous parts of our planet while running this summer. The mountains are my favorite.

Escalante Racer Review

Altra Escalante Racer Boston Edition blue and yellow running shoe
Altra Escalante Racer, Boston edition.

I’ve heard several credible rumors that the Altra Intuition is about to be discontinued, and I’m super bummed. I’ve been running in various versions of the Intuition since it was first born several years ago, and while I’ve tried other shoes, the Intuition always works best for me. The Intuition 3.5 is the latest model I’ve worn, which puts me two versions behind the newest, but I LOVE it. I can run a half marathon on mostly pavement without much foot pain, and that says everything. I needed a new pair and looked forward to trying the Intuition 4.5 (skipping Intuition 4 since it’s passe now), but when I went to our local running store, there were almost no sizes in stock. Online searches didn’t help much, either. It was almost impossible to find the Intuition in a (apparently popular?) size 9, especially with my first color choice.

I’ve tried the Altra Escalante, which lots of people love, but it wasn’t for me. The upper was sock-like but too tight for me. I tried the Escalante 1.5 at the local store, and while it fit a little better than the original, I felt unstable on turns. Enter the Escalante Racer. Billed by Altra as a “faster, higher performance version of the Escalante,” I was most interested in their description of the upper. They claim it’s firmer and more supportive when taking corners. I’m not one to fall prey to marketing jazz, but it sounded like the Racer might be a hopeful choice to take the place of my beloved Intuition.

I bought the Boston version of the Escalante Racer because I’ve been to the city three times and loved it. The walkability, the mass transit, the food, the parks, the history— such a cool place. I don’t care much about the looks of my running shoes as long as they perform well, but as soon as I opened the box, I was impressed by the appearance of the Escalante Racer. The Boston version is bright blue with yellow and black accents, including patterned yellow laces. Score one for aesthetics, but my main concern was how they’d feel on a run. I touched the upper and noticed a huge difference between the Racer and the regular Escalante. There didn’t seem to be any stretch at all in the Racer’s upper, and the toe box looked roomier. I put on my favorite socks and sat down to try on the Escalante Racer.

Running in the Escalante Racer

The first thing I noticed was how difficult it was to put the shoe on. I felt like one of Cindarella’s stepsisters. But once I pulled the laces extremely loose, I finally got the shoes on my feet. The difference between the Racer and the plain Escalante was massive and evident immediately. My feet didn’t feel constricted at all in the Racer, but they felt reasonably supported when I walked around a sharp corner in my house. Convinced they were a potentially awesome option, I took a chance immediately and went for a run.

The first run in my new Escalante Racers was 6 miles. With the Intuition, I could always take a new pair out of the box and run any distance in perfect comfort. The Racer’s sole felt a little stiff, which was surprising since the sole uses segmented rubber with significant gaps between each piece. I ran on hard dirt, weedy grass, asphalt, and concrete— pretty much every surface I ever run on except sand. 

By the second mile, I noticed increased comfort. The cushioning was definitely less than the Intuition (it’s a different shoe, so that wasn’t shocking), but as my run progressed, the comfort of the Racer increased. The stiffness lessened or I got used to it, but either way, I was fine with the sole. The mesh upper was highly breathable, which is super important since I live in Florida. I can definitely see my socks through the shoe, so by breathable, I guess I mean full of holes. Most importantly though, my feet felt secure on corners, even at fairly high speeds. 

As for basics, I have mostly great things to report. The laces stayed tied (super basic, I know, but I’ve definitely experienced lace problems with some shoes), the Racer was true to size, and the colorway was as advertised. The only surprise was how difficult it is to get the shoe on and off, but a little patience for extra lace-loosening isn’t a big deal.

I wish so, so much that Altra wouldn’t discontinue the Intuition. Since they are, though, I’ve found a solid backup plan in the Escalante Racer. I haven’t tried the Racer on anything longer than 6.5 miles yet, but so far, so good. As usual with Altra shoes, I love the zero drop, roominess, and comfort. I’m not sure anything will ever be as awesome as the Intuition, but I really like the Escalante Racer and feel hopeful that future versions will be even better. I’m a longtime Altra fan, and I can now add the Racer to my list of why I love Altra shoes. Foot-shaped, zero drop, Boston-themed– what’s not to love?

Altra Escalante Running Shoe Review

altra escalante review

I got a long-overdue new pair of running shoes last week and put them to work immediately. The Altra Escalante is one of Altra’s newer designs, and it’s definitely a winner. I look forward to a future version with slight tweaks that will hopefully make a great shoe even better.

Running Performance

Stellar, except for the sizing (see below). I could’ve easily gone several more miles in these awesome shoes if they hadn’t felt too big. The more I ran, the bigger they felt—probably because my feet drifted laterally a bit, which reduced the functional length of my feet within the shoe. Other than that, I loved running in the Escalante. They stayed soft and cushy without being marshmallowy, and the knit upper had just enough support without being structured. I had to retie the laces a few times for optimum fit, which is pretty common for me when I run in brand-new shoes, but once I got settled on the right lacing, I was good to go. I ran with the Escalante on asphalt, concrete, and damp, grassy trails without traction issues, although it’s definitely not a trail shoe (and doesn’t claim to be).

Breathability

I didn’t find the Escalante any better or worse than most running shoes in terms of breathability. I live in Florida and frequently run in jungle-like humidity and extreme heat. There’s no shoe in the world that can keep feet cool and dry in those conditions, and the Escalante is no exception. Sweaty feet are just a fact of life for runners in the deep south.

Midsole

The white foam looked a bit thin when I took the shoes out of the box, but when I put them on, they were extremely soft and cushioned. The bounciness took a few minutes of adjustment since I’m used to firmer shoes, but once I started running, I was hooked. The Escalante is the most comfortably cushioned shoe I’ve ever worn. It feels a little too soft while walking, but it feels like heaven while running. I have sensitive feet that get angry easily, and I have zero complaints about the underfoot feel of the Escalante.

Outsole

The outsole reminds me of an old tennis shoe traction pattern. The rubber is pretty smooth but has deep grooves. It’s highly segmented and leaves a lot of the midsole foam exposed, which helps reduce weight. I’ll update about durability in a month or two.

Appearance

altra escalante review
I really like the way the Escalantes look and feel.

I’m a fan of Altra from way back when they issued their first Intuition that looked somewhat like a medical shoe with moon boot styling. I’ve often felt that I compromised aesthetics for comfort and function. Some of the major brands that’ve been around a lot longer make really good-looking shoes that always tempt me, but Altra consistently wins in the comfort and function categories. “Embrace the space,” as they say. Each time their designs have progressed, I’ve gotten happier and happier with the appearance of their shoes. The Escalante is the nicest looking Altra I’ve owned yet, except for maybe the bright red pair of Superiors that I own and love. I got the gray colorway in the Escalante, and it’s quite subdued without being too dark. 

Sizing

altra escalante running shoe
Surprisingly, there’s way too much room in the front and front/side in my usual size, so I’ll need to go a half size down. This photo was taken after my feet were swollen from running, and the shoes are still too big.

I’m a 9 or 9.5 in every shoe I’ve bought for at least a decade. In Altra, I wear 9 in the Intuition (version 3.5) and 9.5 in the Superior (version 2.0). I bought a 9 in the Escalante and was worried it might be too small based on other reviews of sizing. However, it’s the opposite of what I thought. Immediately after I put them on, there was too much space in the front and side-front of the shoe. I moved my foot around a bit and changed socks, but there still seemed to be too much space. I don’t like tight shoes, so I decided to lace them up and walk around a bit. They seemed good after all, so I wore them for a 5-miler. Unfortunately, by mile 2, it was glaringly obvious that they were too big. I almost tripped a few times because of the excess length. I can’t believe it, but I think I’m going to have to exchange them for an 8.5. My feet always tend to shift laterally in shoes, especially when I run, and that lateral shift made the 9s feel even longer. Really unexpected to need a smaller size, but I have to go with what fits best, regardless of number.

Final Verdict

hurting like hell, living with gusto
Proof that I’ve been an Altra fan for years— check out the Intuition 1.5 on my book cover!

I LOVE the Escalante. It’s my new favorite shoe, except for the sizing. It’s an unstructured, perfectly cushioned, lightweight option for multiple paces and surfaces. I really, really hope the 8.5 fits perfectly so I can run a ton of miles in them. I’ll alternate the Escalante with my old pair of Intuitions (until I get new ones!), and still plan to use the Superior for trail running and the Lone Peak for hiking. Click here to buy the Escalante. 

Altra Intuition 3 Review

Intuition 3 looking good in the box.
Intuition 3 looking good in the box.

I’ve been a fan of Altra shoes since they first came out and were blocky-looking and virtually unknown. I’ve had every version of the Intuition and three versions of the Lone Peak. I use my Lone Peaks for hiking and will never go back to boots. Until today, my latest pair of Intuitions were the ugliest shoes I’d ever owned, but also some of the most comfortable. They’re crayon pink, similar to Crayola’s carnation, and if they didn’t feel like pillowy heaven I’d never have bought them. For the first time ever in my history with Altra, today I bought a pair of decent-looking shoes. The Intuition 3s that my local running store stocks are coral/blue, and I’m actually excited about how they look rather than just how they feel.

Since looks really don’t matter to comfort and function, of course the ultimate test is how they feel and perform. I bought a size 9.5 despite being a 9 in the second version and an 8.5 in the 1.5 version. I’m not sure if my feet are expanding or if the sizing differences reflect the complaints I’ve read about Altra’s sizing, but it doesn’t bother me. The beauty of shopping locally is being able to try on shoes and go by how they fit rather than a number on a box.

I tried on some Newtons and Sauconys for comparison in the store today, and the Intuition 3 won by a long shot. They’re not as marshmallowy as the 2 and feel more like a responsive running shoe. The laces are much improved over previous versions and are soft and plenty long (the laces on the 2s are woefully short and shoddy). The 3s are lighter and have even less rubber on the outsole compared to the 2s—gone is the rubber from the medial arch.

No more rubber on the outsole under the arch.
No more rubber on the outsole under the arch.

I’ve spent the afternoon walking around in my 3s and haven’t had any break-in issues or complaints. They fit great right out of the box, and I have high hopes for their workout performance. The toe box is wide in the tradition of Altra, but the heel is still narrow enough that I don’t feel like I’m walking in moon boots. For people with fibromyalgia and other chronic health issues, the comfort and function of Altra shoes can make a long workday much more doable. It’s amazing how good your feet can feel when your shoes aren’t deforming them.

I’ve been on a running hiatus for months due to health complications, but I’ve walked a couple of hours or more each runless day in Altras. I’ve wanted to return to running every single day since my health forced me to quit, and I think I might be brave enough to take a few running steps in my new Intuition 3s tomorrow. If not, I hope they serve me as well for walking as their predecessors did. I’ll update this review over time with notes on durability and performance, but the future—at least as far as my shoes are concerned—looks bright.