Altra Torin 4 Review

altra torin 4 review
My new Altra Torin 4 fresh out of the box, tags still on.

I’ve been worried about my running shoe possibilities since Altra decided to discontinue the awesome, beloved Intuition (Instinct for men). I’ve worn the Intuition since its first-ever model. Aside from one year when they were clown-like, I’ve loved them very much. The Torin has always been too much shoe for me, but with the Altra Torin 4 release and lack of new Intuition, I decided to give the Torin a try.

There are two versions of the Torin 4: plush and regular. The plush model costs more and has different upper material, but since limited quantities have been released thus far, I don’t know what other differences there may be between the two. I ordered the regular model in the black/teal colorway. After chatting with Altra’s online customer service (friendly, helpful people, FYI), I learned that the Torin 4 runs bigger than the Torin 3.5. I tried on the 3.5 several months ago but didn’t buy it because it was too much shoe. However, the size 9.5 fit me well. For the Torin 4, I ordered a size 9.

Unboxing the Altra Torin 4

As soon as I opened the box, I could see that the new Torin is the best-looking Altra shoe I’ve ever owned. The colors are true to online representation and actually look a bit better in person. They were noticeably very lightweight when I picked them up, but I also had an immediate concern: they looked long, especially for a size 9, when a 9.5 was good for me in the previous version of the Torin.

altra torin 4 review
I appreciate the full-length rubber on the outsole.

The laces are very long and cord-like. They tie easily but hang down so much that I worry about tripping on them even when they’re double-knotted. Some of the eyelets are a bright yellow material that seems reflective, which strikes me as odd because most of the yellow is covered up when the shoe is laced. I’d much rather the reflective yellow be on the front, back, or sides. The outsole, while highly segmented, has full-length rubber, which is a relative rarity nowadays. I appreciate the extra traction and (potential) durability.

Sizing

I put my foot into the shoe and was met with comfort and roominess. Too much roominess. The size 9 fits more like a traditional 9.5. That’s upsetting on multiple fronts, especially since the previous Torin ran small. It seems like consistent sizing should part of the basic skillset of shoe sales, but perhaps not. Second to that, I needed new shoes ASAP and didn’t have time to go through the online exchange process. Not whining, just being real. I work on my feet, walk a ton, and need good shoes when I need them. It never crossed my mind to try an 8.5. My feet haven’t been that small since 5th grade.

altra torin 4 review
The teal triangles on the sides are the start of the elastic that snugs the forefoot and holds the tongue in place. Side note: made in China.

Another worrisome aspect is the elastic that holds the tongue in place. It makes for a snug fit– potentially too snug. I used a flashlight to look all the way into the shoe, and the elastic that holds the tongue is part of a lining that then goes all throughout the front. In other words, it’s not a simple band that could be cut if needed. The snug forefoot binder (for lack of a better word coming to mind) is ok in the 9, but I’m quite concerned about it feeling too tight if I sized down to an 8.5

I held the new Torins up to my old Intuitions and Ones. The Torin in size 9 is definitely a tad longer than the Intuition 9 and One 9. But is a tad enough to make me need an 8.5? I kinda feel like I might need the nonexistent 8.75.

First Outdoor Walk

altra torin 4
Late spring flowers, new shoes, and an evening walk.

After wearing the Torin 4 around my house and doing my best to keep them clean for return, I decided to venture outside. They definitely feel a bit too big, especially on my slightly smaller right foot, but I didn’t trip over my underfoot dogs or anything else in my house. I kept saying aloud, “these seem too big, but they’re so comfortable.” I reached down at least seven times to feel the space between my toes and end, and it was more than I’m used to, but the comfort won, and I decided to take them for an outdoor walk to truly test their merits.

After a mostly successful indoor walk, I hit the streets for a real trial. I had to stop five times to adjust the laces, which is strangely difficult with the cord-like laces and flexible eyelets. As my feet naturally swelled from heat and activity, I figured they’d appreciate the extra room of the size 9, but it was not so. My right foot felt like it was working hard not to slide around inside the shoe, and my left one wasn’t much better. I walked 3.75 miles before calling it a day. I started getting a strange, stabbing pain in my right knee, and both my heels were sore. Verdict: the Torin 4, which I very much wanted to love, doesn’t work for me. I’m not even going to try to run in them. It’s a potentially great shoe, but it’s not my shoe.

I’m still a longtime major fan of Altra. One model that doesn’t do right for me won’t change my belief that they’re a great brand that makes great shoes. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will fall in love with the Torin 4. Luckily, the guarantee allows me to return them even though I wore them outdoors. I HATE doing that because it seems unfair to the company and is ecologically unsound, but these shoes just don’t work for my feet. Perhaps a half size smaller would give better results, but I think I’ll move on and try the new Altra Kayenta instead.

A Few Observations about the Torin 4

  • Removable insole, like most running shoes
  • Long laces
  • Flexible midsole
  • Full-length, heavily segmented rubber outsole
  • Soft, partly mesh uppers
  • Cushioned but not as much as previous models
  • Lightweight
  • Runs about a half size large

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. It’s not particularly nice to look at, but I don’t care. 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 I hated it. Like really, really, really hated it. The upper was sock-like but tight. It was a weird combination of extremely restrictive and not supportive at all. I tried the Escalante 1.5 at the local store, and while it fit a little better than the original, I still felt unstable on turns. Since running isn’t done in a miles-long straight line, that was a major dealbreaker for me. I tried the Altra Torin but felt like I was clomping around on a platform made of marshmallows. Way too much shoe, and since I have small ankles, I imagined terrible sprains if I rolled an ankle in something so elevated off the ground.

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’ve never been to the other cities featured by the Racer except New York, but that version currently costs more, so I stuck with Boston. 

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 wasn’t quite as awesome. The sole felt 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, but I was a bit surprised to find how large the gaps are in the mesh. I can definitely see my socks through the shoe, so by breathable, I guess I really mean full of holes. Most importantly though, especially in comparison to the original Escalante, my feet felt secure on corners, even at fairly high speeds. 

As for basics, I have mostly good 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 think 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. The real test will come when I break them out for 10+ miles, but for now, I’m sticking with the Intuition 3.5 for long runs. 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.

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.