I took off to the run store at lunch the other day in desperate need of new run shoes. Ten minutes and over $100 later I came out with a pair of Altra Provision 2.0 – a brand and shoe I hadn’t even heard of before. I think I buy all my run shoes in this kind of crazy desperation and every time I think I have finally found the golden shoe that will make me an Olympic champ. But this time, with the Altras, maybe it really will be the case.
I went in there slightly frantic. I may have even shouted, “Don’t show me any Brooks, I’m already in the widest Asics, I need something with a wider toe box! What’s the widest shoe you’ve got?!” Ok, at the very least the salesperson could easily see that commission was in the bag with me. I wasn’t going to walk out empty handed. She had me try the Altra Provision. At first, I thought she said “ultra.” No, it’s Altra. As soon as I put it on I could feel the difference in the fit and the forefoot area. She explained that it was supposed to allow your foot to “spread” and be a more natural running shoe, which is exactly what I was looking for. It also has “zero drop”, which I’ve tried before in racing flats.
Sometimes you need to completely shake things up with your shoe brands. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS that I used to like in 2013 changed their pronation shoes and now they look and feel like a marshmallow orthopedic shoe for people over 80. Awful. (They just added a “limited edition” pattern which looks great, but makes me wonder if they did that because the new Adrenaline isn’t selling well with the new changes). The Asics GT-2000s are ok, but they were still squeezing my foot in this weird way because of the almost “S” shaped design of the foot. The Asics GT-2000 2E might have a wide base, but the fabric on top is indented from the base and then is pulled tight over the foot. In other words you’re jipped of that extra space and it’s not so wide after all. Also, I didn’t do that much mileage last year in my GT’s so it seemed odd they wouldn’t last long before looking rough and developing a hole on top. Still, I dutifully replaced them with the next GT’s and only started using them these past couple months. But now these GT’s are starting to wear down and get a hole like my old ones! That makes no sense! They should last longer than a couple of low mileage months! That was the first clue I needed a change.
The Altra Provision 2.0 seems to fix all of that. I’m not going to lie though, when the salesperson handed me the Altras, I thought they looked like clown shoes. Maybe it was the color? I don’t often buy black shoes down here in south Florida. They weren’t as fabric-y on top like most shoes and it was hard to take them seriously with the overall boxy look. But they also kind of looked like Hokas and I see very respectable ultra marathoners wearing Hokas sooooo… maybe these aren’t bad either?
But when I put them on, perfection! The Altra Provision 2.0 combines the pronation support I need, the zero drop that allows my foot to have a more natural range and strike, and the toe box space that doesn’t strangle your forefoot or restrict any swell from distance running or foot spread when you hit the ground. It was everything I never knew I always wanted! The salesperson said I was half a size up in the Altras vs my Asics but it seemed legit. The more room the better as far as I’m concerned right now.
I only ran an easy 3 miler after I brought them home but I didn’t even pay attention to the toe box because that zero drop thing was so distracting. I think I’m prepared for it but never fully am, especially after what must have been a 6 inch heel in my Asics. The difference is incredible. I have no idea what is better or worse for running. Maybe race winners kill it in those 6 inch run heels. But it kind of freaks you out to think of what you were running in before, once you cross over to zero drop shoes. And the fact that I didn’t even notice my toes on the run tells me that they were fine. It felt normal. And normal is what I’m looking for. So far, these Altras feel very normal, like when you put on shoes to go outside and play tag as a kid.
My spouse keeps trying to get me to make a statement on record as to whether they are the best shoes I’ve ever tried in my life or if I don’t like them at all. All I can say is I’m cautiously optimistic. Remember, I only ran 3 miles in these and I have a whole season of marathon training to get through. Will the Altras work for marathon training? I want to find my one and only shoe for life, and I’m hoping this is it. I’ll keep you posted!
UPDATE: After running in the Altras for almost 2 months, I have decided to go back to Asics. You can read about it here. This is no reflection on the Altras though! The Altras felt wonderful during my time running in them…. until they didn’t. And that reason was my IT band issue. I went back to my old shoes because I believe that these Altras, although they have some pronation support, do not give as much pronation support as my Asics GT-2000 model. Since taking some time off to reduce inflammation of my ITB, and going back to my old shoes, the pain is now gone. Again, for those of you without ITBS, this shoe could be great for you! It felt really good to run in flats and they never gave me any trouble outside of the exacerbating of IT band pain, apparently.
One more thing though… Altras do take some getting used to. I had to greatly reduce my mileage, initially, because the zero-drop made my calves sore and achy for the first dozen or so runs. Once you get over that, you can definitely build back up with no problem.