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- 90/100 by Amy Says So
Perhaps you yearn for a road running experience in a neutral shoe encompassing a zero-drop platform, yet you also desire a maximally cushioned ride. If that’s the case, the Altra Duo needs to be your next go-to shoe!
The “dynamic duo” of the Altra Duo running shoes really lies in the maximum-level cushioning and lightweight nature of the shoe. Without further a-Duo, (you see what I did there?) let’s dive right in!
First glance: Uppers and aesthetics
At first glance, the Altra Duo appears to look heavier than it actually is. I was shocked by how light in weight the Altra Duo was when I first held them.
The uppers are practically paper-thin on the Duo’s, which helps attest to the overall lightweight of the shoe. Comprised of a reinforced mesh, I found the uppers of the Duo to be incredibly breathable. This certainly came in handy on these hot Carolina summer days!
Don’t let the thin appearance fool you. The uppers on the Duo are still exceptionally durable.
I, for one, am typically not a fan of a lot of overlays on the upper of shoes, especially when they are in areas that can cause hot spots or irritation.
The minimal overlays were non-problematic on the Duo whatsoever. In fact, the Altra Duo is comprised of a few simple TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) overlays that are intended mainly for support.
The Duo also has a TPU overlay toe cap for added protection. This came in handy for me on my long runs when my footing got a bit lazy and kicked rocks and debris on light gravel roads. My toes were safe and sound.
My only qualm with the upper was that it appeared to stretch out quite a bit after 20-30 miles in this shoe, despite the overlays placed on the midfoot intended to increase support.
Unfortunately, because the uppers stretched out over time, I wasn’t able to amply lock my midfoot down as well as time and miles progressed in this shoe.
By mile 50 in this shoe, I was completely synching down the shoelaces so tightly that I bruised the top of my foot at one point. Quite frankly, as you can imagine, it made the shoe super uncomfortable at that point.
Altra is very innovative and always has nifty features. Inside the upper, there is a liner known as Dri-Lex fabric. This allows the foot to remain dry by wicking away moisture away from the foot.
Moisture-wicking abilities are always applauded, especially in summer months when humidity and heat run ramped. I felt as though the upper breathed really well, and I never felt like my feet were hot despite this summer heat.
As far as color schemes go, I felt as though the aesthetics of the shoe weren’t my exactly my cup of tea. Looking down at my feet, I felt as though the shoes appeared to make my feet look huge!
The overall look of the shoe may not have been my favorite, but I was certainly a fan of the performance and cushioning of the Duo. As always, I think it’s important to fixate primarily on the functionality over aesthetics anyhow.
Here is a quick break down of the Altra Duo road running shoe specifications:
|Weight||7.9 ounces men/5.3 ounces women|
|Heel-to-toe drop||0mm offset|
|Insole||6mm contour footbed|
|Outsole||Blown rubber with full contact|
|Upper||Breathable, thin, lightweight, reinforced|
I felt as though the Altra Duo fits true to size.
Here is my size chart of various shoe brands to be used as a comparison in choosing the right size for yourself:
|The North Face||9.5|
Heel collar and heel counter
I’m sure the thin heel collar was strategic to preserve the overall weight of the Duo to keep this shoe light. This has a much deeper structure than other Altra shoe models.
The heel counter of the Altra Duo was one of the most frustrating aspects I encountered with these shoes.
The taller height of the heel counter initially posed a problem for me as it caused irritation and blistering on my Achilles when wearing no-show socks with the Altra Duos.
This occurred not only when running but even while wearing the shoes for walking, I found that the heel counter wasn’t problematic.
I will admit I was very cognizant at all times of the heel collar. In an effort to remedy this issue, I wore taller socks or heel-padded running socks to prevent the heel counter from rubbing my skin. This helped a little bit, but I still had issues.
I was most aware of the uncomfortably high height of the heel counter on hill descents and sharp turns in the Duos where they just dug into the back of my ankle relentlessly. This feature was frustrating, for sure.
The foot shape of the Altra Duo is one of my favorite qualities about the shoes. The wide toe box allows for ample toe splay and the ability to allow your feet to relax and spread out naturally.
This most definitely increases the overall comfort of the shoe. I absolutely notice the difference in comfortability while wearing running shoes with wider toe boxes, such as the Duo, and it is phenomenal.
For all the ladies! The Altra Duo has a gender-specific fit for enhanced performance.
The Duo has Altra’s Fit4Her technology. This basically differentiates the men’s and women’s shoes by customizing the shoes to complement the unique anatomy of the female foot.
This Fit4Her technology caters to the female foot anatomy by having a narrower heel and midfoot, higher instep, as well as longer arch.
In addition, the metatarsal spacing is unique for female shoes versus male shoes. The metatarsal spacing with the Fit4Her technology accommodates women’s feet more adequately and accurately compared to the alternative.
Midsole and outsole
As mentioned, Altra’s are most well-known for their very wide toe boxes and barefoot zero-drop platform. This allows for complete toe splay and ability to power off your toes completely to maximize your run performance.
The distinguishing feature of the lightweight outsole for the Altra Duo lies in the blown rubber. The Duo’s outsole also includes Altra’s Footpod technology.
The pods are strategically placed beneath the bones and tendons of your foot to help it bend and move more naturally. This feature undoubtedly increases the overall comfort of the Altra Duos.
Moreover, the areas of high traction, such as the forefoot and the heel, have increased amounts of rubber. Fear not! The increased amount of rubber in those high traction areas do not compromise the overall weight of the shoe.
The midsole of the Altra Duo is comprised of Altra’s distinctive Max-LT foam. The Max-LT midsole is lightweight and offers a responsive ride.
Also, the Duo has Innerflex grooves intended to allow your feet to flex more naturally, as well as increase performance and speed in the Altra Duos.
As you would imagine, the Innerflex grooves collected copious amounts of rocks while running on asphalt. I felt like a geologist with how many rocks I collected on each run, I swear!
I constantly was using my keys, a pen, or even a flathead screwdriver to get the rocks out. Talk about annoying.
Outsole durability concern: First run (first photo) vs ~55miles in the Altra Duo (second photo)
I wasn’t expecting the outsole to look so chewed up after only about 55 miles in the Altra Duo. I have concerns in regards to the overall durability of the Altra Duo, seeing that the layer of blown rubber on the outsole is rather thin and wears quickly.
The Altra Duo is a snappy, yet cushioned ride. It is a unique one-of-a-kind ride, unlike any other shoe that I have ever run in previously.
Self-admittedly, this is my first attempt in a maximally cushioned shoe, and I must say that the ride was great!
Equipped with 30mm of cushioning, I did not feel as though the cushioning was ultra pillowy soft, but more cushioned than your typical shoes. In fact, the balance between cushioning and responsiveness was stellar!
I was expecting an ultra-soft ride that would sacrifice in responsiveness due to the maximal amount of cushioning, yet I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. The cushioning is a win for the Duo!
Something that I noticed about the Altra Duos is that the flex point of the shoe felt “off.” This is hard to articulate into words, but I always felt as though the natural flex point of the shoe wasn’t quite in the correct alignment where I felt it needed to be.
At times, I found myself intentionally attempting to either shift my foot forward or backwards in the shoe to find the sweet spot.
Eventually, I realized it was just how the shoes were made. I almost got used to where the particular flex point was despite it feeling “off” from where I desired it to be.
Similarly, I didn’t care for the placement of the laces when fully tied. The position of the laces appeared to be uncomfortably placed at the bend of my anterior ankle.
Coincidentally, my husband also has a pair of the Altra Duo running shoes, and he had similar complaints.
As far as suggested improvements, I definitely would like the flex point and shoelace placement issue to be addressed.
Furthermore, I am not positive how Altra can remedy the rock collection issue within the Innerflex grooves, but they have proven to be problematic.
Lastly, I’d love to see the heel counter height be slightly lower and perhaps a touch more cushioned to neutralize the issue with irritation near my Achilles.
Additionally, this shoe does poorly with sharp turns and hill descents. I had this issue with other Altra shoe models I have tested in the past as well.
The inability to properly lock down my midfoot and heel left the Duos feeling sloppy on sharp turns during my runs. I’m a huge fan of wider toe boxes for toe splay, but this becomes cumbersome when this feature hinders performance abilities of the shoe.
Moreover, the heel counter dug into the sides of my Achilles during any lateral movements, sharp turns, or steep hill descents—certainly not my favorite feature of the shoe.
THE LACES. Where do I begin? Why are these laces so excessively long? I wasn’t even sure what to do with how long these laces were.
I got creative and was double knotting and double bowing the laces because the laces are so incredibly long. Moreover, the laces were on the skinnier side, making them difficult to unknot when tied tightly.
In my opinion, I would have liked to see a shorter length, flat lace on the Altra Duo.
- Lightweight and flexible
- Versatile enough for various distances
- Responsive and cushioned ride
- Comfortable enough to be a daily trainer
- Constant rock collection in Innerflex grooves
- Outsole durability concerns
- Excessively long shoelaces
- Laces difficult to untie due to thin width of laces
- Flex point of the shoe felt “off”
- Issue with high shoelace placement
- Heel counter causes irritation
- Lateral movements/sharp turns are uncomfortable and felt sloppy
- Aesthetics could be more appealing
The Altra Duo is a phenomenal neutral road running shoe that encompassing both a zero-drop platform and maximally cushioned ride. Despite the vast amount of cushioning on the Altra Duo, it’s still a really snappy, responsive, and comfortable ride.
I liked to use the shoe purposefully for up-tempo runs on flat terrain where the roads did not ungulate. I also enjoyed the Duos for my recovery runs because I truly loved the cushioning.
The wide toe box and anatomical foot shape of the Altra Duo are some of my favorite features about the shoes. The wide toe box allows for ample toe splay and unquestionably increases the overall comfort of the shoe.
Fans of the Altra Torin or Paradigm who haven’t tried these shoes yet will certainly love the lighter weight of the Duo, as well as the lightweight breathable upper.
Are you ready to add the dynamic Altra Duo to your shoe arsenal?
Good to know
- The Altra Duo brings together a balance of maximum-level cushioning and lightweight wear in a zero-drop silhouette. With such a combination, the shoe promises an enhanced speed and a prolonged running power while enabling natural motion. It is ideal for road racing and up-tempo runs.
- A thin mesh presents itself as the upper of the Duo. It wraps the foot comfortably and enables optimal breathability for a well-ventilated run. There are thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) overlays that support the mesh for a secure fit and maintain the shoe’s structural integrity.
- The midsole uses Max-LT, Altra’s special foam compound that offers an exceptional level of cushioning and energy return. It has an anatomical layout to promote comfort and correct foot movement. Meanwhile, the outsole has a decoupled design, giving the shoe a flexible quality and letting it adjust according to the foot’s motions.
The Altra Duo runs big; runners are recommended to go a half-size down their usual wear. The forefoot has a unique feature that allows the shoe to cater to any foot volume. Meanwhile, the midfoot and rearfoot areas are snug to provide security. The Altra Duo is available in regular width for both the men’s and women’s versions.
The blown rubber outsole of this road shoe focuses on the high-wear areas. The forefoot and heel have twice as much rubber to make them durable, but not at the expense of weight.
It also features a decoupled design, which means that underfoot flexibility is enhanced. This is because the shock is distributed evenly, in contrast to the conventional one-piece outsole where impact tends to concentrate on only one area.
The Max-LT is a new midsole compound from Altra that is present in the Duo. Made from injection-molded foam, the Max-LT creates an extensive underfoot cushioning, but not at the expense of weight – a feature that will appeal to marathon runners and long-distance trainers.
With a zero-drop structure, the platform of the Altra Duo places the heel and forefoot on the same height, permitting a natural position and alignment that results in a low-impact landing.
The Inner Flex technology is also present, which means there are flex grooves across the length of the shoe. The grooves equip the foot with enhanced functionality while also encouraging a natural stride.
The upper of the Altra Duo consists of a reinforced mesh that is razor-thin. The thinness of the material makes the shoe twice as much breathable compared to regular mesh uppers, as it ensures excellent airflow even during hot and humid conditions. However, while it may look flimsy, it is durable enough to handle the runner’s fastest pace.
A Dri-Lex® fabric liner wraps the inside of the upper, giving a sensation that is almost like a second skin. Aside from supplying comfort, it also keeps the foot dry as its unique fibers wick away moisture.
Few thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) overlays surround the upper, keeping the layout simple while still delivering the necessary support especially at the midfoot. The minimal design maintains the breathability of the mesh upper, as there are fewer restrictions on it.
The toe box of the Duo, same as the Olympus 3.0, is Altra’s proprietary design, called the FootShape™. Its structure lets the toes spread out naturally, yielding stability and balance. Because the foot now has an increased capability of remaining steady, running power is improved.
The shoe’s heel collar has a deepened structure, allowing the Achilles to fit precisely and snugly, thus ensuring a locked-down feel.
How Duo compares
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