By Paul Freary
The Paradigm 7 from Altra is quite a unique shoe in that it’s the only zero-drop, moderate support category shoe available. In the case of many of the brand’s shoes, zero-drop doesn’t mean zero cushioning, so here, the seventh-generation model provides a high stack of cushioning with Altra’s ‘balanced ride’ (zero-drop) alongside the brand’s Guide Rail system to provide a dynamic level of support. Of course, the Altra foot-shaped fit is present for a more generous fit around the toe-box area. Read my Altra Paradigm 7 to see what's new with this running shoe.
The most distinguishing feature of Altra shoes is their foot-shaped fit design. Here we have a ‘standard’ foot-shaped fit, so whilst not the brand’s roomiest fitting shoe in the toe box area, it does offer more space for the feet and toes to splay as you run.
The length of the shoe fits me true-to-size in terms of length, with the width of the shoe being consistent with other models in the range.
For me, Altra shoes, regardless of the width in the toe box, always manage to provide a great fit around the midfoot, so my feet never feel sloppy or too small with the shoe. I find this of great benefit and those new to the brand should bear this in mind as it may reduce any reservations you might have when trying the shoes for the first time.
With a 30mm stack of the EGO MAX foam cushioning running the length of the shoe, it’s a very well-cushioned shoe and although there are now higher stacked models on the market, it’s still among the ‘max’ category.
Daily training for those wanting a foot-shaped fit with support
Mild support for over-pronators
Men’s 294g / 10.35oz
Women’s 232g / 8.2oz
Suggested Retail Price
$170 / £155
True to size
The concept of Altra’s balanced cushioning (zero-drop) is that it places the foot at an equal distance from the ground in both the heel and forefoot and in doing helps to encourage a more midfoot landing and so reduce the impact a little.
If you’ve ever tried to run barefoot, you’ll know how you instantly run a little more ‘tip-toed’ in order to reduce the impact on your bare feet. That’s the concept here and behind all zero-drop shoes.
Whilst you do naturally adapt your foot strike a little in the Paradigm, the high stack of cushioning does mean your foot lands a little ‘flatter’ on the ground. This isn’t a bad thing it’s just a little different, but that said, you quickly become used to this foot strike.
The cushioning is soft and has a nice degree of responsiveness. It’s not a super-soft and springy ride, but neither is it lifeless. For a support category shoe, I think the level of cushioning is spot on as this type of shoe needs to retain a little structural integrity.
The support comes from the Guide Rail system. Similar to that used by Brooks in their GTS range of models, the Guide Rails reduce the amount of pronation in the feet. The rails are extended elements of the midsole that wrap up around the foot on both medial and lateral sides. Should the foot roll excessively in or out (over-pronate) then the rail will ‘catch’ this roll and reduce it. The system works dynamically, only providing the control should it be needed and it works very well.
The Guide Rails mean the shoes work well if control is needed but don’t interfere should the foot remain in a neutral position. This can be beneficial, especially for those who may only require a little control in the later stages of a longer run when their form may suffer a little.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, the shoe fits well around the midfoot and feels much like any other. In the forefoot, the broader toe-box has sufficient room for the toes to splay naturally when on the move. I didn’t find the shoes too wide or even notice the additional space, yet somehow this extra room did feel welcome after longer runs and my feet felt a little less impacted by the miles.
In terms of support, the obvious comparison would be a Brooks Adrenaline GTS 23 which also features a guide rail type system for support and control. This aside, the two shoes differ vastly due to the zero drop of the Altra and 12mm of the Brooks. It’s this drop that provides a drastically different ride and that’s going to come down to personal preference.
The Brooks doesn’t have the extra width in the toe box but is available in both wide and extra wide fit options.
The degree of control provided by both models is similar, with the guide rails in both working in the same manner.
A shoe with a lower drop with an element of support would be the HOKA Arahi. At 5mm it’s closer to the Altra than the Brooks and also features a support system that doesn’t depend on the traditional medial post.
The Arahi uses a ‘J-shaped’ second-density foam wrapping around the rear of the cushioning that’s a slightly firmer material than the cushioning sitting within it. This allows the foot to ‘sink’ a little into the centre of the shoe’s cushioning to again reduce the amount of pronation. Like the guide rails it provides a mild to moderate amount of control.
First of all, for those runners wanting a zero drop yet cushioned model that also provides an element of support, then the Paradigm is the only shoe on the market that meets all those requirements.
Yet the shoe isn’t only suitable for this rather unique set of runners. It offers much more. Given the dynamic nature of the support, both neutral and over-pronating runners will be equally at home in the shoe.
The 30mm stack makes the shoe a very well-cushioned running shoe and the balanced ride may be a plus point for many.
The foot-shaped toe box is most likely the primary factor in selecting an Altra model and here this is just part of the bigger package of features provided by the shoe.
The ride is very well balanced, it keeps your feet involved in the action of running and yet provides a good level of responsive cushioning at the same time.
For those who’ve previously considered zero-drop shoes, the max-cushioning of the Paradigm and the nature of its support may make it the perfect starting point.