Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Altra Torin 3.5 Knit review - best Torin yet

This is the third generation of Torins I've worn, and the first where Altra knocked it out of the park by creating an extremely comfortable daily trainer.

The 2.5 version was my first pair. Their main deficiency was in the upper material - which was thick and lacked ventilation. 

The 3.0 version addressed the upper material issue, creating a more breathable upper. Unfortunately, over time, I found the thick plastic material over the big toe became increasingly uncomfortable to me. I eventually found it so bothersome I abandoned the model. 

On the 3.5, Altra created a truly magnificent upper. In fact, this could be my favorite upper of all time for any Altra shoe. It grips your foot, but is not constricting. It provides stability but not too much. And it is breathable and soft - my feet aren't feeling too hot on DC summer days and not hot spots where pressure causes discomfort.

The upper feels like a super-improved version of the first generation Altra Escalante. It is fabric-like, stretchable, but unlike the Escalante, doesn't allow your foot to move around excessively within the shoe while running.

One factor in the improvement seems to be a bit tighter weave in the material. The other is the "A-Strap" midfoot support technology which appears to be attached on one end by 3 loops that laces go through and attached on the other end where the upper meets the midsole. This technology is also implemented on the Vanish-R racer and the Lone Peak 4 (which hopefully can address the poor midfoot fit of the latter).

The tongue is thin and unobtrusive, helping create a better lacing experience than the earlier versions. It reminds me of a slightly rubberized version of the tongue on the Clifton 1, one of the best features of that shoe. The laces are a little flimsy and require double lacing, but that's a minor quibble and does improve the comfort of the fit by eliminating possible ressure spots on top of the foot.

The A-Bound midsole material feels very similar to the 3.0, a little more springy than 2.5. The Torins can feel a little mushy, especially after 50-100 miles when the A-Bound loses its spring. An EGO midsole version of the shoe - found in the Paradigm 4.0 and Escalante 1.5 - would hold up better and provide even more energy return. 

The outsole seems unchanged from the earlier versions, which is a little disappointing. The Torin line could benefit from more durable rubber pods with longer lifespan since it is pretty common to read complaints about premature wear on these elements of what is a very durable shoe otherwise. I have put on 40+ miles on the 3.5s and can see early wear on the heel pods, as usual.

Altra has taken a great daily trainer, suitable for longer road races (I've even used the 3.0 on a smooth 30K trail race) and improved on its major weaknesses. I've been running with the 3.5s for a week, and really enjoy the comfort and performance of this Altra mainstay. I'm looking forward to many more miles in this excellent version.

The price has crept up $10 to $135, comparable to the Hoka Clifton 5 at $130. But still, totally reasonable given the general pricing of the industry for cushioned daily trainer shoes.

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