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Finlay McAndrew  •  Running Gear •  05.10.2023 •  5 min read

AltraFWD Experience: Altra's first non-zero drop shoe

Up until this point, all Altra running shoes have featured a zero mm drop. Or as they call it, Balanced Cushioning. While this midsole design has worked for a lot of runners, some runners simply prefer running shoes that have a higher heel than forefoot. Altra have listened to this and created their first model that doesn’t have a zero mm drop: the AltraFWD Experience

Fisheye view of white Altra FWD Experience running shoe

AltraFWD Experience features and specifications:

  • Approximate weight: Men’s - 240 grams / Women’s 201 grams
  • Forefoot stack height: 28 mm
  • Rearfoot stack height: 32 mm
  • Drop: 4 mm
  • Compression-molded foam
  • Rocker geometry
  • Altra FootShape Fit: Standard FootShape Fit

Why the change?

While Altra’s zero mm drop shoes are designed to promote a more ‘natural’ footstrike - that doesn’t suit everyone. Irrespective of what you may read, the point you strike your foot on the ground is not the most important part. That’s right, heel striking isn’t bad. What matters most, is where you land in relation to your centre of gravity. As the further your foot strikes in front of your centre of gravity, the greater the braking forces. 

Therefore, it’s not right to say that midfoot or forefoot striking is more natural, it’s what is natural for you. Ultimately, that’s why Altra have produced a model which features a drop. Most runners choose to run in running shoes that have a positive difference in height between the heel and forefoot. 

The new AltraFWD Experience should suit runners who strike closer to the heel area, better than the models in their line-up which don’t have a drop. There, of course, will be some exceptions to this. 

What to expect from the midsole

There’s no getting away from the fact that a lot of runners like running shoes that have a rocker. HOKA have become famed for this midsole shaping and it’s why so many runners love their shoes. If you don’t know what a rocker is, it simply means the midsole has a prominent curve from heel to toe. With the benefit being that it rolls your feet forward - therefore smoothing out landings, lowering the stress on your lower leg area, and making your effort feel easier. 

Runners from knee down in white running shoes in the dark

Altra have been able to make the AltraFWD Experience with a prominent rocker because the midsole has a drop. This means the midsole should roll your feet forward and reduce the effort to run at a given speed. Alongside bringing you all the other benefits of a rocker geometry. 

The thick layer of compression molded foam (Altra haven’t given the foam a name) is designed to deliver a performance focused feel. While we haven’t tested out the midsole, it should feel protective and energetic. An ideal combination for daily miles and longer distance runs. 

How should they fit?

Altra are famed for making running shoes in their FootShape Fit. This simply means the toe boxes are wider than many normal running shoes. As a result, your feet and toes can spread out. This often makes Altra running shoes a great option for anyone who suffers from bunions, Morton’s Neuroma, and plantar pain from overly tight shoes. 

The FootShape Fit comes in three options: the Original Fit, Standard Fit, and Slim Fit. While all three offer space for the toes to splay out, the Original Fit feels the roomiest, and the Slim Fit feels the slimmest. As you’d expect, the Standard Fit sits somewhere between. 

The AltraFWD Experience features the Standard FootShape Fit, so should feel roomier than a lot of other running shoes, but not overly wide. With an engineered mesh upper, they offer lots of breathability. We assume the tapered heel counter helps reduce friction at the back of the ankle and makes it easier to slip them on. 

How can the AltraFWD Experience improve your run?

We position the AltraFWD Experience neutral running shoes in our Float Experience category. That’s because they should make slower to steady paced runs feel easier. That also means we wouldn’t recommend these for faster paced runs, such as interval focused sessions. 

Woman running in the dark in street lights

As a result of the thick midsole and rocker geometry, they should offer lots of protection and comfort for runs of varying distances. Whether you’re heading out for an easy 30 minutes or clocking a steady 20 miler, the AltraFWD Experience should be a great option. 

You can find the rest of the Altra running shoes range stocked at Run4It here.

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