Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Altra Running Impulse Review- A Pleasant Surprise. Fast,Light "Stability" Shoe That Doesn't Run Like One.

By Sam Winebaum

The Altra Impulse is an 8.6 oz 243 gram Men's 9 Zero Drop light cushioned "stability" shoe with a 23 heel/23mm forefoot. $120, on sale now.  I say "stability" in quotes as this term is often associated with the dubious effort to "control" pronation.  All feet pronate to some extent, they are supposed to. The Impulse is actually a great all around shoe, and a fast one, for any type of training and racing for this runner who has always run "neutral" shoes.
Men's Altra Impulse: www.altrarunning.com
I have 50 miles in the Altra, most in the last week. Very rare that I run every day in a new shoe or that I accumulate 50 miles before I review, but I really dig the energetic, comfortable well directed ride of the Impulse and especially the incredibly well executed "front of the house", the forefoot. The sometimes sloppy Altra Foot Shaped toe box is well held by the asymmetrical lacing. The upper sits on top of a stable and responsive midsole with full contact StabliPod rubber outsole tuned for just the right amount of cushion and flexibility by innovative InnerFlex channels through the midsole. The heel, due to Zero Drop, is firm and a bit low for me an issue easily resolved by training (w)heels. More on this below.
The Impulse will be the first shoe to include Altra's IQ run stride metrics sensor system. See our Outdoor Retailer coverage about the IQ shoe and system here
Women's Altra Impulse: www.altrarunning.com 

The "Issue" of Pronation Control
A bit of "control" of the gait does not have to be a bad thing as we all get sloppy, all feet pronate anyway and helping the foot track in the direction of travel, as the Impulse does brilliantly, is a good thing. How Altra does and does not do the control makes the difference.
  • no firm midsole inserts under the medial side mid foot as is the usual. Instead, according to Competitor Magazine a cantilevered  wedge sloping down from the inside to the outside of the shoe to keep the foot from collapsing inward.  If it's there it is not noticeable and it work fine for me. Doesn't overdo the control, just a bit of guidance forward.
  • 3 points of firmer well covered outsole contact the StabiPods: heel, midfoot, forefoot. Just the way I like any shoe stable and smooth in transition. So not only a touch of pronation control but supination control for a balanced directed push off.
  • a great upper with asymmetrical lacing which for the first time in an Altra does not create a compromise between the roomy Foot Shaped front of the shoe and good secure foot hold.
  • a series of holes drilled into the midsole both vertically and as slits horizontally Altra InnerFlex to make the shoe more flexible, soften the forefoot feel a bit and to lighten it.
Upper and Fit
The Impulse fit me a bit large and loose in the heel with thin socks in my true to size before adding my heel wedge training (w) heels. I used a lace lock through the far back last holes to cinch the heel. The upper is made of a very tightly woven soft, light mesh.

There are no seams or overlays beyond the logos at the mid foot and a substantial toe bumper to keep the foot aligned and stable in the roomy upper on push off. Unlike many such toe bumpers, and even the Lone Peak 2.5 from Altra, I have no sense it is there, that annoying feeling of something over the tip of the toe, so plenty of overhead toe volume for me. The asymmetrical lacing which extends the lacing closer to the medial side really keeps my front of foot locked in but with plenty of that Altra toe splay room from the FootShaped toe box.
No sense, as I sometimes have, of a bit of a sloppy forefoot in Altra's Foot Shaped toe boxes, obviously key for a shoe designed to go fast. While a bit "baggy" looking on the foot no sense of a lack of support anywhere except maybe in the heel collar which is wide. A fabulous tongue with just the right cushioning and no side to side slip as I found in the Lone Peak. I think part of the secret, decent friction from the material and especially that the tongue is not free floating side to side very far down towards the toes being attached to the sides at the 3 lace hole. 

The lateral side of the tongue where it attached has a bit of stretch material, the medial side does not to better support the pronating food.  As stated above they fit me a bit large in my true to size but as I tend to "miss" the heel in Altras given their Zero Drop I added a 2 inch long  5-7mm soft piece of yoga mat type material at the heel which gave me some training (w) heels and some extra cushion and drop. The heel wedges also snugged up the heel fit very nicely.  I also tried substituting a variety of after market sockliners such as the Superfeet Carbon and while not a big issue, the foot towards the heel sits a bit higher and the heel collar is a bit wider than I would like in the relatively low heel collar. The heel collar of the Topo Magnifly is better executed in my opinion (review here) as it perfectly secures the rear of the foot even when the road Magnify is used as a trail shoe.

While not a place people usually go looking, the connecting piece between the 2 sides of the upper which is called the Strobel board is not the usual solid glued down sheet but a mesh open to the midsole. Less glue is required, the shoe becomes more flexible, and weighs less. We saw a similar construction in the Spring 2015 Pearl Izumi N2. Upper construction appears solid if a bit rough where the end of the heel collar meets the rest of the upper at the 2nd lace hole and a bit of fuzz around the sewn lace hole reinforcements.

Midsole and Outsole
The midsole is made of 2 layers: underfoot Altra's Abound (yellow) which "reduces the impact of hard surfaces and returns energy with each stride". Not sure what this material is but likely a mixture of EVA and rubber. Underneath the main layer is Altra's Ultralight EVA (crimson) whose firmness I measure at approximately 42C, so a fairly normal midsole firmness.

The midsole is made lighter and more flexible overall and with some give over the firm Stablipods  by being drilled with a series of circles as well as having the 4 InnerFlex side slit channels which go all the way through the midsole.
Altra Impulse Inner Flex and Drill Holes provide drainage
The slits at the front combined with the drilled holes provide drainage from the insole area. When combined with the mesh Strobel board the shoe should drain well, something triathletes often look for. The flexibility is smooth and decent for a 23mm forefoot stack shoe if a touch stiffer than I would like at the very front of the shoe.

The outsole has 3 areas of black harder rubber at the heel, a nice stable landing and push off zone underfoot, and at the medial toe area.  The rest of the outsole is exposed EVA. The heel area seems to have harder rubber than the front 2 areas, the usual configuration for most run shoes with the firmness of both outsole materials about the same as what I find in most shoes. 50 miles in and almost no wear at all with the very fine pattern on the surface visible everywhere even at my high wear point at the heel. Good stuff and a good geometry of the heel construction, slightly beveled to the lateral side with no overhang behind the heel cup which may contribute to the firmness as often an overhang behind the heel softens impact for me.
But these are Altras and we aren't supposed to run on our heels.... and because the Impulse is an Altra, the forefoot feel is particularly fine on the road particularly given that the upper is well secured to the platform if roomy up front. Stable, cushioned and energetic. The 23mm front stack really protects the foot but doesn't deaden the ride or responsiveness. As stated above the heel is firmer, a touch too firm for me, unless going fast and off the heel. This may come from the heel height at 23mm really, at the lower limit in terms of stack for me in any shoe and that this is also a zero drop shoe.  I might compare the heel firmness to the New Balance 1400 or Topo Magnifly.  I added my wedge of yoga mat and am happy as can be. Adding some of those InnerFlex channels in the heel area might help.

Conclusion and Recommendations
The Altra Impulse is classified by Altra as a stability shoe but neutral runners seeking a light, stable, fast, well cushioned forefoot and a roomy well secured toe box should definitely consider the Impulse as a fast every day trainer and racer. All Altra's have a zero drop from heel to toe, when most conventional run shoes are 10mm and modern shoes 4-8mm.  As with all Altras  gradual transition to Zero Drop is important.   Particularly here with a 23mm heel stack, at the lower end of just about any shoe I run in, even racers, I have so far needed some Training (w) Heels to really make them sing for me by adding a bit more cushion and drop.  I added a soft 7mm heel wedge. Perfect!
What does the Impulse feel most similar to? The forefoot ride is quite similar to the Hoka Huaka or the Topo Magnifly but a bit more cushioned than the Magnifly and a bit more flexible and lively than the Huaka. The heel firmness even after the extra wedge is close to the Topo Magnifly or New Balance 1400 and firmer than say the Adios Boost or Boston and certainly Nike Lunar Tempo or Hoka Clifton 2.
Packed with innovation: FootShape, InnerFlex, StabiPods, the subtle varus wedge, and the asymmetrical lacing the Impulse has been on my feet daily for 2 weeks for its smooth stable ride, a rarity given how many shoes I run in and test. Impulse is a finalist for my Road Shoe of the Year.

Highly Recommended for:
Neutral or lightly pronating runners
Faster pace road running

Overall Score: 4.8
-0.1 for somewhat firm heel and a bit loose heel collar area, in particular at slow speeds when back on the heels
-0.1 for not including Training (w) Heel wedge for those transitioning to Zero Drop or those preferring a bit more heel.

Disclosure: The Altra Impulse was provided at no charge to RoadTrailRun. The opinions herein are entirely our own. RoadTrailRun is an affiliate of Altra Running and Running Warehouse and receives a small commission on sales through the links below to support our site.

The Altra Impulse is available from Running Warehouse women's here  men's here and also from Altra and other retailers at the display ads below.

Deals for Altra Impulse

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Captain Bluetooth's Week in Running: First Impressions Reviews-Salomon S-Lab Wings,Altra Impulse, Ultraspire Lumen 600 "lighted" waist belt, Pearl Izumi

Well the Captain had a fine week in running helped along by spectacular early fall New England weather. As Mrs. Bluetooth and I are preparing for the Mount Desert Half Marathon in October we went for a 10 mile run Saturday along the coast.  With my newly received UltraSpire Velocity pack and Lumen 600 light belt along with Salomon S-Lab Wings trail shoe I was clearly over equipped and strangely shod for road work but got to test!

Salomon S-Lab Wings
S-Lab Wings
At 9.8oz with a 28mm heel, 19mm toe stack with an incredibly supportive upper and a stable firmer platform I am particularly liking the S-Lab Wings trail performance, where it belongs! A lot of shoe for the relatively low weight, finally from Salomon. I have run fairly technical trails in the S-Lab Wings on my usual test route and they have outperformed all the other shoes I have run there this year in terms of overall stability while remaining decently agile and well if firmly cushioned. The S-Lab uppers with their stretch mid foot Endo-Fit inner support sleeve and snug race fit inspire confidence on the trail.  This said those with wide feet may find it Wings a bit too snug, but not me as the intended purpose is fast running over technical terrain.
S-Lab Wings

Designed for the roughest trails and technical terrain I am finding that the Wings will accomplish this mission  Well cushioned they are somewhat firm and blocky feeling in the heel yet still run very well on the road as I found out on our ten miler, none of that heavy duty trail shoe stiffness and harshness. The 9 mm heel toe drop is noticeable due to a combination of the firmness and extra foam on the medial side for a touch of pronation support. A touch softer midsole might improve this fine shoe. Beautifully crafted, light, versatile, and I expect very durable, the S-Lab Wings comes at a steep price of $180.  Likely you really get what you pay for. A finalist for my Trail Shoe of the Year.

Altra Impulse
Altra Impulse

Altra Impulse

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Capt. Bluetooth's Week in Running- First Impressions Review Suunto Ambit3 Run GPS Watch, Pelican 2780 Headlamp,and a Race

With my new gig writing a tech wearables column for Competitor, my first was last month for the Garmin Vivoactive and this month I wrote about the adidas miCoach Smart Run, The Captain is  festooned at all times with stuff to try. I sure didn't need that headlamp on a bright sunny day!
This week I focused my testing on the Suunto Ambit3 Run and the Pelican 2780 dual lamp headlight.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Which Running Shoes Did Western States 100 Participants Rock?

Every year the epic Western States 100 race surveys participants.  The full survey is here. Altra Running sent along a link to the survey, as well they should, as while in 2014 they barely registered, this year they were the 3d most popular brand (16.5%) for all finishers and 2nd most popular brand (16.7%) for those finishing under 24 hours. Super cushioned Hoka One One was most popular in both categories with 34.5% and 34.7% of participants.



Monday, August 31, 2015

Running Warehouse Exclusive Japan ASICS Racer Trainers: LyteRacer RS4and Skysensor Glide 3. Great Intro Pricing!

For US customers only Running Warehouse has an exclusive on Japan edition ASICS trainer racers with incredible introductory pricing and then on top of that use Road Trail Run 10% discount code RTR10. See the end of this post for details.
ASICS Skysensor Glide 3 Right, LyteRacer RS 4 Left
They sent me the LyteRacer and Skysensor for review.  Unlike many reviews my first runs in these make them easy to figure out: light, fast, well cushioned, capable shoes. These are not the heavy and brick like FA series Asics with their Amplifoam midsoles. The retro colors remind me of the 70's when I ran in then super innovative ASICS Tiger.
ASICS LyteRacer RS 4

The LyteRacer RS 4 is a 7.3 oz 25mm heel/ 16mm forefoot stack, 9mm drop. It runs similarly to the Adios Boost 1 for me with a stable cushioned heel and stabler than the Boston Boost, a mid foot plastic structural Truistic element to guide you to transition, and more forefoot cushioning and flexibility than the Adios Boost. The upper is a bit old school with stitching of overlays in the toe box but perfectly fine as it keeps the foot nice and secure on the relatively soft forefoot. The ride is cushioned and fast with a particularly nice soft forefoot that is nonetheless responsive.
 This should be a great marathon shoe and for sure is already one of my favorite tempo shoes. I am finding it to be one of those rare any pace, any distance shoes that goes fast or slow equally well and doesn't beat up your legs.  Plenty of outsole rubber for lots of miles. I sized up half a size and most should too. They are relatively narrow.
ASICS Skysensor Glide 3

The SkySensor Glide 3 is a touch heavier at 7.9oz with almost the same specs as the Lyte with a 25mm heel/ 15mm forefoot, 10mm drop.  It is somewhat firmer and stiffer with a more pronounced toe spring likely due to the less segmented fuller coverage fore foot outsole.  Still well cushioned. The upper is seamless in the toe box but so far I am preferring the smoother softer ride of the Lyte, by a bit...more runs to come. Skysensor has 6 small drain holes in outsole and a well perforated sockliner as the Lyte has.  I might compare it to the New Balance Zante but with a slightly more cushioned yet firm ride and a roomier mid foot upper. One could also call it a far far better execution of the sloppier fitting, heavier and very firm ASICS FA-33 even though Skysensor is lighter and has more drop. I sized up half a size but likely could go true to size with thin socks.
Outsoles: ASICS LyteRacer RS4 Left, Skysensor Glide 3 Right
My friend Pete Larson at Runblogger reviews the LyteRacer RS4 and says "...it’s a fantastic distance racer and is one my favorite shoes that I have run in so far this year"

For those in need of even more speed...  there are 2 more ASICS exclusives at Running Warehouse. Super light racing shoes with plenty of cushion yet very similar overall stacks to Skysensor and LyteRacer.  TartherZeal 3: 6oz 22/16  and Tarther Kainos 3: 6.3 oz 25/16
Running Warehouse: ASICS Tarther Zeal 3
Running Warehouse: Tarther Kainos 3

Believe in The Run has reviews of the Kainos and Zeal and finds them to be "fine-tuned racing machines"...for the track stars, cross country champs, and sub-three-hour marathoners."

The LyteRacer and Skysensor were provided to RoadTralRun at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely our own. RoadTrailRun is an affiliate of Running Warehouse and purchases through the links here support our site. 

Retail For the LyteRacer $100, Running Warehouse's price is $89.95  and you can use code RTR10 for an additional 10% off! click here to shop. 

Retail for the Skysensor Glide 3 $120, Running Warehouse's price is $107.95  and you can use code RTR10 for an additional 10% off, click here to shop. 

Retail for the Tarther Zeal 3 is $140, Running Warehouse's price is $125.95  and you can use code RTR10 for an additional 10% off, click here to shop. 

Retail for the Tarther Kainos 3 is $140,Running Warehouse's price is $125.95  and you can use code RTR10 for an additional 10% off, click here to shop. 

Running Warehouse has great customer service policies:
  • Free 2 Day Shipping and Return Shipping
  • 90 Days No Sweat Returns
  • $9.95 Overnight Shipping 1-4 Lbs
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