Monday, June 17, 2019

Altra Torin 4 and Torin 4 Plush Multi Tester Review: Approachable Zero Drop in Two Distinct Flavors

Article by Sam Winebaum, Jeff Beck, Canice Harte, Michael Ellenberger, and Dominick Layfield

Altra Torin 4 ($120) and Torin 4 Plush ($140)

Sam: With the Torin 3.5, Altra offered two different uppers (knit or mesh) on the same platform with the  usual A-Bound plus EVA midsole. With the Torin 4 and Torin 4 Plush, we see two different riding and fitting shoes with the Torin 4 intended to be the lighter more performance fitting and running flavor and the Plush the more cushioned, bouncier more comfort oriented daily miles flavor.
Both share a common base midsole as Altra moves the midsole to its new Quantic foam, also in the Superior 4 while completely revising the outsole and the decoupling (which are the grooves which smooth transitions) which are also identical on both. The Plush adds 2mm of stack (cushion) to the Torin 4 platform by using what looks like a TPU (think Boost or Everun like material) Strobel board under the sockliner and also includes a premium EVA sockliner whereas the Torin 4 glues the sockliner directly to the midsole.
Both have engineered mesh type uppers with Altra’s effective A-Straps to lock the foot to the mid foot. 
The Torin 4’s upper is lighter and more breathable with a full and snug bootie construction similar to the Torin 3.5’s. The Plush upper is denser, more like a knit with a conventional tongue and is designed for a more open yet still secure fit all around.

Our team of testers put both to the test.

Canice: Fit, comfort and quality
Sam: Wonderful softer cushion with a touch of bounce
Great forefoot feel, smooth transition and decent flex given giant 28mm stack
Comfortable “easy’ fit leans towards wider higher volume feet
Michael: Lives up to its name in comfort; zero-drop feels “normal” and approachable
Jeff: Incredibly comfortable midsole and upper, not mushy despite the high stack, very flexible despite high stack and substantial rubber outsole, upper breathes well

Torin 4
Sam/ Dom: Admirable weight to cushion ratio with very adequate outsole coverage
Sam/Dom: Responsive yet well cushioned ride
Sam: Well balanced, not much sense it is zero drop so a great introduction to Altra
Sam: Very decent easy flex for the high forefoot stack
Michael: Still plenty plush, more responsive in toe-off

Minor given stack and copious outsole coverage but weight is above 10 oz
Ridiculously long laces
Very low volume narrow feet may swim a bit at mid foot.
Michael: Too wide for me; laces are far too long; ugly
Jeff: The laces are absurdly long, toebox is plenty wide but feels shallow

Torin 4
Sam: Snugger bootie at mid foot may not fit wide flatter fit well & overall could be toned down.
Michael: Ugly; hard to justify over the Plush

Tester Profiles
Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 50-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.
Dom 47, trains and competes mainly on trails in Southern California running about 3000 miles and 500k ft of vert per year.  In 2017 he was 14th at Western States 100 and in 2018 finished 50th at UTMB and 32nd at the 2018 Los Angeles marathon in a time of 2:46.  
Canice is a 2 x finisher of the Wasatch 100, the Bear 100, Moab 100 and Western States 100 as well as many other Ultras. He regularly competes in Expedition Length Adventure races with his longest race to date 600 miles as well as traditional road races and triathlons.
Jeff Beck is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less.  Jeff runs 30 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in North Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39 both he is working to demolish with help from his coach Dave Ames.

Torin 4
Estimated Weight (men’s size 9): 8.7 oz / 246 g
Production Samples:  
US M8.5:  8.4 oz / 238 g
US M10: 9.1 oz / 258 g

Torin 4 Plush
Estimated Weight (men’s size 9): 10.25 oz / 289 g
Production Samples
US M8.5: 9.94 oz /  282 g
US M10.5 11.0 oz/ 311 g

Stack Heights:
Torin 4: 26mm, 0 drop
Torin 4 Plush: 28mm, 0 drop
Available Now.

First Impressions and Fit

Torin 4 Plush
Canice : I’ve worn Altra shoes for many years now and this is the first time I slipped my feet into a pair of Altra’s and was immediately impressed with the fit. Sure they’ve had the “Natural Foot Shape” which will impress most people, but the Torin 4 Plush has all that and grabs your foot in the midfoot like no other Altra has in the past. Couple that with a “plush” ride and you have a very comfortable shoe.

Sam: I agree with Canice the Plush is one fine fitting shoe. It is easy to slip on and has plenty of easy to dial if relaxed mid foot grab from the A Straps. There is plenty of Foot Shape front room and no slop or over lock down required to keep everything in place, if more on the easy going than performance side of fit.  My pair fit just right at true to size but was a bit over voluminous on my narrower right foot.

Michael: I liked the feel of the Plush, but found the overall shoe - and especially at the end of the lacebox where it widens into a toebox - slightly wide for my feet. Even so, it’s hard to deny the namesake here - it really is “plush,” and you get that sensation from the first second you lace it up (though lacing it up will come as a shock to you - those laces are way too long!).

Jeff: I’m the odd man out here, I only reviewed the Plush version. Because I just wrapped up reviewing the Altra Paradigm 4.5, the Torin 4 Plush feels like the race day version of the well cushioned Altra lineup. All that said, the fit was perfect true-to-size at 10.5 for me, and shockingly the midfoot of the shoe is very well locked down. Altra, for me, has a habit of having the greatest toe boxes and way too much room in the midfoot, but the Plush fits very well there. I was impressed from the getgo at the latest version of the Torin. I ran my first marathon in the first version of the Torin, and have felt like most of the subsequent releases have lost their way - this one feels like it got it back.

Women's Torin 4 Plush
Torin 4:
Sam: I  fit true to my usual size 8.5. The Torin 4 fit contrasts with the more comfort oriented fit of the Plush. The bootie construction plus A Straps really grabs and holds the mid and rear of the foot in a clearly performance type fit.  Quite snug when trying on and walking around, almost to much so but on the run and over time the fit relaxed just enough to be just right for a performance type fit. I had to lace them a bit looser than usual to prevent the thin laces over soft tongue from biting and when doing so the hold was still just fine. The fit given the snug bootie should somewhat favor lower volume narrower feet more than higher volume where the Plush may be the more comfortable option.
The fit is very similar to the Torin 3.5 but for me improved. There is less under arch pressure, less top of foot pressure as laces are thinner and softer, and a smoother less rough fitting heel area. In contrast to the Plush which just slipped on with heel settling with a clear “thunk”, the Torin 4 is a bit more of a struggle to pull on especially when new and even includes a useful pull on tab with reflective “Zero Limits” branding while the Plush has no apparent rear reflectivity or pull tab and none is needed.

Dom:  I’ve enjoyed running in the Torin since version 2.5.  My favorite to-date has been version 3.0, which had a no-nonsense, durable upper.  Version 3.5 introduced mesh/knit variants. I only tested the lighter mesh flavor, and found that foot retention had deteriorated and weight had not improved.  After this slight misfire with version 3.5, I’m happy to say that Altra are back on form with version 4. The shoe is completely overhauled, with a new “Quantic” midsole (first seen in the Superior 4) that I really liked, slightly squishier than EVA/A-Bound used in previous iteration.  Midfoot retention is much improved, and weight has dropped slightly. Overall, this shoe is improved on all fronts.

Michael: This (and the Plus) was my first foray into the Torin lineup, so I really only had one to compare with the other. I liked the fit of the “regular” (we’ll call it Torin 4, or T4”) better than that of the T4P. The mesh was a little finer - a little more racing-inspired, somehow - and the shoe didn’t come across as quite so wide on my foot. I like the “snug bootie,” as Sam describes, for holding my foot in place.

Women's Torin 4

Sam: Both Torin are on the same last but their fit is quite different with the Plush comfort oriented and the Torin 4 more performance oriented fit as it includes a relatively snug bootie while the Plush has a conventional tongue.  
Both include Altra’s A-Straps, a single piece of pliable fairly thick rubbery material on each side of the mid foot which tie in to the two  eyelets on each side to hold the mid foot to the platform. It’s not a “cage” more a soft yet substantial wrapping mechanism.

Torin 4 Plush
Sam: The Plush has a thicker, less pliable (than Torin 4) engineered mesh upper particularly at mid foot where the mesh is closed and dense to provide mid foot support.
I am not sure I have ever seen as dense and smooth surface an engineered mesh as found at mid foot on the Plush. It gets slightly less dense as it approaches the eyelet area I assume to allow for a more pliable wrap and is more open for sure over the toe box for comfort and some breathability.
And the wrap in combination with the A Straps is effective in its hold and comfort.

The toe bumper has no external plastic overlays but does have an internal stiffener of some kind. It is shorter in its wrap around the front of the shoe than the Torin 4 and less noticed.
The heel counter is what I would call semi rigid  as it has somewhat pliable yet with supportive wings on either side of the dense rear upper and with no other rear stiffeners I can feel. It somewhat recalls recent adidas heel counters. The Plush (and Torin 4) heel counters are more supportive than the Torin 3.5 soft heel counter although the overall rear hold of the Plush is more relaxed not quite as locked down as either Torin 4 or 3.5

Canice: The upper is soft and comfortable and incredibly breathable. One of the challenges knit type uppers have is that to be durable and supportive enough without lots of overlays that manufacturers often use a stiffer fabric. They don’t look for stiffness, but this is usually a byproduct of the material choice. In the case of the Torin 4 Plush, they found the magic formula.

In particular look at the bright yellow pieces, the A Straps around the tongue of the shoe.  
When you pull the laces snug these pull from the sides in around your foot and from below at the midsole giving  you an incredible midfoot hold.

Michael: The means of tightening and loosening the shoe is a huge plus here (on both models, but especially the Plush). One of my big problems with the wider-lasted, low-drop trainers of late, including the Fli-Lyte 3 and Phantom from Topo, was inability to sufficiently lock-down the upper. My feet are a pretty standard D-width, and even in shoes marked as “D,” I was finding myself moving laterally on tight turns (and generally just not feeling as secure in the trainer). No more.
The A-strap system integrated here by Altra is a terrific mechanism for ensuring a snug and comfortable fit without coming across overly tight.

The upper itself was more than adequate; again, in a head-to-head between the two, I preferred the upper of the T4 better than its Plush cousin, but mostly that had to do with the generally higher volume of the Plus. The material itself presented no issues and I didn’t experience any blistering or hotspots.

Jeff: Without the standard version to compare it to, I found the Plush upper nothing shy of fantastic. I’ve run in more than a dozen various Altras over the last decade, and nearly all of them have had fit issues in the midfoot. This shoe does not suffer the same fate. I didn’t have to crank the laces down to secure the shoe, and I was surprised how breathable it was. I took the Plush for a 12 mile run right out of the box on a very warm Phoenix morning, and at no time did I even think about how hot my feet were. I’ve said it before, though it isn’t groundbreaking by any stretch, that when a shoe disappears on your foot you know you’ve found something great. The Plush was exactly that for me. However, the laces are way too long. Like someone made a mistake when they placed the order level of wrong. I double knotted them, and the loops were still so big (and distracting as they knocked against the other shoe midrun) that I ultimately tucked the loops into the lacing. Sure, I could swap them out for other laces, but it seems silly that so many Altra shoes suffer from extraordinarily long laces.

Torin 4
Sam: The Torin 4 has a breathable, thin and pliable Air Mesh engineered upper.  I felt, given the effectiveness of the A-Straps and the fact the laces run through a strap on the tongue multiple times, that the bootie may be overkill in the Torin 4 as it is substantial and not particularly stretchy. It could be a touch lighter and more stretchy.

On top of that, the mesh on the medial mid foot side is denser than on the lateral side to also provide some support. The fit is super secure but a bit snug in hold when standing around, although less so than in the Torin 3.5 . No suffocating with this upper as it has plenty of breathability.

The overlay toe bumper in the Torin 4 is about the same in firmness and front coverage but doesn’t extend as far up over the toes as in the 3.5 and as a result I felt less pressure or more accurately as it wasn’t an issue don’t notice the bumper as much in the 4.

The tongue is moderately padded and slightly softer and less structured than the Plush’s. I did find a touch more lace bite from the tongue and the thinner laces of the 4 when compared to the Plush but the lace up feel is for sure improved over the 3.5 where the thicker not very soft laces over soft tongue had some bite.
The Torin 4 heel counter has the plastic side wings found in the Plush but as its upper is thinner and more pliable overall the heel counter is slightly softer when pressing than the Plush’s.  No need for it to be any stiffer, the heel hold is excellent.
I didn’t really notice much of a fit difference at the very rear beyond that the collar linings on the Torin 4 are slightly more textured and grippy.
The Torin 4 has a reflective printed pull tab which you will need to pull them on due to the bootie really narrowing the entry as shown in the photo above when compared to the Plush. Torin 4 does stretch with use and entry becomes easier.

Michael: The Torin 4’s upper is more reminiscent of a racing flat or lightweight trainer in aesthetics compared to its Plush counterpart, with a more airy mesh design and a generally lighter construction. Excelling here is the lace construction, which provides for a snug fit even when the shoe isn’t totally cinched in due to an interweaving design on the tongue.  

Like Sam, I didn’t necessarily feel the need for the internal bootie - given the effectiveness of the lacing and A-Straps, described above - and would gladly trade it for an ounce or so of weight drop. Even so, I had no problems with the general fit and finish of the upper here - I found it more accommodating to my standard (“D”) width foot than the Plus, and generally liked the design and look of the Torin 4 upper better.

Dom:  Mostly excellent here.  Heel collar is just about right, hitting the Goldilocks sweet spot in terms of height and width.  I have narrow heels, and still found the heel retention good. Midfoot retention is excellent, much improved over version 3.5 (mesh).   Although to echo Sam, the inner bootie felt a little thicker than it needed to be, particularly for the lightweight variant of the shoe.  However, it does leave the option of leaving the laces fairly loose for those that like a freer, less restrictive feel. Styling, necessarily subjective, was hit-and-miss for me: I liked the “rising sun” rays emanating from the heel counter, but wasn’t convinced by the forward location of the Altra logo.


Sam: Both Torin get a new Quantic midsole, said to be softer and more responsive than the prior midsole. Quantic is a squishy feel foam with a combination of soft but not mushy cushion and light bounce.  I would tend to agree about the softer and it is bouncier (slightly in Torin 4 and more so in Plush) but not sure I would say it is much it much more responsive in the Plush than the 3.5’s was. The Quantic midsole is shared with the Superior 4.  Altra’s current performance midsole foam is Max LT found in the somewhat firmer and more responsive Duo (RTR Review Duo 1, Duo 1.5 coming soon)  and the light performance trainer Kayenta (RTR Review).  It is slightly less responsive and softer for me than Altra prior Torin midsole but more clearly easier on the legs.

Torin 4
Michael: As with the Plush, the Torin 4 is striking in how “regular” it feels for a zero-drop trainer. Much of that is due to the new midsole material, which (while substantial in stack height, even on the non-Plush model) is impressive in its responsiveness and comfort. While running, I was trying to think of analogies to other manufacturer’s materials, and the best I could come up with was Saucony’s EVERUN on the new Triumph. The Triumph is assuredly a different shoe - targeted at a different group of runners - but the cushioning feels similar here. It’s not race-race (it may not even be race-effort ready), but it’s responsive enough to keep you moving forward when you’re closing those last miles hard to escape the rain (or make it to the bathroom).

Dom:  I really liked the new Quantic midsole material in the Superior 4, and also enjoyed it here.   It feels squishier and more forgiving than the outgoing EVA/Abound sandwich. Some runners seeking a firmer midsole may not like it, but it feels great to me, with a springy, pillowy cushion reminiscent of Hoka shoes.   As Michael muses above, this may compromise the Torin 4’s suitability for racing at the sharp end, but it makes the shoe a standout high-mileage trainer. I felt I had tons of cushion, and could run all day, every day in these shoes.  

Torin 4 Plush
Sam: The Plush has 2mm more stack than Torin 4 at 28mm as it includes a Strobel board which appears to be TPU and which adds some clearly felt softer cushion and a more noticeable if muted in feel bounce.

The Torin 4 has a thinner sock liner glued to the midsole and no Strobel board which makes it more flexible, responsive and lighter than the Torin 3.5 and Plush . The Plush is also  slightly more flexible than the 3.5. In the mix and unseen in both are Altra’s Inner Flex grooves a pattern of tennis racket string like grooves carved into the forefoot. Inner Flex plus the new outsole design make both Torin remarkably flexible for shoes with giant 26 and 28mm stacks. In comparison the Clifton 6 with a 25mm front stack is far far stiffer relying on its rocker geometry, if you can use it which I struggle to. The  25mm front stack new Rincon with its much more minimal outsole coverage is slightly stiffer than either Torin 4 with a more forward short flex than the Torins.

Canice: The midsole of this shoe is on the softer side. With a name like “Plush” this makes sense and in this case you get what you ask for. The shoe does not have the most pop or rebound but it has cushion for days.

Michael: Count me in. I thought the Plush - especially for a zero-drop trainer - expertly rode the line between cushion and responsive “pop.” Is it beefy? Of course - and at more than 10-ounces, I didn’t take this out the door expecting a racer. But the added TPU - at the cost of weight - really does keep the Plush from feeling dull, or overly squishy. It’s a remarkable combination of materials that excels in what it’s designed to do: provide a plush, smooth ride.

Jeff: I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the promise of “softer and more responsive midsole” over the last couple of years. Those two points seem to be the big target everyone is aiming for. While a number of manufacturers seem to miss the mark (or the marketing department is dead set on claiming a shoe is marshmallow soft even when it isn’t even close) the Plush is very soft and also responsive. While walking around in the shoe it is almost too soft, I found myself sinking into it, but out on the road cranking out easy miles isn’t mushy at all. Not the choice I’d make for a speedwork shoe by any stretch, but heavier runners thinking of a big mileage shoe might have found exactly what they were looking for with the Plush.

Sam: The outsole is redesigned with a wider heel base for additional stability and new flex grooves enhancing transitions through their decoupling. It is identical on both versions of the Torin. Only colors are different.
Those who saw accelerated wear from the exposed midsole up front in the Torin 3.5, as I started to with even minimal miles on the pair below  should be pleased by the fuller coverage there in both versions of the 4

Canice - Torin 4 Plush: The outsole is flexible and has plenty of traction for road surfaces. Though, just for fun I ran these shoes on a packed trail to see how they would handle and I was impressed. On hard packed Utah dirt they were great. All in all the outsoles worked great on a wide range of surfaces.

Michael: The outsoles were identical between models, and presented no issues. There is a case (especially in the instance of the Plush), where I’d imagine they could remove some of the blown rubber and still manufacture a more-than-competent shoe, but I’m not complaining about extra grip.

Jeff: I haven’t tried them offroad like Canice, but I’m sure I will at some point. The outsole is fantastic for both grip and durability, and it is done in a way that doesn’t make the shoe feel stiff or blocky. A small number of the bigger Altras of the past (primarily Paradigm and Torin) have had lots of rubber on the bottom, but a baffling decision to expose outsole in one or two high wear spots that ultimately lead to an early retirement party. Two different pair of Paradigm 1.0 met an early death because the lateral quadrant of the shoe had minimal to no rubber reinforcement, and after 200 miles they no longer sat flat. This shoe will not have a similar problem. The rubber is substantial, but doesn’t make the shoe feel awkwardly heavy for it.

Dom:  I’m often obsessive about the weight of my running shoes, and have largely embraced the trend of weight-shaving by leaving a lot of midsole exposed.  However, I have found that many brands make poor decisions about where to place the outsole patches, leaving high-wear areas exposed. Moreover, the exposed midsole often has much worse grip than the outsole rubber, and many superlight shoes become hazardous on damp and slippery surfaces. Accordingly, I was very pleased to see the outsole coverage all over the bottom of the Torin 4.  Assuming these outsole patches stay glued on (I ripped off the heel patches on two pairs of Torin 2.5), this is a really strong outsole from Altra, with plenty of grip and (hopefully) good durability, while still providing flexibility and ground feel.

Torin 4 Plush
Canice - Torin 4 Plush: Typically when you’re in a pair of zero drop shoes you’ll often feel like your heels are below the balls of your feet. But when you get into max cushion shoes that have a zero drop you don’t experience this sensation. I tend to think it’s because your body self adjusts in the foam and you find a natural balance point. This is purely a hypothesis but one that I find to be plausible.

The ride is soft and cushioned. If your goal is to not feel the impact on the road then the Torin 4 Plush is for you. If you’re looking for ground feel or some pop when you toe off then you’ll want to look elsewhere. Either way, these shoes will float for many, many miles of enjoyable running.  

Sam: I agree with Canice. With lower stack or very soft or very low drop shoes you can feel the heel below the ball of your foot. Really it comes down to math. Most heel stacks in a training shoe with conventional 8-10 mm drop are just below 30mm. Here the Plush comes in at 28mm and the Torin 4 26mm. The lower the heel stack the more you will feel the heel landing impacts. The sensation in the Plush is not of a “low” heel but a high and highly cushioned forefoot as at 28mm upfront there is about 8mm more than a typical high drop trainer might have. The Plush ride is soft and yes very well cushioned but due to its flexibility and the excellent decoupling surprisingly fluid at all paces. The additional 2mm Strobel board and EVA sockliner really help justify that Plush moniker but the ride is in no way mushy, stiff  or ponderous as maximally cushioned shoes can be a slow paces, regardless of drop. The ride is classic daily trainer leaning towards moderate paces, decently fast feeling, well cushioned, and easy to transition even at slow paces.

Michael (Torin 4 and Torin 4 Plush): Plush is king; I never would have suspected that a shoe that feels like that was a zero-drop trainer. But for the width of the last (and perhaps some insecurity from the upper composition), I think the Plush has one of the smoothest rides of 2019. It is not - as Sam and Candice are quick to point out - a responsive or “feel-the-road” type trainer. Though I’m not much of a cyclist, you can almost draw a comparison to a bike tire here to contrast the ride of the Torin 4 and its Plush counterpart: the Torin 4 is a property-inflated bike tire: fast, harsh, and nimble. The Plush lets out just a little air. Okay, so it’s not as responsive, or as adaptable as the trimmed-up T4. But by adding that plushness (or letting out that air, in our metaphor), you get a hell of a comfortable ride, without feeling every single bump.

Jeff: I would agree with everyone else. The Plush is very well named, that shoe is soft and smooth. And Michael is right, there is a bike tire analogy that fits very well (again I didn’t test the standard Torin 4), but the Plush is reminiscent of a 27+ bike. It isn’t a full-on fat bike, but the mid-fat of a 3.0” wide tire with lower tire pressure is exactly what I’d compare the Plush’s ride with. I am very much looking forward to what Altra does with their Quantic cushioning, because it is very good.

Torin 4
Sam: The Torin 4 is clearly more responsive and a touch firmer than the Plush ride. I particularly noted somewhat more of a response from the forefoot when compared to the Plush. The ride is suitable for all forms of training except maybe speedwork and due to the performance leaning fit,  flexibility, light weight, copious cushion and response the Torin 4 can make a great long racer.

Michael: Much of my impressions on the Torin 4 are in my “Ride” evaluation of the Plush, above, but I’ll try and summarize with this: the Torin 4 would be an excellent offering in the absence of the Plush. It’s soft enough to be a recovery shoe and remarkably competent as a zero-drop trainer … but I just don’t see many people not taking the 1 ounce penalty and going with the Plush. It’s everything the Torin 4 is, just…. more... plush.

Dom:  Not having run in the Plush, I was very happy with the ride of the regular Torin 4.  It felt light and springy and energetic, while still having tons of cushioning. I didn’t feel like I wanted more cushioning, and can’t imagine buying the Plush version unless I was trying to run a 200-miler!  In my opinion the regular Torin is plenty cushy enough, even for high mileage training. This being a zero-drop shoe, I found myself tending to toe-strike a little more, so perhaps the Plush model might be friendlier to obligate heel-strikers.

Dom: Naturally, I tried the Torin 4 off-road, and found it surprisingly capable.  The thick (26 mm) sole stack provided very reasonable protection on pointy rocks, and traction was fine -- at least on dry trails.  On very steep descents, I did find my foot sliding forward a little, but this could be remedied by cinching the laces tighter.
Conclusions and Recommendations

Canice:  For me the Torin 4 Plush gets a solid 9 out of 10. My only real ding is that I wish the shoe was more lively, but in truth you’re buying this shoe for cushion and that’s what it does best. Ride 8, Fit 10, Value 10, Style 9

Michael: Altra has undoubtedly turned out two fine offerings here, but (for me) there’s a solid winner. The Torin 4 Plush exceeds in almost every category that the Torin 4 competes in, and doesn’t miss much from its more svelte brother. The only holdout? The upper - transplanting the fit and finish of the Torin 4’s topper onto the Plush would make for a highlight shoe of 2019. Instead, we’re left with something that’s very good - if imperfect.

Ultimately, you must consider what you’re going to do in these two trainers - for me, that was easy miles, and the Torin 4 isn’t a racing flat, or even necessarily a lightweight trainer - so why not just go all the way? Treat yourself. Go Plush. You’re worth it.
Michael’s Score(s):
Torin 4: 8.0/10
-1.0 for being a jack of all trades, master of none
-.5 for aesthetics
-.5 for existing, relative to its Plush twin
Torin 4 Plush: 9.0/10
-.5 for a last and upper that was just a smidge too wide, even fully-laced
.5 for aesthetics because, really Altra, it’s bad

Sam: The Torin 4 and Torin 4 Plush offer distinct enough differences while largely sharing the same platform to be a great pair of daily easier miles trainer with the Plush and lighter more performance oriented trainer and long racer with the Torin 4.  Runners who tend to train at faster paces, who prefer lighter well cushioned trainers or who have narrower lower volume feet should lean towards the Torin 4 while for slower pace running or wider higher volume feet the Plush is an excellent choice.

Both have among the least if not the least  sensation of zero drop of any Altra I have tested due to their full well decoupled outsole coverage preventing bottoming out and lingering at the heels and have good weight balance with mass seemingly well distributed making either great choices for first time zero drop runners. As with all low or no drop shoes take some time to get used to the lower drop.  While initially I preferred the Plush, once I ran one on each foot I decided the somewhat more responsive and quite a bit lighter Torin 4 would be my pick...if I had to choose one of the two which would be difficult if the truth be known as both are excellent and represent Altra’s finest most polished road trainers to date.
Sam”s Scores:
Torin 4: 9/10
Torin 4 Plush: 8.5/10
I scored the Torin 4 0.5 higher for Ride- more responsive, 0.5 more for Fit-better lock down, and 0.5 higher for Value-not sure the additional $20 for the Plush is worth it for me in what would be a recovery type shoe where I do prefer more drop.

Jeff: In the Torin 4 Plush Altra has created a fantastic big mileage daily trainer. Still sporting their trademark massive toebox, but they’ve reigned in some of their previous midfoot fit issues, the upper is comfortable and breathable, though unfortunately mated with truly abysmal fit laces. The midsole is (ahem) very plush and comfortable, but in no way does it feel mushy or sluggish. The outsole gives plenty of durability making this a shoe that should last for quite a few miles but doesn’t give the shoe a clunky ride or limit its flexibility.
Jeff Plush Score: 8.6
Ride 9, Fit 8, Value 9, Style 6 (Ride 50%, Fit 30%, Value 15%, Style 5%)

Dom:  After a slight misstep with the Torin 3.5, the Torin 4 feels like a clear win for Altra.  Foot retention is much improved over the previous version; the new Quantic midsole material provides better feel underfoot; and weight drops slightly too.  The Torin 4 is a well-cushioned road shoe that holds up for light trail use. The ride is springy and energetic, and the sole flexibility and ground feel surprisingly good for a shoe with a thick sole stack.  The wide forefoot and zero drop encourage a mid- to toe-strike, with natural foot motion. Overall, running in the Torin 4 was a thoroughly pleasurable experience.
Dom’s Score:  9.9/10  
This is a stellar shoe, and it’s hard to find anything to criticize: the inner bootie is a little thick (or maybe even unnecessary)?  Awkward styling? And of course, this is an Altra and the wide toe box and zero drop may not be to everyone’s liking.


Altra Torin 3.5  vs Altra Torin 4   (RTR Review)
Sam: The Torin 4 improves fit as it is less snug under the arch  and over the top of the foot with the toe bumper less noticeable. The 4 ride is bouncier, softer, easier to transition, more flexible,  less noisy and slappy while a touch less responsive.
Dom:  I thought the upper of the Torin 3.5 mesh was sloppy, with foot retention taking a noticeable step back from version 3.  The T4 fixes this with less stretch to the upper fabric, an inner bootie, and lacing wings made of very inelastic material.  The new midsole is squishier and more springy, making the shoe feel more lively. Weight drops slightly by 19 g (⅔ oz) per pair.

Altra Torin 2.5  vs Altra Torin 4   (RTR Review)
Sam: One of my favorite shoes of the last several years and my favorite Altra. It has a simpler yet highly effective mid foot lock down which made it not only a great road shoe but a fine trail shoe. It’s toe box was lower and stiffer and its upper for sure less breathable than Torin 4 but for road to trail use I still I prefer it while for pure road the Torin 4 is bouncier and easier on the legs..

Altra Duo 1.0  vs Altra Torin 4  RTR Review)
Sam: Firmer and more responsive than the Torin 4 the featherweight upper does not quite have the lock down hold of the Torin 4.

Hoka Rincon vs Altra Torin 4   RTR Review)
Sam: Both fit me true to my size 8.5. While the Rincon has a 5mm drop vs. zero for the Torin 4 with 4mm more heel stack in the Rincon and 1mm less forefoot, they both are highly cushioned light performance oriented trainers with the Rincon favoring heel cushion and the Torin 4 forefoot cushion. The far simpler Rincon upper just works as the foot is embeded down in the midsole. with thin internal overlays instead of the elaborate A Straps. The Rincon toe box while made of super light pliable mesh ist narrower from the met heads forward but the material is so light and pliable than even somewhat wider feet should be fine if a performance fit is your preference.  The Torin 4 has far more extensive rubber coverage. The differences in heel upper and rubber coverage add some weight as the Torin 4 checks in at 1.6 oz more In terms of midsole feel they are quite similar with the Torin having a touch more bounce, Nod to Rincon for up tempo training and racing. Nod to Torin 4 for daily training.

Hoka Clifton 5 or 6 vs Altra Torin 4 Plush and Torin 4  (RTR Review)
Sam: Both fit me true to my size 8.5 and both are very similar in weight with the Clifton 0.2 oz heavier.  The Clifton is just too stiff for me and I struggle to work its rocker in comparison to the far easier flow of the Torin 4’s, or even the Rincon which has the same stack as Clifton but a different midsole and less rubber. The Clifton sits in cushion feel between the Plush and 4 but is not quite as lively and bouncy as either especially the Plush. Clifton will also work for wider feet as Torin does as it is also available in wide If you can support zero drop either Altra would clearly be my pick with Plush despite its ounce heavier weight than Clifton my head to head pick.

Hoka Carbon X vs. Torin 4 (RTR review)
Dom:  Is this a surprising comparison?  These road shoes are almost exactly the same weight and same forefoot stack height (at least according to the specs).  Carbon X is much more heavily rockered and of course has a carbon plate in the midsole. The experience while running fast is actually not hugely dissimilar: the Carbon X forefoot is on the wider side for a Hoka, and both have a bouncy feel to the midsole.  The Carbon X, however, is really a specialized tool for going fast in a straight line. The Torin 4 is much more well-rounded, with better grip, better foot retention, and likely better durability too. Torin 4 is also much better suited to light off-road use.  Carbon X costs 50% more! T4 for daily training, CX on race day.
Sam: I agree with Dom here. Both have bouncy midsoles and a wider fit. For road and anything other than easier paces I would still pick the dynamic action of the carbon plate in the X.

New Balance Fresh Foam More vs Altra Torin 4 Plush  (RTR Review)
Jeff: On paper these two shoes are very similar, but on the foot very different. Both fit true to size, and I didn’t experience any fit issues with the Fresh Foam More, but beneath the foot two different worlds. The Plush is soft, comfortable, and flexible, by comparison the FFM is stiff and blocky. Take the slightly heavier Torin 4 Plush and enjoy a much more comfortable ride.
Sam: My moderate foot had issues with the More fit. Just too roomy at mid foot with poor rear hold and with no help from A Straps. The ride of the More is both stiff and very firm if well cushioned. Clear nod to Plush for me. Put New Balance new bouncy Fuel Cell foam in the More and it would be a much closer contest.

Brooks Glycerin 17 vs Altra Torin 4 Plush  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Plush is true to size 10.5, Glycerin 17 I went up a half size to 11. The Plush has a comfortable upper, but in comparison the Glycerin upper is just that much more comfortable. Of course the Torin toebox is much bigger, but the Glycerin isn’t bad. Shockingly, the Plush is noticeably softer than the Brooks. Unless you have issues with zero drop or low drop shoes, I would recommend the Torin 4 Plush.
Sam: I would agree with Jeff here. The Glycerin upper is less complicated and more “conventional” in a good way. I do like some drop in easy day shoes as Glycerin has but overall the lighter Plush gets a slight nod for its ability to also run faster paces better than the Glycerin for me.

Adidas UltraBoost 19 vs Altra Torin 4 Plush (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both shoes true-to-size 10.5, wearing them head to head the adidas upper shines. The Altra has a noticeably softer ride, but the adidas is noticeably more responsive. Both great daily trainers with lots of cushioning and durability, the biggest thing that separates the two shoes is intention. If your long run maxes out around 8-10 miles, I’d take the UltraBoost 19 (especially since you can now find a number of the various colorways for ~$135, even less than the Plush), but if your long runs are longer, edging closer to 20 miles, I’d opt for the extra cushioning of the Torin 4 Plush.

Altra Paradigm 4.5 vs Altra Torin 4 Plush   RTR Review)
Jeff: Both true to size 10.5. Both shoes have the same great toebox (and same laces that are way too long), but the Torin upper fit is much better. Both the Ego midsole in the Paradigm and Quantic midsole in the Torin are nice and bouncy, I personally prefer the Quantic’s ride. No question, save yourself $10 and get the better shoe in the Torin 4 Plush.

Saucony Triumph ISO 5 vs Altra Torin 4 Plush  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Altra is true to size 10.5, Saucony is half size up 11. Saucony’s Everun is the closest comparison I’ve run in that lines up with Altra’s Quantic. But, it seems like Saucony is still trying to figure out how to best utilize the material, and Altra has their plans nailed down already. The Triumph’s upper is more comfortable, but the total package of the Plush works better. Unless low drop or zero drop is a problem for you, take the Torin 4 Plush.
Sam: Much much heavier the Triumph has a fine ride with some nice rebound but that weight gets in the way after a while. If you can handle the zero drop as Jeff says go Plush.

Salomon Sonic RA Max 2 vs Altra Torin 4 Plush  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both shoes are true to size 10.5. The Sonic Max is their big cushion shoe, but head to head the extra cushioning of the Plush is evident. Max is much more responsive, and while the toebox is decent, it isn’t Altra levels of decent. Similarly to the UltraBoost 19, if you aren’t approaching 20 miles during a long run, the Sonic Max would be my suggestion, but if you are going to push mileage go with the Plush.

Topo Athletic Phantom vs Altra Torin 4 Plush (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both true to size 10.5. These two shoes line up perfectly against each other, but head to head there’s no comparison. It pains me to say it, because I prefer Topo’s low drop vs Altra’s zero drop philosophy and Topo’s upper fit is usually much better. But - the ride and performance of the two shoes are night and day. The Plush is comfortable without going too soft or mushy, and the Phantom is a little stiffer, and much more labored to run in. If you are looking for a dedicated recovery day shoe, the Phantom is for you, otherwise go with the Plush.
Michael: Agree 100% with Jeff; the T4P blows the Phantom out of the water for most (and I may even say all) runs. The only runners who may want to give the Phantom due consideration are those with especially narrow feet; while neither shoe is narrow by any stretch, the Phantom was slightly more trim through the midfoot and had a more restrictive upper, which may benefit those runners who need it. For all others - go Plush.

Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 3 vs. Torin 4 and Torin 4 Plush (RTR Review):
Michael: While the Fli-Lyte 3 was not a perfect shoe (and the designers at Topo should take a major cue from Altra’s lacing system), I do think the Torin 4 could stand to be a little more like the FL3 and a little less like the Plush to stand out. At 8.4 ounces, the FL3 is more competent as a workout shoe than the Torin 4, shortcomings aside. For recovery, the Torin 4 Plush is superior to the other two options by a longshot.
Photo Credit: Sally Reiley and Sam Winebaum
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions  Welcome Below!

RoadTrailRun receives a commission on purchases at the stores below. 
Your purchases help support RoadTrailRun. Thanks!

USA  Men's & Women's HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns

Men's & Women's HERE 
Join VIP Family and get Free Shipping and 15% in VIP Benefits on every order, details here

Men's & Women's HERE 

Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun


Andreaxxx said...

Currently training in Torin 3.5 plush and Escalante 1.5. I'm looking forward to upgrade the Torin for the better midfoot lock. I wonder if the upcoming King MT 2.0 will have a better lockdown too. I've experienced that after 10km or so the laces tend to get looser.

Michael said...

Hey @Andreaxxx - I don't have the King MT 2 on-hand, but the information (and photos) make it look as if it might have the improved lacing/lockdown system. Good news for those of us who can use it. The Torin is certainly an improvement in that category - I think it'll work well for you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this complete review (as usual!). How would you compare the regular Torin 4 to the Saucony Zealot (ISO 2 and ISO 3)? I am a mid-to forefoot striker and I am looking for a successor to this beloved and late shoe, which could do the job for road and soft trail.

Anonymous said...

Sam, will you guys be reviewing the Duo 1.5? Curious how it compares to the Torin 4. Thanks!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi I. Skoinas,
Yes we will! Just received a pair but don't think our tester has run the Torin 4 as of yet.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Great detailed review guys. With the plush, can you push the pace ocassionally
despite the extra weight?

70's Teen said...

Could one effectively combine the best of both shoes by adding a second ortholite insert to the 4, thus keeping weight down and flexibility up, while adding 3 - 5 mm of cushion?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi 70's Teen,
Worth trying but my instinct might be that the 2nd insert be a flatter thinner one. Worried that 2 full inserts might make them mushy. you might also try a couple inches of flatter denser insert at the heel. I often to that with Altra to get some "training heels" a bit more drop
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews.
Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

70's Teen said...

Thanks - I've got a couple of thin Ortholites I could use but I wasn't sure if that would be enough to duplicate the Plush's stroebel layer. The heel insert is a good idea - I could cut an old thick cushioned insole in two and use the back.

Josie said...

I've tried both and the Plush is not wide enough for wider feet (a women's D is usually perfect for me but I can wear a B in shoes like New Balance and Brooks). Unfortunately that knit upper narrows right at the point where feet are the widest (on me anyway!). Would be great if you had a true wide shoe reviewer on the blog as I so love your comments and reviews but sometimes the fit for me is completely different. I've seen one or two female reviewers that indicate they have wide feet but them most often end up in a men's version saying it fits great. That's not helpful for me as a women's 6.5 size as I cannot wear a men's shoe no matter how much I'd want too! I miss the days of the old Altra's (I PR'd a 5K by 2 MINUTES a mile in the Intuition 1.5!).

I have 2 pairs of the Torin 4 which is a much more forgiving shoe for my wider feet - even with the very snug midfoot - as the mesh is loads above the knit in the upper as far as comfort and fit. For regular or narrow feet I suspect the Plush is really great. However, after about 100 miles in each pair the Torin 4's the shoes developed a terrible squeaking that I cannot get rid of. It is so LOUD that people have come up to me in races and asked if that is my shoes squeaking! Came here to read the review and see if anyone had an issue with squeaking with a little more mileage on the shoes?

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Josie,
Thanks for commenting about your experience. Altra while "Foot Shaped" has different fits for sure depending on models. We'd welcome a wider foot tester reviewer as well as folks who have more severe pronation. If you are in the US, enjoy testing and writing under deadline please drop us a line at the Blogger Contact on the right side of each page down a ways.
Sam, Editor

Anonymous said...

Michael, how would you compare the cushioning, responsiveness and the support of the Torin 4 (not plush) and Topo Fli-Lyte 3? I really enjoyed your reviews!

Jerry said...

Michael, how would you compare the cushioning, responsiveness and the support of the Torin 4 (not plush) and Topo Fli-Lyte 3? I really enjoyed your reviews!

Jerry said...

If Michael is not available I would greatly appreciate if someone else would give their opinion on how the Altra Torin 4 and Topo Fli-Lyte 3 compare as far as cushioning, support and responsiveness. Thanks for all your great reviews!

Michael said...

Hey Jerry, my apologies - I'm now "following" these comments so I won't miss them in the future.

It's been a while since I've worn either, but I think even the Plush-less Torin 4 is softer underfoot than the Fly-Lyte 3. The Fly-Lyte 3 is a more aggressive and fast-feeling platform, to be sure - it's not "hard" but certainly firmer than the Torin 4. Hardest for me to remember support, but the Altra upper is pretty competent in maintaining balance overall, whereas the Topo does feel slightly more minimal/lower to the ground/racer-esque overall. Between the two I do prefer the Fly-Lyte 3, as it's just a more useful and fun shoe for me.

Jerry said...

Thanks so much Michael for that excellent information!