The Altra Adam is a shoe for people who hate shoes.
Sometimes society just says no shirt, no shoes, no service. What are we to do? I find this shoe to be an interesting mix of design successes and failures. This is a review of the men’s Adam shoe, but there is a women’s Eve equivalent. On the bright side, never in my life have I put on a shoe and had my feet feel so instantly at home. It was like I was wearing shoes that I had spent a year breaking in, or like I had merely put on a pair of socks. This is a zero-drop shoe, which means that they don’t have high-heels like most running shoes. Some would say this means they have no support, but our feet were built to work without shoes. Regular shoes make our foot muscles atrophy and give us a slouchy posture. I’ve been running barefoot and zero-drop for years and have no arch problems, and it is far easier on your joints since the stress is put on your muscles rather than bones. You’ll feel some sore muscles your first week or two wearing these if you are used to wearing normal shoes. For the negatives, there seem to be some areas of the shoe that serve no purpose or are in odd locations, it looks a bit like wearing sandals with socks, and it is far from water resistant. As you can see from the x-ray shots above, the shoe has a rather odd shape and fit. It is built for people with banana feet or something. Look at how the sole sticks way out on the instep by the big toe. There is also about a half and inch of empty shoe in front of my toes, which oddly enough is normal, rather than indicating the shoes are too small. It says right in the instructions to allow a half an inch of empty space, so for sizing, just go with your normal size and don’t worry if it seems overly roomy at the toe. Strangely, this doesn’t cause any discomfort while wearing the shoe. It doesn’t slide around on flat terrain, and the empty space lends to a feeling of shoelessness. You can see that the straps are very well placed in relation to the foot. I find that I like them best when I loosen them to the point where I don’t feel them, but they are there to keep the shoe from moving from this ideal position. The protective portion above the toes is actually in front of the toes. This means that when you raise your toes, rather than them catching on the firm part of the shoe and lifting it, they just stretch into the fabric. Once again this is likely a benefit, since the split in the protective section is above the big toe, rather than next to it, and would feel distracting. This offset is even more pronounced in the sole pattern, which really convinces me that they got lucky with these things being comfortable, rather than having the design be well thought out. In the above picture, you can see how the foot rests on the sole. The red portions of the foot are where it contacts the sole. Your toes only contact the ground at one point, so why are there two pads in the shoe for each toe? Unless you have banana feet, your big toe is over an intersection rather than a pad, and the rest of your toes are between the pads. They should have just gone with a flat bottom, since the siping adds all the flexibility and traction you would ever need. That said, I don’t notice at all when wearing the shoe. The ground feel is like wearing socks, but with enough protection that you can step on a Lego with no dammiting. They come with three insole options. You can wear them without, which works just fine, or they come with a support insole, which is contoured to provide the illusion of support, though it really just seems like a typical cheap insole, or they also arrive with a ‘strengthen’ insole, which I like best. It is flat and very firm and springy.
The Altra Adam is essentially Fivefingers without the toes. That’s why I bought them. Like the Fivefingers, they have a razor-siped Vibram sole, which is absolutely uncontested in my opinion. The razor siping does a better job than patterned lumps for traction, and they don’t pick up so many mud clods. The flat sole gives a far better ground feel, and distributes your weight in a way that doesn’t cause wear, and the vibram rubber is tough enough to handle everything I’ve thrown at it, including blackberry branches. Unlike the Fivefingers, you can wear them with ordinary socks, and they don’t get sweaty and pick up stink. These are a good alternative to Fivefingers for casual use, but don’t match them for aggressive terrain. I’ve done some running in these, and I like them fine for casual running, or a day at the office. I don’t like them as much as the Fivefingers for rough terrain or climbing. The extra play in the shoes doesn’t give you the same level of stability, since the shoe can slip a bit under strong lateral force, and is a bit floppy in the front. Still, despite all the shoes with toes that have come out in recent years, this is the best Fivefingers alternative out there. If you are debating whether or not to buy this shoe, I’d go for it. It’s odd, but awesome. For more pictures, reviews, or buying a pair, here’s the amazon link.