Review: Altra 3-Sum and Torin
article & images by Nick Salazar
May 15, 2013
Today we're taking a look at two new shoes from Altra. Both of these shoes follow the same fit philosophy as the rest of the Altra line. This means they're going to have a wide, foot-shaped toe box, and feature zero drop from front to back. As you can probably guess, this means they'll feel very similar to the other kicks we've previously reviewed from Altra Zero Drop lineup. What's special about the shoes at hand is how far Altra has gone to cater to the triathlete. First up we'll look at the Torin, a neutral trainer that's very much in line with Altra's other offerings. And then we'll pull back the lid on the new 3-Sum, a purebred, triathlon-specific shoe that genuinely surprised me.
My Torin review will be brief for two reasons. First, I want to devote more words to the tri-specific 3-Sum. And second, basically everything about the fit and function of the Torin has been discussed in our other reviews of Altra footwear. The wide selection in standard trainers from Altra basically represents an evolution in refinement. From the original Instinct, to the Instinct 1.5, and now the Torin, the differences basically come down to revisions in the upper, the tread, and midsole. The Torin has a few extra mm of stack height in the midsole compared to the other neutral trainers, for a little more cushioning. Altra also says that the slight increase in stack height can make it easier to transition to zero drop shoes. The idea is that even if your form is a bit more of a heel strike, the extra cushion can help absorb the impact and give you a bit of extra buffer as you learn to run on a zero drop platform. But I've been running in zero drop shoes for quite a while now, and all these shoes feel very similar to me.
Probably the most noticeable difference is the addition of the pull loops on the tongue and heel, which is a nice touch and can make for a faster transition if you like to slip your shoes on with elastic laces.
Beyond that, I don't have a lot of additional commentary for these. They're a lot of fun to run in, once you've properly transitioned into the world of zero drop. I've definitely enjoyed it, and now run in zero drop shoes full time. Thick heels feel decidedly weird to me by now. Altra has some good resources to guide you in that direction, if you're interested.
And now, to the 3-Sum. But before we dive in, I want to do a bit of overview. The concept of a triathlon-specific shoe is a relatively new one. Ten years ago, there wasn't a single shoe marketed as such. The closest thing you could find were a few brand selling elastic laces, which you could use to make your transitions a bit easier. Fast forward a bit, and by the middle of the last decade, a couple brands began making shoes that catered specifically to the triathlete. My first memory of such a product came from Zoot, who marketed a no-tongue, no-laces, slip-on shoe looking very much like a water moccasin. Later they'd expand with one-piece construction that also included elastic laces. Soon, K-Swiss took up the call with some similar products.
There still aren't a whole plethora of shoes with this kind of build philosophy, and it still seems like a bit of a fringe concept. I personally haven't tried any one-piece running shoes (with the exception of Vibram Five-Fingers products), until now. I've been a little bit reluctant to do so, because my first instinct was that this kind of design would be inherently more difficult to fit than a traditional shoe construction. But I was excited to see how Altra would execute the concept, since I've been nothing but delighted with their standard running shoes. They sent me their flamboyantly-colored new shoes, dressed to the nines in triathlon accoutrement. And boy did these kicks surprise me. Hit the jump to read my in-depth review of the Altra 3-Sum.