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Altra Adam Review

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012 | 9 Comments

This may be the longest period I’ve even tested a pair of shoes before writing a review… about six months.


When I first tried the Altra Adams, I hated them. They seemed like expensive aqua socks. My first sockless run resulted in serious cuts from internal seams. The closure system was funky.

I just couldn’t write the review, though.

There was something about the shoes that made me hold off; to conduct more tests. After all, the other more traditional shoes from Altra have received glowing reviews. While I haven’t reviewed them, I have tried on a few. They are excellent minimalist shoes. The instincts are excellent road shoes with many fans. The Lone Peaks, while a little on the heavy side, are great zero-drop trail shoes. I expect their new Superiors to be even more popular. It’s clear Altra is producing some of the best minimalist shoes available… easily in the top five.

As winter morphed into spring and my training season heated up, I had less opportunity to do test runs. I had train in the shoes I’d be using for racing. Since I’m generally happy with my current training, I was able to bust the Adams out to finish the tests. I’ve gained a new appreciation for these shoes after these tests.

The Objective Stuff

The shoe is light- my size 12 weighs in at 7.75 ounces per shoe. The toe box is amply wide to allow toe splay. The shoe itself is incredibly flexible. It really does feel like a fancy aqua sock. The shoe is held on the foot with two Velcro fasteners, one across the top of the tongue and the other zig-zagging across the back of the toe box.

The shoe has a removable insole that provides a few millimeters of cushioning, but still allows for excellent ground feel. The tread is flat with a few selectively-placed grooves.

The upper is breathable and dries rapidly. When the shoe gets wet, tightening the straps will prevent it from moving around too much.

Durability is hard to estimate without putting serious miles on the shoes, but I would expect these to last a very long time. Construction seems to be good and the sole design should resist premature wear.

The Subjective Stuff

The fit of the shoe reminds me of a cross between the Vibram KSO and Vibram SeeYa without the articulated toes. Also, the lower strap allows the toe box to be tightened. The shoe can easily be adjusted to allow for loose floppiness or a tighter, more precise fit.

Most people seem to use this shoe for road running, which would be an appropriate use. Personally the Adams wouldn’t be my first choice… I’d prefer nothing at all. If I were running a very long distance, I’d prefer something with more cushioning.

I tried trail running in the Adams, and was not surprised they did not provide enough protection. Also, the smooth, non-lugged surface wasn’t very good on most rocky surfaces.

So where did the shoes excel?

Hiking on bare rock.

With slower speeds (walking), there was no need for added protection. It was easy to step on the flattest surfaces. The construction of the shoe coupled with the flexibility made for a superior hiking experience. I could accurately feel the rocks under foot. The sole reliably gripped the rock. When wet, the “grippiness” was still adequate. They also dried rapidly.

The closure system allowed me to fit the shoe perfectly. I could leave the toe box loose enough to allow good toe splay, but tighten the top closure enough to keep the shoe anchored.


The Adam is a weird shoe in that it deviates significantly from Altra’s other offerings. As a minimalist shoe, it has all the right characteristics. I like to consider shoes as tools, and have definite favorites for particular uses. The Adam didn’t crack my own personal “favorite shoes for X conditions” except hiking on trails with lots of bare rocks. The shoe isn’t as sockless-friendly as other shoes I use for running, so I’d likely only use this for walking. Since we travel in a lot of environments with rocky terrain, the Adam will remain in my rotation (of about seven other shoes).

If you’re looking for a road shoe, casual shoe, or hiking shoe, the Adam deserves serious consideration. It will appeal to those that prefer a very minimal shoe, especially those that like Five Fingers but hate the separated toes.

For those that have a pair of Adams, when do you use them? Leave your comments below!



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  1. alvinj88
    July 29, 2012

    I have this as my recovery shoe, but I tried running with them, they are a bit loud and straps hurt..I have more fun running with my bikila and teva zilch

  2. Nyah
    July 24, 2012

    I use my Adams any time I need protection from Mid-Atlantic Winter conditions. Winter of 2011/12 was much milder than normal and, as such, I didn’t really need footwear much. I’ll still need some snow in order to test how well the Adam dries. I suspect that the Samson might dry faster, due to its mesh upper being more of an open weave than what the Adam has.

    One aspect where the Adam’s velcro comes in handy is, if you spend most of your time BF but want something that’s convenient to put on, like for outdoor chores during Winter. Velcro greatly reduces the amount of time necessary for this ritual.

    Ultimately I’d still like a shoe that combines the security of the Samson with the minimal underfoot protection of the Adam. Essentially a Samson without the built-in insole. I tried the Samson on and appreciated its upper more than the Adam’s.

    One small gripe: The sidewall on the arch-side of the Adam/Samson has some excess height (it’s immediately in the arch area). I wish Altra would reduce that height.

    Also, I want a non-flashy shoe that can be used for business work. So please start offering these shoes in non-descript, chocolate brown.

  3. alvinj88
    July 24, 2012

    yeah I wear socks on mine

  4. Tess
    July 22, 2012

    I have the women’s equivalent, Eves. I was super disappointed to begin with — especially with the horrible cuts I got from the strap attachments, like you. I still have the scars. I do like the soft upper material, though.

    I hated to just relegate them to the closet, so I do use them with socks — mostly just on easy days to alternate with my VFFs and Inov-8s, both of which I much prefer.

    I did submit a pretty negative review to the Altra website and got a good response from them. They persuaded me to try the Delilahs, which are laced. That solves the sock issue (no stitching from a strap attachment), and they’re decent but the upper material is stiffer and the shoes run CRAZY short. (I got the same size as my Eves but my toes rub against the end so I can hardly wear them).

    I hope they’ll keep tweaking models. Some combo of the features of the Eves and Delilahs might be really good!

  5. squirrel
    July 19, 2012

    I own both the Adam and the Instinct. I ran all winter in the Adam with merino socks on and they performed surprisingly well; I thought I would be cold due to how thin they are but I was wrong. However, even today, I can’t get over the loud slapping noise they make. It really drives me bonkers; I have to crank up my music so as not to hear it. Of course, I run barefoot most of the time and I make no sounds whatsoever, so any noise that would probably be considered normal by somebody else is too loud for me. At first I thought I was my form and worked at changing it to see if I could make less noise, but I finally gave up when I was realized that I running so slowly and in such an abnormal way that I got injured twice.

    Wearing them without socks is a painful experience, my pinky toes always get blisters because of the straps. I have neither problem (noise or blisters) with the Instincts, that I got recently and I wear for longer runs (longer for me is anything above 20km). My wife runs in the Intuition, which are the women’s version of the Instinct.

    I haven’t tried the Samson, which are similar to the Adam but with laces. I’ll probably get a pair next winter, unless Altra comes up with something even better.

  6. Derek Runningpoint
    July 19, 2012

    I have run extensively in the Adams both barefoot and with Injinji toe socks. Every time I run any distance in them barefoot I get hot spots in the same exact places regardless of the outdoor conditions. I used the Adams for all of my on-road runs training for a 50k trail ultra and found them to be stellar for mid to long distance runs. I now use them only in the winter on extremely cold days and only with the Injinjis. I never use any of the included insoles and the front strap is loosened to the point that I have considered just cutting it off. me feet are wide enough that they can’t splay 100% in the Adams anymore. For perspective, I am a barefoot or huaraches runner 99.9% of the time.

  7. .:Ash:.
    July 19, 2012

    Great review, Jason. I like the Adams a lot. But, I definitely prefer them for slow-moving activities in lieu of running. I wish the straps fastened all the way down, though. That one on the forefoot has a tendency to curl up at the end after a while.

  8. DNEchris
    July 18, 2012

    I put about 800 road miles on a pair of Adams this past “winter” and thoroughly enjoyed them all. I’ve only used them with socks, as otherwise they bite, but never with either of the liners. They allow great toe splay and good enough ground feel. Being tied to the streets of Manhattan I don’t get to play much on real trail but they performed just fine on Central Park’s Bridle Trail.

  9. jeff
    July 18, 2012

    Interesting… I’ve not tried the Adam, but I own a pair of Instincts. I wear them all the time… except when I run. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something about their feel that is great to walk in, but seems wrong when running.