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!