Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Altra 3-Sum Shoe First Take

I'm going to go ahead and start by saying, Wow, I'm so far behind and I've been really bad at keeping up the blog. I have excuses! We moved from Hawaii to the mainland last week and there has been lots going on. I've got a relay to write a report on still and the packing of my bicycle, though I may wait on that and do a massive packing/unpacking post.
But today I'm going to jump right into the present with my newest piece of tri gear- The Altra 3-Sum.
I can hear you asking, "But Dirtbag, you're all about the super-minimal. You love and worship your Vibram Bikilas." That's still true, my attentive reader. However, I've been feeling for a while now that variety is good and occasionally a little more padding would be nice. The last few months I've been in shoe search mode, looking for the best possible option. I thought I'd found it with the New Balance Minimus Road, but those turned out not to be for me. Good shoe, not for me. Then moving got moving and I put shoe shopping on hold until we hit the mainland. That was a better choice anyway, since there is one shoe store on the island I like (Runners HI). While Runners HI is great, they don't have the widest selection in the world. Shopping online is great too, but for shoes it's difficult since I'm very particular about what I put on my feet. My online go-to shopping solution is They are crazy friendly and very helpful.
Like I said, I'm particular about my shoes, and I didn't know what I wanted. Optimal Run has an awesome feature where you fill out a form and they get back to you within a few days with shoes recommendations. So I put in that I'd be doing triathlons predominantly, I want zero-drop, light, and minimal. I told them I'm used to the Five Fingers but want a little more padding, not Nike-levels, but some cushion for the longer runs. I also mentioned that Van Halen was better with DLR.
Shortly an email from Optimal Run came in with two suggestions, including a YouTube link to a suggestion video. Optimal said I should try the Altra 3-Sums or the Inov8 Road X-treme 138. I hadn't heard of the Altras so I hit the googles. They have kick ass reviews, and that got me really excited. I was nervous about the stack height, since it's so much bigger than what I'm used to at 18mm, but I wanted to give them a shot. As for the Inov8's, that's a brand I've been looking at for a while. Looks like Optimal knows me well.
I didn't buy the shoes from Optimal Run. I strongly suggest you go check them out when you're in the market for new kicks. I feel kind of bad I didn't give them my money, but like I said, I want to put the shoes on my feet before I buy them. "But Dirtbag," you say. "Why didn't you try them on, figure out if you liked them, then buy them online?" That's an excellent question with a two-part answer. The first part is that like the genius I am I packed both pairs of Bikilas.
Like in a box.
That is on a boat.
I have no running shoes. I need running shoes. Which brings me to the second part of my answer- the store I went to was also awesome.
Runners know that specific brands of running shoes aren't easy to get. You can't, as many in-laws suggested, just go to Sports Authority or REI and pick up a pair. You must go to a Running Store, run by runners for runners. I went a and used their fancy handy dandy store locator to locate a store near me. Bam, store 28 miles away called Born To Run. Hey, that's the name of the book that started this whole thing!
Actually, it's a store started by one of the guys in the book! Wheels within wheels. We went in and I said to the nice lady working there, "I want to try on Altra 3-Sums, do you have them?" She said, "Yep, what size?" And like that we were off. Such a friendly store. Mary (I think that was her name) was crazy helpful and friendly. She let me take the shoes for a short test run around the block.
I was in love. Immediately. There was no hmmm about it. These kicks are kickin'. Comfortable, flexible, some ground-feel, good padding, no shifting. I got my size right on the first try. AND the colors are killer cool.

The Altra 3-Sums are built for triathlon specifically. I didn't wear socks when I went to the store because I wasn't going to be running all the time with socks on, so I needed to know how they felt. Felt great.
They have the pull tabs in the front and on the heel for a quick T2, along with zip laces. During my first run yesterday after I brought them home I had to stop and loosen up the right foot. I had the zip much too tight. Didn't want any rubbing and I over-compensated.
My stride from VFFs to 3-Sums didn't have to change at all. I'm pretty good at the mid-foot stride by now, and it felt natural in the new shoes.

I've only run about three miles so far. I, of course, packed my Garmin too so I'm not positive about the distance, but that feels right. I look forward to lots more runs in the 3-Sums.
I paid $130 for them, thank you Background Profiles, most awesome sponsor! That might seem like a lot to you, but according to the Grey $130 for a threesome, let alone a pair, is pretty cheap.

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