An invitation to an event at my favorite local running store, The Bryn Mawr Running Company, landed in my mailbox and appeared on my Facebook feed. I had to go: the founder of Altra, Golden Harper, would be there for a two hour talk and running clinic. The talk began at 6:30 on a Tuesday after the running group returned from the track workout at the local polo and soccer fields nearby. By the time I arrived, pizza and beer were on hand to feed the small crowd gathered in the store.
Understated and determined, Golden Harper challenges the design of standard running shoes and is brave enough to run into an industry dominated by the shoe giants of Nike, Brooks, Saucony, Asics, New Balance, Hoka, and Sketchers. His shoe is the only one on the market with a “zero drop” and a toe box that is actually foot-shaped. Zero drop refers to how the heel is the same level as your forefoot. By not elevating the heel, running injuries are reduced, and a runner’s form is more natural as if the runner is running barefoot.
Golden has a long history with the sport as a runner and while working at his parents’ running store, Runners’ Corner, since he was nine years old. What frustrated him was that he felt like the shoes he was selling to runners were not keeping them free from injury, but actually causing injury. This led him to dismantle a shoe with the help of a toaster oven set to 275 degrees F to melt the glue and remove the foam that lifted the heel. Essentially, he made a prototype of a completely new shoe and had the data and research to back up the changes. The problem was that the shoe companies were not interested in making changes to their running shoes, so Harper decided to make the shoes himself with a lot of help from experienced people in the industry.
Now, Altra makes shoes for everyone that feel like you’re running barefoot with enough cushion to protect your feet. They are also the only company that truly makes shoes designed for women. Most companies just take the men’s shoe and remove some of the bulk and call it a women’s specific shoe. Not so with Altra. The company has actually measured and studied how women run and developed shoes for women. Currently, they are working on children’s shoes, and when they arrive online or in stores, you better believe that is what my daughter will be wearing.
I absolutely love these shoes (and I am not being paid by Altra to advertise, but I wish I could be… maybe I should ask Golden if I can review new shoes and write about them?): my toes can spread out in the roomy foot-shaped toe box, my feet feel springy with the cushion: the shoe feels like it’s part of my foot. I have run short and long distances in these shoes, on the trail and on the road, and they are light enough for track and speed sessions. I have been wearing these shoes all freaking day because I love them so much.
Note: all of the information was based on my notes from listening to Golden Harper at the Bryn Mawr Running Company on October 17, 2017 from 6:30-8:30pm. Please visit Altra Running for more information, and go to Bryn Mawr Running Company to purchase your next pair of running shoes or stop in just to say hi. If you ever get to hear Golden Harper speak, please go. His enthusiasm for the sport and excitement is contagious. Run on!