When I reviewed Altra’s Intuition shoe this summer, I described how the company has obviously done its homework about what natural runners are looking for. They also offer something for almost everyone in the new running paradigm: the Intuition and Instinct are zero-drop trainers that are the natural running counterpart to traditional trainers, while the Adam (along with its female partner Eve) is a pure minimalist model that I’ve been testing for the past few months.
The Adam combines many of the features I love about minimalist footwear, with only one noteworthy drawback that I’d like to see improved upon. For a first-time offering, however, it’s really quite impressive, and strikes me as something of a combination of my two favorite minimalist brands: Vibram and Soft Star.
Think of it this way: if you took an old-school Vibram KSO and did away with the toe pockets, and instead made a roomy, comfortable toe box like a moccasin, you’d have something very close to the Adam. By appearances, the Adam bears a strong likeness to Vibram, and tends to draw a lot of comparisons to that groundbreaking KSO model. I actually find some of the specs on the Adam to be superior to the KSOs, such as its overall weight of 4.7 oz (compared to 5.7 for the KSO) and some other points I’ll mention shortly.
|Mesh uppers with dual Velcro straps|
The Adam’s uppers are composed of a breatheable mesh that’s very similar to the KSO, along with two separate straps that help secure the foot in place. I found that if I pulled the midfoot strap too tight, I had some discomfort at the base of my pinky toes, but the good news is that I didn’t really have to cinch either strap very much at all to get a secure fit. The toe box is very roomy without allowing excessive movement of the foot on the insole. Combined with a gender-specific last, the feel of the upper is very slipper-like around the foot, almost (but not quite) comparable to Soft Star’s Moc3.
One of the major advantages of having a single toebox instead of toe pockets is warmth – and with the Adam, my feet tend to stay comfortable at temperatures about 10-15 degrees colder than I’d attempt to wear my Vibrams. However, the mesh is also quite breatheable, so your toes won’t overheat in hot weather.
|Strengthening insole in place; compare with 2 photos down|
There isn’t a lacing system on the Adam, but unlike some Vibram models, the mesh is flexible enough that it’s easy to work your foot into the upper. Loop straps in front and behind the ankle are helpful in getting the heel in place.
|That's a fig leaf ... just like the original Adam wore|
The heel collar of the Adam is similar in appearance to another Vibram model – in this case the Bikila. It’s got just the right amount of padding to provide comfort without adding excess bulk, and stays very secure on the heel even in muddy conditions or on irregular terrain.
|Internal seams on footbed|
Like all Altra shoes, the Adam comes with two insole options: a support insole that has a slight arch and a little bit of padding, and a strengthening insole that is completely flat and less than 2mm thick. You could remove the insoles entirely, but I prefer to leave them in due to some mild irritation from longitudinal seams on the interior footbed surface.
|3.4mm razor-siped rubber outsole|
Adam’s outsole is extremely similar to Vibram’s siped rubber KSO outsole, and at 3.4mm is just barely thinner than the KSO’s 3.5mm spec. I’ve found the Adam to be much more flexible in all directions while offering a similar ground feel as the KSOs. Traction is outstanding for road running, and is generally decent for trail conditions except on steep hills with mud or loose gravel. It’s ideally suited for hybrid use, such as a run I did on Thanksgiving morning.
Our family was signed up for a trail 5K at a park in Salinas – but because I knew I’d eat more than 5K worth of food that day, I decided to wake up early and run to the course. My route ended up including about 14 miles on roads and 5 on trails; it had also rained the night before, so trail conditions were wet but not terribly sloppy. The Adams went seamlessly back and forth from one surface to the other, and kept my feet cozy and comfortable even after several hours of wet wear.
|Making my way to the Salinas Valley, Thanksgiving 2011|
However, for my ultrarunning purposes, I prefer an outsole with a bit more grip to it, and this is the primary drawback I have with the Adam. Coincidentally, it also happens to be the main criticism I had when reviewing the KSO. Of course, Vibram kept tinkering with their outsole designs for dedicated trail use, and there’s no reason to suspect that Altra won’t do something similar in future iterations of the Adam. They do have a more aggressive outsole on their zero-drop Lone Peak, and if Altra could combine a bit of the Lone Peak’s traction with the current design of the Adam, it would vault very close to the top of my list of favorites.
|Outstanding flexibility; razor sipes visible on curled outsole|
For the time being, the Adam is a very attractive minimalist option for general all-purpose use, especially for those who are reluctant to wear Vibrams or want something a little more sporty than moccasins. It draws from both of those concepts and has some clear advantages over each one, with potential to become even more compelling in the future, particularly for trail running. Given what I’ve seen from Altra in their premiere models, I’m excited to see what the future brings from them.
The Altra Adam retails for $100 from the company website but if you use this link to do your shopping, a 10% discount will be deducted from your purchase price at checkout.
*Product provided by Altra
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