Today I’m really excited to give you the Altra Paradigm 4.0 review.
If you’re familiar with the Altra brand, we think there are a couple of things that Altra does really exceptionally well.
They’re kind of leaders in the market as far as making what they call a foot-shaped toe box.
Basically, what Altra has done is make a shoe that fits people’s actual feet. In this particular one, it’s a little more dramatic than usual.
Altra Paradigm 4.0 Review
Related: Altra Paradigm vs Provision
A lot of times, people think that Altra is just a wide shoe and it’s not a wide shoe. It is actually a traditionally sized shoe with room for your toes.
Most people don’t have a pointy toe where the second toe is the longest. Some people do have that, but very few people have an actual taper to their shoe where it comes in and the longest point on the shoe is right in the middle of the toe box.
Altra is kind of one of the leaders among some smaller brands that were able to bring out a shoe that actually fits toes and lets them splay the way that they should.
The reason that’s so important to us is that when your toes can splay out and move, you build up the muscles on your feet. When you build up the muscles on your feet, they get stronger. When they get stronger, you get less injured. When you’re less injured, you’re running and you’re happy and stoked.
The other thing that Altra does exceptionally well is they have what’s called a zero-drop platform. All Altra shoes have that zero-drop feature.
Although it looks a little bit different on this particular shoe, what that zero drop means is that the distance between your metatarsals and the ground and the distance between your heel area and the ground is exactly the same.
It’s like you’re standing barefoot with some cushion under your foot.
So those are kind of the two things that we look at as Altra does exceptionally well.
The Altra Paradigm 4.0 is the fourth generation of their most cushioned shoe.
Two Versions Philosophy
Something that Altra has been doing recently is they’ve taken their shoes and given you a couple of different options.
In the Altra Torin’s case, they came out with a Torin knit and a Torin mesh and the Torin 4 has a regular and a plush version.
Those shoes have two very different feels to them while they have exactly the same footbed.
The uppers are so different that they should really be considered different shoes with one of them may be a little more sporty and racy and the other may be a little more casual but still a certainly capable shoe since they share the same footbed.
So that becomes a personal preference from Altra.
Related: Altra Torin 5 vs Altra Escalante 2.5
Paradigm vs Duo
While they haven’t split the Paradigm into two shoes, what they’ve done is they’ve really taken the Paradigm concept as it was originally introduced back at the original Paradigm and split that up so that the Paradigm 4.0 fills one portion of it and then the Altra Duo fills the other portion of it.
The Paradigm is becoming less aggressive, more of a casual runner type shoe or even a walking shoe in some cases while and the Duo is becoming their racing type shoe that has a lot of cushion.
Both of the Paradigm and the Duo are exceptionally well-cushioned shoes, but the Paradigm migrated away from the original performance or extreme characteristics that they advertised it for and that it was used for.
Now it’s becoming more of an everyday type of shoe that is appropriate for running long distances but also for walking and standing throughout the day.
So anytime you’d need a lot or want a lot of extra cushion under your foot in a very plush and soft manner, this Paradigm is really fantastic for it.
So let’s just dive right into more details…
What we have here is a comfort cushioned natural road running shoe. It has 30 millimeters of cushion along the footbed. That’s about as much as you’re going to find on the market.
If you’re talking about 30 millimeters of cushion, you’re talking about an exceptionally well-cushioned shoe and certainly, the Paradigm feels that way.
Both from a technical standpoint and from a feels standpoint, the Altra Paradigm is a pillowy cushioned shoe.
This is the portion of the shoe that holds your foot in. One thing that becomes super obvious very quickly is Altra has moved, as have a lot of shoes, to this engineered knit upper.
If you look carefully, you can see that this is basically like someone crocheted the darn thing, but it’s a really nice technical fabric.
What these different types of knitting styles do is provide different amounts of basically compression and structure to the shoe so you can get a very breathable section on where the air shoots in, the toe box.
You can actually see your toes right through there because it’s so wide open with these big holes.
Just above those holes and right before where the lacing system starts, it’s a much tighter knit.
This gives it more structure and makes sure the shoe doesn’t stretch too much or anything like that.
This engineered knit looks great and forms very well. It’s a durable consistent material that really reduces seams that are typically where you get rubbing and blisters.
So when you get a shoe like this, you’re going to be pretty confident that unless your foot is expanding past the shoe itself and rubbing against the sides, you’re going to have a great experience.
You’re not going to be catching on anything inside the shoe and it’s going to be very comfortable.
The Paradigm 4.0 has a nice tongue that is not too puffy. From time to time, we do see some brands putting out very pillowy cushioned tongues in order to make the shoe more comfortable.
There’s nothing like that on the Paradigm. It’s just a nice sturdy and comfortable tongue to hold your foot in and that’s really about it. No tricks, no gimmicks, and certainly no seams.
As you move to the bottom, you’ve really got very nice coverage on the outsole.
That’s a big difference from past Paradigms which Altra has chosen to use high-wearing rubber only in strategic locations in order to reduce the weight.
I think Altra kind of gave up on the weight reduction aspects of this shoe in as much as it wasn’t their primary focus.
Don’t get me wrong, the Paradigm 4.0 is still exceptionally light for the amount of cushion and comfort that you’re getting.
Clearly, Altra designers have looked at the outsole and said we’d rather have more longer-wear and a more consistent feel across the bottom than the light weight.
Altra advertises the Paradigm at 11.2 ounces. Typically, when we look at lightweight shoes, we’re looking at 10 ounces or less and a heavier shoe would be 10 ounces or more.
A reference shoe for most manufacturers when they quote their weight is a reference size 9 and I believe Altra’s reference shoe is a men’s size 10.5.
So, the Altar Paradigm 4.0 weighs 10.3.oz for a men’s size 9 and 9.oz for a women’s size 9.
While the Paradigm4.0 is not a lightweight shoe, you’ll be shocked at how lightweight it feels compared to other highly cushioned shoes.
A couple of other things that you may want to notice about this, Altra is just not afraid to advertise on their shoes these days.
On the Paradigm 4.0, you’ll see the ‘Footshape’ which is a trademarked item, you’ll see ‘Stabilipods’ which is a trademarked item, you’ll see Altra Ego’ which is a trademarked item, you’ll see ‘GuideRail’, and InnerFlex (on the bottom) which is also a trademarked item.
One thing that all that is pointing towards, specifically the GuideRail and the Stabilipod portions, is Altra has clearly slotted this into their stability category.
They’re not going to call it stability, they’re going to call it guidance and that’s because the science has kind of shown us that stability is not necessarily an injury prevention attribute but rather a marketing attribute.
Altra has stopped calling their shoes stability shoes and started saying they have ‘light guidance’ or ‘targeted guidance’.
This allows them, from a marketing standpoint, to get into the stability category and be considered there for market purposes.
From our perspective, there’s two aspects to this. Altra says that “GuideRails is a feature found on our dynamic support shoes that acts like a highway guide rail to provide guidance only when you need it.”
Here’s the story. The sidewall on the rubber extends up past the actual footbed. This is really common for all maximally cushioned shoes.
What they do is they create kind of a canoe-like footbed so your foot rests inside that canoe.
They have to do that when they go up in cushion, otherwise, you’d have a really wonky shoe. So this provides structural support so that you’re not falling off the top of the shoe.
Like Brooks, Altra has also decided to brand that as a GuideRail and say it’s dynamic support.
It really just means that if your foot tends to roll in or even out, the GuideRail technology activates and pushes your foot to come back to normal. But if you have a neutral gait, the GuideRails won’t interfere and you won’t even feel them.
The original Paradigm was a neutral shoe and Altra went into the stability category on the paradigm 2.5 maybe 3, but clearly, it’s there now.
The other stability aspect of this shoe is called a Stabilipod. Again, Altra says “Stabilipods act as a stabilizing tripod by enhancing the three natural stability zones in your foot to help prevent excessive foot collapse or pronation”.
The tripod that Altra is talking about is a small triangle of hard rubber right on both sides.
So Altra took the Paradigm 4.0 and stuck a thumbtack into both sides and one in the heel area hoping that that could change the way you are landing.
I guess it’s hard for me to imagine that with thirty millimeters of rubber, a small piece of hard plastic on the side is going to make a dramatic difference in how you land on the shoe, but from a marketing aspect, it’s awesome.
With all that said, none of these things detract from the excellent performance of this shoe.
None of them are so intrusive that they make your foot land differently. All they do is allow your foot to land the way that you want it to land.
So again, if you set those marketing pieces aside and look at how they’re actually acting, what you’ll find is you have an amazing relatively neutral shoe that allows you to land the way you want to land with a lot of cushion under it.
Fit-wise, the Paradigm 4.0 is about the most dialed-in Paradigm I’ve ever seen.
It still provides that nice wide toe box at the front but kind of closes in around your heel and midfoot to basically hold you in the shoe.
So when you’re walking in this, you’re going to feel very consistent and very comfortable all day long.
This is a really fantastic improvement on the Paradigm which in the past has been very comfortable but has had some movement around the back side of the shoe.
Certainly, Altra has thrown everything they have to get a great shoe for everyday use.
Who it is for
I certainly wouldn’t be running a 5k or do any track work in this shoe. These shoes really shine for recovery days and for longer runs.
If you’d like to find out a little bit about what you would want to do for faster workouts, I would not recommend this shoe for those and that’s where we move in to the Altra Duo.
The Altra Paradigm is certainly one of the most expensive shoes but also it’s about the most comfortable daily shoe in the Altra lineup.
It’s hard to imagine someone really nailing this comfort cushioned shoe in a better way than they’ve done with the Paradigm.
Overall, with all the improvements to this shoe with this engineered mid-upper moving to a different midsole that just feels very cushiony, the shoe’s become about $50 more expensive.
Altra Paradigm 4.0 Review
So that’s it for the Altra Paradigm 4.0 review. If you have any questions or if you own a pair of the Paradigm, please let us know what you think in the comments section below.