Updated: Feb 23, 2020
Let's start with a bias that I have. I love Altra's. They are one of my favorite running shoe companies out there. I've been running in Altra's (along with other shoes) since they came out with the Instinct 1.5 and one of my daily runners right now is the Torin 3.5. I'm a big fan of the Zero Drop feature, and my gnarly toes enjoy the spacious toe box. With that being said, I'm also aware of several issues with Altra's, which we'll get into below.
Clearing up some confusion
First I want to clear up any confusion here. There are two different versions of the Altra Torin 3.5 - There is a Knit version and a Mesh version (see images below).
As you can see from the pictures, the Knit version (black shoes) uses a very finely woven knit upper while the Mesh version (white shoes) uses a lighter, airier mesh upper. Everything else is essentially the same, just the upper is slightly different. We'll talk more about this below.
Let's talk Uppers
As discussed, there are two different versions of the Altra Torin 3.5 - The Mesh version and the Knit version.
The knit uppers are made up a very thin, tightly woven material. Altra describes this as a "sock-like upper" and I totally agree. It is thin, stretchy, soft, and forgiving. As soon as you pop your foot inside it molds to your foot to give you a custom feel.
The semi-integrated tongue is, again, that super thin knit material with no extra padding or protection (more on that later).
The heel cup is padded and more rigid than the rest of the shoe to ensure your heel is locked in as well as provide a bit more support around the Achilles.
There is a also a rigid toe cap that provides protection from destroying your toes on curbs or sidewalk cracks!
The mesh upper is very different from the Knit and I would describe this as a more traditional upper.
The forefoot is kind of a double layer mesh forefoot that is super airy. This is definitely a thicker, yet lighter material (8.4 oz shoe as opposed to the Knit 9.1 oz). It is noticeable how much ventilation you get through the mesh.
It has a "synthetic nubuck"(via Altra) heel cup that is more padded and less rigid than the Knit.
The tongue is thick and fairly well padded and semi-integrated into the shoe with a light mesh that starts about 3 lacing holes up from the toe.
Another major difference I noticed in the two shoes is the lacing system. The Knit boasts of an "A-Strap" support system, which is comprised of "A" shaped straps that the laces tie into. The problem with this is that the laces have to go through the upper before they get the to strap, so instead of pulling into your foot, they are pulled up through the upper material.
The Mesh actually does a better job of utilizing these straps since they stand alone, separate from the mesh upper, which you can see below. This draws the straps into your foot for a snug fit.
The Torin 3.5 uses the Altra A-Bound midsole which is well cushioned, but not a super plush "maximalist" midsole. A-Bound is in the middle of the road when it comes to combining a comfortable ride while not killing your energy return. As far as other Altra shoes are concerned, the A-Bound sits between the plush EGO midsoles, and the lighter weight Quantic or Max LT.
The outsoles of the Torin 3.5 use a proprietary FootPod technology that is supposed to allow your foot to flex and move in a more ergonomic way. The outsole is divided into sections (or pods) that allow your foot to stretch and spread as the shoe hits the ground. The outsole rubber is strategically used to cover the areas of the shoe that see the most wear, while the other areas utilize the outsole foam.
The Altra Torin 3.5 Mesh and Knit are my go-to shoes right now. I have been alternating between these two shoes for the past 6 months or so and racked up over 400 miles on the Knits and over 200 on the Mesh. I have to say that overall, I really like these shoes for a number of reasons:
The cushion. As described in the midsole section above, the Torin 3.5 is perfectly cushioned for me. It provides enough of buffer that I feel like I can run all day in them, but I don't feel like I'm working extra to keep my feet moving.
The upper (especially the Knit). While I have no qualms with the upper on either the Knit or the Mesh, the Knit particularly appeals to me. The thin material provides a comfort that I had never felt before in a running shoe. An added bonus is that the mesh is actually fairly warm in colder conditions. I thought the thin tongue might cause lace bite or other irritation with the laces, but I haven't had any issues.
The durability. As stated above, parts of the outsole have no rubber on them, just the bare foam. I thought I was going to blow through these shoes because that has happened in the past with shoes that rely on the foam. That has not been the case with these Altra's. I have over 400 miles on the Knits and they don't show any signs of stopping any time soon.
While I am obviously a big fan of the Altra 3.5, there are still a few things that can be improved upon:
Sizing and general fit. As for sizing, I do not think Altra's fit true to size. I generally wear a 10.5-11 in running, workout, or even casual shoes, but I wear an 11.5-12 in Altra; not a big deal, just something to get used to. As for fit, I have a weird gripe that may very well just be my own issue. Ever since I started running in these shoes I have had issue with my second toe (the one next to my big toe) rubbing the top (not the front) of the shoe, which causes a dead toenail. Now I do have Morton's Toe but I have never had this issue with any other shoe. It doesn't cause pain or discomfort, but it's weird having a black toenail all the time!
Big and bulky. I might just not be used to more cushioned shoes, but sometimes I feel like I'm wearing space boots when I'm running in the Torin 3.5. You would definitely not describe them as streamlined.
Slow. To piggy-back on the big and bulky point, these shoes are a bit slow. Yes, I know they are designed to fall in between cushioned and fast, but they certainly feel like they lean more toward the former than the latter. I'm ok with that since I'm a big guy and I need a bit more cushion, but I wouldn't rely on these for your speed work or track days.
Overall I've been super stoked with the Altra Torin 3.5. I found them to be awesome on long runs and they quickly turned into my everyday pair of kicks. I have happily sacrificed a little bit of speed for the cushion that saves my hips, knees and ankles down the line.
If you're looking to pick up a pair, check them out on Amazon:
(Amazon Affiliate links are used in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. These links do not change the price you pay.)
So, what are your thoughts? Have you ever run in the Altra Torin's? Do you own a pair? What do you like or dislike about them?
Leave a comment below and let me know what you think about the article.
Have suggestions for other shoes to review? Let me know!
As always, thanks for reading!!
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