Shoe Review: Cinnamon Tries The Altra Duo

This review is in partnership with Running Warehouse, which provided products for testing. Salty Running receives a commission on sales made via our Running Warehouse affiliate link, used throughout this post.

At first glance, I thought the Altra Duo was not the right shoe for me. Altra has long been a champion of the zero heel-toe drop, which I have always been skeptical about. I tend to prefer low-profile, highly responsive shoes, and the Duo’s thick sole is anything but low profile!

Still, Altra bills the Duo as having a “more natural ride,” meaning, presumably, more natural than other high-cushion shoes. Could marrying zero drop with a heavy cushion allow us to reap the benefits of both features? Zero drop without sacrificing comfort, and lots of cushion without sacrificing lightness or “road feel”?

If less is more, can more be more too? I decided to try the Altra Duo and find out.

History

I’m a lightweight neutral shoe gal through and through, and I prefer a shoe that really hugs the arch. I ran in the Mizuno Wave Rider for years, after Mizuno started using a firmer material for their soles. Then I switched to the Brooks Launch as my main running shoe. The Saucony Kinvara and Brooks Pureflow are also in my rotation.

As a midfoot striker with naturally average pronation, I can run in almost any neutral shoe. What it really comes down to is one supremely important criterion: It has to look good with my work clothes. Yes, I also wear my running shoes at work. That means I’ll be standing on these shoes for 11-14 hours a day as a camera operator on the set of a television show shooting in locations all over New York City. Often, I’ll run to work in Shoe A of my current rotation, then switch to Shoe B for work purposes, and the next day run in Shoe B and wear Shoe A for work.

In other words, I wear the HELL out of my shoes. Eventually I can only wear them if I don’t mind my toes poking out. So the Altra Duo’s supercushiony soles have a lot of appeal!

Related: Want tips for getting more mileage out of your running shoes? Check out this post!

Out of the Package

Having worn most of my running shoes into swiss cheese with paper-thin soles, I was really excited to open the Altra box the moment it arrived at my door from Running Warehouse. I didn’t know what to think when I saw those gigantic soles – to me they looked like moon shoes! I immediately shared a picture with some other Salty writers to gauge their response. To my surprise, they all thought the shoes were really cool-looking and someone even described them as looking fast. I was convinced running in them would feel like I had rocks tied to my feet.

Once I got them on, any concerns I had about the fat soles melted away. They aren’t nearly as responsive as I’m used to, but the Duos are lighter than any of my go-to models. Weighing in at just 7.1 ounces, these babies might look like a minivan but they feel like a sport coupe!

Even though Altra advertises a wider toebox, and I prefer a “huggy” shoe, I never felt like I had too much room. My toes had lots of room to wiggle, but I was able to adjust the laces to make the fit through my arches as snug or as loose as I liked. And oh boy, do they feel bouncy! While you don’t have to sacrifice added weight for cushioning, you’ll never forget which shoes you’re wearing in the Duo because they feel like you’re running on the moon.

I gotta say, even though I had my doubts about the Duo, I instantly felt a lot of appreciation for this shoe when I put it on! The best words I have to describe how they feel while running are “comfy” and “fun.” And it sure helps that Running Warehouse sent me the dark purple model – they look fantastic with my stage blacks!

Overall Experience

I wore these shoes for short mid-pace runs (3-5 miles), a few long runs (8-12 miles), and as an experiment I ran a half marathon in them. Yes, if you’re curious, I also spent a few 14 hour work days in them. I did not wear them for any speed work or on the track. I just did not feel like they were appropriate for speed work. They’re awesome on pavement and on long runs.

The cushiony feeling is unavoidably awesome 90% of the time! This is especially true because they aren’t heavy. I don’t love them for trails, but that could be different for someone else who is less concerned with feeling her running surface. The fact that the Duos’ squishy feeling held up over long hours on my feet at work is nothing short of phenomenal – any shoe gets uncomfortable after hour 10, but these really hold up better than anything I’ve had before. The clouds Altra is mining to make these soles are made of sturdy stuff.

But is the Altra Duo a racing shoe? I put in a very solid effort at the half marathon I ran in them, and I didn’t once feel clunky or weighed down. I don’t think I will race in them again, but any runner who demands a lot of cushioning in her shoes will likely be very impressed by the Duo’s fast feel and have a great experience racing in them at any distance, especially if you struggle with less-cushioned lightweight shoes.

Why do they feel so fast? I had a hard time pinning it down, but my guess is the zero drop.

I did notice that my arches seem to work harder in these shoes. They remind me in a way of an old pair of MBTs (real moon shoes!) I wore years ago — my feet are just begging for a lacrosse ball massage any time I wear them. I’m not sure if it’s the zero drop or if it’s my foot fighting to bend with all that cushion beneath it.

My Take

I love my Duos! I want another pair! But to be honest, I don’t think they’re the right running shoe for me. I will wear them all day long at my job and love them to pieces, but when I’m running I want to feel at least a little bit of road under my feet. I think if I try Altra’s lower-profile shoe the Solstice (reviewed here by Catnip), I’ll find something a little more to my taste.

Still, I think these are incredible running shoes! If you want or need plenty of cushion underfoot you will love them. If you’re used to thick-soled shoes and are looking for a faster, lighter racing shoe you will love them. If you just want to treat your feet to a nice day in the clouds you will really really really love them!

5 out of 5 snails for the Altra Duo!

Cinnamon made Salty Running, takes lots of pictures and drinks lots of coffee. She has 8 more minutes to knock off her marathon for a 3:40 BQ, and will get there or die trying. Her writing is an eclectic mix of finding wholeness as an average runner, news reporting, curious reactions, satirical humor and more.

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