Recently, Altra has been moving away from the original roots of soft, wide, flat footwear, into the realm of mainstream designs with a twist. One of these concoctions comes in the form of the Altra Timp 4.
This shift may be a bad move for old-school Altra lovers, but for the wider market, the change is an exciting opportunity to try something new! The Altra Timp 4 is not too far from a Hoka, but doesn’t squishing the toes. It also has shared commonalities with Brooks but is still zero-drop.
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So whether you’re transitioning from a traditional shoe brand or you’re an Altra lover looking for a different trail ride, keep on reading to find out if the Timp 4 is the shoe for your foot!
Throughout this review, you’ll see quotes from my wife. She’s logged over 250 miles in her Timps! Talk about trail tested.
Psstttt, you already likely know this, but the Timp is not a barefoot shoe. However, it does have some shared barefoot DNA. Why has the Timp (and a few other Altras) made it onto a barefoot site? Because we don’t have to be 100% barefoot. Performance shoes have their place. And we’re about to see where the Timp sits in the barefoot sphere.
If it don’t fit, don’t wear it!
After trying to convince 1000’s of customers to ignore looks and branding and go with the shoe that fits, I’m here again to stress the same message.
The lack of volume is fantastic for some but not for others. If you’re used to Lone Peaks, or other older models from Altra, the Timp will feel a little snug. Not necessarily in the width department, but actually in the volume. This is great for some, such as my wife, because it opens up the Altra brand to her. The lack of volume in the toes, and more importantly, in the bridge, helps maintain a solid lockdown and ensures low-volume feet don’t drown in the shoe.
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Built with the trails in mind, the upper is semi-rigid for protection + comfort. The material used for the upper is a loose weave fabric which seems to have a nice balance of flexibility and security. That’s good because it allows the shoe to morph to your foot shape but still be protected from scrapes and bumps.
After a few good abrasions and scrapes during rocky and rooty runs (and on solid falls), the upper has withstood some hard hitting occurrences on the trail. You can see where it’s frayed –in some cases, quite badly, but I have yet to penetrate the woven fabric on the uppers.
Again, another shoe with a poor tongue design! I appreciate that shoe manufacturers have to try to innovate, but this time Altra has failed! Sharp edges on a tongue? What were they thinking?
Any run longer than 4 miles resulted in sores and blisters where the tongue would dig into my ankle. Even after 220+ miles, they never “broke in” and on long runs (including my 50km race), I had to duct tape my ankle to mitigate abrasions which did worked –but is obviously not ideal from what I want out of my go-to race shoe.
The ankle redesign seems to work for many different foot types. The ankle and heel have been completely redesigned with a sleek, smooth wetsuit-like material. And this time, it’s a design that works! The back seems to raise high but backs away from the achilles to ensure no rubbing. And the semi-soft heel counter allows for a hugging fit around the heel, meaning there’s no slippage in sight!
To me, it doesn’t feel like an Altra. That’s good and bad.
The slight rocker design, which can be felt from the ball of the foot forward, helps push you to the next step. Usually, you’ll see rockers from brands such as Hoka, and this is the first time I’ve felt it in an Altra shoe. It’s not as aggressive as other brands, but it’ll be a welcome feeling if you’re looking to switch to Altra.
The Ego Max midsole is moderately firm and springy, promoting good forward motion. Can you see the theme here? This shoe wants you to keep moving. That’s great when trying to log the miles, but if you’re working on foot strength, you ought to look for a more flexible, minimal shoe. For some, this midsole will not be soft enough, and for those people, I’d suggest looking at the Lone Peak instead.
Grips in one specific situation only. Do you run on dry, dusty trails? Then the Timp will be fine. But that’s it. In every other case, the grip on the Timp performs relatively poorly. If you look at the underside of the shoe, you’ll notice it’s almost a road shoe. With shallow lugs and minimal rubber, it’s not like the soles we’re used to from the Lone Peak and Superior.
After logging about 50 miles on my Timps, the lugs were the first things to fail. Wet logs and rocks have been treacherous in these shoes, especially if you land on the balls of your feet where the lugs wore out first for me. But as long long as your trail is dry, they run great.
Do you suffer from running form breakdown? The Timp could help. By no means is the Timp a stability shoe; if you are looking for that, check out the Olympus. But its wider base and rigid heel midsole will take some beating before it breaks down. The shoe will likely poke you in the right direction if you get sloppy during your run. (hint hint, try improving your form with some light barefoot training)
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Here’s the tricky part. The Timp 4 has some real durability issues in more than one area.
That loose weave upper material starts to wear from the first run. In the end, it’s not the worst issue, as we’ll see later, but the fact that the upper starts to fray early on in the shoes life doesn’t instill confidence. The flexibility, which may be a pro for fit, is a con in this case.
Remember that road shoe-like outsole. Well, it wears quicker than a road shoe too! Logically, I would have thought the larger surface area of the outsole should allow the rubber to stand up to a lot more beating, but that just hasn’t been true. After 150-200 miles of usage, the wear pattern was so severe that it couldn’t be called a trail shoe anymore.
If there’s one saving grace, it’s the Ego Max midsole. The one area of the shoe that has lasted is the midsole. Likely because it’s been tried and tested in the Olympus. There are little signs of it packing out, and it is part of the shoe that will go the distance…. If only the rest of it would, too.
Those fancy drainage holes on the side cause a weak point under the ball of the foot. My wife suddenly started getting hotspots underfoot after 250 miles in the shoe. After inspecting the shoe, we found that the areas where the drainage tubes reside in the midsole had collapsed, creating a divot underfoot!
So why does my wife still choose the Timp?
I wanted a shoe that 1) gave my toes room to wiggle, 2) encouraged that forward motion and momentum to get me through a long, tiring race 3) was a little more cushiony, and 4) cinched my shallow, narrow feet enough that I didn’t feel like it was drowning. If my biomechanics were a little better (working on it) I’d much rather run in my Superior 5’s. But until then, I will reach for my Timps for those long mileage runs.
As you can see, it’s hard for me to suggest the Altra Timp shoe because of its durability.
The position of the shoe in the Altra lineup is excellent! But the execution just isn’t there.
So if you’re coming from a traditional shoe or a Hoka, and you want to ease yourself into the Altra brand, I think the Timp is a fantastic transition shoe! But if you’re looking for a shoe to go more than 200 miles, give it a miss.
Instead, I’d suggest looking at the Altra Olympus for now. It may be a higher stack height and a little heavier, but I’m confident that the quality is much higher as they’ve been refining the model for years.
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