Altra vs Hoka

Altra vs Hoka

Written by
Kyler Boudreau
on May 1, 2016

The way you run, the surfaces you run on, and the shoes you run in matter. Today I’m discussing two popular running shoes: the Hoka One One Clifton and the Altra Torin. Hoka and Altra are brands typically not found at the local sports center, and they’re definitely worth your attention.

My Brief Running History

Before getting into the Altra vs Hoka debate, you need to know my history: For years I ran in ASICS — primarily the ASICS Kayano. I’m not a long distance marathon runner — just someone who shoots for running 3 times a week to stay in shape. Running typically took place on sidewalks and pavement, and the Gel Kayano always did me right.

But then it happened: one summer day in Southern California, I parked a good distance from the beach we were visiting, and decided to do a mild run in flip flops. When you’re 40, running in flip flops on pavement is not a good idea, and my left knee was not happy afterwards. Nothing major, but I took a few months off running just to be safe, and then tried again. The left knee still had a very mild ache — something wasn’t right.

Hoka One One Clifton

HOKA One One Clifton™

When my knee irritation wouldn’t let up, I decided to see what else was out there besides the beloved Kayanos. In traversing running forums, the Hoka One One® brand was discovered. Hoka boasted extremely thick soles like I’d never seen before.

After a bit of reading, I took the plunge and tried the Hoka Clifton. It had high reviews from Runners World and the colors looked cool (hey, that’s important). The Cliftons arrived and I gave them a try on the normal running route. The cushioning was noticeably better than the Gel Kayano, and the Cliftons were EXTREMELY light.

(Since I purchased mine, the Clifton 2 has been released, but in reading about the differences, they do not change this review)

The knee irritation was better, but still apparent. However the Hokas kept me running the next 7-8 months. Eventually I decided to look some more, because my knee wasn’t getting better, and running is important to me.

Want the Clifton? {Purchase the Clifton on Amazon}

Altra Torin

Altra Torin™

After hitting the running forums again, a few unfamiliar brands began to surface. One was Altra, a brand of shoe created by a small running shoe store in Utah. After they repeatedly watched runners injure themselves due to poor shoe design, they decided to take matters into their own hands and create a better option.

Altra pushes a Zero Drop™ design (for a more natural foot strike) and wide toe compartment, shaped like the human foot. All of my previous shoes had pointy toe compartments, and sometimes my pinky toe would feel a bit jammed, because my feet are slightly wider than average.

What really convinced me to give Altra shoes a try was their page on proper running form. Here I learned that for years my foot strike has been wrong! I was a heel striker, and it finally became clear that this could be the reason my knee wasn’t getting better.

I decided to go with the Torin 2.0 and immediately changed the way my feet struck the ground while running. The result? My knee was happy again!!! So dang exciting. The other result? I was using muscles in a way they’d never been used before, but let’s wait on that and dive into the Altra vs Hoka comparison next:

1. Cushioning

The Hoka Cliftons win for cushioning. Now, to be fair, I purposefully chose Altras that were mid-tier cushioning. They do have models with a spongier ride, but I opted for the Torin 2.0. The difference in the Cliftons is noticeable. If you’re a heel striker, and intend on staying that way, the Torins are not for you, unless you want to rattle your spine and irritate your knees.

2. Toe Box

Altra is the hands down winner in this area. I’m talking no contest. See the image below and examine the design difference:

Altra vs Hoka

For the first time in my life, my feet are able to relax like they were designed to. Complete comfort! But it’s not just about the space. When you change your foot strike to more of a forward landing vs. heel, the wide platform provided with the Altra Torin smokes the narrow platform on the Hoka Clifton. The Cliftons feel like something is slightly missing on the front outside of the shoe when my feet land. It’s minor, but very apparent when compared to the Torins.

3. Weight

Both of these shoes are ultra light. The Hoka One One weighs in at 7.7 ounces, and the Altra Torin at 9.1 ounces. Hoka is the technical winner here, but it’s not a deciding factor for me when comparing after experiencing both.

4. Heel Fit

The Altra Torin heel area isn’t quite as snug as the Hoka Clifton. This hasn’t proven to be an issue for me while running, but it’s a small difference you might notice. I’m picky about this kind of thing, so if my heel slipped while running I wouldn’t like it.

Atra Zero Drop

5. Zero Drop

Hoka is all about their Meta Rocker which they claim supports a runner’s stride. Altra is all about Zero Drop which they say is better and more natural for foot impact. My take on the two? I think Altra is better. Why? With an adjusted foot strike, the Altra supports my foot better than the Hoka. If I were stubbornly sticking to more of a heel strike, then the Meta Rocker would take the cake.

Adjusting Your Foot Strike

Altra notes that a lifetime of wearing shoes with elevated heels has neutralized our Achilles and lower calf muscles. This is true! When I switched to the Altra Torin, my knee became happy, but my Achilles and calf muscles began screaming at me. This was my fault, because I didn’t slowly transition my foot strike.

6. Arch Support

I have a low arch. The arch in the Cliftons is a little less comfortable than the Torins — for me. The Torins feel perfect, and the Cliftons when compared, are a little off. It isn’t a game changer, but slightly noticeable in the rear of my arch.

Final Conclusion

If there’s anything that drives me insance, it’s review articles that wrap with things like, “so it really depends on what you need… blah, blah, blah.” WHATEVER. Spineless reviews are frustrating. For my Altra vs Hoka review, I’m here to say the Altra lineup is definitely my choice ongoing. The natural toe box (just think about it) and Zero Drop have improved my running substantially. If you refuse to adjust your foot strike and want to heel strike, then you must go for the Hokas.

Want to try Altra? Purchase the Altra Torin 2.0 on Amazon

Crescendo Athletes knee sleeve

Additional Notes

Two other items I use when running are the Crescendo Athletes knee sleeve, and a few essential oils and blends for soothing leg muscles: PanAway™, Copaiba and Aroma Siez™. I’ll apply these oils in layers, or sometimes use them stand alone. An interesting note on PanaWay: it features wintergreen essential oil, which will remind you of Bengay™. Why? Because back in the day, Bengay used wintergreen which helped create their signature smell. Now they use Methyl salicylate, a synthetic version. PanAway features the real thing – you might like it!

Thanks for reading the Oily Gurus blog! I hope this shoe review will help you make the right choice for many happy miles on the road or trail.

Written By

Kyler Boudreau

Kyler is an independent filmmaker. Kyler and his wife, Sandi Weldon Boudreau, are leaders in the health and wellness company, Young Living, reaching the top .1% of all members. They provide step-by-step training, and a simple system for success. Kyler is also the founder of Oily Sites, a website and training service for all Young Living members.

Connect with Kyler

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