Altra vs Brooks; Which Brand is Right for You?

Altra and Brooks are some of the most popular running shoe brands on the market today. Although they are both known for providing excellent footwear for the market of runners out there, the general design principles are very much different, to say the least.

While Brooks is a more mainstream brand that provides a fairly wide range of shoe options, Altra is most well known to work in the niche of Zero heel-to-toe drop running shoes.

In essence, both brands can be considered as quite different due to this discrepancy in heel-to-toe drop.

We conducted some extensive and detailed research for Altra vs Brooks running shoes.

In case you are wondering which shoe brand you will want to settle for, here are some quality features you should refer to while selecting.


Altra vs Brooks Running Shoes - The Biggest Differences:

When comparing pretty much any brand against each other, there are some obvious differences in midsole foam quality, upper mesh, and shoe width (especially the shoe width in this case).

With this in mind, it is super easy to identify the two primary differences in the general construction between these two shoe brands.

Heel-to-Toe Drop (slope)

So Altra has pretty much made its name for providing shoes with Zero heel-to-toe drop (or slope) for all of its shoes.

Put simply this just means there is no change in distance to the ground from the heel area all the way to the forefoot.

The Northern Runner provides a great visual of this sensation.

ALTRA Women's

So although this may seem pretty intuitive and normal, it is fairly uncommon to see this design in most popular shoe brands. Even a heel-to-toe offset of 4mm can provide just a little extra support to your calves and Achilles.

Nevertheless, Altra is well known for being one of the only shoe companies that exclusively manufacture zero-drop athletic shoes.

Brooks, on the other hand, is well known for making more “standard” offsets for running shoes usually ranging from 8-12mm drops.

Most people will probably tell you that they like Brooks because of the cushion, comfort, and support they provide. Build quality and reliability are the names of Brook’s game.

Width

This is the second big niche that Altra has entered the market with. It makes shoes that are more “naturally” wide to match the anatomy of the foot.

The main idea here is to allow your foot to naturally splay out during your landing phase, which can provide some more stability and power to your landing and toe-off respectively.

Brooks is actually known for having a fairly wide toe box for its more standard shoes, but of course, it is not wide in comparison to an Altra shoe, as the last is just completely different.

Side note: A last is a mechanical form shaped like a human foot. It is used by shoemakers and cordwainers in the manufacture and repair of shoes.


Altra vs Brooks Running Shoes - The Other Aspects to Consider

Durability

ALTRA Women's AL0A4VR2 Torin 4.5 Plush Road Running Shoe, Dark Gray - 5.5 M US

When deciding upon a shoe brand, the durability reputation definitely matters when you want something that is providing reliability and value for the dollars you are spending. Thankfully, both brands have a pretty good reputation when it comes to durability.

However, although Altra does make some highly durable models, others have shown to be less impressive when it comes to a shoe’s lifespan and overall build quality. This is neither good, nor bad, but it is something to think about when looking at your purchase.

Some of the well known high quality models from Altra are the Paradigm, Lone Peak, and Torin.

ALTRA Women's AL0A4VR2 Torin 4.5 Plush Road Running Shoe, Misty Rose - 6 M US

There are no two ways about it, Brooks is well known for its durability and might just offer some of the best value on the market.

Most credit for this can go to the plentiful outsole rubber placed on the bottom of the shoe and the long-lasting DNA Loft foam protecting your feet.

Bottom line is that both brands can offer some reliable durability, but for Altra, you will want to choose more carefully to find the right model. Brooks can nearly guarantee a long-lasting pair of shoes for any model.

Altra TORIN 4.5 PLUSH

Like Walking on Clouds!

The Balanced Cushioning™ platform positions your heel and forefoot at an equal distance from the ground, encouraging better alignment, better form, and a low impact landing.

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Comfort

Comfort is probably the most important feature that people look for in a daily trainer. If you are going to spend a lot of time in these shoes then they should feel comfortable on and around your feet!

Put simply, Brooks nails it when it comes to comfort. Between a secure and comfortable upper and a soft yet bouncy midsole you should pretty much be good to go the distance in a solid pair of Brooks trainers.

One of the most popular shoes from the Brooks lineup is the Ghost, which is known for being a great value for all of the comfort, durability, and traction you’re getting for your hard-earned money.

Brooks Ghost 13 Alloy/Oyster/White 8 B (M)
  • THIS SHOE IS FOR: The Ghost 13 is for runners looking for a reliable shoe that's soft and smooth. The Ghost 13 offers improved transitions for zero distractions so you can focus more on what matters most: your run.
  • SUPPORT AND CUSHION: The neutral support type provides high energizing cushioning. Ideal for road running, cross training, the gym or wherever you might want to take them! Predecessor: Ghost 12

Altra’s Quantic midsole foam does offer some very good comfort as well, and the toe box is especially comfortable if you have a wider foot and need more space for your toes. It will give you plenty of breathing room and give your feet some extra room to splay out as naturally as possible.

As far as a comparison goes, each brand offers better comfort for different reasons, although I think most will prefer the fit and feel of a Brooks shoe over an Altra, as it can be a bit of an acquired taste.


Cushion

We have touched on this a couple of times already, but good cushion can really be the backbone of a running shoe and bring up the comfort, durability, and performance of a shoe, so let's take a look at the technology of each company and apply it practically.

Brooks offers a comfortable combination of plush and responsive cushioning. The DNA and DNA Loft midsoles provide a soft landing and a smooth toe-off without getting in your way.

Brooks Ghost 13 Grey/Navy/Parasailing 5 B (M)

The extra stack height offered by Brooks does give you a bit of extra forgiveness if your biomechanics aren’t perfect, but it won’t get in your way.

Furthermore, the BioGoMo DNA foam can further enhance comfort by providing a more specific molding to your individual foot...talk about a shoe with a good “break-in” value, am I right?

Anyway, the bottom line is that you’ll find very few people who will run in a pair of Brooks trainers and just totally hate the experience, and that's because it’s versatile and reliable.

Brooks Ghost 13 Grey/Navy/Parasailing 5 B (M)

Altra offers a comfortable combination of cushion, but it also tends to feel stiff underfoot on even its most “plush” trainers.

This might feel like a generalization because everyone will feel a different sensation underfoot, but the general consensus is that there is plenty of foam, but it leans on a stiff and snappy side.

ALTRA Women's AL0A4VR2 Torin 4.5 Plush Road Running Shoe, Mineral Blue - 8 M US
  • Weight: 7.4 oz / 210 g
  • Insole: 5mm Premium PU Sculpted Footbed
  • Midsole: Quantic

The Altra Torin is a beloved shoe within its community and has plenty of fans because of its solid blend of responsive cushion.

Furthermore, if implemented correctly in training, plenty of runners could stand to benefit from running in a zero drop shoe on some easy days to let your Achilles and calves get stronger.

This MUST be done with caution, as it could also lead to injury if a runner is not used to wearing a shoe with no heel-to-toe drop.

Altra TORIN 4.5 PLUSH

Like Walking on Clouds!

The Balanced Cushioning™ platform positions your heel and forefoot at an equal distance from the ground, encouraging better alignment, better form, and a low impact landing.

Check Price Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Conclusion

So it does not take a genius to recognize that Altra and Brooks play in different niches within the running shoe market.

Brooks makes more traditional and supportive shoes for those seeking a soft and reliable trainer that just gets the job done.

Altra really plays to the natural running community by providing wide shoes and zero heel-to-toe drops. It allows runners who want to experience a more cushioned “barefoot” running feel an opportunity to do that, which is awesome!

ALTRA Women's AL0A4VR2 Torin 4.5 Plush Road Running Shoe, Misty Rose - 6 M US

I think it is not a matter of determining a better overall brand, but if you are a runner who likes the idea of getting closer to a very natural running gait then Altras might be worth a try.

Just make sure that you walk around and do easy jogging in these shoes first before hopping into any crazy mileage or intensity because that is a recipe for injury.

ALTRA Women's AL0A4VR2 Torin 4.5 Plush Road Running Shoe, Dark Gray - 5.5 M US

Brooks will be great for those looking for a supportive and cushioned ride, as well as a more traditional construction (with some solid modern takes as well).

If you have a history of calf and Achilles problems, it might be best to start with a pair of Brooks so you can have extra protection as you strengthen those areas through other means.

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Last update on 2021-05-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API