Since the mid 1990's, runners have come to my family's running store in the Wasatch Mountains complaining of knee pain, shin splints, and recurring foot pain. As a competitive runner who ran a world best 2:45 marathon at age 12, I understood their issues. My college research on running injuries, combined with video analysis at our store, made it easy to see that the design of traditional running shoes promoted poor form and excessive impact.
For decades, virtually every running shoe has featured pointy toe boxes and heels that were twice as thick and heavy as the forefoot. While shoe companies claimed this design would protect your body from running injuries, the scientific research did not agree.
After unsuccessfully lobbying shoe companies for years to change their design, I decided to modify shoes into something that could encourage low impact running technique and prevent injury.
Using the research as my guide, I went to work with my trusty toaster oven to try and solve my customers’ injury problems. I melted outsoles off of traditional running shoes and removed the excess heel elevation. It was ugly, but it worked! I coined the term "Zero Drop™" to describe how the level cushioning no longer dropped from the heel down to the forefoot. We enlisted our local shoe cobbler to modify our customers’ current running shoes to Zero Drop™. This worked so well at reducing injuries that we had nearly 1,000 customers buy and modify their shoes that first year! Luckily, some of the best and most innovative minds in the running shoe industry contacted us. With their expertise and two years of development, we created the world's first cushioned, Zero Drop™ shoes. We built them to be optimal for long distances and to avoid the foot problems that are now common with minimalist shoes.
Zero Drop™ was just one of the steps we took to return runners' feet to their natural position. The research made it clear that our shoe needed a toe box that actually mirrored the shape of a healthy foot—imagine that! We built the distinctive FootShape™ toe box specifically to help alleviate foot problems, including bunions, neuromas, and plantar fasciitis. It also enhances stability and comfort while providing a more powerful push-off.
I want to thank the thousands of runners who have embraced our concept and have made Altra one of the Top 10 running shoe brands in only a couple of years. Our entire team races distances from 5k to 100 miles. We also personally test our shoes to ensure comfort—whether running for 30 minutes or 30 hours.
Running is a big part of our lives, and I truly believe that our shoes can help people run better and realize that there are zero limits to what they can accomplish.