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AltraFWD Experience Review: A Step FWD
By David Salas, Andrea Myers, and Matthew Klein

For as long as anyone can remember Altra has always been the zero drop company with a wide toe box. With the Altra FWD Experience, they shake things up. The FWD Experience is the first Altra shoe to incorporate a drop ratio north of 0mm at 4mm to include a larger variety of runners that can comfortably run in their product. The shoe is a lightweight trainer aiming to compete with shoes in the likes of the HOKA Clifton, On Cloudgo, and ASICS Novablast.

AltraFWD Experience
Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 8.5 oz, 240g (men's size 8.5), 7.1 oz, 201g  (women's size 7)
Stack Height: 32mm heel/ 28 mm forefoot Men's, 28mm/24mm Women's
Drop: 4mm
Classification: Daily Training Shoe / Performance Trainer


Matt: The Altra FWD Experience is a low, but not zero drop daily training shoe for those wanting to experience an Altra toe box. The lighter weight and extremely rockered heel make for a shoe that picks up the pace surprisingly well, especially paired with the firmer CMEVA midsole. A snug version of the classic Altra fit sits up top, providing an anatomic toe box but with a more performance edge to it. A different shoe from Altra in many ways besides having a 4mm drop, the Altra FWD Experience is a unique performance trainer for those who want a highly rockered/firmer ride and a snugly anatomic toe box. 

David: The Altra FWD Experience is a neutral daily running shoe that expands the horizons of Altra. The shoe is a relatively lightweight shoe with a very quick moving rocker profile in the heel. The sensation keeps you feeling forward and transitioning into the next step. The CMEVA midsole is on the firmer end, though has enough cushion for any miles you want to throw at it. 

Andrea: The Altra FWD Experience is a different shoe than we normally expect for Altra, not only due to its 4mm drop, but also due to its snugger toe box and highly cushioned heel collar. Due to its firm CMEVA midsole and aggressive rocker geometry, it works best for faster paces and does feel harsh at easy paces. This could be a good performance trainer option for some or a daily trainer for those who like a firmer midsole.

: Topo Specter


Matt: The Altra FWD Experience fits me true to size in my normal Men's US size 10. Initially I thought the shoe fit slightly short, but had no issues during the run. The fit is supposedly Altra's standard fit but ran far more snug than other Altra options on the market. The forefoot does have an anatomic shape but fits somewhat closely to the foot. The upper is slightly thinner at the toe box but thickens as it works back. The volume is fairly average to slightly low The midfoot features a moderately thick, non-gusseted tongue. The laces are thinner and I only had to snug them down slightly to get a secure fit. The heel is highly padded on the medially and lateral sides and slightly snug thanks to the amount of heel collar padding. There does not appear to be a heel counter, so those with sensitivities should do well here. However, the amount of padding did put some additional pressure on my heel bones that went away as soon as the run started. The security is great and I did not have to lace lock the shoe. Even when picking up the pace my foot stayed on the platform, I personally would use socks with this upper thanks to the additional padding in the rearfoot and the inner liner being a little rough. Overall the upper edges on being an "anatomic performance" fit with a solid hold on the foot.

The Altra FWD Experience fits true to size in my Men's 9.5. The shoe fits in their "standard fit" model lineup. The overall fit is probably on the more snug end of standard fit, though I still agree with it. The shoe has a normal width through the heel and midfoot with a wide toe box that is consistent with Altra. The volume however is definitely on the lower end for a training shoe and the fit comes off with a performance-esque lock down. The tongue is moderately padded and you can certainly tighten the laces down without issue. You almost need to with the heel collar construction. The heel collar is interesting because it is somewhat wide, but heavily padded medially and laterally, which decreases the width a tad. The padding makes it work but it almost feels a little too roomy without a good lockdown. The length is dialed in pretty well. The fit throughout is honestly pretty good, though the heel could be streamlined for me a tad. I don't mind the lower volume at all, though those that are sensitive to that might find it a tad tight. 

Andrea: The Altra FWD Experience fits true to size in my usual women's 9.5. I did find the toe box narrower and lower volume than I would expect for an Altra "Standard Footshape Fit" shoe. The Escalante 3 is also standard fit, and it has significantly more width and volume as compared to the FWD Experience. I did experience some pressure on my 5th MTPs due to the narrowness of the upper, which is something I have not experienced in the Escalante 3 or the Torin 7. The strangest feature of the fit for me was the extremely padded heel collar, which felt like it pushed my foot forward in the shoe, making the toe box fit even worse for me. The padding itself was quite comfortable on my heel and I did not experience any friction or blisters. I think I would have enjoyed this shoe more if the heel collar was not so prominent, which would have allowed my foot to sit more naturally in the shoe and not slide forward. The tongue is well padded, which also created some pressure on the dorsum of my foot due to the lower volume upper. It was easy to lock my foot down in the shoe, but I was unable to get the laces such that I did not experience pressure on the dorsum of my foot from the tongue and upper. Overall, the upper felt thick and overly plush for a shoe that feels more geared towards faster running. 


Matt: The Altra FWD Experience is a highly rockered, lighter, 4mm drop Altra shoe. The heel features the largest bevel I have experienced which provides a forward-moving ride upon initial contact. This makes for a fast heel transition and potentially one of the best I have experienced. This transitions quickly through the midfoot into a moderately rockered forefoot. The forefoot transition is decent thanks to the momentum from the forefoot and creates a highly rockered ride overall. The drop does feel like 4mm and not zero drop. The highly rockered heel also takes the edge off the lower drop as I have not had any Achilles or calf soreness in this shoe (compared to what I feel normally with zero drop shoes). The CMEVA midsole is cushioned but firmer underfoot. It improves as the shoe breaks in (softens slightly) but adds to the FWD's ability to pick up the pace. Despite not being a racing shoe, I have done a large number of workouts in this shoe out of the blue. The 8.5 oz weight (men's size 9) is already on the lighter end but the ride feels even lighter than that. Fartleks, tempo runs, uphill tempo runs have occurred frequently while wearing this, both planned and unplanned.. I am able to easier efforts in this shoe but it tends to work better at uptempo paces unless you want a lighter, firmer ride.

Traction-wise, the FWD works well on road and mild trail. I would keep it to firmer surfaces due to below-average durability. I have enjoyed running in my pair and have 50 miles on them currently. However, I have chewed through the posterior lateral heel and midfoot. The outsole rubber is gone and I am chewing into the midsole. While this has not effected the ride too much, I am concerned I will not get a normal amount of miles out of these. I will still try to get a 100-mile review out of them, but time will tell if I can get that far (please remember I am extremely hard on shoes). 

David: I really enjoyed my experience in the Altra FWD Experience. The shoe has a unique rocker profile in that it literally pitches you forward very quickly. The shoe has a large heel bevel that seems to end its arc right on the midfoot. The toe spring is more on the moderate side but feels larger due to the really fast heel transition. The CMEVA midsole is quite firm but feels nice once broken in. The shoe really shines at daily mileage paces and slightly faster. The profile and firmness of the shoe feels pretty nice uptempo as well. I will say this would not be my go to shoe on really tired legs. One of my runs was an easy following a long run workout that was 23 miles. My beat up legs really struggled with the quick pitch forward from the shoe. Otherwise for most daily efforts I really enjoy the shoe. The platform is normal to slightly wide and the transitions feel like a constantly forward motion with a focus on the midfoot/forefoot for primary contact points. This is meant to compete with the HOKA Clifton and other daily trainers. I think it does. It is a little more niche with the fast and firm feel, but there is plenty of protection and this is a shoe that I could see myself logging a good chunk of daily miles in. 

Andrea: The Altra FWD Experience has an aggressive rocker geometry and a firm ride. I tested it on several easy runs and mile pace strides. At easy paces, the shoe felt overly harsh and the fit issues felt accentuated by the mismatch between my slower pace and the forefoot rocker. The platform is stiff the entire length of the shoe, which further contributes to its harsh ride. The shoe felt most comfortable at faster paces because I actually felt like I could engage the forefoot rocker and increase my turnover. I think this shoe would be great as a workout shoe, particularly 5k pace and faster, but the poor fit and resulting foot discomfort kept me from testing it in a more extensive workout. At 7.1oz for a women's 7, this is not a super light shoe, but it does feel lighter on foot than its stated weight. The large heel bevel and aggressive forefoot rocker make this shoe perfect for those who land further forward, and the shoe feels like its stated 4mm drop. There is fairly extensive rubber coverage on the outsole, and mine show minimal wear after 30 miles. I also experienced decent traction on wet roads.


Matt: The Altra FWD experience is a neutral shoe with several stable elements. The rearfoot features large sidewalls that long with the heel bevel guide the heel in extremely well. Once at a normal pace, this combination rolls you quickly forward through the rest of the shoe. In classic Altra fashion, the base is wider and there is a decent amount of sole flare particularly at the forefoot. The forefoot features small sidewalls, which adds to its centered nature. The CMEVA midsole is also firmer, which further makes for a decently stable ride. While the midfoot is wider than other shoes, its neutral contrast to the heel and midfoot make this shoe almost a stable neutral shoe overall. However, it will work best for those with heel and forefoot guidance needs. 

David: The Altra FWD Experience is not a formal stability shoe, though it does some things pretty well. The platform is normal to slightly wide and feels good underfoot. The CMEVA midsole does not have much give to it and feels very structured underneath you. The shoe does have some solid sidewalls in the heel both medially and laterally, giving you some guidance forward. The geometry also keeps you in a pitched forward position where you feel ready and anticipatory of the next step. There is some slight sole flare that also feels pretty good. The upper is security is good and trustworthy, though I do wish the heel was streamlined a little better. 

The Altra FWD Experience is a neutral shoe with some mild guidance elements. The aggressive heel bevel and forefoot rocker promote quicker turnover, although the firm midsole results in the shoe feeling most responsive at faster paces. The wider base and medial and lateral sole flare may contribute to more stable feeling landings and transitions, regardless of where a person lands. The lack of compliance in the midsole also promotes forward motion.

Thoughts as a DPT: When the Upper is a Downer
By Andrea Myers

The design and fit of the upper of the Altra FWD Experience greatly limited my enjoyment of the shoe. I think with an better fitting upper, I would enjoy the firm, rockered midsole of the shoe for faster paced workouts. While many studies have been done on the effects of midsole construction and geometry, there are very few studies that specifically examine the effect of the upper construction on running performance. One reason for this is the fact that upper fit is highly individualized and dependent on the subjective measure of comfort. The fit of a shoe upper directly relates to Benno Nigg's concept of the comfort filter, which holds that "when selecting a running shoe, an athlete selects a comfortable product using his/her own comfort filter." The reason I did not like running in the FWD Experience was that it did not align with my comfort filter. 

There are a few studies that looked at objective measures related to different upper constructions. Onodera and colleagues have published two articles that look at the role of upper construction on plantar pressure distribution, joint angles, ground reaction forces, and contact time. In a 2015 study that compared runners wearing a shoes with an identical midsole construction, but either a minimalist upper or a more structured upper, the authors found that runners wearing a shoe with a minimalist upper experienced higher peak plantar pressures in the rearfoot and forefoot, but not the midfoot. They stated that shoes with a more structured upper more evenly distribute pressure and reduce plantar foot loading. 

An article by Cordero-Sanchez et al in 2022 compared a more minimalist upper (one piece knit without any reinforcements) to a more structured upper (double layered mesh with reinforcements in the anterior and lateral aspects of the shoe). They specifically looked at differences in muscle mechanical power flows in the hip, knee, and ankle between the two upper types. They found that the minimalist knit upper resulted in greater generation of mechanical power at all three joints, with the largest difference at the ankle joint. They state that this could mean that a runner would require a higher metabolic rate to run at a given speed in the minimalist upper, resulting in a decrease in performance. They also emphasize that more research needs to be done to better understand the influence of upper construction on running performance, particularly due to the small number of published studies on the topic.

While midsole construction is a hot topic in running shoe research, I hope that more studies will be done looking at the effects of upper construction on running performance and biomechanics. 


Nigg, B. M., Baltich, J., Hoerzer, S., & Enders, H. (2015). Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: 'preferred movement path' and 'comfort filter'. British journal of sports medicine, 49(20), 1290–1294.

Onodera A.N., Roveri M.I., Oliveira W.R., Sacco I.C.N. (2015) The influence of shoe upper construction on the plantar pressure distribution during running. Footwear Science 7, 81-82.

Onodera A.N., Gaviao Neto W.P., Roveri M.I., Oliveira W.R., Sacco I.C. (2017) Immediate effects of EVA midsole resilience and upper shoe structure on running biomechanics: a machine learning approach. Peer Journal 5, e3026.

Cordero-Sánchez J, Pérez-Soriano P, Bazuelo-Ruiz B (2022). Effect of the upper material of running shoes on muscle mechanical power transfer on lower limbs. Journal of Industrial Textiles, 52.


Matt:  I have been waiting for this shoe since my first experience with the original Altra Instinct over 10 years ago. I love being able to access Altra's fit in a non-zero drop fashion. Prior to this, the Topo Specter was my go to suggestion for those wanting a performance lower drop shoe with a wide toe box. The Altra FWD Experience is now an additional option in this small category. The heel bevel is also one of the best I have experienced and combined with the lower weight makes for a fun performance trainer. 

There are still several places this shoe could be improved. I will let Andrea and David address the upper issues below while I talk about the sole. I was fairly disappointed that Altra used firmer CMEVA in the midsole. Altra EGO and EGO Max are so much better than this. While those foams can be a bit heavier, it would be fun to give this shoe a little more bounce. If the foam from the Tempo/Vanish Carbon was used in this, it would be one of my favorite shoes. Given that foams are continuing to upgrade at a quick rate even in traditional shoes (look at the recent Vomero 17), I would like to see the foam upgraded. My other comment is about durability. Seeing the outsole get this shredded in a shoe with firmer EVA foam was extremely disappointing. I would like to see more outsole rubber to make this shoe last so people can actually enjoy miles out of them. If this is to be a "transition" shoe into the Altra experience, I would highly suggest making it durable or people will go elsewhere when they see the shoe fall apart after a few miles. If there is concern about additional firmness in the sole, use a half layer of EgoPro or something. Again, I still want to see this foam updated more, especially if Altra wants to attract people using other footwear from other companies. 

David: I really enjoyed my experience in the Altra FWD Experience. This is certainly one my favorite trainers of the year, though I wish the heel fit was cleaned up more. It works but feels a tad awkward. The width feels decently wide in the region, though the padding makes it feel like it has more of a hold. The foam does seem to add some structure to the area, though I wouldn't mind a thin heel counter or overlay support for the region. The heel just feels like if that padding was not there my heel would be swimming around and it is a thought I can't seem to escape when running in that shoe. 

I think the Altra FWD Experience could be a favorite shoe if the fit was improved. The fit of this shoe is not what I have come to love from Altra. I have run in and loved many Altra shoes (particularly the Escalante 3 and Escalante Racer), and I have never had pressure on my 5th MTPs or the dorsum of my foot prior to testing the FWD Experience. The excessively padded heel collar makes the fit of the shoe worse by pushing my foot further forward, putting my MTPs in a narrower part of the forefoot. I hope that Altra will address this in v2 and make the fit more like other shoes in its line that have their standard fit, which I find very comfortable. The firm midsole and rocker geometry make this a great candidate for a performance trainer, but the poor fit kept me from even having the confidence to use the shoe for anything more extensive than strides.


Matt: The Altra FWD Experience is for those who want a snugly anatomic, lighter, lower-drop training shoe for easier to faster efforts. Those interested in Altra but have been scared away by zero drop should definitely take a look at this shoe. Those who want a slightly firmer, highly rockered ride without any super shoe features that can still move faster naturally should check out the FWD. The moderate stack height and comfort make this a solid shoe for mileage and faster efforts, giving it strong performance trainer vibes. Similar to something like the Altra Specter, it features the rare combination of a wider toe box shoe that can pick up the pace. The fit is anatomic than snugger than most of the "anatomically shaped" footwear on the market, making it a potential option for those with narrow to normal width feet to try being able to spread their toes without a sloppy fit for them. I applaud Altra on their first version of this shoe and absolutely beg that this be kept in their line. It goes beyond "just a 4mm Altra" to one of the best-beveled shoes I think I have ever experienced. 

David: The Altra FWD Experience is a neutral daily running shoe for someone that wants a quick transitioning shoe with a pronounced heel rocker profile and firmer ride. The moderate stack height is very approachable and the comfort is good enough for workhorse mileage. This is definitely a training shoe that gives you a slight performance feel on foot. 

Andrea: The Altra FWD Experience is a firm riding, neutral running shoe that performs best at faster paces. It fits significantly narrower and lower volume in the forefoot as compared to Altra's other standard fit shoes. For those that the fit works for, you will find a shoe that shines at faster paces, or for easy runs for those who like a firm daily trainer. This was a nice first try for Altra at making a non-zero drop shoe, but I hope that they will greatly improve the fit for v2.


Fit: B+ (Performance Anatomic fit, felt slightly short at first but breaks in. A bit lower in volume)
Performance: B+/
A- (Amazing heel bevel with rockered ride. Firmer EVA midsole that can still pick up the pace from easy to workout paces)
Stability: A- [Stable Neutral] (Stable heel and forefoot thanks to sidewalls, aggressive heel rocker and wider shape)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (Altra has FINALLY looked at inclusivity, sharing its footwear with those who may not be able to handle zero drop. Plus, the best heel bevel I think I have ever experienced. Surprised that EVA foam was used given how much better their EGO and EGO max foams are)
Personal: A- (A fun shoe that I continue to reach for. The firmer ride limits my mileage in these and I wish there was a more updated foam but I will continue to get miles on these even with my concerns about its durability. Really enjoying this performance trainer)
Overall: B+/A-

Fit: B+ (Very dialed in fit throughout. Heel feels a little wide and sloppy, but padding saves it. Low volume may be hard for some.)
A- (A very fun shoe to run in. Quick transitions at the heel that still feel smooth. Firm but protective feel. Easy to fall into rhythm)
Stability: A- (Outside of the heel security, good stability throughout for a neutral riding shoe. Sidewalls, slight sole flare, good geometry, decent upper.)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (A fun way to incorporate a pronounced heel rocker profile and a speedy feel for a training shoe)
Personal: B+/A- (As long as I am not on really tired legs, fun shoe to run in for logging daily mileage)
Overall: B+/A- 
Fit: C+ (does not fit like an Altra standard fit shoe, toe box narrow and low volume, large heel collar pushes foot forward in shoe, worsening fit)
Performance: B 
(too firm for easy miles, geometry and midsole feel best at faster paces, but fit issues limit use to shorter runs for me)
Stability: B (neutral) (nice use of rocker geometry and sole flare to center the foot and promote forward motion)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Altra has strayed from the fit that made them great in making their first 4mm drop shoe, which severely reduces its comfort and performance)
Personal: C+/B- (poor fit overshadows the fact that I would probably love this shoe as a performance trainer otherwise)
Overall: B- 


AltraFWD Experience
Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse

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Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Altra for sending us pairs.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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