close up on the AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes

AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes Review

The Wide Toe Box Altra Fit in a Lightweight Road Runner with 4mm Drop

October 9, 2023 – The new AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes deliver a bevy of desirables to many potential runners. But the big story is that this is Altra’s first non-zero-drop offering! Those who may have been Altra-curios, but never keen on zero drop, can now comfortably access the brand. Runners currently using Altra’s trail shoes will find these appealing to use for their road running practice, as will anyone currently wearing shoes from Topo Athletic (or any shoe with a wide toe box and low-not-zero-drop). If you like a wide-toe box, you’ll probably like these shoes! And lastly, they’re just really comfy and pleasant to wear.

This review is sponsored by REI Co-op, but you make Adventure Alan & Co possible. When purchasing through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Here’s why you can trust us. Now back to the AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes review.

  • Price: $140
  • M’ Weight: 8.5 oz | W’s Weight: 7.1 oz
  • Heel-Forefoot-Drop: 30-26-4
  • Upper: Engineered Mesh
  • Midsole: EVA Foam
  • Outsole: Rubber
  • Cushion: Moderate
  • Fit: True to size
  • Pros: Very lightweight. Comfy out of the box. Breathable. Wide toe box splays toes for better balance and more natural stance. Cushioned heel cup. Slight rocker.
  • Cons: Feels cushy not springy. Soft heel architecture lacks structure.
front toes close up

Overview of AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes

The Adventure Alan & Co crew are longtime fans of Altra’s shoes, primarily their trail running models. We’ve run and hiked in Lone Peaks all over the world, including Alaska, Patagonia, the desert southwest, and sections of the PCT, CDT, and AT. However, in recent years, we’d drifted away from Altra, favoring low-drop over zero-drop, and more cushion over less. But now, we can have our cake and eat it too!

The big story with AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes is that this road running design is the brand’s first non-zero drop, meaning the heel stack height (32mm) sits 4mm higher than the forefoot (28mm). No other Altra shoes have this, which is what differentiates AltraFWD above all else. Even a small amount of drop makes running slightly easier. It enhances the stride, especially on the uphill, and takes some pressure off of the Achilles. A rockered geometry further enhances the stride for runners by encouraging an efficient toe-off.

Just 4mm (.16 in) of delta between heel and forefoot makes this shoe near universally appealing in a way that no other Altra can match. Those with a history of wearing traditional drop shoes (~8-10mm) will find it easy to adjust to 4mm drop. And those coming from zero drop will be pleasantly surprised by how much difference just 4mm can make.

But headline news aside, there are many other notables. AltraFWD is one of the most cushioned shoes in Altra’s line up, beaten out slightly by only a few models, including the Olympus Series. Altra lists the cushion level as moderate, but at 32mm, it’s on the fully-cushioned side of moderate, or the moderate side of fully-cushioned.

And did we mention how light these shoes are? At only 8.5 oz for a men’s medium, we barely notice them on-foot. I put them on right out of the box, and cranked out a few miles running neighborhood hills. They were immediately comfortable, no break in required.

rear corner of altrafwd shoes


The fit of the AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes is definitely true to size. Shop confidently, knowing you needn’t size up or down! I wear men’s size 12 in nearly every brand (an exception being Nike, for which I choose 12.5), and my size 12 AltraFWDs fit perfectly. I would describe my foot as being average width through the forefoot and midfoot, with a narrow heel, and low volume overall.

The only area of fit that I’ve had issues with is the heel cup. Despite the extra cushioning, the lower portion of my heel felt a bit loose inside. However, as I mentioned having a narrow heel, this is an issue I have with a majority of shoes, and these are no exception/not their fault. More on the heel cup architecture later.

Altra is famous for manufacturing shoes with a wide toe box, and the AltraFWD has it! The advantage is that the extra space up front allows your toes to splay out over the course of a run, creating a more natural stride and improving your balance. If you like a wide toe box, these shoes deliver. If you’ve never tried it, this is a great opportunity. If you already have, and know you dislike wide toe boxes, this shoe is not for you.

As a closing thought on fit, it’s worth noting that these are slightly different from the Altras you wore in the Twenty-tens decade. Over time, the designers have slightly narrowed the fit, pretty much across the board, and in most cases, now offer a wide version (though not yet with AltraFWD), which is more reminscent of old school Altras. Historically Altra been wider than average, but now the standard fit is merely standard with a wide toe box.

wearing the altrafwd experience running shoes


The minimalist, engineered mesh upper is part of what makes the AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes so light and comfortable. It is thin, reasonably soft, and overall quite breathable. Vent lines are knit into the area above the toe box and along the exterior sides to further increase airflow. That being said, we didn’t find this to be the most breathable iteration of engineered mesh. As a reference point, we would describe it as slightly less airy than the Brooks Ghost. The addition of more open vents knit into the upper would be an improvement to this shoe.

We liked the feel and comfort of the cushioned mesh tongue, which is simple and just about perfect. The laces have mechanical stretch and are quite long. If you have a lower volume foot and need to tie it tight, you will likely find there is too much extra lace and need to tuck them away, lest they become a tripping hazard.

The heel cup is another interesting design. It has two large cushions on the sides to fill space and lock the heel in place. It feels comfy and in our experience, has yet to rub or chafe. The thing we didn’t like as much about the heel region is that it lacks structure. That is to say, the average running shoe has a stiffer heel cup than the AltraFWD Experience. While the top of the heel cup hugs nicely thanks to the cushion, I noticed that the lower half of the heel was a bit loose inside the shoe (in part due to the narrower-than-average heel size). Nonetheless, my heel was lifting off slightly with each stride. Lateral movements would cause my heel to move around inside, pushing against the walls, which would then bend slightly to accommodate the torsional stress. Maybe it was unique to how my heel fit into this heel cup, but it just felt a bit sloppy in the back half of the shoe.

Overall though, I like the upper and find it to be comfy and pleasant to wear, immediately out of the box. Biggest areas for improvement would be slightly more ventilation, and a slightly stiffer heel cup.

close up on heel cup interior

Midsole & Outsole

With a stack height of 32mm, I would describe the AltraFWD as existing at the intersection of moderate cushion and full cushion. Like with the low-not-zero-drop, this level of cushion is a crowd pleaser. Whichever end of that spectrum you prefer, you can probably enjoy running in the AltraFWDs.

What’s more, this particular compression-molded EVA foam is particularly lightweight, but doesn’t sacrifice impact reduction. Running on pavement felt soft. It’s rare to find a shoe with this much cushion weighing so little, which is another standout benefit for the AltraFWD.

Departing the realm of objectivity, I will tell you my subjective perception of the cushion while running. That is, based on my experience, it felt soft and cushy, not springy or bouncy. Altra claims the midsole is “Lightweight, responsive compression-molded midsole foam that encourages efficiency and an effortless feel.” It’s not that you lose touch with the ground. But I’m not sure I would describe the foam as responsive, per se, nor are they particularly fast as running shoes go. If you prioritize bouncy, springy, responsive, high-energy return shoes, you probably won’t love these.

Lastly, the outsole! This is, as-stated, a true road running shoe with a flat rubber surface designed to grip pavement. Large tracts of negative space and cuts into the surface creating a siping effect that improves traction on wet surfaces. Testing on dry pavement has gone well thus far, and we’ll report back here as we use it more surfaces.

outsole of altra fwd road running shoes

Who Should Choose AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes?

Just about anyone can enjoy wearing the AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes. These kicks are immediately comfortable, lightweight, and pleasant to run in. But the main appeal is its combination of fit, drop, and weight. If you like lightweight shoes, if you like wide toe boxes, and if you like low-not-zero drop, this is good option. If you like Altra’s trail shoes, you should consider road running in the AltraFWD. Or if you’ve been Altra-curious, but can’t stomach zero drop, perhaps now is the time to jump in. Lots of people will potentially find lots to love about this shoe.

We’ve seen similar designs from the brand Topo Athletic, which famously paired the wide toe box style pioneered by Altra, with a non-zero-drop to differentiate their offering. Therefore, we feel people who already wear shoes from Topo Athletic will find AltraFWD to be a natural fit worth considering.

side view of altrafwd experience running shoes

AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes Review Verdict

The AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes are Altra’s first low-not-zero drop design, and one of the most broadly appealing road runners in their footwear lineup. We love how this 4mm shift invites millions of potential runners into the brand’s fold. Now anyone can enjoy the toe-splaying, balance-improving benefits of a wide toe-box, whether or not they prefer zero-drop. And did we mention how lightweight and comfy they are out of the box? Perhaps the only major downside is the lackluster energry return/lack of bouncy/springiness coming out of the midsole EVA foam.

Lastly, if you’re a zero-drop truther – never fear! The remaining 99% of Altra running shoes still position the heel and forefoot equidistant from the ground.

P.S. How soon can we get the trail running version?

P.P.S. What about a Jimi Hendrix edition? The Jimi Hendrix AltraFWD Experience!

AltraFWD at sunset
close up on tongue
altrafwd laces
AltraFWD Experience Running Shoes