WHEN I PICK my running shoes, I usually aim for a pair that can give me one of two things: an extra speed boost, or so much cushion that my feet barely feel like they’re skimming the pavement with each stride.
But those two scenarios are on the opposite ends of the running spectrum: breakneck racing or long, slow recovery jogs. There are plenty of other paces that fit between those extremes—fartleks, 200m, 400m, or 800m repeats, or just plain old middle distance steady-state jogs—and those are the miles that wind up making the bulk of my workouts, whether I ‘m on the track or the road. The shoes I wear for these training sessions shouldn’t be so extreme. I’m better served with a pair that can handle both speed and mileage reliably.
That’s what I was looking for when I laced up the Altra Torin 6, the new neutral road shoe from the feet-first sneaker brand. I found a comfortable, reliable trainer that should serve as a good choice for everyone from newbie runners only capable of jogging a few minutes at a time to experienced marathoners that log dozens of weekly miles.
I’ve worn some other shoes from Altra before, both on the road and trail—my favorites, the carbon fiber-plated racer Vanish Carbon and the luxe trail Mont Blanc BOA, just took home MH Sneaker Awards—so I’m familiar with the brand’s typical design language. I had also worn the previous model in the Torin line, and really enjoyed the fit and feel of the shoe on the road.
All of these kicks are quite a bit different than most anything I lace up from other brands. Altra’s shoes are made to more naturally mimic the shape of the foot (the brand calls the fit “FootShape”), in order to give the wearer more space to spread out their toes for a “natural” feel. The result is an extra roomy toe-box, a far cry from some of the narrow speed shoes (and even normal trainers) that I feel like I have to squeeze into and clamp my toes together to fit. In my experience this has usually resulted in less foot fatigue on long runs that last over an hour, when I start to notice how the fit feels with every stride.
Wearing the Altra Torin 6
The Torin 6 continues this design scheme (officially, this is Altra’s “Standard” fit) with plenty of space to spread out the toes and a raised heel collar to aid in the lockdown. I didn’t have any issues with the 5’s tongue when I wore it, but multiple reviewers noted that it could cut into their ankles—so the tongue of the 6 has been updated to have a softer feel. The upper material is new too, from a flexible mesh to a more rigid material, which Altra calls a jacquard knit mesh. I found this to be a bit rigid when I first laced up the shoes and took my initial steps, but I quickly got used to the feel (and maybe loosened it up, too) once I hit the road for my first run.
I’m deep into training for my city’s marathon, so I was in the perfect position to test a versatile pair of shoes. I was able to log multiple different types of runs wearing the Torin 6, from quick shakeouts (usually 4 to 6 miles at relatively easy pace) to a Saturday long run, which wound up at about 14.5 miles according to my Strava data.
The shoes felt reliable, a bit less cushioned than the previous iteration of the Torin, but no less comfortable. Altra’s midsole foam, dubbed Altra Ego Max, is less springy than other shoes I’ve worn (especially compared to high stack super shoes designed for races), but there was a subtle bounce with each stride, a decent bit of energy return. As the miles piled up, this was consistent, which was only a good thing. Sometimes shoes with hyper-reactive foam can feel like too much as my legs tire when I’m trying to hold back from pushing too hard, a bad habit of mine as a former sprinter trying to conform to good distance running practices. I was able to stay within a productive pace range, and the shoes were light enough (officially 9.9 ounces) that my feet never felt too heavy on the back half of my high mileage.
Taking the Altra 6 Off the Road
But a shoe like the Torin 6 might not only be used for training. Yes, serious runners have need of a versatile shoe to use for their workouts as I did, but I envision the ideal wearer as someone who wants a pair of do-everything kicks. Maybe they’re just getting into running, or they want shoes that they’ll count on as their go-to pick for work, school, walks, and more. And for that, there are other considerations to make. Namely, aesthetics.
Altra’s laser-focus on fit and performance is no secret. With that in mind, I would very rarely turn to any of the brand’s shoes for anything other than training. You’d be hard-pressed to catch me in a pair of Altras with street clothes; the unorthodox shape and basic-to-garish colorways don’t exactly gel with my particular style. Even as other types of performance-focused running shoes have become surprise fashion picks, Altra hasn’t exactly made the same leap.
That’s fine for dads who couldn’t care less about throwing a fit. But that’s not me. To fully review the Torin 6, I wanted to make sure that I put the shoe to the test sartorially, too.
The colorway I tested was a basic one, a clean white and gray with a black logo. This was elevated by a gum outsole that extends up to the toe, adding a subtle bit of class. I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped up my outfitting beyond the running gear and dog walking attire I had been pairing with the shoes, putting them into the elevated rotation of my workweek footwear. These called for a laid-back look, and the overall effect was one of an effortless, casual comfort.
The Torin 6 looks much better than I expected. The shape actually looks sleek rather than boxy, and the jacquard mesh upper pullovers double-duty, appearing as a low-key pattern design element that stands out the more you look at it. As a bonus, I felt great walking around in the Torin 6, which isn’t always the case as I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of comfort for aesthetics. Consider that a win—fashion world, I hope you take note.
Who Should Wear the Altra Torin 6
Overall, I enjoyed my time wearing the Torin 6. The shoes were reliable and comfortable—even after probably 30 miles running, plenty of dog walks, and a day’s commute and office wear, they look little different than when I took them out of the box. I didn’t love the new upper at first, but I’m guessing it’ll help to make the Torin 6 even more durable over the long haul.
The Torin 6 is a solid option for a newbie runner, general exerciser, or more experienced runner looking for a dependable trainer for the meat and potatoes runs that make up much of their workouts. If you’re looking for a speedy shoe for racing, however, you’d be better off with something with more responsive foam (and if you’re really serious, a carbon plate).
At $150, the Torin 6 is reasonably priced compared to similar models from other brands—and cheaper than the specialized trainers and racing shoes that many runners opt to wear for their workouts. Especially if you’re wearing the Torin 6 for more than just runs, you should get your money’s worth.
Brett Williams, a fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former pro football player and tech reporter who splits his workout time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts, and running. You can find his work elsewhere at Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.