- Altra’s Solstice XT running shoes are designed with three unique features: a naturally shaped toe box, a specially designed fit for women’s feet, and balanced cushioning.
- I’ve worn Altra’s shoes for trail running and hiking before, but the Solstice XT proves the brand translates just as well in the gym as it does on the treadmill.
- This shoe has a low profile, level balanced sole that reduces excessive heel strike, which eliminates the impact of joints and muscles.
- Lightweight and stylish, the Solstice XT allows me to comfortably return to the gym to run and train after undergoing knee surgery
Anyone who’s had a serious injury knows how amazing it is to finally be able to start running again – it’s really euphoric. Not only does this stimulate your mind by being active again, it also gives you confidence in your recovery. But the idea of ”getting back out there” requires a careful approach – the last thing you want is to feel like you’ve suffered a setback.
For me, the resumption of running and training after recovering from ACL surgery was largely due to a pair of running shoes: the lightweight but functional Solstice XT from Altra. Long before my ACL injury, Altra was a staple in my line of running shoes. I had pairs designed for running and hiking, with grippy and durable soles that proved reliable on rocky and unstable terrain.
But I hadn’t worn a pair on the treadmill yet, let alone the gym, until I tried the new Altra Solstice XT. These shoes have completely changed the way I wear this Utah-born shoe brand. These are the ultimate elliptical trainers, seamlessly ranging from shorter treadmill or road runs to weight training floors. With a wide toe box and a woman-specific fit, they feel like a tight-fitting glove – it doesn’t hurt that they look good, too.
Here is why I love this pair of shoes, as well as the very few inconveniences I have encountered while wearing them.
At 6.7 ounces in weight, the Altra Solstice XT is one of the lightest ellipticals I’ve worn. This is a crucial benefit when running or working out mobility exercises (something I got too familiar with while rehabilitating my knee in physiotherapy).
Another cool feature is Altra’s signature “balanced cushioning”. This means that the sole of the shoe is essentially flat, which allows it to perform well for both speed work and strength training.
Curious to learn more about Altra’s design philosophy, I reached out to Altra co-founder and avid runner Brian Beckstead to find out more about why they eschew a traditional padded style in favor of this more minimal footprint.
“Pretty much every shoe has a raised heel these days, but we believe if nature wanted us to have a raised heel, we would be born that way,” Beckstead explained.
In fact, he attributes the increased rate of injury in runners to the raised heels and tapered toes that are so popular in athletic shoes these days.
“A more balanced bottom reduces excessive heel strike and helps the foot land under a bent knee, which transfers the impact from the joints to the muscles,” he said. “Your muscles are much better equipped to handle pressure than your joints because they can get stronger – your joints can’t.”
Holly Roser, a certified personal trainer in San Francisco, agrees, adding that “because they put your heel and toe on the same level, shoes like [Altra’s] get as close to bare feet as possible, with an extra touch of support, “
This makes it a great choice for explosive movements, heavy lifting, HIIT workouts, speed ladder exercises, and sprints. They also add extra stability to your stance via a wider toe box. The shape of the XTs allows your toes to extend naturally as opposed to a standard tapered shoebox.
“If the toes can move apart, it provides a wider base for stability, as well as improved strength and power,” added Beckstead.
Altra is also one of the few shoe brands to use a gender-specific fit, customizing the shoes according to the particular anatomy of the female foot. Think jeans, Beckstead suggested, jeans for men shouldn’t fit in the same way as women, so shoes shouldn’t either.
The pros and cons
These shoes work extremely well for cross training, short distance runs, and treadmill work. I immediately could feel how much the design of the shoe helped reduce the impact on my knee joints.
With the low profile sole and wide toe box, they are also great for strength training. You can really press down on the heel during movements like squats and deadlifts, which helps stabilize, balance, and align your whole body.
The only thing I wouldn’t recommend doing with these shoes is long distance runs. Beckstead also suggests sticking to distances of 3-5 miles while wearing the XTs.
Additionally, if you are not used to minimal footwear, you might also experience calf pain after a few runs. Essentially, the shape of the shoe causes you to activate muscles that you don’t typically work in other shoes. That’s a good thing in the long run, however – it means your calves get stronger as the shoe absorbs the impact of your joints in your muscles.
Roser also recommends that you gradually get used to running in these shoes.
“Start slowly, sticking to three kilometers and alternate with your normal running shoes at first,” she said. “Then you can increase the mileage, by getting information about how your feet and legs feel after the run.”
She also notes that runners who overpronate may want to avoid this shoe, adding that “a more stable shoe with insoles would be the best choice for someone in this category, like Hokas.”
The bottom line
I’ve worn Altra shoes for running and hiking before, but the Solstice XT proves the brand translates just as well in the gym as it does on the treadmill.
If you’re not a long-distance runner and want a truly versatile shoe in the gym or on the road, the Altra Solstice XT is a great choice. It features the brand’s gender-specific fit, which means it’s designed entirely for the shape of a woman’s foot. This intentional design provides a proper fit that not only feels great when you put them on, but also throughout your workout. This low profile shoe is ideal for cross training, shorter runs, and gym work like strength training.
- Should we buy it? If you consider yourself a short-distance runner or want a comfortable, low-profile athletic shoe, the Solstice XT is for you. Long distance runners may want to look elsewhere as they may not provide enough support on the 10, 15, or 20 mile approach.
- What are your alternatives? Altra shoes are almost entirely unique in the industry. Each shoe, Solstice XT included, features a different shape than most other products on the market. If you don’t like the shape and feel of the Altra shoes, check out a shoe like the Carbon X from Hoka One One, a running shoe that offers a bit more cushion and cushioned support.
Advantages: Incredibly lightweight at just 6.7 ounces, Features Altra’s gender-specific design specially designed for a woman’s foot shape, the wide toe area allows the foot to sit more naturally in the shoe, ideal for cross training, short runs or indoor work
The inconvenients: Not a good option for long distance races