Are Altra Shoes Barefoot? (Or Are They Minimalist?)

Barefoot shoes provide a natural feel of the ground, cushioning, and protection while allowing muscles to respond naturally. Altra gives you the sensation of running barefoot but unlike a typical barefoot brand, their foot-shape insoles have been scientifically designed to complement your Altra footwear. While still respecting the fact that humans have been naturally running for thousands of years.

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So what does all that mean? Technically Altra are not barefoot shoes and the more accurate description would be that they are great for minimalist shoe running.

Are Altra Shoes Barefoot?

Well, maybe not exactly. But these zero-drop shoes are much closer to being barefoot than many other popular shoes on the market today. Altra’s foot shape represents a significant improvement over conventional footwear by mimicking the shape of the human foot. Many people will find that zero drop shoes are excellent replacements for traditional footwear.

Altra is barefoot to the extent that they are zero-drop shoes and you get to use your feet naturally just like you do when you are barefoot. However, they provide just that little more cushion and comfort than the traditional barefoot shoes do.

Altra is committed to walking naturally. Their patented zero-drop platform aligns the body in a way that frees you up to be more efficient, graceful, and comfortable while walking.

Altra Is One Step Up From A Barefoot Shoe Because It Has Cushion

Barefoot Running shoes have become popular because of a combination of factors. On one hand, the general interest in running has exploded in the last few years. The number of people participating in marathons and half-marathons is at a record high, and participation in other kinds of races has been increasing as well.

In addition, there is a growing awareness among runners that modern shoes have some important disadvantages. In the quest to reduce injuries, many shoe companies have developed new kinds of shoes with harder heels and more support for the arches.

The net result is that these shoes provide more cushioning for impact and less feedback to the runner about how their feet are landing. Many runners feel this has made them more likely to strike the ground improperly and get injured.

While this awareness has led many runners to try going back to old-fashioned running shoes (with no cushioning under the heel), others want to make a compromise between barefoot running and conventional running shoes.

This is what Altra offers – minimalistic shoes with only enough cushioning to protect against sharp stones or glass, but not so much that it prevents you from feeling your feet touching the ground properly when you run.

A Barefoot Shoe With Added Comfort

Altra’s belief is that there is a better way. Let your feet be happy. Give them room to move and function naturally. That’s why Altra created Altra – Zero Drop shoes; because the further you stray from the norm, the more exciting your experience with running can become.

The purpose of Altra shoes is to relieve stress on the body. They also improve posture and balance and reduce fatigue.

Our feet don’t point straight forward, so why would any normal shoe? Altra shoes give your feet what they need in all areas of mobility- stability when you want it, flexibility when you need it, and lightweight when you want it.

Barefoot-style running shoes aren’t just for runners. For people who still want protection, breathability, and comfort, they’re perfect for everyday use.

Are Altra Shoes Minimalist?

Barefoot, minimalist shoes are an interesting case. The definition of minimalist shoes is not “shoes that are just barely thick enough to protect your feet.” That would be ridiculous, especially since almost all shoes are thinner than that.

The typical minimalist shoe is about as thin as it could be without losing most of its function as a shoe. But no thinner. Minimalist shoes tend to be noticeably thicker than bare feet, but usually not more than twice as thick.

Minimalist shoes are classified by some specific thickness. Altra is indeed slightly thinner than most other minimalist shoes, but not by much. And Altra is definitely not the thinnest shoe type as the classic barefoot shoes are much thinner. In fact, the thickness of Altra makes it a bit unusual among minimalist shoes; most others are thicker.

This is why people ask are Altra shoes barefoot?

Because they are somewhere in between a minimalist shoe and a barefoot shoe. However, while it doesn’t really fit into either camp it would be classified more as a minimalist shoe and the barefoot brigade would be most upset at calling this shoe barefoot.

Shoes should be light enough not to slow you down, but heavy enough to absorb impact energy. They should be flexible enough to allow your foot to move through its full range of motion, but stiff enough to avoid collapsing under the weight of your body.

They should be thick enough that if you step on something sharp it doesn’t hurt, but thin enough that if you step on something soft it doesn’t hurt either.

The Altra shoe really is the ideal shoe and meets all of these criteria. If you have tried running in barefoot shoes and couldn’t handle it then Altra provides the next level up and may well be what you are looking for.

Are Zero Drop Shoes The Same As Barefoot Shoes?

Barefoot shoes and running shoes with a forefoot strike pattern seem to have a lot in common. But they aren’t the same thing.

  • The first difference is obvious: one has a heel, and the other doesn’t. But there are also differences in how the two kinds of shoes are built. The zero-drop shoe tends to have a wider toe box, so it can accommodate many different kinds of feet.
  • It also tends to have more cushioning under the heel, so it can function as well for people who are used to heels.
  • Finally, zero-drop shoes tend to have harder outsoles than barefoot shoes, because hard outsoles are needed to protect you from rough pavement.

The differences don’t mean that zero drop shoes are only for people who haven’t yet transitioned to barefoot-style foot striking.

If you’ve learned barefoot-style running in a zero drop shoe, you’ll probably want to transition back to barefoot-style when running in less supportive shoes–which maybe most or all of the time.

Zero Drop Shoes are not like barefoot shoes, they provide amazing traction and protection for your feet! But if you start with zero drop shoes, you’ll be able to make that transition when your foot strike improves.


In summary, the diehard barefoot purists are not big fans of the Altra shoe however for us mere mortals who want the best of both worlds it is the ideal minimalist shoe for running.

The argument here is not about whether Altra shoes are good or bad, or whether they work for some people and not for others: these things can be true without calling them barefoot.

Zero drop is great for many runners. But not all. And it’s not because thick heels are bad for everyone, but rather because different people are better off at different levels of cushioning.

Some people are happy with no cushioning at all, and some people are happy with thick cushions. Zero drop is great if you’re one of those who love it, but it’s not the only way to run well.

You May also be interested in… Are Altra Shoes Zero Drop? (What Zero Drop Shoes Are Good For) and Are Olukai Shoes Zero Drop? (Are They Barefoot Shoes?)