How a Wide Toe Box Changed My Runs

June 14 2024

How a Wide Toe Box Changed My Runs
How a Wide Toe Box Changed My Runs

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Created by Runner's World for

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I ran in Altra’s all-new Experience Flow and Experience Wild for a week. Here’s how it went.


(HK Editors Note: We will rename the FWDExperience to be the Experience Flow in Fall24, it remains exactly the same shoe.  We will also expand the range to include the Experience Wild and the Experience Form arriving July 2024 in Hong Kong.)


Why is a wide toe box important? Prior to lacing up in the new Altra Experience Collection—the road-focused Experience Flow and the trail-focused Experience Wild—I’d mainly considered just cushioning and heel drop, but I never paid much attention to the sculpture of the foot shape. This has led to me stay stubbornly committed to the same narrow-toe-box shoes I’ve always run in, but I’m not sure how much good that’s done me—since completing a marathon in New York last November, I’ve been dealing with nagging hip and knee pain while training for an upcoming one in Sydney. So, given the opportunity to try out these new Altras for a week—both expressly designed with a wide toe box—I jumped at the chance to see if more room for my toes might help my form. Here’s my experience.


Run #1: FWDExperience/Altra Experience Flow

  • Location: Central Park
  • Miles: 8.0
  • Pace: 8:20

I live in New York City, and it’s my personal opinion that there’s nothing better than a post-work run in Central Park. One mile into my first run with the Experience Flow, I already feel that the shoes are helping me maintain the integrity of my stride—there’s no excessive bounce or cushion that could alter my natural gait, but there’s still enough support that my feet feel secure. I typically fall forward on my toes to an extreme degree, but with the natural structure of the Experience Flow, my running posture is taking on a much healthier shape.

I quickly find myself comparing these to other running shoes that I’ve worn with narrower toe boxes, in which the tight squeeze around my feet sometimes combined with the surrounding cushioning to create a sort of moon-shoe feeling that I didn’t love. The Experience Flow, in contrast, gives me support without unnecessary cushioning, letting me control the shoes, rather than the other way around.


Run #2: FWDExperience/Altra Experience Flow

  • Location: Along the West Side Highway
  • Miles: 15.0
  • Pace: 8:25

Today, I up my mileage to 15—just enough to cross the threshold of a half marathon, so I can see how my joints respond to the Experience Flow at a longer distance. Ten miles in (usually the point where my muscle aches really begin), I feel like I’m owning the road—my pace is cruising, at 8:25 per mile. When I hit the 15-mile mark, my toes are still comfortable and I’m able to activate all the necessary muscles. Reflecting as I cool down, I think this was my most natural-feeling running experience since I began training for marathons almost two years ago.

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Run #3: Altra Experience Wild

  • Location: The Ramble in Central Park
  • Miles: 3.0
  • Pace: 7:47

Switching things up, I lace up the Experience Wild and set out for a 3-mile trail run in the Ramble, a forested area of Central Park that always makes me feel as if I’m somewhere far from the city. The trail shoes make easy work of each uneven divot and unexpected incline, securely gripping the ground and convincing my brain that I’m on more stable terrain than I really am. Since I’m not preoccupied with slipping or mis-stepping, I’m able to completely immerse myself in the intimate feel of the nature around me. Only a couple of miles into my post-work run, I’ve already run over gravel, grass, wood chips—and not once did I hesitate. As much as I loved road-running in the Experience Flow, the Experience Wild lets me escape from my constantly busy city life for a few miles and be present in a pocket of picturesque woodland landscape.

Run #4: Altra Experience Wild

  • Location: Loantaka Park, New Jersey
  • Miles: 3.0
  • Pace: 8:17

I’m visiting my family in New Jersey this weekend, which allows me to run natural landscapes that I don’t have access to in NYC. There was a big storm last night, so this morning’s trail run finds me dealing with wet surfaces and looser terrain than usual. I set out at 6:30 a.m., smiling at how the trail glows warmly from the sun just starting to wake up. The water-resistant outside lining of the Experience Wild works in tandem with the perfectly engineered lugs on the undercarriage to send me effortlessly through the muddy, steep descents. As with the Experience Flow, the Experience Wild allows my foot to sprawl in a way that’s natural and comfortable. Its responsiveness is also top-of-the-line, absorbing the shock of each step I take.

At this moment, as my week with the Altra Experience Collection winds down, I feel completely at ease. It’s amazing to feel so natural in a running state—absorbing all of the blemishes of the uneven terrain, confident in the knowledge that my feet are supported and have room to roam.