Altra Timp 4: The 130 Mile Review

This has been one of the hardest reviews for me to sit down and write. Ever since I started running in zero drop Altra shoes a few years ago, the Timp has been my go-to trail shoe. I was a fan of my original 1.5’s and I’ve owned 3 different pairs of the 2.0. Since I had stocked up so much I skipped the 3.0 and decided to just wait to jump into the Timp 4 when they came out. Needless to say, it hasn’t been smooth sailing.

Ever since I’ve worn Altra I’ve been wearing a size 9.5. It might be slightly big on my foot, but I never had any issues with lock-down, so I just keep getting that size. When I first bought the Timp 4 I got a size 9.5 and then immediately took them over to an indoor track to try them out. However, as I walked and ran I felt far more heel slip than I was comfortable with. I took the shoes home to play with the fit and lacing, but it was obvious that this was no longer my size for this shoe.

I brought them back and with some trial and error I actually decided to step all the way down to size 8.5, since it felt like it had the best heel lock. However, that snug heel comes with a lot of snugness in other parts of the shoe. It still felt like a solid fit and I set out wearing them as my normal trail runner.

Before I go too far though, I should comment a bit about all the changes between the 2.0 and 4. From the ground up this looks and feels like a very different shoe. Whereas the 2.0 felt like a nimble and light, but cushioned, trail runner, the 4 gives the impression of a much more rugged and sturdy shoe. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not what I’ve come to love in the Timp lineup before.

Altra Timp 2.0 on left, Timp 4 on right

When comparing the 2.0 and the 4 it’s quickly apparent that the stack on the 4 is much higher, but even beyond this the upper on the 4 is taller and more built up. The heel collar is higher and comes up the back of the ankle more (which makes it even more surprising that I had heel lock issues). The overlays are simpler and the entire upper has a more utilitarian approach than previous models. The 4 also includes drainage holes in the front part of the midsole to drain water. I can confirm that they do in fact drain water, so this is a nice touch, but feels like a feature that no one was really asking for.

The tongue on the 4 is comfortable, but it still takes a few runs for the hard rubber edge to soften (seems to be a common Altra trait). The midsole is far more cushioned than before, which puts this shoe a lot closer to other Altra models like the Olympus. Finally, the outsole and tread are solid, and in over 100 miles I haven’t had any traction issues of note.

Since I’ve had these shoes I’ve used them on multiple training runs, and then they were the shoe on my feet for the Kettle 100K race in June. With 135 miles on them now I feel like I’ve developed an opinion about what these shoes are supposed to be, and if they’re still the trail runner for me.

Timp 1.5

The Timps have always been a bit odd in the Altra line up. The 1.5’s had an ultra-wide toe box, minimalist feel, and a moderate amount of cushion, placing them as the middle children in the lineup between the Olympus and Lone Peak. Then with the 2.0 they made a lot of refinements to keep it in the same place in the lineup, but refined everything in the shoe to raise the stack height and provide a bit more of a moderate build feel overall.

With the 4, it feels like everything changed. The stack height is now on the maximalist side of things, and the upper takes on this “over-built” feeling. Gone are the minimalist designs of the 1.5 and we’re now securely into big shoe territory. As the Timps’ place in the lineup has evolved it’s obvious that they’ve slowly been creeping more and more towards the Olympus side of the world. In fact, when I first put on the Timp 4s I could have easily been fooled into thinking that these were really a pair of Olympus. Sure Olympus takes it one more step up in cushioning and comfort, but these are getting really close.

I put that extra cushioning to the test at the Kettle 100K and can report that the bottoms of the shoes felt just fine over 62+ miles. The forefoot could have used just a bit more comfort, but I think that could be due to the drainage holes and how they affect the overall stability of the midsole layer in that section of the foot. The only real issue for me during the race was the overall sizing of the shoe. Once my feet had started to swell on the second half of the race, the size 8.5 choice came back to bite me.

Although not painful in any way, by the end of the race I could tell that 8.5 was just too tight for me in a long effort where swelling occurs. This was proven by the numerous black toenails that appeared in the days following the race. This size was just the slightest bit too small, and more than likely I’ll need to go back up to a 9 and figure out a heel locking solution instead.

It might sound like I’m being overly negative about these shoes, but I should point out that they are actually not bad at being the type of shoe that they claim to be. What’s disappointing is that this shoe is no longer the Timp of the past, and for those of us who fell in love with our 1.5 and 2.0 we’re now stuck being pushed in a different direction. I can certainly see a place for the 4 in my lineup, but it’s not the shoe I was hoping for.

I’ll keep my current 4s, and in the future maybe get another pair a half size up, but I think it’s time I did some more investigation of other models like the new Mont Blanc and see if maybe it will give me more of what I was looking for from the Timp.

Jamison

Beer, running, and geeky things.

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