Altra Timp ReviewAugust 29, 2017
- Roomy forefoot
- Excellent traction
- No rock plate
- Sloppy fit
- Unresponsive midsole
- Heavy weight
- Zero-drop transition
The Altra Timp is the most recent addition to an extensive zero-drop trail line. It has a 29mm stack height in the heel and forefoot, which makes it a bit more plush than the Lone Peak 3.5 and closer to the ground than the Olympus 2.5. Our wear-testers found it well cushioned and flexible with excellent traction on a variety of different terrains, but the midsole felt sluggish and the fit was so roomy it verged on sloppy.
The brand-new Timp is built on Altra’s traditional zero-drop platform with wide, foot-shaped toe box. It’s 29mm heel stack height and 29mm forefoot stack are almost the same as Altra’s popular Torin 3.0 road model (28mm/28mm stack), although the Timp weighs in at 11.4oz (men’s size 9) to the Torin 3.0’s much lower 8.4oz. On the trail side, the 29mm zero-drop stack puts the Timp right in the sweet spot between the 25mm stack height Lone Peak 3.5 and 36mm stack height Olympus 2.5. For the uppers, the Timp has a dual-layer water-resistant mesh with a visually striking reflective camo pattern on the bottom layer. The asymmetric lacing design is borrowed from some of Altra’s earlier road models, including The One and an earlier version of the Torin. Our testers appreciated the Timp’s versatility, comfort, protection, and cushioning, but had some concerns about the fit and responsiveness on the trail. Runners who want a softer midsole and a roomy fit will be happy with the Timp’s performance as a long-distance, comfortable trail runner. It would be ideal to swap into during later stages of ultramarathons, when feet are swollen and a cushioned ride is a higher priority than snappy trail feel.
Runners who’ve made the transition into zero-drop shoes will find the Timp’s midsole cushioned and comfortable. It feels relaxed and soft on the trail, but without sinking in or feeling like running on marshmallows or a foam mattress. The uppers are not terribly plush inside, but the simple design makes them mostly free from seams and irritation. Both the heel collar and tongue are lightly padded. One of our testers mentioned that he’d like to have a thicker, softer tongue, especially because he felt like he needed to wrench the laces down tight to get a secure fit. The uppers fit generously, so runners with wide or high-volume feet will find the Timp more comfortable, but those in between sizes may want to size down.
Highly cushioned shoes rarely feel remarkably quick on the trail, and the Timp is no exception. One wear-tester noted that it’s best suited for easy/moderate runs, and that he struggled to turn it over quickly during harder, faster-paced efforts. The zero-drop platform encourages an efficient footstrike, but runners who haven’t already made the transition into low- or zero-drop shoes will want to ease into it.
Security of Fit
The Timp has Altra’s wide, foot-shaped toe box, which allows for natural toe splay and keeps the forefoot from feeling cramped and restricted. Although Altra describes the Timp as having a lower volume last, our wear-testers found it roomy almost to the point of being sloppy. Often, that extra space can be taken out by cinching down the laces, but the Timp makes that difficult with an asymmetric lace system, U-shaped lacing throat, and lightly-padded tongue. One wear-tester commented on the distinctive lacing by noting, “it added to a unique look, but I found that it did not allow me to properly tighten the bottom of the U-throat enough and I ended up with a bit of a sloppy fit.”
In spite of its high stack height and well-cushioned midsole, the Timp feels agile on a range of different types of terrain. As one tester put it, “the Timp suprised me here—given the wide base and ample amount of foam underfoot, it handled like a lighter weight shoe. The low drop and moderate cushioning underfoot allowed me to connect with the trail, but not feel beat up by it on longer runs and technical trails.” The 3mm lugs are widely spaced across the midfoot and heel to shed mud, but packed together near the forefoot and under the toe box to maximize traction on uphill sections.
Our wear-testers used words like smooth and fluid to describe the Timp’s responsiveness. On rolling singletrack, it cruised along comfortably. On rougher and more technical terrain, however, the Timp doesn’t feel lively underfoot the way a lower-stack shoe might. Ground-feel is better than expected given the stack height though, and our wear-testers didn’t report feeling disconnected or detached from what was happening on the ground under their feet.
The Timp was only one of two shoes in this round of testing without a full-coverage rubber outsole (the other was the Hoka One One Stinson ATR 4). The exposed foam sections are at the back of the forefoot, directly under the midsole, and under the heel. Presumably this was a design choice to increase flexibility and shave off weight, but without a rock plate, they open the shoe to sharp intrusions from rocks and trail obstacles. On the uppers, the extended toe bumper wraps all the way around the medial and lateral forefoot, where it joins with the heel overlay. Combined with the thick midsole, the result is excellent protection from the side. The Timp also has built-in gaitor hooks, which would help prevent small rocks from making their way into the shoes.
Jason is a trail runner and ultra-marathoner who lives with his wife and children in the frozen tundra of northeastern Wisconsin.