Why Running Shoe Design Matters with Altra Running Founder Golden Harper



Last month, Doug and I were invited to attend the Runner’s World Half and Festival, along with a dozen or so other bloggers. We were able to run in all three of the races (5k, 10k, and half marathon), and attend a number of seminars and events hosted just for our group of bloggers. You may recall that I did something similar a few months back in Boston, and was excited to have another opportunity to attend a Runner’s World event.

It was a ton of fun running the races and hanging out with the Runner’s World staff (including Bart Yasso!), but one of my favorite parts of the weekend was a seminar on running form and shoe design hosted by Golden Harper, one of the founders of Altra Running shoes. I liked it so much, I thought we should invite him on the show to share his philosophy and a bit about how Altra was created.

At the end of the episode, we mention that we’re giving away a free pair of Altra shoes! Just leave a comment on this post to enter.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Fun times at the Runner’s World Half and Festival
  • How the first zero drop shoe was developed in a home toaster
  • The history of zero drop technology
  • How cushioning can have an impact on your running form
  • Why the shape of your shoe is important
  • Altra running shoe giveaway!

Click the button below to listen now:


If you’re a fan of NMA Radio (and like all these new episodes we’re making!), we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Links from the Show:

Links to Runner’s World Half and Festival Sponsors:




  1. Great interview. It surprised me that “zero drop” is not necessarily equated with “minimalist,” and I appreciate the different stability levels of the shoes. Also, as someone who strives to only buy ethically produced apparel (not just vegan, but also where workers are treated ethically), I was heartened to hear that Golden had lived at the factory for a month. Seems like my kind of shoe and my kind of company. Am definitely interested in trying a pair!

  2. Excellent podcast. Very entertaining and filled with incredible information. I cant wait to try these shoes out

  3. Love the podcast.

    Listen religiously.

    Would love to get hooked up with a pair of Altras. Love to hear so much research was put into them. And that they are vegan, BONUS!

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Jason Chaput says:

    I wear Altra shoes for both running and daily wear around the office! I could definitely use a new pair!!! Thanks for the podcast…great insight.

  5. Jason Deuchler says:

    Great episode. It definitely settled many shoe questions I had. Thanks.

  6. Nathan Sutherlin says:

    Trying to enter to win the Altras! Never left a comment before so not sure if this is where you wanted it! LoL

  7. Thomas Brock says:

    Just listened to No Meat Athlete with Golden Harper.

    NMA has really helped me remove meat and greatly reduce animal products from my diet and I feel great!

    The Altea Olympus would make a great addition to my running show stable.


  8. Loved the interview, would love to try a pair of Altra shoes.

    Thanks Matt!

  9. Thank you NMA for another great episode. Nice to learn about Altra and am glad they are vegan shoes. Would love to try them out.

  10. I so want a pair of Superior 2’s! My Superior 1’s finally fell apart on me at the World Rogaine Championships in August… (24 hours of orienteering..)

  11. I had heard about Altra when looking into Vegan shoes. I ultimately found out the pair I run in are vegan but after hearing about the research and dedication that Golden Harper and the team put into these shoes I know where my next pair are coming from!

    Also, glad to have the podcasts rolling. Just start listening recently and was going through withdrawals.

  12. I love my lone peak 1.5 and can’t wait to try out the Superior 2.0.

  13. This was an interesting podcast, and I’m definitely wanting to try out Altra shoes. I love the idea of the larger toe box and allowing the toes to spread out when hitting the ground. Thanks for the podcast and the quality information!

  14. Great podcast! After listening, I’m very interested in trying out some Altras. I bought a discounted pair for my fiance at last year’s Runner’s World event, and she loves them!

  15. Love to try out these shoes. interview was one the most informative on the zero drop/minimal debate. good to see a company making shoes based on science and not the marketing band wagon.

  16. I needed this episode a few days ago when I purchased new shoes!!! Always next time. Good to see a successful non-food vegan product.

  17. Oh and I forgot. Can’t wait to see NMA at the Atlanta Veg Fest tomorrow!

  18. Great podcast! I started with a pair of Instinct 1’s a couple years back and can’t wear anything but Altras now. I would love to win a new pair!


  19. Jorge Helmer says:

    Hi Matt, I really enjoyed the pod cast this morning. I had to stop running because of a bone spur. The show gave me some hope. Will be going back to research my mechanics and maybe buy a different pair of shoes. Keep up the great work!

  20. Great episode! Very informative. Will definitely be checking them out soon.
    Thanks for all the work you do.

  21. Thanks for the insight! I’ll be sharing this with my husband and parents

  22. David Reynolds says:

    I’m loving Altra.
    Coming back from multiple injuries with achilles and knees it’s been rough finding a good mix.
    I have been all over the board trying different shoes and have recently tried the 3-Sums.

    So far so good!

  23. Very interesting, being new to running it’s nice to get the explanation behind the innovations. And potential free stuff is always a plus!

  24. Hello, I listen to each podcast and enjoy each one but none as much as the discussion on Altra. I have been using their shoes for a year and a half now. I have arthritis in my ankle and these are the only shoes that provide some relief for the fartlek training that I do. I think the biggest win is the toe box! It was a most pleasant surprise to hear about their kindness to the environment, so very glad to hear it.

  25. Albert Hipon says:

    Enjoyed listening and learning about the technology in Altra running shoes. Also interesting back story about the company. Keep up the great work!

  26. I love these shoes. And from my experience from running in them, all he says is true.

  27. Definitely will be my next running shoe!!! I’ve always had problems with my feet!! Can’t wait to try them.

  28. Kala Beranich says:

    Thanks for the podcast and the oppurtunity to win a free pair of Altra’s!

  29. Another excellent podcast I came home buzzing about! So great to hear Alta is changing the landscape of running for the better. Hoping to win some shoes for my boyfriend who is just getting more into it!

  30. I’m already a big fan of Altras, though it’s nice to hear more about the company’s humble roots and desire to help runners run better. Great podcast.

  31. Arun Kristian Das says:

    Awesome interview. I was also at the RW festival and I attended one of the seminars that Golden was a part of and asked him about the company. I have a pair of Instinct 1.5s and like them a lot.

  32. I was unfamiliar with Altra’s shoes before listening to the podcast but I’d like to try them after hearing about the foot shape. I have really large and wide feet, so it’s tough to find any kind of shoes that give me enough room through the forefoot.

  33. I SO glad I listened to this interview. I’ve spent my entire life having my toes squished in shoes. I thought it was because women’s shoes just don’t fit me (too skinny), but I even tried men’s shoes and they only come in larger sizes than women’s. Wide size always slips out of my heel. I thought it was some kind of conspiracy against people who like to spread their toes out. I always get home and the first thing I do is remove my shoes. I can’t wait to go to the store and try on some of these shoes. If you had not made this podcast, I never would have known about these. THANKS!

  34. Kate Harper says:

    Oh Wow! I just heard about your shoe giveaway after I left a comment/review! I would love to be included! Yes!

  35. Jonas Käck says:

    Great episode!
    A lot of great information in the interview and some good explanations about the relations between injuries and shoes. Would love to try out some Altra shoes and feel the difference myself.


  36. Never heard of Altra before this podcast but will definitely be checking them out!

  37. I loved the interview w/ Golden! How do we get in touch with him if we have further questions? I have a chronic inflammatory condition that impacts my feet and want to see if he had any experience helping people with similar conditions while he was developing Altras. In any case, I’m going to look into Altras just due to the wider toe box.

  38. I came across altra a year and a half ago while researching “zero drop” or minimalist shoes. I almost bought a pair at the time but finances wouldn’t justify it. Very glad to learn so much more about this company. Love what they do and what they stand for!!

  39. Love the podcast Matt! Am really loving the more frequent episodes as well–I often listen more than once because they don’t come out fast enough! Also getting back into running and would love a free pair of shoes. Thanks for the giveaway!

  40. Good listen. I need to find a place to try a pair of Altras.

  41. This episode of NMA radio was a very interesting and informative listen. I’m hoping to make it to the Runners World Festival next year. Sounds like you guys had a blast!

    I’ve tried out the Altra Instinct and they are very comfortable on the roads. It’s nice to hear the behind-the scene story of how Golden went about thinking outside the box.

  42. Great episode. I love learning the science behind shoe design.

  43. Enjoyed the opportunity to hear the science and thinking behind shoe development.


  44. So great to hear about a company doing things right. I love hearing a new podcast as well. Thanks, Matt and Altra!

  45. Altra is all I wear now (except for dress shoes at work) – ultra running, backpacking, road.

  46. Donna Kostel says:

    Just ordered my 2nd pair of Altras. Started with the One model, which work great on my treadmill but ordered a pair with a bit of cushioning for outside. Can’t wait to give them a try.
    I recently switched to an old pair of Saucony to do an outside run (and before Altra I considered them to have a wide to box) and got an annoying nerve pinch in my right foot that I had forgotten about while running in Altras for the last few months. The zero drop is also great for my bad knee. I am definitely a fan.

  47. Love the podcast and loved hearing about Altras! I’m in the market for a new pair of running shoes and will definitely be finding a place to try them on. Thanks for bringing Golden onto the show!

  48. Marija Santos says:

    Excellent podcast, learned a lot about running correctly and now understand my injuries. I’ll be transitioning to new shoes soon. Thanks!

  49. I purchased my pair of Altras (Olympus) about two months ago and love them. My calves still get a bit sore when running in them, but I’m still transitioning to a zero drop shoe from a ‘normal’ shoe. My hope is that as I continue to adjust, I can move to a less cushioned Altra model. For me, the best part is the wide toe box. I had a pair of Hokas, but my feet just hurt after I run due to the narrow toe box. Initially I looked for a standard shoe with a wide toe box, but couldn’t find any that matched the Altras. So, I figured I’d bite the bullet and slowly retrain my running form.

  50. Great listen! Have been working on improving my form and I think the next logical step is a pair of Altras.

  51. Christian Stockle says:

    Excellent podcast/interview! Great timing as I’ve been exploring the Altras as a go to shoe for trail Ultras, but now I’m keen to get a pair for dirty tarmac. The science is fascinating and makes so much sense, I run in Inov8s on the trail which are a wide toe box as well and they make such a difference. We just need more of a range available here in NZ! Good work guys!

  52. Great episode. Loving the more frequent episode format. This was an interesting topic and I am now looking into getting a pari of these.

  53. Great podcast! Those shoes sound awesome!

  54. David Byczek says:

    Great interview!! I just bought a pair of Paradigm for my first road 100 buy could use some Olympus for a trail 100 next year!

  55. Very interesting stuff. Might have to try a pair out when the weather gets nice again in New England.

  56. Jonathan Zeif says:

    Good interview, but I’m beginning to feel a bit foolish going to the shoe store after every new trend comes around….five fingers, minimalist, hokas, zero drop….what’s next???

  57. Hello,

    thanks for this great podcast! I would love to try out a pair of these in Germany. 🙂
    Liebe Grüße aus Berlin

  58. Living overseas (Barcelona – Spain) I hade never even heard of this brand.
    But it is great to discover products that seem to be the result of passion, research and hard work combined. I am sure they rock bigtime!
    It seems these shoes are not (yet?) distributed in Spain, so I will have to take a leap of faith and buy them on-line somewhere. But after this interview, I am ready to do so 🙂
    Thumbs up!

    Ah, should Golden be reading (or anyone else knowledgeable, of course!): I am interested in knowing if he recommends using corrective (orthopedic) insoles in combination with the minimalist shoe, or if it is better to keep it as “natural” as possible?

    • Ken,
      You should be able to find them in Spain if you look hard enough! We distribute in Europe so you should for sure be able to get them shipped to you. As for orthotics, we look at them like a cast when you break your arm—use them to fix an issue, but take them off when you don’t have problems. Our shoes are the best base for an orthotic to work in, but we recommend slowly phasing them out by first leaving them home on your easy runs, then later on your moderate runs, and then ultimately down the road on your hard and long runs. Hope that helps!

  59. I recently switched over to the Olympus (former Hoka wearer) and I am totally in love with the Altras. I would kill for another pair. But that was a great, really interesting interview with Golden. It’s cool to hear some of the method and logic behind the shoes.

  60. Please enter me to win the shoes. I checked them out at my local running store and love the zero drop and the huge toe area. Good to meet you at ATL Veg Fest! Enjoying my new NMA shirt and magnet.

  61. Great interview, I’m strangely fascinated in the running shoe/sports shoe industry. A fantastic read if you haven’t heard of it is “Sneaker Wars” by Barbara Smit about the rival brothers who founded Adidas and Puma and how Nike came into the picture.

  62. Matthew Ronne says:

    Awesome stuff. Altra is one of the two brands I’m looking at for my next pair.

  63. Great episode! I have been interested in learning more about how shoes affect my overall running, and this was a great start. I look forward to learning more, and will definitely be giving Altras a try.

  64. Interesting interview! I’m always looking for shoes with a big toe box, so Altra may be a “good fit”.

  65. Great podcast! I run in Altras and didn’t know they’re vegan friendly. Great to hear they’re socially responsible.

  66. Very interested in trying out Altra, I think the concept of the foot shaped shoe is great!

  67. Will waterman says:

    Fan of the Podcast and I particularly loved this episode.

    I am a physical therapist and I specialize in treating endurance athletes. I have not had the pleasure of running in Altra shoes, but I have found that I have been pushing other shoes with the same characteristics (zero drop, cushion, wider toe box) after years of practice and looking at the research and looking at my patients/athletes run in them. I was most impressed by Golden’s emphasis on form and technique and how his shoes allow you to maximize proper technique NOT fix bad technique. I can’t emphasize how important that is in my experience.

    Keep up the good work both of you guys. I hope to experience Altras soon.


  68. Great interview. I didn’t know much about Altra shoes before the podcast, but now I’m interested in trying them out.

  69. I love my Altras! And would love another pair.

  70. The day after the podcast I saw a man at the gym rocking the altras! I’m suffering from terrible plantar faciitis issues and am looking for help so the altras intrigue me.

  71. Mark Petersen says:

    Great podcast. I found Altra earlier this year and have really been digging their shoes; great company.

  72. Kyle Mulcahy says:

    Love the podcast, great for listening to at work! Always on the lookout for new vegan running shoes, would love to get a pair!

  73. I love that Altras were born in a home toaster oven. Great interview.

  74. Jessica Kortz says:

    This was perfect timing to hear your podcast about Altra running shoes, as I have been looking into purchasing a pair to run in. I have been running in some other brands “zero drop” shoes for awhilehowever I’ve recently developed a bunion due to an old soccer injury and I have been researching their shoes due to the wide toe box. Great information in the podcast, I’m sold. And I had no idea that the term “zero drop” came from Altra! Great podcast.

  75. Great episode. I will for sure check Altra online!

  76. Another great podcast, appreciate you guys having experts on the show, keep up the good work, so happy your having more frequent podcasts now as well, going to be working on simplifying my life!

  77. Loved this episode! I’m in the market for new shoes so it got the wheels turning.

  78. My comment disappeared! I loved the recap of the RW festival and would love to try Altra.

  79. Brilliant podcast. It’s always interesting find out about different shoes and the technology behind them. Will definitely be looking into Altra from now on.
    Keep up the great work.

  80. Scott Larkin says:

    im interested in the wide toe space, the shoes i use tend to squash my toes too much, causing cuts if i forget to cut my nails (oops), and it bloody hurts. even though im trying to spread my toes out (Rich Roll tends to advocate this), these sound good for me, bit pricey though, over 100 quid.

  81. I thought the running mechanics and the information about how our toes are supposed to work while we run was particularly interesting. I have bunion problems and I am really excited to find a toe-box that actually allows my feet to relax in a natural form . Buying a pair for my dad today!

  82. I’ve been researching Altra as of late & had the chance to try on a pair at the Chicago Marathon expo in October. I’m curious to get a pair & run in them to see if they might be a good fit for my running. The design is certainly intriguing.

  83. I too have been living with a “zero drop” == “minimalist” mindset and found the information provided in this podcast intriguing. Need to get my hands on – er, I mean feet into – a pair of Altra shoes for at least a trial run soon.

  84. I’ve actually been thinking about getting a pair of Altras but when I heard you were going to be interviewing Gordon I decided to wait and hear what he had to say. Now I REALLY want to buy/win a pair 🙂

  85. With a history of knee injuries, I was drawn to Altra because I heard good things about them. I bought my first pair about a month ago and like them so far. I am interested in trying out their other models. As others have commented, I too once thought that “zero drop”= “minimalist”.

  86. Since I am currently injured, and usually listen to your podcast on my run, I’m a little late on commenting on this!
    Excellent interview with Golden… I loved all the great info on these shoes – they have been on my “want to try” list for a while… and have moved much higher up the list. Will be looking into them once I am feeling better… for now I’ll study the improve your form section!

    Thanks Matt & Golden!

    • Jamie,
      Good luck recovering. A pair of shoes that let’s your feet and body function naturally can actually be a huge help to those recovering from an injury. Most of our 1st 1000 pair of shoes were sold to help injured people to recover.

  87. Another awesome episode! Totally convinced by everything he had to say about running impact and shoe design. Would love to win a pair of these bad boys!

  88. I am getting back into running again after mostly biking for the last 10 years, and I’d love to try Altra’s. I’ve seen people wearing them at the gym & thought the toe box would be really good for my feet. I loved the interview, and understand why you decided to make Golden the first ‘brand’ interview.

  89. Great Podcast! I love Altras, but I have a hard time finding them where I live. Would love another pair.

  90. Loved the podcast, convinced after listening. Bought some and have been running in them and feel great! Big difference in comfort compared to regular running shoes.

  91. Alexandre Charest says:

    Interesting podcast. I’m currently healing a Achilles tendonitis probably because I ran too much this summer and maybe because I ran in too flat shoes. But the toe box bit is interesting. I sure would like to try this someday but I fear that they will be harder to find up here in Canada (or costlier to ship anyway…)

  92. Irene Keeley says:

    I have heard of Altras but didn’t know anything about them. So informative! Thanks!

  93. Great episode! I’m looking for a pair of Altras now 🙂

  94. I’ve been running in altra paradigms for about 4 months and have put hundreds of miles on them. I’ve never run in a more comfortable pair of shoes. My son and I are going to philmont with the scouts in 2016 and I intend to wear altra Olympus for the long trek as well as all of my trail runs.

  95. Heather says:

    Just recently found your podcast, so I’m catching up. I love this episode. I have been wearing Vibram Bikilas for a few years now and they solved my shin splint problem I had for 15 years. Just last week I bought a pair of Nike Free and regretted it. I like the extra cushioning and lots of room for my toes, but the heel drop is huge and I started feeling my shins again. Maybe Altra shoes would be the perfect balance.

  96. tyler swehla says:

    Love the podcast and am in need of new shoes!
    Just like the above comment, I recently purchased a pair of Nike Free’s and instantly regretted!
    Would love to try out a pair of shoes so well designed by Altra!
    Thanks for the great podcasts and keep it up! Can’t wait to hear more!

  97. A great and informative episode.

  98. Excellent podcast. Not a company I had heard of (I’m in the UK), but one I will certainly be looking at in the future.

  99. Susan Shannon says:

    Listened to this, and I cannot wait to try on a pair of altras! I searched online already and found where I can try them on and buy them. The information about running form and shoe structure was very helpful to me, thank you Golden and Matt!!

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