Disclaimer: I sell Altra Zero Drop Footwear and received these shoes from them at no cost to me or my business. You can also see this review on Runblogger.com (minus pics of me).
I started dabbling in Triathlons last summer. Why? I have no clue, but I got my hands on a free bike (think “American Flyers” starring Kevin Costner era of bike) & I had a neighborhood pool to swim in. So, I went with it… After I was finished with my first Tri, I was immediately thinking of where I could get faster… just like every other race I’ve ever finished. One of those sections in the race was in the 2nd transition area where I literally sat there and laced up my shoes (coincidentally Altra Instinct 1.5s). It felt like it took me 3 hours to tie the shoes. I needed to change what was on my feet if I didn’t want the “What if…” voices in my head.
Enter the Altra 3-SUM. Like most new shoes releases I get pretty excited. Even if I don’t sell the shoes, I love shoes. I was beyond my normal level of excitement however when Altra came out with the 3-SUM. It was going to fill some voids in my shoe arsenal. 1) I needed a racing flat. Racing flats are tough for me to fit in because of my size 14 extra wide foot. 2) I am planning on doing more and more Tri’s. 3) They are such a departure from the aesthetics of Altra’s original shoes. Color Poppin’!
Ok so, lets get down to the nitty gritty of the shoe itself. I have put some good miles on them in the last 2 months and here’s my opinion. They are a great racing flat. Altra does one thing better than any brand of shoe that I have tried on: Consistency. They keep the insides of their shoes the same. I can go across the brand and know that my foot will fit exactly the same in each make. I know many people have had issues with their sizing (trust me I sell them and have had a lot of returns), but once you find your size in Altra, expect the same fit across the brand.
The 3-SUMs are lower profile (18mm) than the Instinct or Provision. This gives them great ground feel. As someone who isn’t used to this on pavement, my feet were barking at me after competing in the River to River Relay and ran three 5k’s in them in one day. You will feel the pavement for sure. However, this is indicative of just about any racing flat.
You know what else is indicative of a racing flat? Less Weight. Altra delivered with these topping the scales at 6.7 oz! (probably men’s 9 or 10) When I first slipped these on, I was immediately taken back by how light they were. Funny how just a couple ounces less on your feet can make you feel faster. Not sure if it was a mental thing or the shoes, but I PR’d my 5K time in the first leg of that Relay Race.
Ok so with every good comes some bad and I have only a few concerns with them. First off let me make sure that I state this appropriately… THESE ARE A TRI SHOE. Yes I know that is obvious but if you want these shoes for just a racing flat, buy The ONE from Altra. Here’s why:
The lacing. Altra teamed up with Yankz to provide their drawstrings as laces on these shoes. I totally get it. You won’t be that moron sitting there tying your shoes in a race (see above). However, what I’ve noticed from this is the lacing takes at least 3 or 4 runs to figure out the right fit. And no matter how much you think you have tightened each shoe the same, you haven’t. Each foot is its own combination of tightening and loosening. Furthermore, if you lace your shoes any special way, its near impossible with the Yankz. I know this seems like more of a problem with Yanks, but these are the laces you get with the shoe.
Also, I got blisters man. Tri shoes are typically meant to be worn sock-less It’s a time game, and socks are a bear to put on when your feet are wet coming out of a pool (yes I know you go to the bike after swimming). This is why most of the elites don’t wear socks. I took these out for the first time for just a mile and got a blister on the top of my foot. This could have been due to the issue above with the Yankz but I can’t be certain. Either way, blisters are no bueno. I did remedy this by putting socks. By no stretch of the imagination do I see myself winning any races in my career, so I don’t care about putting socks on in transition.
Finally, the name. I am just kind of shocked that a name like that could get through. Maybe my head is eternally in the gutter or something. “Having shoe issues? Try a 3-SUM.” Anyway, I just think there are other names to use that reference 3 than that.
So, if you are in the market for a great zero drop Tri shoe, the 3-SUM is the way to go