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Altra is banking on more growth from 4mm drop shoes and the Marine Corps Marathon

As a running shoe brand, Altra has long been a dominant player in the trail running world. But, even though it’s been making road running shoes from the start, it’s just now tapping into the growing population of road runners and the new marathon boom. 

Following the release of its first shoe with a 4mm heel-toe offset last fall – the AltraFwd Experience everyday trainer – it sparked new growth for Altra in the road running space. The brand is on the verge of launching three more shoes with 4mm offsets this spring – Experience Flow, Experience Form and Experience Wild – and then at this fall’s Marine Corps Marathon, it will launch an updated version of its max-cushioned shoe called the Experience Via and the second edition of the AltraFwd Experience as it continues to market toward a wide range of marathon runners.

Started 13 years ago by entrepreneurs Brian Beckstead and Golden Harper, Altra built its reputation on footwear with wider dimensions in the toe box and a level midsole platform or a zero-drop profile. While it has stuck to those tenets of natural running, it has offered slight variations on those themes over the past few years to appeal to a wider customer base. 

The success of Altra’s 4mm drop shoes came on the heels of its Vanish Carbon marathon supershoe and Vanish Tempo performance trainer, which were its first catalysts to its entry to the modern marathoning world in 2022. Those shoes have been validated by pro marathoner Frank Lara, who lowered his personal best to 2:11:32 in 2022 and earned a top-20 finish at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in early February. 

Still, the brand needed a better way to reach customers directly. While it has had expo booths at numerous marathons – including Boston, Chicago and New York – Altra achieved much greater engagement as a Marine Corps Marathon sponsor last October, Beckstead said. That golden opportunity only opened up last summer, but Altra jumped at the chance and realized huge success.

“For us, it's a big step in showcasing that we're here as a main running brand in the marathon,” Beckstead said. “It's a race that’s historic and has a massive following, and for us it's a big step in the right direction.”

With 30,000 runners and a fervent, historic following, the Marine Corps Marathon – which sends runners through parts of Arlington, Virginia, and Washington D.C. – has ranked among the largest marathons in both the U.S. and the world for years. It’s the largest event Altra has ever partnered with, and it made especially good sense because Altra has become the fourth biggest brand at Pacers Running, a five-store running retail shop operation in and around Washington D.C. and northern Virginia. 

Altra used the Marine Corps Marathon expo to showcase its new Via Olympus 2 max-cushioned training shoe last year, as well as the AltraFwd Experience 4mm drop shoe. 

“We've really seen massive growth at Pacers the last two to three years,” Beckstead said. “When the Marine Corps Marathon opportunity came up, we talked to Pacers and that made us even more excited to work with the Marine Corps Marathon. Our really great shoe launches coordinated with the great retail partnership with Pacers made the whole thing really awesome for us. I think we really showcased to both the Marine Corps Marathon audience and the whole running world that, ‘Hey! We're legit!’”

When Altra athlete Cal Neff won the 50K race during the Marine Corps Marathon weekend in a course-record time of 2 hours, 55 minutes and 56 seconds, it was icing on the cake. Beckstead said he hopes to bring more Altra elite athletes to this year’s Marine Corps Marathon to continue to enhance the partnership with the race.

“It went incredibly well for us,” Beckstead said. “We’re very happy with how it went last year and are looking forward to sponsoring the event this year, and looking forward to continuing to be a part of the Marine Corps Marathon for years to come.”


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