Color Options: Samson – Only available in Gray/Orange, Delilah – Available in Gray/Purple or Gray/Pink
Weight: 6.5oz each (13oz. pair) *varies per size
Drop: 0 mm heel to toe
Other: 3.4 mm Razor-Siped Performance Rubber BareSole
In the box: Samson – Shoes with insoles, Delilah – Shoes with insoles & colored laces
Hello Altramaniacs! I’m here to tell you about the newest shoes in Altra’s minimalist lineup, the Samson & Delilah. In this review, I will focus on the Samson, but, like the Adam and Eve, the Samson and Delilah are the same for both women and men. Before I start my review, I want to begin by saying that I was terrified to try this shoe because of my dislike for the Adam. I realize I am alone in my opinion, because the Adam tends to get fairly good reviews, and Meagan is happy with hers. However, I have had trouble getting over the design, feel, and look of the Adam, let alone the fact that my one run in Adams was probably one of the worst I have had since beginning this journey. With that said, I should recognize that my problem may be self inflicted because I refuse to run with insoles and I have large feet (with even larger toes), which seems to force the Adam to flop around a bit, making for a very uncomfortable ride.
Anyway, with regard to the Samson, I am pleased to say that it is a work of art. I try to be careful about throwing around the f-word (favorite) around because it can lose its meaning very quickly, but I am fairly close to letting it slip with the Samson. The Samson takes what is so popular about the Adam and capitalizes on it by adding laces, a sportier vamp, and a slightly stronger midsole. Also like the Adam, the Samson comes with a removable insole (which I prefer to run without, which Altra refers to as the “BareSole configuration”) and sports the same razor-siped soles (similar to the Vibram FiveFingers KSO, Classic, Sprint, & Flow sole).
Honestly, I have had a difficult time coming up with things to say about performance. Does the word “awesome” work as enough of a descriptor? The only real way to explain the performance of this shoe is to educate buyers on what they are actually getting when they purchase the Samson, which in this case, is nearly every treasure Altra has to offer. The full list from Altra’s site is as follows:
- NRS – Natural Ride System: A combination of unique design elements & materials, working together to let the foot do its thing. Components include outsole & midsole componentry with proper metatarsal parabola, Zero Drop™, and foot shaped design working together to allow you to run as nature intended. No artificial flavors!
- A-Bound™: A-Bound™ is an environmentally friendly energy return compound with incredible resilience and protection. This unique compound sits directly under your foot to return energy back and dampen hard surfaces while still maintaining fantastic ground feedback. A-Bound™ also retains only a 10% compression set (compared to 70-90% with traditional running shoe foam) so it won’t deform over time. Recycled.
- HeelClaw™: Altra shoes have been developed to provide a snug fit around the Calcaneous without the traditional heel counter. Through our unique design, you get a great fit without any unnecessary elements.
- BareSole: Our minimal 3.4mm BareSole allows for maximum proprioception with minimal sole. This do-everything outsole is created from our proprietary siped performance rubber.
- Foot Shape Design: ALTRA™’s proprietary Male and Female specific lasts have been revolutionarily developed by biomechanical experts using the latest research in order to provide you with a natural running experience. The inspiration? The human foot. By allowing the toes to splay naturally your balance improves, the foot relaxes, and your ability to attenuate shock increases. What does this mean for you? Stronger feet and legs, less injuries, decreased pronation, and a comfortable smooth ride.
I will start with what I believe Altra has really nailed down perfectly, HeelClaw. HeelClaw is what makes me fall in love every time I go for a run in this shoe. My heel stays put and is cradled extremely well, with my only complaint being that it can be difficult to get the shoe on and off but frankly, for a run, that is the least of my worries. The HeelClaw design is much different than any other shoe because it is much more sophisticated than a classic heel counter, which is normally just a stiffer material designed to help the shoe hold its shape. Instead, HeelClaw is designed to fit around your Calcaneous (heel bone). This leads me to the last two features: BareSole and Foot Shape Design. Altra does a fantastic job putting the foot first, and then designing everything else around it. The Samson fits my feet in an almost perfect way; the only thing holding them back is my giant toes, which need a bit more room to fully splay out than the Samson provides.
As I mentioned earlier, I removed the insole that came with the show, so all of my feedback will be based off of the BareSole design, which obviously offers the most ground feedback. The barefoot feel of this shoe is comparable to its brother, the Adam, the only difference being that it does sport a slightly stiffer/thicker sole. For example, the Samson has a 7mm stack height (the distance between your foot and the ground) while the Adam touts an ultra-thin 4.4mm stack height. For those of you unfamiliar with the Adam, I’ll simply say that the Samson allows for some quality ground feel and gets there without sacrificing comfort.
The only concerns both Meagan and I have with the Samson and Delilah were hard to categorize, since they fall somewhere between comfort and aesthetics. The first concern is primarily from Meagan, and it is regarding the width of the shoe. Although the accommodation of your foot is great in this shoe, there seems to be a lack of much mid-foot structure meant to grab the center of your foot. This is not a problem for me as I have wider feet, but for someone with narrower feet, like Meagan, it can cause the foot to slide forward in the shoe and result in your longest toes hitting the end of the shoe. You can tell from the photos of the Samson and Delilah that, even though they have a lot of shape to their profile, there is not much shape visible in the top view. The sides of the shoes essentially run along straight lines from heel to toe, offering less grip of the midfoot as some other minimalist models. Meagan has been able to easily remedy the issue of her foot sliding forward with socks and by tightening the laces a bit more than she normally would.
The second concern with these shoes is one that both Meagan and I experienced. Simply put, we found that these shoes took a bit of extra break-in time relative to some of our other minimalist shoes, which may be related to the stiff straps involved with the HeelClaw design. All in all, this issue was relieved after just a few runs and spending some time walking around in the shoes in a casual setting.
Last, but definitely not least, is on the subject of sizing. We are both not fond of the sizing that Altra uses. I have a very difficult time figuring out what size I am supposed to wear. For example, I normally wear a size 12 US and a size 45 EU. With that said, the Altra sizing chart (pictured below) is not only different, but has something I have never seen before, half EU sizes. When we measured my foot in centimeters, though, I measured at a size 11. After all of the confusion with the size, I ended up in a size 11 1/2 which is apparently a 46 EU. When Meagan measured her feet in centimeters, she measured as a size 10, but size 11 is actually what fits her. Although, it does seem that the Delilah does run slightly smaller than the Eve, so you might want to order half a size up for Women.
This shoe is, in my opinion, the best looking shoe is Altra’s line-up, and may be the best-looking of all minimalist running footwear. I absolutely love the look of this shoe. The heel section is reminiscent of the Merrell Embark Glove while the rest of the shoe is 100% Altra. The shape of the toe-box is designed similarly to the Adam, while the vamp is made from a gray mesh material, which provides some awesome breathability. This shoe looks like a racing shoe, and every time I strap my foot inside of them I feel the need to push it. In regard to casual wear, they look great with a pair of jeans. I would love to see a few extra color schemes. Maybe a flip-flopped version where the mesh is black and the accents are gray, or a bright colored pair where the mesh is colored and the emblem is black.
I would also like to mention that I am jealous of the women, because for whatever reason, Altra has decided to include an extra pair of laces in the Delilah box which corresponds with the two color schemes they get, while the men only get one color scheme and only one pair of black laces.
- HeelClaw – Altra threw a lot of innovations at this shoe but the one that stood out for me is HeelClaw. Many brands ignore the importance of a quality heel counter, while Altra both recognizes and perfects it.
- Aesthetics – I am by no means an “Altramaniac”, but that has been primarily because of the designs thus far. This one knocks it out of the park. These shoes look awesome and they may make a “maniac” out of me yet.
- Design – This shoe fits my feet like a glove. The “foot shaped design” they use is no joke!
- Difficult to take off – I argued with whether or not to use this as a pro because I am pleased with how well these shoes fit, but I will admit that once I’m done with my run, my shoes need to be off of my feet, and the Samson requires some extra time to rip them off.
- Limited color-ways
- Sizing – If you have the ability to, I would suggest going to a store to try these on, or order two sizes and return the wrong one. Altra does offer a 30-day-guarantee on their shoes with free shipping and exchanges, and they are a very responsive company, so you should have no problem getting into the right shoe for you!
- Narrow feet issues – Straight design of the sides makes it difficult for the shoe to hold on to narrow feet to prevent them from sliding forward.
The Samson is one of the best minimalist running shoes I have had the pleasure of testing out. I am extremely pleased with Altra and their attention to detail. They managed to take the already solid design of the Adam, add some of their amazing innovations, and bring a solid running shoe to fruition.[suffusion-widgets id=’1′]
Steve is an Executive Recruiter at Robert Half Executive Search in Madison, WI with a business degree in Information Systems and E-Commerce from the University of Toledo. Steve loves spending his time away from work; running, gaming, watching movies, checking out new social networking tools/sites/start-ups and blogging.