When we learned that one of our favorite shoe companies, Altra, was venturing into the clothing market, we couldn't wait to see what they would serve up. We're used to quality and durability from this manufacturer, so when we first laid hands on the Performance Half-Zip we were a bit confused. Stiff and uncomfortable, we were quickly put off by this jacket. After weeks of testing, we found average weather resistance, below-average breathability, and decent portability and features. At the end of the day, the comfort factor was the nail in the coffin for this otherwise average running layer.
Altra Performance Half-Zip - Women's Review
Cons: Uncomfortable, bad breathability
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Despite stretchy mesh panels, we found the Performance to be less breathable and comfortable than many of its competitors. Especially when compared directly to the Patagonia Airshed, the only other pullover model in this review, this jacket just wasn't one of our favorites.
No matter how slow you run, you're going to work up a sweat. Breathability is an incredibly important factor for running wear, and striking a balance between airflow and weather resistance can be difficult. Depending on the climate where you live and run, one of these two factors might be more important to you.
There are a lot of different things a jacket can do to promote breathability. The Performance attempted to use venting to achieve this goal, as seen by the stretchy mesh panels that stretch under the arms from mid-torso to the elbow. Altra also placed some small holes along the spine, and the half-zip is meant to promote airflow when open.
We found some mixed results. The mesh under the arms promoted good airflow, but the spines in the back were essentially useless. We liked the half-zip style, similar to that of the Airshed, but the material of the Performance was stuffy. While our pits could breathe, our torsos could not, and we quickly felt too warm in this layer because the bulk material, which is mostly polyester, had essentially no breathable properties.
Weather resistance comes in a wide array of shapes and sizes, and how important this category is to you will depend on where you live and what conditions you often find yourself running in. If you're looking for protection from torrential thunderstorms, this might not be the shopping category for you, as most of these products protect you from the occasional bad weather event, the Performance included.
This jacket is not particularly warm unless you count built-up body heat. This would not be our first choice for frigid winter runs, though it is warm enough to give you a little bit of shelter on chilly mornings or evenings.
The Performance provides decent protection from wind and rain, but not as much as some of our other contenders, like The North Face Flight RKT. While this jacket would protect you from a surprise sprinkle, it's definitely not a rain jacket. Also, because of the big mesh vents on the sides of the torso, wind can whip right through.
Comfort may seem like a second-class category when compared to some of the more performance-based metrics we test for, but hear us out. Running is tough work, and as the miles pile on, our clothing can hold us back if we don't choose carefully.
The Performance, unfortunately, was one of these products that restricted us. First, we noticed that the fit is completely off. It's very small for its size, and we would recommend sizing up a full size if you want to try it out.
Besides the fit, the fabric was very uncomfortable. We found the polyester fabric to be stiff and lacking in the stretch to allow a full range of motion. Some of the jackets we tested, like the Airshed or Brooks LSD were impressively soft on our skin, and the Performance was far behind. We had a hard time even bending our arms fully, and not just because of the sizing problem. While the underarm mesh is stretchier than the torso, we didn't like the way this mesh felt on our bare skin, either.
It was nice to see taped seams on this product, something that has proven well at preventing chafing, but that's about all we liked about the Performance as far as comfort and mobility go.
During our months-long testing process, we considered two factors for the "portability" metric: weight and packability. We wanted to know, in general, how easy each product was to take along for us, whether we were on a quick jaunt, a long training run, or a race. We put all twelves jackets on the scale and toted them around in a wide variety of occasions to see how they stacked up.
The Performance Half-Zip touts above-average portability, though it wasn't one of our top scorers. At 3.9 ounces, this jacket is on the lower end of the weight spectrum, coming in after a few sub-3-ounce products, like the Brooks LSD, but also well below our heaviest contenders, some of which tipped the scales at over 10 ounces, like the Under Armour Outrun the Storm.
We awarded the highest points to jackets that folded into their own pockets for easy transport, and the Performance did just that. While the pocket was a little small, making packing a bit more of a pain, we really appreciated how condensed this jacket could become. We were psyched to be able to stuff it into our running pack. That being said, the clip loop, which we find more applicable for other activities like climbing or hiking, is more flimsy than some of the other loops we saw.
There are a lot of things that can make a wind or rain shell runner-specific, from visibility to pockets and hoods. We wanted to know how well each product in this review would elevate your running experience, so we started judging the details.
The Performance is a bit reflectivity crazy, and we like it. There is reflective striping everywhere, from the front to the back and even along the sides. Compared to many of its competitors, who try to pass off their products as "visible" when there's just one reflective logo, you can feel confident running in the dark with this jacket.
This jacket doesn't have a hood, which we think is more comfortable but less protective. There are thumb loops, but we found them to bit too high up to fit comfortably. The chest pocket does fit a larger phone, like the iPhone 6, though there's nothing included to accommodate headphones, which was one of the nicer touches of the Arc'teryx Gaea. One thing this jacket does have over its competition is a sun protection. Overall, the Performance was lacking in some of the features of its competitors but did excel more than any other jacket at visibility.
If you're as committed to running as we are (and even if you aren't), you're going to find yourself out and about in a wide variety of conditions. The Performance, with its low comfort score aside, would be a decent choice for windy, cool days. While not burly enough for heavy rain or super cold temps, this jacket is best suited for mildly uncomfortable weather.
Ringing in at $130, the Performance is just about averagely priced compared to its competitors in this review. However, some of our favorite products, like the Airshed and Brooks LSD, were less expensive, making us question the true value of this jacket.
After months of testing, we still weren't quite sure what to say about the Performance Half-Zip. We could see what the manufacturer was going for, with the highly visible striping and underarm mesh, but our testers found these to be greatly overshadowed by the uncomfortable material and poor fit. Overall, it's just difficult for us to recommend this product over many of its stellar competitors.
— Lauren DeLaunay