Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shoe Review Tuesday #8 (Altra Instinct)

Altra Instinct
Support Category: Neutral/Minimalist
Weight: 8.8 oz
Cost: $100
Available in Widths: No
Multiple Colors Available: No
Durability: 300+ miles
Updates from Previous Model: Debut!
Upper: Lightweight, soft, supportive, and airy
Arch Height: Low
Heel-Toe Drop: 0 mm

About Altra
Altra is a new shoe brand which focuses on natural running. Natural running is defined as a straight back, slight forward lean, midfoot strike, and a cadence of 180 (180 steps per minute). The way Altra achieves their goal is by designing shoes that have no drop from heel to toe and developing a naturally wide toe box which molds to normal foot anatomy. Zero drop in your shoes means the heel is the same height in the shoe as the toes. In your typical performance running shoe, you will see about a 12mm drop. With no drop, you are forced to land on your midfoot, which means you will not be heel striking and naturally landing with a softer more efficient foot strike. A naturally wide toebox is built into the shoe to allow for a weight bearing toe splay while running, which also emphasizes a gait similar to running completely barefoot. The reason runners would want a natural running form is to help prevent injuries and become more efficient, which leads to faster, longer runs.

Shoe Specs
The purpose of these running shoes is to be completely different than anything else out there by giving you the most natural stride possible while still protecting your feet from the ground. It is one of three gender specific shoes offered by Altra, the Intuition being the women's model. 
New Balance 890 (left) vs Altra Instinct (right) in forefoot width
  • Heel- An overall loose fit on the heel, but grippy enough where you won't feel like you are sliding out of it. The collar is cut much lower than other shoes, so you will feel nothing pressing up on your ankles or rubbing the back of your Achilles.
  • Instep- As with most shoes, the tighter you tie the laces, the tighter it's going to be on your instep. Unlike some shoes that have been coming out lately, the Instinct has very few overlays and seams, so there is no rubbing on the sides of the foot. In addition, it boasts asymmetrical lacing, which follows the natural curve of the fit, leading to a more biomorphic(form-fitting) instep.
  • Toebox- I mentioned earlier about the toebox being one of the features that makes the Instinct unique. It has a much wider toebox that does not come to a point like a typical run shoe. It gets wider toward the end then finally rounds off leaving it open for that natural toe splay.
  • Flexibility- With a shoe that focuses primarily on giving the runner a natural gait, flexibility it key. This shoe can bend in any direction with your foot while still maintaining a sense of stability where you won't feel off-balance. It provides a structured yet free-flowing feel.
  • Cushion- Yet another aspect that separates the Instinct from other shoes is that it comes with 2 different kinds of insoles. One is a super soft cushy insole to help give a little support, while the other is not as soft and is designed to help strengthen your muscles and tendons. Adding to the versatility, this shoe can also be worn without insoles, giving it a rigid barefoot feeling. So I would say depending on the insole you have in, it could be a 2, 6 or 9 out of 10.
A Little Personal
Being a minimalist by nature I saw these shoes and immediately decided I had to try them out. I placed my order and got them very promptly. As soon as they got in I took them out for a spin. My first run in them was a 6 miler and let me tell you, they are comfortable. Despite being a little heavier than my other minimalist shoes, I still consider these a top contender. The reason being is that when I wear these shoes, I don't feel like I'm running barefoot, I feel like I'm running natural. I have the same gait as if I was wearing Vibram FiveFingers, but I have the same support as if I was wearing the Nike Lunarglide. In that sense, the cushion is what sets it apart from other minimalist running shoes. Since my first run, I have taken it out a few more times, with the longest going up to 8 miles. This is a shoe I feel confident enough to do up to 20 miles in. For those of you who are thinking about going minimal, give this one a try before you go pick up the FiveFingers or the Minimus Trail. My favorite things about this shoe:
  • Gives me a natural gait while still providing a secure feeling
  • It will last much longer than other minimalist shoes
  • The multiple insole option
  • The softness of the shoe
Let me end my review with a little disclaimer. Do not expect to be able to run the same amount of mileage in these shoes right away. As with all minimalist/barefoot shoes, you need a transition period of about 1-4 weeks to allow your calves and tendons to strengthen up and get used to the new gait. Even though you will feel like going out and running 100 miles, don't do it. Just take your time and enjoy your new found natural stride. I hope you learned a little bit today about Altra Running Shoes and are enjoying living the Life of a Runner.


  1. well, they look interesting but certainly not going to win any beauty pageants.

  2. Great review. Understood Jason! We are working on design on future rollouts. We have brought on a full team of designers and will have some exciting things coming early next year. The Instinct has done extremely well due to function.