Comment from: Rich [Visitor]

I had these for about a week and did not like them. I agree with most of the good things said in this review, but there were two things that were simply deal breakers. First, there is far too much cushioning. Maybe it's not a problem for people who are already locked into good form, but for me, who still struggles to maintain good form, these made it far too easy to "cheat." And I disagree with the review in that I had almost no ground feel whatsoever in these. Second, I had a lot of chafing on the Achilles tendon, which is something I've heard others have experienced also.

02/23/12 @ 12:28
Comment from: Theo [Visitor]

To me this is not a minimalist shoe at all and it is not marketed that way. It is in a new group of zero drop cushioned shoes. While the cushion is firmer than many traditional shoes, it is still pretty soft. Since I reviewed this shoe last June, my feeling on this shoe are less positive. I just do not like shoes with any substantial cushioning as I tend to overpronate in them. I need a very firm shoe with little to no cushion to allow my feet to control any unwanted leg movement.

02/23/12 @ 12:43
Comment from: dustin [Visitor]  

From first look this shoe looks like it has a much thicker sole, and from further read 20mm is much thicker then other minimal runningshoes. Id really like to hear what people haveto say about the ground feel and how easy or not it is to keep proper barefoot running mechanics.

02/23/12 @ 13:08
Comment from: Rob Savarese [Visitor]  
Rob Savarese

The Instincts are a great high-mileage shoe to transition from traditional shoes to more minimalist footwear. I've got over 700 miles in them (over a few pair) and I love them. The different footbeds provided allow you to tailor the feel which is great for a newbie. At first they felt very firm but once my feet adjusted they started to feel 'cushioned' especially after I started putting some mileage in the VFFs. I think this is a good thing as it signals that I might be ready for a less structured shoe.

In my current training cycle I'm getting close to 70 miles a week and I know I don't yet have the foot and lower leg strength to handle that mileage in a shoe like the VFFs or the Altra Adams so the Instincts are my go-to high mileage shoe. If anyone is interested how I made the transition, I went through the progression in a blog post here:

02/23/12 @ 14:07
Comment from: Rob Y. (The Author) [Visitor]  
Rob Y. (The Author)

First of all, I think what may be confusing some folks is the meaning of the word "minimalist" or "minimal". Now, since I'm more of an old school runner, in my background "minimal" simply meant a shoe that was significantly lighter, lower profile and less cushioned that a "trainer". A racing flat if you will. Now what I feel like most folks these days consider "minimal" as what I'd call "ultra-minimal" or "barefoot-like"; basically very little or no cushioning.

So that being established, yes these may not be "minimal" in the modern trend sense, but they are way more "minimal" than a TON of cushioned, over-engineered shoes on the market. If you don't like the amount of cushioning in the Instinct, I suggest one try the Adam or one of the new line of Altras that have little or no midsole.

The benefits of this shoe, IMHO, far outweigh the negatives; zero-drop, wide toe box for proper toe splay, etc... I never said there was good ground feel, but at the same time I never said there wasn't any. I also feel like the midsole is a heck of a lot firmer than a lot of road shoes I've worn in the past. So it's all relative I guess.

If your a VFF, Merrell or huarache runner, then yes you probably won't like this shoe. But if you're somebody in transition or who runs A LOT of miles and long distance races; you know that you appreciate having a bit more underfoot protection.

As far as the Achilles agitation; I had no issues with that. I think it's a case by case issue perhaps. I've had such issues in others shoes where other folks never reported such issues. Who knows?

All I know is, is that I've had good results with this shoe (and the Lone Peak) and they work for me.

Your mileage may vary.

02/23/12 @ 14:31
Comment from: Rich [Visitor]

@Rob: I've tried the "transition shoe" route and am not a fan. The problem is, if your form is not very good, a "transition shoe" like the Kinvara or even the Instinct is going to allow you to continue your bad habits. To be sure, if you already have good form, it will be easier to maintain in those transition shoes than in traditional shoes, but a shoe like the Instinct is not going to force you to adopt good form. With that much cushioning, your body has no incentive to learn to run more lightly.

02/23/12 @ 16:51
Comment from: Rob Savarese [Visitor]  
Rob Savarese

@Rich: I see where you are coming from, no arguments here. Personally my goal was to have better form and stronger lower legs/feet all while continuing to get faster. Being a heavy heel striker with poor form the tack I took was to work on my form first and move into zero-drop shoes before going to VFF type footwear.

All that to say I still slightly heel strike in the VFF and I've seen barefoot runners heel strike as well so regardless of what's on your feet if you have form issues you need to run deliberately to retrain yourself. I'm still a work in progress but the Instinct has allowed me to transition while I dropped my marathon PR from 3:29 to 3:09 with a possible sub-3 coming at Boston this spring.

At 47 I have about 40 years of bad habits to break so while form issues are important to me I also need to get in high mileage weeks and the Instincts are the perfect fit for that. It may not be a good choice if ground feedback is critical but for my training I'll sacrifice that for the added protection to prevent injury.

02/23/12 @ 19:34
Comment from: [Member]

@Rich: For entry level runners or folks who don't run very high mileage I totally agree that a "transition shoe" may not be the best way to learn "good form" (whatever that means :) ). The problem with the non-trasition shoe approach is that if forces one to cut back, drastically, on mileage and on individual run length; a luxury I really can't afford unless it's in my off season. Yeah, I know one can rotate runs either in ultra-minimal or traditional shoes (what I do a lot). I personally think one can learn good form in just about any shoe, sure it requires hard work and focus (at first) but it can be done; I should know as this was my approach long before "that book" was written and toe shoes became all the rage.

Every one of us has to find our own best approach.

02/23/12 @ 20:00
Comment from: Max [Visitor]

Rob, what's the sizing like? True to size?

02/24/12 @ 08:57
Comment from: [Member]

@Max: My wife and I both went with our normal running shoe size without any issues. There is some language on the Altra website about possibly sizing up a 1/2 size if you're between sizes but I didn't find that to be necessary. Then again I have small feet (Men's 8 1/2) so I can't speak to larger foot sizes. If you buy them I'd recommend doing so for a site that has hassle free returns just in case. Like a lot of new shoe makers I think Altra is still dialing in their sizing matrix and production consistency. So just be careful. :)

02/24/12 @ 12:10
Comment from: Philip [Visitor]  


Sounds like you will really like the Altra Samson, coming out next month. Upper like the instinct with the sole like the adam.

02/24/12 @ 15:43
Comment from: Rich [Visitor]

@Philip that sounds awesome!!

02/24/12 @ 19:52
Comment from: Max [Visitor]

Thanks, Rob!

02/25/12 @ 00:44
Comment from: Jimmy Hart [Visitor]  
Jimmy Hart

@Rich I've coached runners for over 15 years and form is my first and main concern with anyone I work with. I was brought up on using barefoot training days to strengthen and enforce good form and I use those same techniques today. With that said I think a transition shoe can be a great tool for learning better form if the shoe is helpful to the purpose and the runner is clued in on it. No shoe alone will do this job. Not even the beloved VFFs as you can heel strike in those as easy as you can anything else. Sure they might make you land a little softer because they are thin but the Instinct does the same thing because of the zero-drop sole.

The brain does not register anything beyond the foot when you're running. It can only sense to the nerve endings so it has no idea how much foam you have strapped to it. A typical shoe with it's built up heel causes a lot of people to make impact with the ground early before the brain is expecting it and that is the cause of these extreme impact forces that we've all come to know as bad heel striking. The Instinct helps to greatly decrease those impact forces because the heel doesn't catch as early in the stride phase. By not having the thick heel the foot is generally allowed to come back further under the body so the runner is not landing with as much force and most times they land with a bent knee to help absorb shock which is really one of the most important parts of form.

The more cushioned platform of a shoe like the Instinct can help protect a runner from some of these now common transition injuries while still helping them transition their form. So for me as a coach it's all about the approach that needs to be taken in order to achieve a better, more functional form for the runner I'm working with and I've had great success with the Instinct as well as VFFs.

I also agree that the Samson is a great minimal shoe. Best of a lot of worlds with that one. Sorry for the long post :-)

02/27/12 @ 02:20
Comment from: Peggy Haymes [Visitor]
Peggy Haymes

I switched to minimalist running with VFFs, which I loved. but I could not build up mileage on them as rapidly as my training demanded. Plus I had some bad race experiences in them (heavy gravel road in a tri and serrated edges of a drawbridge gate in a half). I needed a shoe that was lightweight, that didn't have a heel for me to fight and, just as importantly, would fit my wide foot. I found all of that in my Altras. I'm on my second pair and I love them.

02/28/12 @ 12:36
Comment from: Jeepman [Visitor]

20mm stack height does not equal minimalist. End of story.

02/28/12 @ 13:50
Comment from: [Member]

BTW, got to actually looking up the reported stack height AND broke out the old ruler myself and found that according to Altra the stack height is 20.0mm (8.5mm EVA, 3mm A-Bound, 5mm Rubber outsole, 3.5mm insole), I measured them to be 13.7mm like some other reviewers have measured. So with the insole we've got 17.2mm stack-height I updated my review accordingly.

@Jeepman: 17.2mm stack height does not equal minimalist compared to running barefoot or in VFFs or other "bare foot shoes" that have no midsole. However the Instincts do have all the main properties of what makes a shoe "minimal" in today's vernacular (please read my previous comments for my discussion on how the word "minimal" has changed). So call in minimalist or whatever, it's still a very solid product that will work quite well for a large category of runners (probably a lot more than fit into the "ultraminimal" category). I strongly believe there is a market for zero dropped, anatomically shaped shoes with various levels of cushioning. Make no mistake, the Altra line is minimal, just not as minimal as midsoleless shoes.

02/28/12 @ 21:10
Comment from: Jimmy Hart [Visitor]
Jimmy Hart

I'd say the Instinct is sort of the perfect blend of minimal and conventional. If you take out the insoles, which is what I like to do, then you have a 16mm sole. Still not minimal in the thin sole sense but definitely thinner than most shoes out there for daily training style running. Throw in the zero drop sole and foot shape and you've got the best "natural running" shoe out there. It's not VFF minimal but there's not a lot to this shoe.

02/28/12 @ 21:28
Comment from: Jimmy Hart [Visitor]
Jimmy Hart

@Rob you also have to add in the 3.5mm or so for the insole to the stack height. that would give the full 20mm stack height and on your scale would then make it 17mm.

02/28/12 @ 21:40
Comment from: [Member]

@Jimmy Hart: Nice catch, already updated stack height in review and comments.

What's important here is to realize that there are many flavors of minimalism for different folks and different goals, terrains, distances etc... Where for one person on a given terrain and distance a midsoleless shoe may be just fine; for others a thicker, more protective midsole is necessary. Are both minimal shoes? I think so. If one has good form then IMHO it shouldn't matter how much/little midsole you run on. Main important aspects of minimalism is the zero-drop and proper amount of room for toe splay...

02/28/12 @ 22:04
Comment from: Dimitris [Visitor]

First of all I'm amazed to see reviews of this shoe on several sites a year or more after its release!!!
Anyway I had these shoes for a long time and I can't say I can be as forgiving as the reviewers.
I never had any chafing on the achilles heel with any shoe except this one. The chafing is quite extreme and you can basically change your form in order to avoid that. And I don't know if that's a good thing... It is a well known problem and my contact with the company months ago revealed that they were aware of the problem and they have supposedly fixed it with new revisions.
One other issue with chafing occurs at the top of the foot quite a few cm above the big toe.
As you can realize I have stopped wearing them for running and only use them for walking. But only barely since the chafing especially in the achiles can happen however think your sock is.
If they completely revise the materials they are using for the upper and make the sole a little bit more flexible I could give them one more try. But as it is now it's a no-no for me

03/01/12 @ 07:03
Comment from: [Member]

@Dimitris: Sorry to hear about your trouble with the Instinct. Perhaps the reason I haven't noticed any Achilles rubbing issues is that I wear Montrail Enduro-Soles in all my shoes so perhaps that combination of fit prevents this issue? I also always wear socks, something I know a lot of minimalists eschew.

I think the reason there are still a lot of Instinct reviews coming forth is that Altra is a relatively new company and really didn't have a well distributed product, or well advertised until more recently. It's pretty awesome that you found out about Altra long before the rest of us.

Like I've said more than once. What we are seeing in this initial lineup of Altra shoes are akin to prototypes. There are going to be issues but hopefully in the next cycle, thanks to feed back like yours and others and the many online reviews these issues will be ironed out.

03/01/12 @ 13:39
Comment from: dfox [Visitor]

PF had me running less than 10 miles a week. After giving it some time to heal I started training in the Altra, instantly doing 40+ miles a week. After nine weeks of this my PF (plantar fasciitis) continues to stay at bay. The shoe helps, but attention to form is also important, and takes some work. I've put well over 300 miles on the same pair, all along paying attention to mid-foot striking, which helps prevent PF, but is also better form for speed. Training with my Altras I've shaved 10 minutes off my half marathon time and continue to improve my form without the influence of a thick heal.

03/23/12 @ 12:33
Comment from: laura [Visitor]

Shipping is SLOOOOOW.

I bought a pair of these for my husband who has wide feet. When they arrived about 14 days after we ordered them, they were very snug. We returned them to exchange for a larger size....12 days later we are still waiting for the shoes. Warning to those folks who want to receive the shoes in a week or so. Moreover,the wait time for customer service is well over 10 minutes. This has been very frustrating experience.

04/09/12 @ 19:37
Comment from: Jimmy Hart [Visitor]
Jimmy Hart

I had a completely different experience with them than you did Laura so I'm surprised to hear that. I've done reviews for them and each time I've called the phone is answered in two rings. I also got my product within a few days of ordering and the other people I know that have ordered from them have had similar experiences as me. Altra is still a smaller company so maybe things can get off for them from time to time but to put my two cents in I haven't had anything like your experiences. I actually hate to hear that yours was negative since I've got such a high opinion of their customer service.

04/10/12 @ 00:13
Comment from: [Member]

@laura and Jimmy Hart. To be honest my wife and I have had mixed experiences with Altra ordering and customer service. On the whole they've been pretty good though we've had some experiences like @laura describes though no where near as extreme. Just keep in mind these guys are not a high volume mega company like Nike, Asics, etc...; they are still relatively small and under pretty high demands these days so there's bound to be growing pains. All I can say is that the footwear and the experience wearing it has made it all worth while. Be patient.

04/10/12 @ 08:34
Comment from: J. Mijares [Visitor]  
J. Mijares

I bought these from Zombie Runner last week. They fit great, especially with the alternate lacing, and are light and comfortable. I've found that in Bikilas and Vivobarefoot Evos I can go about ten miles before the fat pads in my feet get sore. I can usually squeeze in a half marathon on those shoes, but with the Altra Instinct I can run a lot further. I agree with Rob Y that these are good long distance running shoes. For shorter runs I'll stick with my Evos, but for longer runs I'll stick with the Altras. Yeah, definitely less ground feel in them, but it's a good trade-off for me during my longer runs.

04/16/12 @ 15:40
Comment from: Paul [Visitor]

I have run in the instincts for over 300 miles and they are amazing. I am a coach at a local fleet feet in TN. I have run in every shoe company out there and they are the only ones i dont get black toe in. The feel on them is amazing. I also own the lone peaks for trail, the adams for casual and the samsons for the true barefoot feel. I promise this is a company to trust and keep an eye on.

04/18/12 @ 16:44
Comment from: Zack [Visitor]  

I thinking about getting this or the Samson for daily pt in the Marines. Which shoe do you think would be better for running 3-5 miles a day 4 days a week on terrain that can be roads, trails, or a combination of the two?

04/23/12 @ 16:17
Comment from: paul [Visitor]

zack go with the instincts for now and build into the samsons.

04/24/12 @ 21:23
Comment from: mp0363 [Visitor]

I wear a pair of Altra Adams (took out the insole) at work all the time; and will run in them at times (to get home from the train station: 3-7 miles). They are mostly fine because I have good form and strong feet, but I do enjoy some variety of cushion underneath my feet from time to time.

Been looking at the Instinct to give that extra plush due to the fact that I love the foot design of my Adams. With my flat feet, being able to just splay out is superb compared to the cramped feeling of most other running shoes.

Fugly shouldn't matter but it does, so hopefully their follow up design will be a bit easier on the eye.

05/06/12 @ 10:39
Comment from: mike [Visitor]

I appreciate this review, I just find it a bit biased.

I own this pair of shoes as a recomendation from the sales person.
The design is OK, it will pass as a shoe for jeans if you don't mind being that guy (I don't mind :). They are comfortable for day to day use. I haven't put a lot of miles on these yet but they seemed OK the first few runs I wore them. Not a whole lot of flex, but better than some, breathable but not cool, I personally thought they were a little warm. The wide fit is my faveorite part, cuz I have wide feet.

I thought at best this shoe is mediocre and would be better suited in a price range around $70 to $80. I paid $110 and that price range is VERY competative. So many options are available at around $100, most, I think, are better than this shoe in style and performance.

The positive notes:
-It's comfortable
-They seem pretty durable and you should be able to get a lot of miles out of these. If that is the case then maybe $100 is well worth paying for.
-Good for road runs
-Zero drop
-Good transition shoe to true Minimalist shoe
The mediocre notes:
-Price (SEE ABOVE)

05/21/12 @ 05:35
Comment from: [Member]

@mike: With all due respect I don't think you meant to say my review was "biased". That would imply that I for some reason unfairly represented Altra in my review. I can assure you I have no deal or understanding with Altra. I merely tried the shoes of my own accord because the idea of a wide toe box appealed to me and my wife. So I tried them and I liked them. In full disclosure, after my initial Lone Peak and Instinct reviews I did receive a free pair of the Provision that I did try and review for (pending). What I see from your review is that you "disagreed" with my review and hold a different opinion. That's fine. We're all different.

With respect to style: To each their own. I actually like them, especially the black pair. Others may not like them but how does one exactly judge style?

With respect to breathability: What's your metric? I have run a lot of miles in mine, in high humidity and heat and found them to be more breathable that a lot of shoes I've worn. Could they be more breathable? Perhaps. But remember, this is a road running shoe, and you sacrifice certain aspects of the shoe if you make it too breathable; such as the upper stability, strength and introduction of small particulates into the shoe which could cause blisters. It's a trade off.

With respect to price: I disagree that they're overpriced. The current price point for A LOT of shoes is well over your $110 mark (for good or bad) and with the amount of mileage I've been getting in my two pairs of Instincts I think they're going to last a lot longer than some of my other similarly priced, non-Altra, pairs of shoes.

Thanks for your comments.

05/21/12 @ 11:03
Comment from: Karen [Visitor]

I love the shoes! I recently purchased the shoes and am reading reviews to see what others think about the shoes.
Feet normally splay, mine maybe a little more that normal. The shoes accommodate the anatomy of foot more than any shoe I have ever worn.

06/02/12 @ 09:28
Comment from: daniel [Visitor]

i've been wearing the KSO's for basketball drills, indoors on a wooden basketball court. (i don't play in games).
they are amazing! it has basically morphed basketball into ballet... ;-)

i am at the point where i need some more cushioning. looks like altra instinct is my best shot? or anything else u recommend?

btw, your reviews are great, and much appreciated... :-) thanx, daniel

06/19/12 @ 01:52
Comment from: daniel [Visitor]

btw, i have pretty narrow feet, in case that makes any difference. that's why i hate to give up the kso toes, but i just need more cushioning for all the drills i'm doing. i'm hoping the instincts are snug enough...

06/19/12 @ 01:54
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]

With your statement, "with my running style, especially after I start to really fatigue I tend brush my ankles and calves together", it sounds like you have a "cross-over gait", which you might want to try to fix (this video from the Gait Guys might be helpful

BTW, I've had the Insticts for about a year, and while I generally run in something with less cushioning, or barefoot, I do like the Instincts a lot, esp. when I feel the need for more protection and cushioning. I wish I had these shoes a long time ago.

07/05/12 @ 22:48
Comment from: [Member]

@Joe: thanks for your suggestion, but I don't have "cross over gait"; mearly the effects of running extremely long distances over rough terrain. It's inevitable that fatigue over these distances is the main contributor to degraded form. Not much can be done to help other than to finish the distance!

I too really like my Instincts but wish the were a bit more flexible and not quite so heavy.

07/06/12 @ 12:25
Comment from: Joe [Visitor]

Yeah, fatigue can definitely cause a degradation in one's form/biomechanics.

07/06/12 @ 19:39
Comment from: Adam [Visitor]

I just ordered my second pair of Altra Instinct. I had similar gripes about the Achilles rubbing early on. Also mine made a crinkling sound and the lateral side just in front of the heel felt a little high. Once I got 50 or so miles on them all my gripes went away. Now over 200 miles on them with the tread just showin some wear I jumped on a sale for a pair of black ones. Not a perfect shoe but they are by far my favorite for long runs. I am interested to see if the Provision and future models build on what I have really liked about the Instinct.

07/16/12 @ 22:24
Comment from: Joshua Son [Visitor]
Joshua Son

Hey Rob I was wondering if you could help me out with something. I love my vibram fivefingers and my Merrel tough gloves. Vibram rubber is very grippy. I use them frequently in an activity called parkour. Look it up if you haven't heard of it. I love my bare accesses for this sport. They are almost the perfect point in between cushioned trainers and minimal shoes for parkour. I was wondering if you could take some altra's and test their grip on various objects and tell me how it is. I want to see if they would work well as a parkour shoe. Thanks in advance!!

09/02/12 @ 14:57
Comment from: Dave W. [Visitor]
Dave W.

I agree with just about everything Rob has said.

I have a wider foot, and love the minimalist feel, but needed a wide toe box, and much more cushioning than the other minimalist shoes provide.

And the Instinct aren't really minimalist. They are more "natural" or "neutral" running shoes, I'd say. But they work wonders for wider feet who are doing longer road runs.

If anyone's interested in a different style review, I found this review 2 months ago that persuaded me to give them a try:

Great review, Rob.

10/13/12 @ 20:21
Comment from: alvinj88 [Visitor]

best normal shoes! I splay my toes when I run, this is the only cushioned shoe that allows me to do that. otherwise I run with Vibrams or Huaraches

10/31/12 @ 05:16
Comment from: Bobby [Visitor]

Hello, i have been wearing vff for over a year now and love them on the track. I do not enjoy running on the street in them. The instinct looks like something i would like to try however i have read many reviews complaining that these shoes are falling apart after weeks-a few months. Is this a legit issue or just a few bad apples?

02/13/13 @ 21:52
Comment from: [Member]

@Bobby: I haven't read any reports of or heard anybody I know who wears Altras report the shoes falling apart so quickly. My own personal experience is that I've been able to get in well over 300 miles in my Altras over a period of several months (I rotate through a lot of shoes). Like any shoe there is always the possibility of a bad apple. While I've now migrated to enjoying running in the Skechers GO Bionic much more than my Altras (Altras are a bit too stiff IMHO) the Altras are definitely my first choice in a comfortable/casual shoe to just wear around. Good luck!

02/14/13 @ 10:53
Comment from: Legacy Cal [Visitor]
Legacy Cal

Thank you for your spot-on review.

However, I am a race walker and find these shoes to be quite amenable to the sport where you land heel first with a straight knee! Just the opposite of what runners tend to properly do. As a judged sport race walkers must have one foot visibly (human eye, not photo or video) in contact with the ground; there is no float phase like runners have.

Race walking does not tear up my knees. I used to run close to 3 hours for a marathon. Now I race walk in 6 hours or less.

I am a legacy runner for a couple of southern California marathons, having just completed a collective 58. The Instinct has decent cushioning and rolling for race walking. The transition from racing flats (e.g., Brooks T7 Racer) was easy.

03/29/13 @ 11:35
Comment from: Amanda [Visitor]  

Just want to say its awesome reading that you're from North Alabama! I too am from NA!! Got a few ?'s since I'm considering these shoes. Do they run well on treadmills? And do they help with runners knee? I've recently been diagnosed with that because I originally ran on a treadmill 5-7 miles s day the switched to pavement!! So I'm needing something that will help with that issue because I do not want to give up running outside. Any advise would be appreciated!

09/22/13 @ 01:54
Comment from: [Member]

@Amanda. Only a licensed PT can tell you for sure what's going on with your mechanics that may be causing runner's knee. I will say though that one of the causes of runner's knee can be excessive pronation. In that case I'd recommend a shoe that has a little bit of stability and possibly consider using some sort of arch support insole to help you're feet achieve a more neutral position to start from. Everybody's body mechanics, strengths and weaknesses are different. No one solution. The Altra Instinct is a great shoe but it's not for everybody. Also, treadmill running is quite a bit different from non-treadmill running so it's no surprise to me that you could be finding the transition to be troubling. I'd recommend dialing back your daily/weekly mileage for a while and ease back into running outside. Good luck!

09/23/13 @ 11:34

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