Barefoot Shoes

Altra Instinct Review

Introducing the Altra Instinct, the first shoe to truly marry the form-improving benefits like a zero-drop sole of the minimalist/barefoot running shoe with the comfort, cushioning and support of a traditional running shoe.


The first thing most people notice about any of the shoes in the Altra line is the foot shaped design. This feature alone sets the Altra shoe line apart from most of their peers. The distinctive toe box follows the shape of the foot and allows plenty of room for your toes to splay naturally. The Altra Instinct skirts the boundary of the minimalist running shoe category. The Instinct is definitely minimal because of its zero heel-to-toe drop and anatomically correct shape (custom for women and men) resulting in a nice wide toe box for proper toe splay and the weight is a modest 8.8 oz (249 gr). 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 + 3.5mm insole = 17.2mm stack height. So this does limit the amount of ground feel or prioproception however the relatively firm A-Bound™ midsole does still allow some ground feedback, but no where as near as much as a VFF or midsoleless shoe. Then again that’s sort of the point! Full review and photos after the jump!

The Upper

As can be seen in the photographs the Instinct upper materials use a very large open weave mesh that is extremely breathable. There is a liner on the inside of the mesh that prevents trail grit and particulates from getting the shoe while still allowing ample air circulation. In addition to the asymmetric lacing, the Instinct utilizes what Altra calls the ‘A’-Wrap (the gray strips at the midfoot) and the HeelClaw™ (gray strips in the heel) to lock your heel and midfoot into the shoe while still allowing ample toe room. A nice feature of the entire Altra line is the minimization of seams. I can’t evaluate how these shoes would handle running sockless, but I’ve encountered no foot discomfort: abrasions, blisters, etc… even with the thin socks I wear. All the Altra line comes with removable, thin foam footbeds. There is absolutely no arch support in the Instinct, the foot bed of the shoe is completely flat and shaped like your foot. So w/o an insole there will be a void between the top of your arch and the food bed. So if you want to “fill that void” use one of the provided foam insoles. The Instinct, along with all the other Altra models, is designed gender specific to accommodate the unique female and male foot forms. In general this means that the female version, called the Intuition, runs narrower in the heel than the male version and the toe box of the female is a bit narrower than the mens. Overall my first impressions were very positive. I’d been so used to slipping my feet into typical road running shoes that ended up crowding my toes together; not so with the Instinct. I think the large open weave mesh will help keep my feet cool during the swelteringly humid summers where I live. Can’t really highlight any obvious flaws with the initial design although from a stylistic point of view the “looks” may be a bit old fashioned. But I like the “old is new” kind of look. It’s a sort of a throwback to the early running shoes. But a few more upper color/designs would be good. Here are some photos of the Altra Instincts, which I picked up in both colorways:

The midsole

The midsole of the Instinct consists of two sandwiched layers. The first layer, immediately below the footbed is what Altra calls A-Bound™ which they describe as an: Environmentally friendly, this energy-return compound is made of recycled materials. Offering extra protection, this unique layer sits directly under the foot to return energy back into each stride. It reduces the impact of hard surfaces while still maintaining ground feedback. Traditional running shoe foam compresses 70-90% while A-Bound™ compresses 2-3x less so it won’t deform over time. The second layer is rather stiff EVA foam, more of the A-Bound™ material but slightly firmer than the first thin layer. If you’re thinking this is a “cushy” road shoe you’d be surprised to learn that the Instinct midsole is far from it. In fact the overall feel is very firm and ground feel, while much reduced, isn’t completely eliminated. I could still notice gravel and road inconsistencies underfoot but the relative thickness of the midsole definitely was doing its job to protect my feet.

The sole

Altra calls it the FootPod™ Outsole and it is indeed one of the most unique road sole designs I’ve ever encountered. The skeleton looking sole is also another conversation starter. This outsole was designed: “For maximum flex and responsiveness, this outsole maps the bones and tendons of the human foot. With canted lugs mapping your foot, this unique outsole provides a natural, all-purpose traction system for a variety of surfaces from road to treadmill to dirt paths.” I can definitely attest that the outsole is definitely adequate for running on most dry surfaces even on some buffer trails I felt comfortable and in control with the simple tread pattern. Now wet and muddy trails would be a different story, but as this is primarily a road running shoe it’s no big deal. I had more than a few wet pavement runs with these shoes and they definitely don’t slip!


As of this review I have tested the Altra Instinct running on paved and gravel roads, on easy dry trails and even on a rubberized track. In short, I’ve tested these shoes on most surfaces it was intended for. At the time of this review I’ve logged almost 200 miles between the two pair of Instincts I own. Here are my impressions: Pavement — Simply superb; what this shoe is designed for. Plenty of traction and the firm cushioning is neither too squishy or bricklike. Most of my mileage in the Instinct has been on pavement or concrete and I can say they’ve performed very effectively. I recently ran the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama in my black pair of Instincts. They felt great the entire way and my feet felt pretty good after. The only thing I noticed was the outside bottom of my right foot felt a little bruised but I think that had more to do with a tough power line workout I did a couple days before the race than from wearing the Instinct in the race. Gravel — Very effective. While I could notice larger chunks of gravel I stepped on (sometimes purposefully just to see) it definitely was muted and not painful. For normal gravel I still could sense the ground so there is some ground feel transmitted due to the hard rubber sole and firm midsole. One very slightly annoying thing about running on gravel is the possibility of getting a small rock embedded in one of the grooves on the bottom of the shoe. Didn’t happen super often, but it happened enough to mention. Non-Technical Trails — Definitely adequate. A lot of my evening runs with my spouse are on a wooded trail behind our home. Never had any issues. The lower profile (stack height) is a plus on the trails. I even ran some on these same trails in less than favorable conditions, mud, standing water, etc… and they still did surprisingly well; slippage was kept to a minimum; definitely better than some other trail dedicated shoes I’ve worn! I never tried the Instincts on some of my more “hard core” routes, but I’d suspect they’d do just fine; probably better in drier conditions. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the Instinct as a go-to hybrid road/trail shoe for races or routes that would require such a shoe. Rubberized Track — Not a whole lot of running here, just a weekly speed session on a local track. As expected the Instinct worked just fine, but then again about any shoe will work well on a cushy rubber track! Just good to know there weren’t any obvious flaws. Casual Wear — Finding myself gravitating to wearing the Instinct around even when non running (one reason I bought two pair!). I think the looks are pretty sharp and they go well with a pair of jeans. Very comfortable.


Above are the two colorways of the Altra Instinct.
In short this is probably the most comfortable road shoes I’ve ever worn in my 20+ years of running. After about 100 miles in each pair of Instincts I can hardly notice any significant wear in the either the uppers or the sole; even the midsole hardly seems compressed to any degree. I’ll caveat this statement with the disclosure that I rotate through A LOT of different shoes. I rarely wear the same pair of shoes on back to back runs. However, since my introduction to the Instinct I’m finding myself in a much smaller shoe rotation that mostly involves this shoe! I’ll also add, in reference to my recent review of the Altra Lone Peak, that I never noticed any slippage in my heel in the Instincts. The overall fit is superb and my toes have never been happier having plenty of room to splay! It should be noted that Altra is a very, very new company and I don’t think they’ve even been making their products for over a year yet. So what you see from them at this moment are akin to prototypes. I can only envision more improvements to come as more and more folks provide feedback back to Altra. As far as my own feedback I’d just have to add that it would be nice if the Instinct was a bit more flexible in the forefoot and a bit lighter. I think that with some cosmetic and material changes the shoe could be made significantly lighter. One other odd thing I noticed about the Instinct; the longer distances I seem to run, the more likely I end up stepping on the inside toe or else kicking the inside toe of the shoe. I think this is because the overall shape of the shoe is curved a bit more inward than I’m accustomed to (to be anatomically correct to one’s foot) and with my running style, especially after I start to really fatigue I tend brush my ankles and calves together. I’ve finished many a run on trails with mud all along the inside of my calves and ankles from kicking myself! Even on road runs I’ll wear a hole on the inward side of my socks and tear up the inside ankle area of my shoes over time. So with the added protrusion of the big toe of the shoe slightly to the inside I have the tendency now to kick that toe (or rub it) with the other foot. Not a big deal and certainly not that noticeable but something to think about. Even my father-in-law who my wife and I bought a pair of Instincts for over the holidays (he has a condition where he needs ample toe room) commented that more than once, while going downstairs, accidently stepped on the opposing toe and almost lost balance! One time he said he stepped on the opposing toe and his foot came right out of the shoe! (He doesn’t lace them very tight most of the time I noticed). Those comments aside, he loves the shoe and, according to my mother-in-law, wears them everywhere. If you’re an avid runner who is dabbling in (or thought about it) minimalism but doesn’t want to sacrifice ample underfoot cushioning this is the shoe for you. Or even if you’re not a big runner but want a shoe with ample toe room that fits well, this is the shoe for you. The fact that it’s zero drop, has enough firm cushioning without going over board and has an ample toe box that allows natural toe splay should be enough! Try it out, you’ll like it!

Official specs and where to get it.

The Altra Instinct is available from for $99.99 (shipped free with free returns, no less). It’s also starting to show up around the country at specialty running stores near you! Finally, if you liked this review, share it on twitter (that link will auto-write the tweet for you!)! Here are the official specs on it from Altra, including Altra’s take on sizing the Altra Instinct:
Introducing the first shoe to truly marry the form-improving benefits of a minimalist shoe with the comfort, cushioning and support of a traditional running shoe. The Zero Drop™ platform and innovative foot-shaped design work together to help runners maintain proper running technique and reduce joint impact while freeing their toes to help alleviate foot pain. Trust your instincts and experience the world’s first fully cushioned, foot-shaped, Zero Drop™ running shoe! The Instinct runs slightly short in size. If you are between sizes please go up 1/2 size larger than your regular size. Product Details
  • Weight: 8.8 oz
  • Foot Shaped Design: Male FS-1 Last
  • NRS: Natural Ride System
  • FootPod Outsole Encouraging Natural Motion
  • Quick dry air mesh upper with minimal seams
  • Asymmetrical Lacing, Heel Claw, and A-Wrap for superior fit
  • Drilex Premium Liner
  • Strengthen and Support Insoles
  • Designed to be worn without any insoles for Minimalist Runners or for those who prefer less cushion or more room.

By Rob

I'm originally from Sacramento, California but now live in northern Alabama. My wife and I have travelled all over the world to compete in races; even as far away as Antarctica. I'm a computer programmer by day to pay the bills. I've been running since the summer of '91 and am an avid ultrarunner and off-road unicyclist (yeah, you heard right!). I've competed in some of the most difficult ultra marathons in the world including the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, the Barkley Marathons, the Hardrock 100 Mile and the Badwater Ultramarathon. I even completed a supported speed-hike of the 335 mile Pinhoti Trail in record time. So I have a lot of experience with shoes, what works and what doesn?t. Get to know me better via [url=]his interview here[/url].

48 replies on “Altra Instinct Review”

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

@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.

@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.

@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.

@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. 🙂


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

@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 🙂

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.

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.

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.

@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.

@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…

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

@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.

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.

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.

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.

@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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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)

@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.

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.

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

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…

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.

@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.

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.

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!!

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.

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

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?

@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!

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.

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!

@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!

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