Barefoot Shoes

Altra Provision Running Shoe Review

“Modeled after The Instinct™ platform, The Provision™ adds a firmer midsole and a removable varus stability wedge to assist men with fallen arches, excessive overpronation and knock knees. Built for moderate and high overpronation, the Zero Dr…


Meet the Altra Provision as described by Altra Running:
Modeled after The Instinct™ platform, The Provision™ adds a firmer midsole and a removable varus stability wedge to assist men with fallen arches, excessive overpronation and knock knees. Built for moderate and high overpronation, the Zero Drop™ platform, foot-shaped design and stability wedge combine to provide a high level of stability without the excessive bulk and weight of traditional stability shoes. Simply remove the stability wedge to convert this shoe to work for neutral and mild overpronation.
The Altra Provision (like the Altra Instinct) skirts the boundary of the minimalist running shoe category. The Provision 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 bit more than the Instinct, 9.1 oz (258 gr) without the stability wedge, 9.9 oz (281 gr) with it compared to the Instinct which is 8.8 oz (249 gr). The stack height is 20mm which includes the outsole, midsole and removable foam insole (5mm thick). The thickness does limit the amount of ground feel or prioproception however the relatively firm A-Bound™ midsole does still allow some ground feedback. Just like my previous reviews of the Altra Instinct and Altra Lone Peak, 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 Upper

As can be seen in these photographs the Provision upper materials are a bit more substantial than the Instinct. However, I still found the upper to be extremely breathable and comfortable. Like the Instinct, the Provision has a “Sockless-Friendly Premium Liner” which basically means there are very few visible seams inside the shoe and while I can’t evaluate how these shoes would handle running sockless, I’ve encountered no foot discomfort: abrasions, blisters, etc… even with the thin socks I wear. In addition to the asymmetric lacing, the Provision 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. 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 Provision, 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 Provisioness, runs narrower in the heel than the male version and the toe box of the female is a bit narrower than the mens. What makes the Provision a bit more unique is that it comes with a stability wedge insole that is made of rubber. It is NOT an arch support, rather it literally is a wedge shaped insole in that the inner side of the insole is thicker than the outer side. The idea is to provide a bit of a wedge to counter act those runners who have moderate to high overpronation issues. As I’m a fairly neutral runner I never ran in the Provision with the wedge insole so I can’t speak for how well the wedge might perform. Overall my first impressions were very positive. As expected they felt pretty much like lacing up a pair of Instincts. Like the putting on the Instincts for the first time you’ll notice the amazing amount of toe room in the Provision, also how your heel is locked firmly in place and doesn’t slip. Although the Provision upper doesn’t have the large open weave of the Instinct I still think “Quick-Dry Mesh” will help keep my feet cool during the swelteringly humid summers where I live (more on that in a minute!). I’ll also add that I felt my foot better supported in this shoe than the Instinct when running on trails or other off camber surfaces. There is just a bit more material in the Provision uppers that help lock your foot in place; definitely noticeable compared to the Instinct. Admittedly the Instinct looked a bit “one off” or “old fashioned” but the Provision, at least to me, looks a lot more sporty and polished; after all it is a second generation shoe for Altra. While the looks still may not please everybody (there are few shoes that do) I still think most folks would agree that this a much better looking shoe than the Instinct.

The midsole

The midsole of the Provision, like 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 Provision 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 overall feel is a bit more firm than the Instinct but otherwise not majorly different.

The outsole

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 Provision by running on paved and gravel road; basically on the surfaces it was intended for. At the time of this review I’ve logged over 50 miles in the shoe. I’m pretty much reiterating my comments from my Instinct review as I felt the Provision performed pretty much just like the Instinct. 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 Strolling Jim 40 Mile Road Race (actually 41.2 miles). The entire course consisted of asphalt roads of various quality and age. Had no issues with my feet whatsoever; in fact even though my feet got drenched just a couple miles in from a sudden severe rain storm, they ended up drying out in no time. I finished with no blisters and my feet felt pretty good; not sore or stiff like I’ve experienced in the past by wearing other shoes. In the past I’d always have a blister or two between or on top of my toes caused by running in shoes with too narrow of a toe box which resulted in a lot of friction between the toes because they couldn’t naturally splay. 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.


In short this is probably the most comfortable road shoe I’ve ever worn in my 20+ years of running; even better than my previous favorite the Altra Instinct! For an ultra-shuffler like me this was enough shoe to get through 41.2 hilly, hot asphalt miles but not too much shoe. If I had to choose between the Provision and Instinct I’d lean a bit towards the Provision because the upper is a bit more secure for off-road running and I really like the slightly firmer midsole. But you can’t really go wrong either way. Although I don’t have a ton of miles in the Provision, I do have a lot of miles between this shoe and my two pair of Instincts. I can attest to the fact that these Altra road shoes (Instinct and Provision) will take a long time to wear out. The Provision overall fit is superb and my toes have never been happier having plenty of room to splay! As I mentioned in my Instinct review I’ll reiterate that it would be nice if the Provision (and Instinct for that matter) was a bit more flexible in the forefoot and a bit lighter. I by reducing the stack height slightly and making some informed cosmetic and material changes the shoe could be made significantly lighter.

Who is this shoe for?

If you’re an avid runner who is dabbling in (or thought about it) minimalism but doesn’t want to sacrifice ample underfoot cushioning or protection this is the shoe for you. Or even if you’re not into running 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!

Where to get it

If you’re looking for the Provision, you can pick it up at for about $105 with free shipping (and exchanges). Or tap your local specialty running store and see if they’re carrying the Altra line.

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].

29 replies on “Altra Provision Running Shoe Review”

I find this shoe very interesting. It is almost like a hook waiting to pull in a person that normally runs in motion control marshmallow shoes. It’s not really minimalist in my book, but it presents an interesting compromise. It should work well as a transition shoe for a lot of people. I love the toe box. If I didn’t already run in my VFFs full time, I might have considered a shoe like this. Seems like Altra is looking at ways to build its customer base.

@Jeepman. You’re right in that this shoe is definitely not minimalist in today’s sense of the definition. However it goes a long way in that direction because of the zero heel-to-toe drop and anatomically correct shape which is great for toe spread. These two factors are, in my opinion, the most important aspects of “minimal” running for these are invariable. The real variables depend on what terrain you run, how much, how far; these decide how much cushioning you may or may not need. Ground feel is a hallmark for the lower mileage runner who runs on non-technical terrain, or for light running days for the higher mileage runner. I don’t think it’s necessarily an invariable quality that all shoes should have.

My feet thank you for this post – never heard of this company before, but I just ordered 2 of the women’s models. I should be able to wear these to work in the hospital, whereas I don’t think my FiveFingers would go over well.

@JC: I can’t see any reason these wouldn’t work well for indoor use.

@MaryNeedsSleep: that’s great to hear, my wife and I both are very thankful for discovering this company last year; our feet are even more thankful. Even got a pair for my father-in-law who had some foot circulation issues and he loves them!

Would you say that without the wedge insert, they feel and perform like the Instinct? Because let’s face it, the Instincts are not really good looking and I like much more the combination of colors in the Provision. But if they’re stiffer than the Instincts, that may not be ideal. To give you an idea, I currently run barefoot or in the Adams but I’m looking for something with enough cushioning to be able to ramp up my mileage and start training for a fall marathon.


@Gabe: I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I actually really like the looks of the Instinct, especially the black colored pair. But hey, too each their own! Anyhow I can say that the overall feel of the Provision is basically like that of the Instinct w/o the wedge insert. Keep in mind that both the Instinct and Provision will feel much stiffer than the Adams simply because of the addition of cushioned midsole. Still, can’t go wrong either way, Instinct or Provision, for a good minimalist-like shoe that would be great for building up to marathon mileage. Good luck!

Thanks Rob, I didn’t really like the looks of the white/silver Instinct but the black ones look much better. Just curious, if you use the wedge insert with the Instinct, do you get a Provision? Or do they behave differently?


Great review! How does the wedge perform? In general I have a hard time believing in the efficacy of any kind of “motion control,” but this does seem a departure from the usual, given its design. Do you think it works? 4mm isn’t a whole lot…

@greg w and Gabe: I haven’t actually tried the wedge insert, really hadn’t had the need. I will try them in there soon just to see what they feel like walking around in. I imagine with foot and running mechanics that a little wedge might go a long way so perhaps 4mm is enough? Not sure. However, in the distant past when I actually had custom made orthotics (long story) I remember that beveling the orthotic was something that was done to create a similar wedge effect; however the primary use of the orthotic was as an arch support. These days there are so many good over the counter arch supports that a custom orthotic isn’t as necessary unless you have very specific issues; bunions, neuromas, etc…

I’ll give the wedge a trial short run and see if I notice any difference. Thanks for the suggestion!

I’ve been running exclusively in Bikilas for 2 years and have run 2 full and many half marathons. Lately, I have been unable to go more than about 16 miles without a burning in my forefeet. I have been trying to find a shoe with a little more padding for long runs. Every time I try a conventional shoe, I just hate it. Do you think the Provisions would be a good choice?

@Steve: The stack height of the Provision is ~3 times that of the Bikila (7mm -> 20mm) so there will definitely be more underfoot protection and cushioning in the Provision compared to the Bakila. However, as you’d expect the Provision is a little over 3oz heavier (per shoe) than the Bakila so it will feel heavier and a bit stiffer. Nothing will feel quite like a VFF except perhaps the Altra Adam and some of the various midsole-less variety of shoes such as produced by Merrell, New Balance, etc… The Provision is definitely a SHOE and so will be a different experience than a VFF so keep that in mind. Since I’ve run marathon distance (and beyond) in the Provision I can attest to it being a good choice. But again, it comes down to personal preference. I like the firm midsole, the zero drop and the more than ample toe room of the Provision (or any of the Altra line) as opposed to more conventional shoes. But that’s just me.

Thanks, Rob. Do you think, then, that the Instinct would be a better choice? My goal is to be able to run the marathon distance (and maybe longer) without foot pain. I tried the NB Minimus Road, but I felt I didn’t get much in return for having to wear shoes.

Rob, can you speak to how “cushioned” it is? I know it has 20 mm stack height, but is all stack height equal as far as cushioning goes?

@Steve and Rich: As I explained in my review the cushioning in the Provision (and Instinct for that matter) is, in my opinion, very firm. Don’t expect a super cushy, marshmallow like feel like you’d get in other brand shoes with similar stack heights. I for one think having a firm midsole is a good thing if you’re a fairly efficient runner. To me, having the firm feel still seems to transmit a *little* bit of ground feel which at least gives you some feedback about your form; something that is lost with too soft a midsole. Also, the firm midsole tends to give you a bit more “spring” than a softer midsole. Then again I don’t think a soft midsole is a bad thing either, especially if you’re training at a high volume of mileage or planning on ultra distance runs or races. The extra soft ride is great for recovery days. Like I said, both the Instinct and Provision shoes felt great running single distances marathon length and greater (41.2 miles was my longest single distance run in the Provision). So if you had to choose between Instinct and Provision it’s really a toss up in my opinion. Go with style preference I suppose.

Hey Rob – I wanted to like the Instincts, but one major problem was with the insoles. Unlike most inserts, they don’t taper into the sides of the shoe. They are just a flat edged insole which creates a rim or lip that my foot rubs on, and you couldn’t take them out because the footbed surface was rubbery/grippy (definitely not meant to be worn without an insole).

It looks like the Provision insoles have the same issue, but did I read your review correctly that the footbed surface under the insoles is different from the Instinct? One of the pictures looks like a black fabric material. Is this aspect improved from the Instinct? Thanks!

@Phillip: I’m pretty sure the basic construction of the Provision is just like the Instinct, i.e. same insole design and same interior upper design. You are correct in that the shoe is probably not designed/intended to be used without some sort of insert even though the internal liner is very soft and sockless friendly but I guess that doesn’t extend to the foodbed! Since I always wear my own orthotic insoles in all my shoes I never tested the shoe with just the provided foam insert. That perhaps was a short coming in my review. However, if this is an reproducible issue I’m sure Altra has already heard about it. You can always let them know through the contact information on their website or through FaceBook, my wife and I have both got pretty decent responses from their Facebook page. Yes, their customer service seems to be still struggling a bit at the moment (read: tough to do returns at the moment) but they say they’re working on it. 😉

Rob, really like your reviews and comments. I have been running in the Instinct for the past year and recently bought the Provision and have done a couple of 20 mile runs in them. In my view, the Instinct and Provision are the best long distance zero drop runners out there. In terms of differences between the two, other than looks, there’s not a lot when you take out the stability wedge. The Provision is advertised as slightly heavier and slightly firmer in the mid sole but I couldn’t really tell the difference. For me, the Provision seems to be the Instinct MKII. I like the look of both but probably prefer the Provision. In response to Philip’s question, the insole of the Provision is more sock less friendly than the Instinct when you take out the removable inserts with the footbed surface being of similar material to the rest of the internal liner. Cheers, Paul

@Phillip & Paul Joyce: I apologize for my incorrect statement, I can confirm that the inside of the entire Provision is completely foot friendly and uses the soft sock liner even on the footbed. The stitching is very small and nearly invisible. I think they would feel very nice to use without socks if that is your preference. I also agree that truth be told I could not tell much difference in the overall feel between the Instinct and Provision.

“Modeled after The Instinct™ platform, The Provision™ adds a firmer midsole and a removable varus stability wedge to assist men with fallen arches, excessive overpronation and knock knees…”

Most barefoot enthusiasts and experts agree that the solution to most of these problems is NOT lack of support, but support itself.

The problem is weak feet and one of the ways to get stronger feet is to go as minimal as possible and start running barefoot style.

So in my mind this shoe is a step backwards. It might be a good transition shoe for those that are starting, but if you think you need more support after going barefoot, the research shows you are going backwards on your foot health. It is oxymoronic.

I am a case test for the concept, as I stopped running in the early 90s because of a multitude of foot and knee problems.

After reading “Born to Run” and “Barefoot Running,” I decided to get back in the game about 2 years ago. Started slow, perfected the form necessary and my feet and knees are stronger than ever and I have had ZERO problems since. My miles are piling up.

So this shoe seems like a marketing ploy to bring the barefoot crowd back, or as I have said, it could be good for beginners. But for me it was best to go “all in” and just take it slow with true minimal shoes.

Shrub: Altra is certainly not trying to bring barefoot people back to structured supportive shoes. They offer shoes with two of the most important barefoot characteristics in my opinion: (1) wide, flat, foot shaped sole and (2) no heel elevation (zero drop). People can argue about other factors such as weight, sole thickness (stack height), etc., but that’s why Altra offers multiple styles with various thicknesses. The Provision without “support” inserts is 15mm thick with a “firmer midsole.” That’s thicker than true “barefoot” shoes on the market, but not that much thicker than the majority of minimal shoes out there.

The “support” you object to is offered only in the form of removable insoles. In my opinion, that is the best way to market a barefoot shoe. It’s designed to be flat with no support, and then for people that think they need it, actually do need it, or don’t want to go completely “barefoot,” they can put the inserts in as they want. The wedge insert is not meant for barefoot enthusiasts to use. It just offers an option for people who otherwise wouldn’t buy a neutral, zerodrop shoe. They also have non-support “strength” inserts (totally flat) just to allow a tiny bit more cushion/thickness if wanted.

Again, this company is certainly not trying to “bring the barefoot crowd back.” Here are their shoe thickness (all flat with no “support” inserts): Instinct 19mm, Provision 15mm, Samson 7-10mm (w/wo flat insert), and Adam 4.4-7.4mm (w/wo flat insert).

There’s alot of barefoot/minimal customers out there (beginners and enthusiasts) that want a bit more thickness and/or some type of support (arch or wedge). Altra does a good job of giving these options to everyone.

@Shrub: Thank you for sharing your own running self discovery. As you know all of us are on journeys of our own that take many different routes; we all have different needs, goals and challenges with respect to our running.

With all due respect I don’t think there is any ONE way to run; any universal catch all. To make broad sweeping generalizations such as “arch support is bad” is simply disingenuous and untrue. Just as you make your case test I too have made my own, along with many, many other runners I know who’ve happily run now for many, many years and tens of thousands of miles with arch supports and cushioned shoes and have not suffered mightely. It may be genetics, who knows? The fact that we’re all still around running is proof enough to me that there is no ONE way we all SHOULD be running.

Despite what one can read in some of the latest books about the supposed merits of barefoot or shod running I still stand by the fact that for all of us running is a personaly journey of self discovery.

As you say you learned in your own personal journey, running is all about good form. You seemed to discover this truth after struggling in your early years. I wonder how different your running would have been if you’d focused on your form in the early days. I suspect your issues (as were mine) had more to do with my form than what shoes I was wearing; I used to wear the most aweful and inappropriate shoes! To me what you have or don’t have on your feet is irellevent if you don’t have good form. I also believe the corollary is true, if you have good form you can wear just about whatever shoe you’d like (or no shoes). These are anecdotal “truths” I’ve discovered in my 20+ years of running.

So no, I disagree that the Altra shoe line is a “marketing ploy”. These may not be the shoe for YOU but they definitely fill the niche for folks who want a reduced drop shoe with an anatomically correct last (toe room). If anything the Altra line should serve as an example for how other shoe companies SHOULD be designing their shoes.

Again, thanks for your comments it’s good to keep this discussion going. Keep on running! 🙂

Great review, Rob. Can you say a little about the sizing. I wear a 12 in the instincts and am trying to decide between a 12 and 12.5 in the provisions. The length of the 12 feels better (about a thumbs width of space from big toe to tip/toe guard) but the toe box height feels a little shallow, almost like the mesh on top is tenting my toes. The 12.5 feels better in toe box height but is a little bigger all around. I am going to start off using the stability wedge and try to transition out of it, but curious what you felt about the length of your provisions vs. your instincts, or other shoes.

@Matt: Sorry for the late response. My advice is to go with the same size you’re wearing in the Instinct. I wear the same size in both the Instinct and Provision and the feel about the same. My wife on the other hand had to go up a 1/2 size from the Instinct to the Provision due to some trouble with the women’s sizing of the Provisioness (female version of the Provision).

I have plantar fasciitis and have worn corrective “lifts” in both my running and boots. I cannot run without the “lifts” and am looking for something to ease out of them. Is this type of shoe recommended or is the minimalist support not recommended based upon my condition?

Thanks for your help>

@Jack: By “lifts” are you talking about arch support? I know from personal experience that arch supports are often utilized to treat plantar fasciitis. If that’s the case then you can definitely use this shoe with your arch supports, I do! Now if are using some sort of lift in the heel to increase the heel-to-drop height then you’ll notice a bit difference when going to this shoe as it has zero drop or no difference between the heel and toe stack heights. This could be a large change from whatever shoe you are currently wearing. As always be very cautious as it takes quite a bit of time to adapt to a zero drop shoe. Moderation is the key!

@Rob: Would these be good for someone who is healing from shin splints and fractures? Just got the okay to start running again a few weeks ago and am just a little fearful of the wrong shoe.

@jbwilder0206: Not sure what to tell you as I’m not a doctor. That being said I’d be very careful with whatever shoe you decide to run in coming back from an injury. FWIW, it seems like shin splints is part of the process that a lot of us went through (at some point) when we started running. If that is the case with you then it really won’t matter what type of shoe you wear. My only advice is that if you’re unused to running in a zero drop shoe to take it slow and don’t try to do too many miles in them at first and possibly rotate their use with other running shoes or at least only run in them every other day. Better to be cautious than over eager. Good luck!

Just got these and like them a lot. I have been running in minimalist shoes for a while now (vff’s, merrell road gloves etc) and wanted something a little beefier with a zero drop. These fit the bill perfectly and feel like a great shoe for longer pavement runs. They do run small. I wear a 10.5, ordered 11 and the 11’s are snug.

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