Altra Instinct Review

Product Information
The Instinct leads the way in "Zero Drop" cushioned running shoes. You were born to run long distances. With Zero Drop and ALTRA's all-man foot shaped design, now there is less hindering you. Nature gave you instincts, trust the animal inside you–Run Natural. The first of its kind, The Instinct marries the biomechanically correct benefits of correct barefoot positioning with a fully protective running shoe.

The Specs:
-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.

The Altra Instinct is a shoe that deviates from tradition by actually having a foot-shaped design. Among my rather large collection of running shoes, the Instinct easily has the widest forefoot, and it’s one of the few shoes I own that provides ample space for my pinky toe. It’s kind of an odd looking shoe, if only because I’m not used to wearing a sneaker-style running shoe that is actually foot shaped (gasp!). I’m not including the Vibram Fivefingers here – hard to get more foot-shaped than those, but the VFFs are definitely not sneaker-style running shoes.

In addition to its anatomical shape, the Instinct is also a true zero-drop shoe, meaning the sole is the same thickness at the heel and forefoot (see photo above). The Instinct is not unique in being zero drop (Vibram Fivefingers, Merrell Barefoot, and a few others also meet this standard), but it is one of the only zero drop shoes that is also amply cushioned, if you really need your minimalist shoe to be cushioned.

Immediately upon lacing up the Instincts, you begin to realize just how well these shoes are made. A cursory review of the exterior reveals solid construction at every seam, superior materials in all the right spots.

Here's the thing about this shoes, it's not a shoe that hardcore minimalist shoe wearers will love, when running in this shoe you'll find it a soft run due to the cushioning and thicker sole, so you lose some ground feedback

But for those who have made the switch to minimalist running (or thinking about it), the Altra Instinct is definitely worth checking out. While not a shoe that feels anything near the Vibram FF, it is a great transition shoe to begin the journey from "heavy heel strike" to Zero Drop


  1. I bought a pair of Instincts in June 2011 and fell in love with them after growing disenchanted with the Nike Free line. In the 3 weeks the Instincts lasted I logged 161 miles mostly on hard pack trails. The longest run I did in them was 16 miles along an asphalt service road. A couple of weeks ago I ran 10 miles round-trip along a semi-technical trail using the Instincts. The trail involved several river crossings where the shoes were submerged when I lost my balance once as I hopped rocks across. The shoes drained well and didn't chafe. However, when I took the shoes off they literally fell apart. The cloth liner on the insole split off the rubber. When I cleaned the shoes with Penguin Sneaker Cleaner the stitching on the left shoe became undone. What was most troubling was the customer service. When I attempted to take them to the store to see if I could at least replace the insoles with some that fit the unique toe box, the salesman couldn't help and asked me to come back when the owner was around. When I contacted the manufacturer they blew me off. So as much as I loved these shoes three weeks is an indication of construction issues they haven't ironed out, and their small shop retailer could probably use more support too. So I am back to hunting for a minimalist replacement for the Nike Free 3.0 v.2 which lasted me at least 600 miles...given that Nike has abandoned its niche with its later generation Frees.

  2. I hope that you see this comment "anonymous". I am really sorry to hear the feedback of not only the shoe quality, but more important the service received. I want to reach out to you and see what we can do to take care of you as a customer. Please reach out to me on twitter @altrazerodrop or email me at I hope to change your experience with the shoes and us as a company. I apologize and want to make this right. Thank you.

  3. Oh, I was gonna get a pair of Instinct until I came across this comment......