Altra Instinct Review

Initial Impressions
This shoe looks goofy. Why do I look down at my feet and think of Frodo? Did I get suckered? Holding the shoe; I am concerned that the foam will breakdown too quickly and I will have expensive gardening shoe. The eva foam seems too simple, almost too straight forward. The eva foam seems to be sturdy but there are no real bells and whistles, I assume that is as it should be. I guess my eye is just used to seeing “stability this” or “super lunar rover foam” that; feels strange to look at a truly simple design. I am not too sure about the treads on the bottom. They are deeper than a “road” shoe from a big brand, but there is not as much design to them with regards to arches or shinny things in the middle like most big brand shoes, again, just functional. The mesh seems breathable but layered enough to keep debris away from my socks so that’s a plus.
Construction/ Specs
Weight: 9.1 oz.
Drop: 0 mm (16mm – 16mm)
Per Altra Website:
Asymmetrical Lacing, Heel Claw, and A-Wrap for superior fir
Strengthen and Support Insoles.
Drilex Liner to manage moisture and keep feet dry
Designed to be worn without insoles for Minimalist Runners who prefer less cushion or more room.
Background
I have logged over 150 miles on this shoe. I stopped reviewing shoes because I generally stick to what works for me. I am a gear junkie therefore my shoe budget is pretty strict. Some of my friends will argue otherwise. 
I prefer niche brands, those that sell themselves. I first heard of Altra Running through Coach Jeff with PRS Fit, Competitor Magazine and the Ultra Server. The shoes were getting a lot of attention because they are zero drop and according to the rumors could take a lot of miles. What I look for in a shoe…
(1) what does the manufacture say about their product
(2) does the product do what they say it will.
You can run in high heels or Rainbows Sandals if you want; but as a runner and consumer I demand, yeah I said it DEMAND, honest advertising and clear intent. There are no magic bullets and if a company tries to sell me one that company can immediately go fly a kite, because nothing comes without work.
Altra Running is marketing the old fashioned way; making a great product and letting users do the marketing for them. I can attest to the durability of this shoe.  I have ran it on smoother trails and a lot of road. The pictures I include in this blog were taken today at about 150-160 miles on this pair. 
Testing / Experience
I purchased the Altra’s after a 50 miler I ran in October. The shoes I was running with had reached their end and it I had to retire a few pairs within a week. Coach Jeff from PRS Fit has been my coach for a while now and when it comes to shoes when he says its gold then it is. He puts quality miles on his equipment and has never recommended anything gimmicky or that he or coach Diane have has not tried themselves. So I ordered a pair of them and I have not been disappointed.
I have ran in these shoes at night, in rain, through wind, over/under mud and sand and they have performed admirably. On the road they are champs. However, they do struggle a little on technical trails. The eva foam is not that flexible. Most runners I know want a little bit of feedback when running on technical trails. It helps you to stay light footed and get a sense of grip, trail condition (if in the dark), etc. I think the firmness is a strength for this shoe. I use these primarily on the road or groomed trails where footing is generally stable. When I bought the shoe I knew that it would not be a technical trail shoe, and neither Altra themselves nor the Natural Running Store lied about that fact (honest advertisement – thank you Patton).
I was told that it was a solid shoe, helped you find your form and run naturally. Many runners have experienced success with it so I figured why not give it a shot?
*Note: I will be running in the Altra Lone Pine soon, so we’ll see how that works the trails (I am sure it will hold up).
The first few test runs were amazing almost addicting. I was running faster splits on my standard runs. I was breezing throught workouts and kept feeling stronger and stronger. I was like Muhammad Ali in his prime until the sore calf muscles set in a few weeks after transitioning. All my shoes are minimal drop shoes (4mm or less) and do shorter training jogs and hikes in zero drop shoes. I am no stranger to the “adjustment” period, but these really made me hurt a few days. The reason they hurt is that they worked as stated. They helped my form making me more efficient and helped reduce wasted energy therefore letting me crank out the miles. My muscles were not prepared for the change and it took a few weeks to really feel the benefits of a high mileage zero drop shoe.
The instincts allowed me to keep my form and take short steps all the while allowing my feet to splay in the shoe. These shoes easily have the widest toe box of any shoe I have owned. I think that is probably one of their best features. The shoe is designed for feet and not feet conforming to shoe design. Often times we forget that over time civilizations have held different ideas as their standard of beauty…sometimes we try to fit to a mold instead of making the mold. That is where Altra really hit it out of the park, they took the foot and made the mold around it, it’s a beautiful thing.  

Conclusion
If you want a minimalist shoe that can serve for long runs this is it. It is not a trail shoe, it is not a magic bullet. It will help you help yourself into better running form. It holds up to the elements and even has two insoles (support and strengthen) so you can transition to absolute zero drop without having to buy a different pair of kicks. There are other manufactures out there making amazing products and definitely give all the ones you can a try we are all an experiment of one after all.
Why I decided to purchase a goofy looking shoe (that I now really like) was the following thought…do I want a shoe that promotes the way my feet are meant to be or a shoe that promotes a fiction of what my feet should be….and in case you are wondering yes, there is a black pair of instincts in a box waiting until this pair is retired, its going to be a while.
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