Thursday, October 4, 2012

Altra Instinct shoe review

The Altra Instinct is sold as a running shoe.  I use it as a work shoe and will sprint in it this winter.  So if you want to know how it fares for cardio running, please go check the reviews on their website.

Zero drop
Okay, first a quick intro.  I've been searching for a good work shoe for a couple of years now.  One with the following criteria:

  • Flat (zero drop from heel to base)
  • Mondo room in the toe box 
  • Minimal to no arch

Of course my Vibrams fit this profile, but I can't use them at work.  I walk in them, and sprint in them in the summer, but unfortunately they ain't working shoes (at least not for my work).  Prior to getting Vibrams I'd just been working in old running shoes with the inserts ripped out.  My feet were cramped in those, and would be tired at the end of the day.  After experiencing how much better it is to have my feet in a more natural position, I went a looking for some shoes.  And looking, and looking.  I must've tried on a gazillion pairs of shoes the past couple of years.  Running shoes, soccer shoes, wrestling shoes (these were usually the closest) and of course the new wave of minamalist shoes out there.  Turns out a lot of companies are jumping on this bandwagon and trying to go minimal.  I say trying because they always screw something up.  Usually the arch and the toe box.  It's not too hard for them to go zero drop, but they just can't break out of the mold of regular shoes with the high arch and cramped toe box.

Last year, just doing my thing of trying on more shoes, I found the New Balance Minimus (MR10) running shoe.  It was the closest thing yet, so I grabbed a pair in a size 12.  That's more length than I need, but it gave me extra room in the toe box.  So the arch was really flat and the toe box nice and wide, but there was a 4mm drop from heel to toe.  Not horrible, but still there nonetheless.  

I knew that New Balance was coming out with a zero drop version of the Minimus in the spring and I was super excited.  In June, when I was in Portland, I went searching for them, eventually tried on a pair, and boy was I disappointed.  Should've been a no brainer right?  Not so much.  They totally pumped up the arch and narrowed the toe box.  Dang.  I got the scoop from an extremely knowledgeable salesman at the New Balance store who went into detail about how they managed to screw around with a fine shoe idea.  Great.  So now what.   

Now enter the Altra shoe company.  I can't remember where I first found out about them (they're maybe a year old now) but as soon as I heard their concept I headed on over to their website.  And then I did something I almost never do ... I ordered shoes without having tried them on first.  Now why would I go and do a thing like that?  Because from the 'about' section on their site I just knew they got it.  At least, they got what I wanted - zero drop, no arch (they call it foot shape) and a mondo toe box.  Sweet.  And I wasn't disappointed!

Fatty toe box
These shoes are what I've been looking for.  They are cushioned shoes, make no mistake about that, but that is fine by me for the way I use them (standing on hard surfaces for 40hrs a week).  They might be a bit much for running in if you're already used to very minimalist shoes, but they're probably perfect transition shoes for those wanting to go from regular running 'boots' to Vibrams or such. 

I was surprised at how much more comfortable it is having zero drop compared to even the 4mm that I had.  Really, this is the only major difference between this pair and my MR10's.  When you think about it, why do shoes even have 'drop' at all?  Why?  Just why?  To make us taller?  No really, I don't get why regular shoes have drop.  Drop makes it so you're standing on a friggin slope!  Makes no sense.  I do know this however, I'm never going back.  Zero drop from now on baby.

So this shoe totally fit the bill for me.  Nice and wide up front, no 'support' system anywhere,  and zero drop - all of which put my feet in a nice natural position.  They're very comfortable to be working in all day.  My only small complaint about the shoe is the height of the heel collars.  They're just too high.  I'm going to cut them down a bit.  I think with the whole foot being in a much more natural position, the need for tall heel collars goes away.

Overall, a thumbs up.


Edith Canon said...

I actually have a pair of these running shoes and it's very comfortable and well designed. I practically wear it everywhere and not just when I run.

Anonymous said...

Interesting write up! I'm disappointed to hear NB messed up the minimus when they went to zero heel drop- I had high hopes for that shoe. The Alta's definitely look thick, but as you say- 0 heel drop!

I see your a Coloradan! I love your part of the country. One of my biggest minimalist triumphs was climbing Matterhorn in my VFFs!