Altra Instinct 2.0 Review

   Today we have the second full version of a shoe that introduced me to zero drop running.  Back 3ish years ago, I jumped from the original Kinvara into the original Altra Instinct at the end of my sophomore year of college.  The following summer was filled with 90-105 mile weeks on lots of hills which eventually lead to my best track season (junior year).  Despite the ride being a bit firm, I was in love with that shoe.  I went through more pairs and ran in it for longer than any other (the original kinvara is the only shoe that comes close).  Then I developed some achilles issues because I wasn't addressing restricted range of motion (ROM) in my ankles and had to move away (retrospectively I just needed to hammer eccentric heel drops, assess whether the restriction was coming from my gastrocnemius or my soleus muscles and stretch).  I was finally fully turned off when I tried the Altra Instinct 1.5 which I did not like.  The upper felt totally different (and not in a good way) and had horrible durability.  I then fully moved on.  Now Altra has released the complete 2nd version of the Altra Instinct and I have to say that I REALLY like this shoe.  It reminds me so much of my love of the original.  Without further ado, we have the Altra Instinct 2.0 on deck for today.

Sole:  The Altra Instinct 1 and 1.5 had a fairly firm (if not harsh at times) midsole.  The new 2.0 midsole is much softer and responsive (not cushy).  The ride is definitely more forgiving than before, but it's not a "my foot is sinking into the shoe" type of feel.  It strikes a nice balance betweeen the cushy and responsive spectrum.
    The plateform is also much broader plateform than before.  Where the arch used to be cut it, the new Instinct 2.0 arch area has been filled in.  I like that because it creates a very straight last and lends the shoe to be a bit more stable but not supportive.  I wouldn't say the new Instinct has arch support or a high arch (like the 1.5 seemed to), but it is more balanced than the previous versions.

Upper/Fit:  The upper is quite different than before (as is the whole shoe).  There's a bit more there, which I would almost describe as a bit heavy.  Which I guess is a trade off for durability, because after +100 miles I have had absolutely no issues with the upper so far.  Something I do really like is what appears to be an Altra version of Nike Flywire attaching to the laces.  While there is the typial awesome Altra wide toebox, the heel again is a bit too wide.  The padding around the heel collar attempts to make up for that but it's still a bit too wide.  Once you cinch down the laces though, that Altra Flywire really locks in the foot and keeps you very secured to the plateform while allowing your toes to be free.  I still use a lace lock technique to prevent heel slippage, but I really like that new Altra addition to the midfoot.
   One area I was very worried about was the heel counter.  It looked very thick and solid, which I really don't like in shoes.  My calcaneus (heel bone) tends to be very sensitive to that and it can be a major shoe  turn off  in my opinion.  Once I got the Altra Instinct 2.0 on my feet, I discovered the heel counter is actually fairely flexible.  Combine with the thick ankle collar cushioning and I have not felt a thing.  My calcanei are very happy.

Responsiveness:  The cushioning is fairely responsive for being a amoderately thick shoe.  The fit does not lend itself to this shoe being the fastest out there (if you don't have the laces cinched down, you may have some movement in the shoe at higher paces.  Go for the Altra One2 if you want fast), but it can handle it's own if you push it.  I have done a few hill workouts and a large number of strides in the shoe and it has performed fine.  Remember that this is a training shoe, not a racing shoe.

Heel-Toe Drop/Ramp:  Being an Altra shoe, it's zero drop.  It doesn't feel as harsh on my legs as the Instinct 1.0 and 1.5 did due to the cushioining and padded heel collar.  It's not a hard zero drop, it's a softer zero drop (if that makes any sense).

Durability:  Normal sole wear as expected.  Again I haven't seen any issues with the upper.  Nothing spectacular or horrible here.  I can see this being a normal 300-500 mile shoe (your mileage may vary).

Weight:  A little heavier than the Instinct 1.0 and 1.5 at around 10 ounces but feels a little lighter due to the soft and responsive feel (compared to the first two versions).  Again though, the Altra Instinct line is meant to be trainers, not racing flats.  I think that's pretty clear when you put them on.

Thoughts as a SPT (Student Physical Therapist):  I like the wide toe box not cramping toes.  Narrow toe boxes can easily kill a shoe within a few seconds for me.  Having been on my first clinical rotation as a physical therapy student and seen SOOO many hallux valgus (bunion) issues/surgeries, neuroma issues/surgies, and many damaged feet from narrow shoes (in both men and women), having a wide anatomical toe-box is very important to me in training shoes.  Protect your toes!

Final Thoughts:  Altra has really made some significant progress on their shoes.  I am extremely impressed after being away from their main line for so long.  I had a love affair with the original Instinct and am glad that the shoe has improved so much.  Some people will be butt-hurt that Altra has added cushioning to the shoe, but I believe that it has not only made the shoe less harsh but also more protective and responsive.  I am excited to see where Altra goes from here and am chomping at the bit to try the Altra One2.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to Tack On!

These shoes were a personal purchase and I put at least 100 miles on every pair of shoes before I review them (except racing flats which I put at least 50 miles on before I review them).

As always, my views are my own.  

-Matt Klein, SPT

*Images obtained from the Altra Running website.  Go down to your local running specialty retailer to check them out!


  1. Really appreciate this blog post as I was searching for an alternative running shoe to the NB 940V2 and came across the Altra shoe via a search where a poster suggested this was working for their Neuroma. The NB shoes have been the ONLY shoe that has worked for me (Neuroma surgeries on both feet along with Graston massages to 'heal' the scarring); I've tried many, many other shoes. My only complaint is their weight at 14 ounces, but I'm happily back to running with custom orthotics! Given your background and experience with these shoes, would you recommend them in my case? Will they take an orthotic? If not, what about for every day, non-running uses? Thanks much!

  2. The Altra Instinct is a VERY different shoe from the NB 940 V2, which is classified as a high support traditional shoe (that gray high density foam on the inside of the shoe is what provides that support). By that I mean that there is a large amount of medial (inside) support for your arches and the shoe has a traditional heel-toe offset (difference between the height of the front of the foot and the back of the foot. Imagine your foot is on a slope with the heel end higher). The Altra Instinct is a flat shoe with a foot shaped, non-pointed design. The wide toebox would be great for someone in your case, but the lack of support might be the issue. If it turns out you don't need the support they would work fine, but if you do and still want that wide unobtrusive toe box (front of the shoe) along with support, take a look at the Altra Provision 1.5. It's not as heavy as the Altra Repetition but still has a good amount of support. The Provision is firmer, but the 2nd version coming out in either late fall of 2014 or early 2015 will have more cushion and will ride similar to the Altra Instinct 2.0 but with some support.

    You will have to try your orthotics in Altra. Hopefully your local running retail store will have some where you can try them with your orthotics. Most of the time they probably won't fit because Altra shoes are so much wider in the front that traditional shoes, but I have had customers whose orthotics fit wonderfully!

    I hope that helps! Thank you so much for reading! If you have any more questions let me know!

    P.S. As a casual shoe they would work just fine. Imagine them as a foot strengthening tool. Wear them for 15 minutes the first day, then 30 minutes the next day, and so on slowly increasing the time you spend in them. That will give your feet some time to adapt and get stronger!

  3. My impressions of the 2.0 mirror yours. I like that in a review!

  4. Great review! Quick question: shoefitr says to order a 1/2 shorter but Altra website says to order a 1/2 longer. What's your experience? Thanks

    1. Hey Miguel.

      I'm normally a size 10 and that's what I wore in the Instinct 2.0. To me they seemed to fit pretty true if not a hair long. That is me personally.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. The altra instinct 2.0 is a fantastic shoe, fits true to size and is well cushioned but responsive. I got the instinct 2.0 as a replacement for the instinct 3.0 which I do not rate for running!

  6. The altra instinct 2.0 is a fantastic shoe, fits true to size and is well cushioned but responsive. I got the instinct 2.0 as a replacement for the instinct 3.0 which I do not rate for running!


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