Physical Therapists Using Clinical Analysis To Discuss The Art And Science Behind Running and The Stuff We Put On Our Feet

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   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!

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