Altra Instinct 1.5 review

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

I’ve been experimenting with running shoes. That’s a major step for a creature of habit like me.

Trying new running shoes isn’t like trying a new flavor of chocolate truffles. Or a new flavor of beer. Or a new Jack Johnson album.  I’m almost guaranteed to like those. Not so with running shoes. That could go bad. That’s serious business.

The one experiment I had not conducted yet, was trying a “natural” running shoe. I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to try Altra’s newly updated Instinct 1.5 recently. And in short…I could get “into” this natural running thing.

I was skeptical at first. In fact, I was worried. I worried that my years in full-blown max-cushioned stability shoes would couple with my flat over-pronating feet to produce a bad result as I forayed into the world of natural running. So, when my Altras arrived I approached them with much trepidation.

I slipped the Altras on and bent my knees a few times. Squatted a little. I’m not sure why I did that. I walked back and forth between the couch and the kitchen. What I noticed was that it felt like I had just put on a pair of slippers or those indian moccassin house shoes I used to get for Christmas. At just 8.9 onces they are light for a “trainer”. First impression: The Altras feel awesome. You can’t beat a shoe that feels like a house shoe.

The second thing I noticed was how much room I had in the toe-box. I don’t have particularly wide feet to begin with, but the Altras allowed my toes to spread naturally with each step like I had never experienced in a running shoe. This gives the shoe a stable ride despite the suppleness of the shoe’s construction.

The moment of truth came in the form of an easy 3 mile run. I ran slow at first. Afraid that these “natural” shoes would make my high-maintenance calves spontaneously lock up. I noticed that my stride felt smoother than normal, my feet landed beneath me more than usual.

I picked up the pace. More of the same feeling. The zero drop from the heel to the toe really made me feel like I was running barefooted – without those annoying shards of glass, nails, and blistering pavement to worry about it. You certainly feel closer to the ground in this shoe, and you can “feel” the road, but they have enough cushion to also feel comfortable.

I was curious about the “zero drop” movement in running shoes. Essentially “zero drop” refers to shoes like the Instinct 1.5 that have zero degrees slope of variance from the heel to the toe, as opposed to traditional running shoes with built up heels sitting 12-15mm above toe level. This level slope allows the foot to land parallel to the ground in a more “natural” position. The assertion is that this more natural foot strike lessens the chance of injury.

The “zero drop” felt different after years of running in a raised heel. But I liked it. I have to admit that it did feel more natural.

I’ve since upped the distance a bit in the Instinct’s, but I’m still being careful. In fact, Altra suggests that you ease into their shoes if you’re coming off of years in traditional running shoes. They even send you this cool “how-to” Education Booklet to help you get started.

Here’s what Altra says about their shoe:


An upgrade from the original award-winning shoe, The Instinct™ is the first shoe to truly marry the form-improving benefits of a minimalist shoe with the comfort, cushioning and support of a traditional running shoe. The Zero Drop™ platform and innovative foot-shaped design work together to help runners maintain proper running technique and reduce joint impact while freeing their toes to help alleviate foot pain. Trust your instincts and experience the world’s first fully cushioned, foot-shaped, Zero Drop™ running shoe.

Technical Stuff

  • Zero Drop™ Platform
  • Weight: 8.9 oz
  • Midsole: 12mm; Dual Layer EVA with A-Bound Top Layer
  • Outsole: 4.5 mm FootPod Outsole
  • Cushioning: 12mm; Dual Layer EVA with A-Bound Top Layer
  • Total Stack Height: 22mm
  • 2 included insoles: 5mm Sculpted and 3mm Strengthen
  • Upper: Quick Dry Air Mesh
  • Liner: Full Length Seamless inner lining with Premium Drilex Collar Lining
  • Asymmetric Lacing
  • Other Features: Zero Drop™ with Full Cushioning Innovative, Foot-Shaped Design
  • Male specific fit

In conclusion,  the Altra Instinct 1.5 is sticking around in my rotation of shoes. I feel confident that I could cover 13.1 in this shoe with no pain or injury. That’s saying a lot, considering my biggest concern was the risk of injury in a completely new style of shoe.

I love you,

– Daddy

* I was given this shoe for purposes of this review. However, my opinions are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.