An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Altra Instinct – initial impressions and maiden voyage

Okay, I did some things that are generally accepted to be… not so smart. I’ll get to that later. (Photo at left coutesy of the Altra Running site.)

So my wife and I timed a 5K in Seattle on Saturday morning. A small race, maybe 85 participants. Afterwards, we toured the local Road Runner Sports, Gregg’s Greenlake Cycles, Title 9 Sports, Super Jock ‘n Jill, then drove over to Bellevue to check out the Born to Run store, the only “local” carrier of the Altra line. I’d emailed the store to check on availability, and got a response on Thursday that the shoes had just arrived.

The store itself is pretty small, and they had Jason Robillard’s barefoot running video’s playing in the background. Anyway, I asked to try on a pair of the Instincts in size 10.5… Out came the box. I slipped them on, and had the same “ahhhh…” reaction as when I first tried on the Merrell Trail Glove – just so much toe room, that feeling of freedom. I jogged around the store a bit, and something just was a little off. I tried swapping the insole from the contoured to the flat in the right shoe, and tried it again. As has been reported by another blogger (though at this point I don’t remember who that was – sorry!), that actually felt a lot better.

So I bought them. That night I put them on and walked around the house, just enjoying the feeling. Usually I walk around the house barefoot, but I wanted to get some time in the shoes…

It wasn’t until today that I took them out on their first run. Oh, yeah, remember those “not so smart” things? Yeah, well, I wanted to do a long run today. In fact, longer than I did over a week ago, which was my to-date longest run in over 12 years. In new shoes. “That’s just not done,” I could hear the old-timers saying. It’s the sort of behavior that has disaster written all over it.

Well, not only did I do fine in my first long run in zero-drop shoes, and my first run in the Altra Instinct, but I bettered my pace from the previous long run by 7 seconds per mile, and stopped less in the process (only twice to adjust shoe lace tension – expected in new shoes). I felt my form just staying tight the whole way, and didn’t have to keep reminding myself to pull the stride in, stay loose, and keep the cadence up.

My calves definitely felt the difference of zero-drop, but the shoes themselves seemed to promote the relaxation that kept everything a-okay. Foot-wise, there wasn’t so much as a hot spot to suggest that a blister was on the way in later miles. My impression of the shoe is that it is what the Merrell Trail Glove would be, if it were built as a road shoe. And I consider that high praise. It’s EXACLTY what I was looking for.

With tonight’s run at over 10 miles, I think I now have the confidence that the race distance for Soaring Eagle on the 30th won’t be an issue. Picking which shoe I want to wear? That could be a problem. I’m still leaning toward the Trail Glove, just because of the nature of the trails. But if I had a road half-marathon tomorrow (which, thankfully, I don’t), no question I’d slip on the Altra Instincts.


derscott said...

Nice review, David! Matches my own impressions of the Altra (along with my questionable decision to do a long run right out of the gate!).

Leslie said...

Yep, great review. I seriously suggest taking them out on a trail run, they really perform amazing. Happy Running!1

Anonymous said...

How was the toe box width? I'm a trail glove owner and they're a little narrow for me just below the toes. It's not really an issue for me when I'm running, but anything that requires jumping, balancing on one foot, or cutting laterally it gets a little difficult.

brider (aka David) said...

To answer "Anonymous", check out my latest post with a direct comparison.