Second Wind

Second Wind
"Run With Purpose!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Altra Instinct 1.5 shoe Review

Levi Dodd
October 2012

Award winning (Editor’s pick for “Most innovative”) Instinct 1.5


Altra is a cool company.  Their story goes back about 30 years and their zero-drop movement can be traced back almost 10 years.  Today they have 7 men’s shoes and 7 women’s models, all featuring zero-drop platforms.

The other cool thing I like about Altra is that their founder, Golden Harper is a runner.  No really.  He grew up running since birth and has the hardware to prove it:  set a marathon time of 2:45… at age 12 (which happens to be a world record, if you’re into that sort of thing…), has a personal best 5k time of 14:45, and won the Mountain 50 Miler in a time of 9 hours and 12 minutes, just to name a few.

It’s the type of company you can’t help but root for.

Now, here’s my little confession.  Despite all that, I wasn’t really sold on this particular shoe they sent me.  I wasn’t sure I’d even like it.  At all.

What I knew was that Altra was taking aim at a (what I thought) niche market of people with their zero drop shoes that still looked and were designed as a ‘normal’ shod running shoe – same cushioning, similar stack height, but zero drop.
I got the shoes and they sat in the box for several days, I was almost afraid to test them because of my pre-conceived notions on the stack height and their claims of “fully cushioned ‘A-Bound’” technology. 
I can now gladly say… boy was a wrong!

I laced them up, tried them on, and just wore them for a few days.  No running, just wore them.  I found that I like them… a lot.  I didn’t have to adjust my gait at all, nothing felt weird or strange (or evil… as I had assumed) and, in fact, they felt quite natural.  After several days of casual wear I took them out for their first run.  The run felt great, the room inside the shoes was amazing, the fit was spot-on, no thumping, no scuffing, no mis-hits from the stack height.  As I continued to run in them I continued to be very pleasantly surprised at the feel of these shoes (did I mention the superb fit?). 

Now, what’s obvious is this:  there’s virtually no ground feel in the sense that one thinks about feeling pebbles, small cracks, etc.  This was obviously be design, and, to be perfectly honest, it was pretty nice.  I used these for the cracked, worn, broken sidewalks around the old parts of town and on gravel road beds and I could still ‘feel’ the road but didn’t have the dull pains experienced on more technical surfaces. 

After getting a good feel for the shoes and seeing the strong points of the design from Altra (excellent fit, air mesh, zero drop, perfectly flat sole, wide last, And A-Bound cushioning) I couldn’t wait to try them out on Crossfit.  For Crossfit, these shoes are perfect.  I LOVED them for that (these will be my go-to Crossfit shoe from now on).  They’re very light, perfectly flat, and zero drop (all musts haves) but the cushioning provided put them way above my other minimalist shoes for many of the Crossfit workouts.  The flat base and wide last provide a perfectly stable platform for squats, cleans, etc.  The light weight and natural fit make them work great at dubs, and (here’s where barefoot and my minimalist shoes always killed me) on box jumps they are perfect!

For the same reasons, were the sole more aggressive, this would make a great trail running shoe.

To recap the high notes here:

·         First off, most importantly and already mentioned, the shoe is Zero drop.
·         The Instinct 1.5 is a lightweight shoe (tipping the scales at about 9oz) – much lighter than traditional shod shoes.
·         One of the greatest things about this shoe is the fit-they Nailed it!  The heel is snug and holds everything in place while the toe box is designed perfectly – nice and wide, plenty of room for toe splay and a very natural, comfortable fit.
·         The shoe is cool (temperature wise… but looks too ;)  and I really like quick dry air mesh
·         The liner is full length (nice touch) and is seamless
·         Perfectly flat, wedge like sole (again – great platform for cross training, exercise, and Crossfit)
·         The entire shoe, sole and all, is completely flexible!
·         Ground feel:  I expected to hate ground feel but found it not to be a determent to my knees or my stride.  What I did fine was that they were Great for more ‘technical’ roads, good for when the feet are tired, and awesome for workouts or other activities where you have lots of jumping, hard landings, etc.
·         The shoe comes with 2 sets of insoles – one a little thicker and squishier than the other.  Put the ‘Strengthen’ insoles in and you’re good to go.
·         One note.  I talk a lot about the excellent fit – what I found (fault of my own) was that I ordered mine slightly too small.  They run slightly small (1/4 size) so keep that in mind when ordering yours.  Even still (I should have gotten mine a ½ size larger) it was only short in the length, the width at the toes was still fantastic.

So, on the conclusion end of things:

I like Altra.  I like what they’re doing, I like the void in the market they are filling, and I like that you can look back at their previous versions of shoes and see that they keep getting better with each new shoe they put out.  As an aside, knowing what they did in this shoe and what Altra’s strong suits are, I would be very excited about their newly released “The Superior” trail running shoe… I’d love to get my hands on a pair of those, and if I do, I’ll pass along what I learn!


  1. similar stack height, but zero drop.
    I got the shoes and they sat in the box for several days, Best shoes for crossfit

  2. Great review! I am about to get mine and was looking for feedback, this will do it. I own another pair of xf inov8 and i love them!crossfit sneakers