Altra Provision 4 Performance Review
TAYLOR: I’m not huge on technology but I definitely appreciate it. Kip Dynamite gets it. In the shoe industry, new tech comes and goes like the salmon of Capistrano: Nothing gold can stay.
We’re always trying to solve the same old problems with different methods. For example, stability. Medial posts, guide rails, wider outsoles? Pick your poison. It’s like in Rocky IV when Rocky uses a tree trunk to get fit and Drago uses state-of-the-art everything to do the same. Yeah, Balboa gets the crap kicked out of him for a little while, but at the end of the fight, look what happened! America wins. Again. The point is that they used different means to try to solve the same problem.
Who’s America in the stability game? I don’t know, but Altra is trying to go for a KO by means of the Drago method. Notoriously simple in their shoe composition, Altra is dipping its toes into some new technologies with the Provision 4. It’s their first shoe utilizing the InnovArch system, designed to support each runner in a uniquely individual way. The new stability technology is completely different from the standard support-oriented shoes out there.
Will the idea make waves or get knocked out? Let’s check it out.
JARRETT: When we visited the Altra booth at The Running Event last December, the Provision 4 was one of the shoes I was most intrigued about once our meeting was over. They touted it as a shoe that provided stability “only if needed” with the InnovArch medial arch feature. For the neutral people, the feature wouldn’t be as prominent.
My size 10.5 weighed in at 10.7 oz. which is a middle of the pack weight for stability shoes. Yeah, it still has zero drop and has a 27mm stack height with a 6 mm insole. Now to the good stuff.
TAYLOR: From the ultra-trail side of running, I know that Altra has the pedigree to create shoes that are ready to go as far as you need them to. It’s no surprise that the Provision is ready for the long haul as well. My first two runs in them were 15 and 19 miles at sub 7:00 minute pace, at altitude, with more than 1,000 ft of gain each. At the end of both of those, my feet and legs didn’t feel fresh as a daisy, but they didn’t feel like they took a pounding either.
The A-bound midsole, which is more firm than typical for Altra, provided a protective and comfortable ride. I enjoyed the rocker-esque toe-off and full-ground contact that kept all things chugging along smoothly.
What’s really worth talking about in this shoe is the stability component. I don’t need a very stable ride, but whether you look for a little or a lot of support, the Provision can accommodate. The idea behind it was a little sketchy to me at first, but low and behold it seems to do exactly as they say.
I appreciate the different take on stability here. There is a tiny bit of posting via a guide rail in the heel but I didn’t seem to notice it that much because of how smooth the ride was.
InnovArch technology is most responsible for the support. Three “fingers” wrap up from under the medial side of the foot and are attached to the laces. Really, the InovArch is more of a customizable support than it is adaptable. Since I didn’t need a lot, I kept the lacing a little more loosely. The moderately padded tongue, padded heel collar, and supportive mesh upper still managed to keep my feet in place despite looser lacing in the midfoot.
Altra provides dessert with this one. I love the Contour insole. It reminded me a lot of when little fish nibble the dead skin off of your feet. Don’t you love that too?! There’s just enough pressure to almost tickle but not enough to be intrusive. I didn’t really buy the “mindfulness” proposal until I hit my first downhill. Immediately, I felt the studded insole apply pressure in a different way and it got my mind in the game enough to focus on adjusting from uphill to downhill form.
JARRETT: Look, I get that shoe reviews don’t normally start by talking about insoles, but holy guacamole. The insole has these textured dimples which was weird at first because it was different (change scares me). As time went on, I realized I love it. It’s like a mini massage for your feet, while also providing some great bonus cushioning.
New to the Provision is the dynamic arch feature, InnovArch. Altra’s website states this when talking about InnovArch: “This innovative arch [note: shortening by combining words is hip!] feature uses proprioception to establish a connection between mind, body, and feet which encourages a natural foot placement in each step. I’ll help you out and provide the definition of proprioception: perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body. If you have any clue what Altra is talking about, please raise your hand. I’ll wait… exactly. I have no idea what’s going on here and neither do you.
Like Austin said, the InnovArch really is three finger-like tabs that start below the insole on the medial side and wrap over to the top of the foot. If you need arch support, it will help to keep a natural foot placement in check. If you don’t need the support, it won’t do as much.
Together, the Guide Rail (located below the ankle on the medial side) and InnovArch provided a very stable ride. It also helps that besides the forefoot, where the toe rolls up slightly, the Provision 4 is a very flat shoe.
The upper is made of an engineered mesh while the midfoot has overlays on both sides to provide more support. The forefoot is breathable, but the midfoot has potential to get warm with the extra InnovArch fabric and overlays. The lightly padded tongue isn’t attached, but stayed in place well so long as it started in place. I was also much happier that Altra went with a cushioned heel… because the Duo 1.5 was a debacle.
The midsole is made up of EVA and includes InnerFlex (grid-like grooves for more flex). Toeing off felt natural and smooth so long as I was landing midfoot. To me, the midsole felt a bit on the more firm side, but the insole provided some excellent cushion to offset it. The combination worked very well for my recovery runs as well as my tempo miles.
The Provision 4 rubber outsole provides a very secure and grippy feel. Along the outsole runs a full-length guidance line and a decent amount of horizontal flex grooves. There hasn’t been too much wear, so this shoe should be able to last and last.
There’s no doubt that the whole “foot shaped” shoe thing has made so many Altra’s seem rather wonky to the eye. Altra did a real solid job of making the Provision 4 look clean and sharp compared to the 3.5.
In the past, Altra has been pretty wide foot-friendly. I found the Provision 4 to be a bit tighter than the Torin 4, but definitely not as suffocating as the Escalante 2.
ROBBE: I’m going to keep this short because Jarrett and Austin covered most everything. The upper on the Provision 4 is insanely comfortable, and I also loved the dimpled insole. I found myself wanting to wear these more often than I usually wear a pair of Altra while testing, and put in close to 40 miles on the shoe.
Altra loyalists are going to hate this, but Altra is quietly slimming down the look of the shoe. This isn’t the same clown shoe that you’re used to. The toebox to midfoot profile is much more streamlined. Personally, I love it, and the toe box still has enough room for splay.
The weight isn’t bad for a stability shoe, and although I wouldn’t use this for tempos of any kind, it can log some miles. My legs (aside from my calves cause I’m typically not a zero-drop guy) felt okay (but not great) after the two long runs I did in the shoe.
Aside from the low heel collar (more on that later), the InnovArch, in concert with the plush upper, locks the foot down nicely. I’m not a stability runner, and they InnovArch worked as advertised– I didn’t feel it, or if I did, it actually was kinda nice having that touch of support.
Lastly, that outsole is going to last for freaking ever.Shop Altra Provision 4
TAYLOR: I have a couple minor knocks against the Provision and both seem to be linked directly to the InnovArch. Though it can provide a very tailored running experience, it does take some miles to get used to. Every run that I went on, I ended up stopping within the first quarter-mile to readjust. It’s not a big deal for everyday training, but if you chose to run a race in these it could cost a little time and frustration.
After a couple of longer efforts, my arches were more sore than normal. I would attribute this to the InnovArch again. The different style of support seems to be a new feeling for my feet. That being said, I never felt any discomfort while running. The soreness also did not feel like it could lead to any sort of injury– simply sore. All that to say, I’d suggest easing into these, the same you would into zero-drop running.
JARRETT: The main issue I had with the Provision 4 was the heel slip. Normally I would use the heel lock lacing technique to deal with this, but there isn’t a second eyelet at the top of the shoe. Could I punch my own hole? Sure. But I don’t like doing extra work because I’m lazy.
My other solution would be to try to pull the laces tighter, but this was also kind of a pain because of the InnovArch system. Every time I tried tightening the laces, the blue tabs would just move around.
In addition to me being lazy, I’m also a quitter, so I gave up and dealt with the heel slip for every run. It didn’t cause any blisters or serious rubbing, but it was annoying at times.
Also while there is some flex in the forefoot, the midfoot to heel is pretty much just flat. That’s almost to be expected when it comes to these flat zero drop shoes. Wasn’t super-friendly to my exquisite heel-striking technique.
ROBBE: The heel slip on account of the low-slung collar is really noticeable at first. But once you’re locked down and going, it didn’t seem to bother me. At least not any more than the heel slip in Nike React Infinity.
I gotta say, the A-Bound midsole (EVA) is more like C-Minus-Bound insole for me. It’s pretty firm, not much energy return, and doesn’t really match the comfort of the upper. It needs to be switched out for the Quantic midsole that’s on the Altra Torin 4. My legs weren’t trashed after a long run, but they were feeling it more than usual. It just feels like a basic slab of EVA was slapped underneath an incredibly comfortable upper.Shop Altra Provision 4
TAYLOR: Whether you need stability or not, the Altra Provision 4 is an enjoyable daily trainer. With an uber-nice fit, customizable support, and a Contour footbed, the step-in comfort is top-notch! The ride falls right in line with thefit. It feels natural smooth. Pick it up or slow it down. The Provision has got a new take on what you need.
JARRETT: Besides the heel slip, the Altra Provision 4 has been a joy to run in. I love the textured insole and the support that the InnovArch and Guide Rail provides.
While it’s not a race shoe, the zero drop Believers should be able to use the Provision 4 as a daily trainer option. It has enough cushion to go long and also has the firmness and forefoot flex to speed up.
ROBBE: Coming off an injury that seems to flare up every time I’m in an 8 mm+ shoe (I may just be imagining this), I’ve been quietly running a lot more in zero drop. I laced these up for almost every other run the last few weeks, and overall, it’s a pretty solid shoe. If you’re a cushion junkie underfoot, you may want to roll with the Altra Torin 4. But if you’re looking for that upper comfort and you don’t mind a slightly firmer midsole, then go with the Altra Provision 4 as your ride or die.
You can pick up the at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Altra Provision 4
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