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Altra Zero Drop Running Shoe Reviews

Stein L. Reviews the Altra Instinct

The Good

The shoe’s upper fits snugly around your mid-foot and holds the heel firmly in place, while the wider-than-normal toe-box feels roomy and lets your toes splay naturally when running. With zero-drop from toe to heel, these shoes fit into more of a “minimal” category but still have a tough outsole and a reasonable amount of cushioning. I have found the snug mid-foot fit very comforting and supportive despite the lack of any “wedge-shaped” arch support you find in many running shoes. In fact, my plantar fasciitis has hardly bothered me at all since I started running in the Altras! I also like how the outsole has no big air gaps, which seems to help keep me feeling connected to the ground. These shoes have good ventilation and guessing they drain well; they certainly dry out quickly compared to some of my other shoes. They came with two sets of cushion inserts but I have stuck with the first inserts because they’ve been working so well for me so far; the other set is a little more firm I believe.

The Bad

While the Altra is very functional, and the silvery color theme of my test shoes has grown on me, they don’t look fast. Anyone with a running shoe fetish is either going to love or hate how these shoes look; some might say they look clunky. The wide toe-box is very different from your “typical” running shoe, but if you’re running fast nobody will notice the wide look. I quickly got past any notions of slowness and/or fashion-consciousness though, and my feet are quite happy with them. While I haven’t actually slipped, the Altras have very little in the way of lugs or grippy patterns on the outsole, leading to some squeaky noises when running on a wet road. Also, I’m not crazy about the laces so plan to double knot them. To be fair, I don’t generally like any laces and usually prefer something like lock-laces on my shoes; but guessing that a bungee-type lace could ruin the snug and supportive feel that the Altras possess. After my first two runs I thought a blister might be forming on my left Achilles area but maybe this was just initial “break in”; I haven’t had any blister or hot-spot issues since those first couple runs.

The overall impression of the shoe

Initial impression, both visually and via foot-feel, was slightly disconcerting because the Altra looks and fits unlike any shoe I’ve run in. Wonderful thing is that it was easy to get past the preconceptions once I started running. After 79 miles and counting, with about a dozen runs ranging from five to sixteen miles, I’ve developed a keen liking for the Altra. I have worn these shoes at the track as well as the road with great results. I’m not sure if it’s the zero-drop, the minimal cushioning compared to traditional trainers, the wide toe-box or the combined synergy of these traits, but my feet like these shoes a lot. The Altras have quickly become my go-to choice for comfort and performance.

Altra Women's running shoe zero drop

Jenny J. reviews the  Altra Provisioness

The Good

  1. This is a really well made shoe. The construction, materials, stitching–all quality workmanship. The shoe’s upper is reinforced in several areas and has a plush, yet breathable padding throughout.
  2. The zero drop is a real plus–not too many cushioned shoes on the market that have a 0mm heel to toe drop but Altra has several to choose from.
  3. Ample toe box. The forefoot is super roomy and doesn’t feel restricted in an way. Even with a good bit of padding on the heel, I never felt any slipping/rubbing. They even have varying insoles and lacing methods to accommodate wider or more narrow feet.
  4. Award Winning! The Provisioness was the recipient of Competitor Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award “Most Innovative” in 2011, up there with Newton and Nike.
  5. Super customer service. If for any reason you are unsatisfied with their product, Altra will replace or exchange even worn shoes up to 30 days from the purchase date.
  6. I know it shouldn’t matter but it does…THEY’RE PINK! I like the colors they work with, down to the threading–pinks/purples–their trail shoe even has aqua (yum).

The Bad

  1. There is virtually no contour to this shoe.  When I look down on it, all I see is a twinkie and my foot looks like a freaking cinder block.  In Altra’s defense, I have noticed that a couple of their other models have some subtle curves. I know it’s vain but in my opinion, these shoes are fugly.
  2. The sole is very rigid/chunky and has little give. I know you want solid construction when going to a minimal shoe but I like to be able to feel the ground some–be one with the surface. Just kind of felt like I was clomping along.
  3. Kinda pricey. Not outrageously so but the shoes I buy usually hover around $90. The good news, however, is that because of their construction and sole, they last longer than the normal shoe so your miles per dollar go up.

Overall Impression

Altra really does have a good selection of minimal, training and trail shoes for those who like the 0 drop feel. They are quality products that hold up through big miles and cushion the feet from relentless pounding. I found nothing inherently wrong with the shoe–it’s all about preference. I know several, hardcore runners that love Altra shoes and will only wear that brand. I, however, like a shoe that hugs my foot and gives me a little more security. I like a shoe with shape and pizzazz. Altra shoes really do get rave reviews, so if nothing else give them a try.

Word of caution:  If you’re not used to running in a minimal shoe, it will take some getting used to. There is a big difference going from an 8mm or even 4mm to a 0 drop shoe. My calves were sore for a few weeks after transitioning, so be smart and go slow.

Altra Running Zero Drop

Thomas N. reviews The Altra Samson

The Good

The Samson has a very roomy toe box and a light feel weighing in at 6.5 oz. At first with so much room in the toe box I thought the show felt a little sloppy, once I warmed up the shoe felt great over the arch and in the heel. So overall I would say it has a good fit. The 3.4 mm Razor-Siped Performance Rubber BareSole™ was great on dry roads providing plenty of traction.

The Bad

On wet roads the 3.4 mm Razor-Siped Performance Rubber BareSole™ felt less stable. I was running on pretty flat roads when I encountered a downpour. I experienced a little slipping that made me feel less sure footed. The doesn’t look fast. I know that is in my head, but it makes a difference to me.

Overall Impression

This is a great shoe for runners looking for a minimal shoe with excellent feel for the ground. I liked the running experience in these more than the Saucony Hattori and they feel on par with the Merrell Trail Glove. They may be a little more flexible than the Trail Glove. I used the Samson shoe for shorter runs 6-8 miles to concentrate on form and strengthen my lower legs and feet. I also wore them during some exercise routines that incorporate jumping. The shoes were perfect for the workouts. I imagine the Crossfit people out their would love the Samsons. While I like these shoes quite a bit, after hearing how much Stein enjoyed the Instincts, I think I would like to try the Instinct 1.5s next.

Altra shoes are available at some Independent Running Retailers, The Altra Running Website, and Running Warehouse.


Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Molly White says:

    Seems none of you liked the look of these shoes, but I think they look really cool and old school. 
     I went on the Altra website and the ladies shoes for core training talk about being a zero drop shoe "that delivers many of the benefits of barefoot running with the comfort, cushioning and support that distance runners love"
    What exactly does that mean? The running stores I have been to, have told me on more than one occasion that I need the super supportive shoes, after several rounds with them, I just bought a pair of brooks that are one level down from the most supportive running shoe they make.  
    So if these Altra shoes are both supportive and have zero drop, does that mean I can wear them? And could I go right from the Brooks (Adreleline G12) to one of these?

    1. Molly,

      There is a ton of debate on how much shoe runners need. It’s a lot like glasses no one prescription is going to work for everyone. I do think lower drop shoes eliminate ore minimize the urge to land on your heel. Once a runner is landing mid foot with good form the need for the type of support you are getting from your Brooks goes away. I think you would be fine in the Altra model Jenny J. tried out. I would recommend you try the 30 day trial Altra offers. Try the shoe and see if it works for you.


  2. Rob Herman says:

    Any update on the Altra shoes?  Specifically, any pain associated with long term use of the shoes?  I have plantar fasciitis and am looking for an alternative to the "normal" wedge shoe.  

    1. Hi Rob,

      Stein has continued to run in the Altras with no issues and even bought a second pair. Give them a shot and let us know what you think.


  3. Charlie D says:

    I am curious about the arch support? I have been experiencing some discomfort and am believing I may be in need of a change in shoes to help the issue.

  4. Stein Langlie says:

    Charlie, that’s a good question! In terms of arch support, the Altra does not offer much. However, there is a comfortable insert and a stable platform to run on. While the shoe is not “super” light, it is not bulky either. I have come to believe that less is more for shoe selection – primarily because of the physics (marathon has approx 34609 steps / 16 ounces = 2163 pounds per ounce of shoe). This shoe lets your toes splay naturally and can be an every day trainer or something that you use with specific workouts.

  5. lori dyer says:

    How and who fits zero drop shoes, in my area 99362. (with in 100 miles)? I have Plantar F. and have ran in Muzino for the past 3 years. HELP!

    1. I would order some online, try them on and send back all but the ones that fit you best.

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