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A versatile zero-drop shoe that can handle all kinds of runs, the Altra Instinct features minimal cushioning and a firm ride.



The Altra Instinct is built on the principles of "natural" running. With a zero-drop design (heel and forefoot at the same height), the Instinct promotes a mid to forefoot striking pattern. The shoe provides enough protection to be used for daily training.

Model Number:

Weight: 9.1 oz (size 9)

Stack Height: Heel (16mm), Forefoot (16mm)

How It Fits (based on width D) Width D=Medium

  • Sizing: Standard running shoe length
  • Heel: Medium to narrow
  • Midfoot: Medium to full volume
  • Forefoot: Wide to medium width
  • Toe-Box height: Low 
  • Arch Structure: Medium height 

Product Lifecycle

  • Release date: July 2011
  • Model discontinued: Unknown


The Instinct is a minimum feature, minimum neutral shoe designed for daily training and high mileage. It is built with a semi-curved shape.


  • A-Bound is a recycled, environmentally friendly midsole compound for resilient underfoot protection.


  • EVA midsole foam for durable cushioning.
  • Natural Ride System (NRS) design includes a more natural, foot-shaped last, zero millimeter heel to toe drop, and metatarsal-specific shapes in the outsole to assist in proper foot mechanics and allow for more natural foot movement.


  • Air Mesh provides light, breathable coverage.
  • Heel Claw construction uses a snug fit around the heel for added support.
  • A-Wrap design holds feet securely around the midfoot and allows for a roomy toe-box.
  • Seamless Upper reduces irritation and provides next-to-foot comfort.
  • Support Insoles are 5mm-thick removable insoles designed for runners needing more traditional support and a molded arch.
  • Strengthen Insoles are 3mm-thick removable insoles made of A-bound material, with a flat platform designed to strengthen runners' feet.
  • Asymmetrical Lacing Design follows the shape of the foot for an improved fit and feel.
  • Drilex liner manages moisture for a dry and comfortable foot environment.
  • Strobel Last with the upper stitched to full length fabric for a comfortable underfoot feel.


  • FootPod Outsole follows the natural construction of the human foot for maximum flexibility and a responsive ride.


Footwear Performance Characteristics

Pronation Control: What's This?

  • Neutral
    • Min
    • Mod
  • Support
    • Min
    • Mod
    • Max
  • Motion Control
    • Mod
    • Max

Heel-Toe Offset (mm): What's This?

  • 0
  • 1-2
  • 3-4
  • 5-6
  • 7-8
  • 9-10
  • 11+

Stack Height:

  • Barefoot
  • Minimal
  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
  • Maximal


  • Road
  • Road-Trail
  • Hard Trail
  • Varied Trail
  • Soft Trail

Shoe Type:

  • Premium
  • Standard
  • Performance
  • Racing

Customer Reviews

Comments: I can't say enough good things about these shoes. When I first purchased a pair I was having trouble with ankle pain. I had been running in Brooks PureFlows and after a while I was developing some ankle trouble. Almost immediately I had no more ankle pain when running in the Altras. This shoe is awesome for short and long distances. I run on roads as well as trails and find it to be a very versatile shoe. When version 1.5 of the Instinct came out I purchased several pairs of version 1.0 at sale price. This is my go-to shoe!
From: Alex, Cheyenne, WY, USA

Comments: These shoes are great! I like to do my short runs in my fivefingers and my long runs in these. They let me run naturally, without as much punishment if I get tired and sloppy. Just finished my first half-marathon yesterday which was partly road and partly trails. I was very thankful that I had a versatile shoe. I have really wide feet which is why i was using fivefingers, but it is nice to have a little cushioning without cramping my toes all up. Great ventilation helps reduce sweaty wet blister feets.
From: Dave, Kill Devil Hills, NC, USA

Comments: I am a high school varisty 1600, 3200, and cross country 5k guy. Freshman year was my second year of the sport and I was a heel- striker via Mizuno and the Saucony Tangent. Buying into the traditional running form caused my freshman track season to be pain and suck in my shins. Sophmore year, with guidance from a minimalistic senior, I was turned onto flat, minimal footwear. However, sophmore and junior years saw great improvement and almost no pain due to poor biomechanics, I still felt like my legs took too much damage on road runs during training. The New Balance Trail 00 was my shoe, but it has nothing on the Altra Instinct. This shoe has given my legs and body so much more of a natural and, never thought I'd be okay saying this, protection. Around 500 miles now, I've burned through a bit of the outsole rubber under my toes from both the trail, road, and track workouts. Only thing that has even started to fall apart is my left insole under my fifth toe. Nothing to do with the shoe itself so much as how my left foot syncopates and has torn through the insole there. However, it's an easy fix by cutting the insole of a different, old shoe and thinning that patch out to be the same as the rest, and finally just duck-taping it to the insole. All around my favorite shoe to have ever done hard, long, and easy runs in. Something of a shoe that more competitive teens in high school should look into.
From: Audie, USA

Comments: These are officially my new favorite shoes. I've put about 40 miles on them so far and i can see them going for at least 500 miles. At first their size intimidated me (I previously ran solely in the trail glove) and I was scared my form might become sloppy due to the weight, and it did, ha. But I soon adjusted and have come to love them.

It comes with 2 insoles and I enjoy the support one for recovery days or when my ankle hurts but it takes a ton away from the ground feel. The strengthen insole is slightly abrasive on the bottom of your feet and has caused blisters so I stopped wearing those and prefer to run without any insoles which offers the best flexibility, feel, and ride.

The flexibility is no where near the trail glove but that's understandable due to the thick mid-sole which sacrifices flexibility for protection(a niche shoe). It has a thick enough mid-sole to protect you on the trails. The lock-down is great if you tie them so as to secure your ankle. Also it is the widest shoe I have ever worn, even more wide than the trail glove. This takes some time to get used to but I have learned to love it.

Overall this is a great shoe that I highly recommend for just about anyone. Its great for high-mileage runners, trails runners, transitional runners, trail/road runners. This is a do everything shoe and it has become a staple in my running along with the trail glove and the NB MT110.
From: Jesse G., Cedar Hill, Texas, USA

Comments: I am a fan of minimalist shoes, and I thought the extra cushioning in this would defeat the purpose.  I was wrong.  This shoe is outstanding!  This is probably the best 1st step for someone who wants to try minimalist running.  You can adapt to the zero drop without having to adapt to the additional work of minimal cushioning.  I like to alternate the Instinct with my NB Minimus Road 00 so that I am always running on the mid/forefoot, but my feet get a bit of rest on the days I wear the Altra.

This shoe exceeded my expectations.  A great investment!
From: Seamus, Boston, MA, USA

Comments: I have tried nb minimus road, SKORA form, merrell road glove, and finally the Altra Instinct. While  the others all had some benefits (Skora is not worth the money) the. Altra Instinct ride, zero drop, and comfort due to the narrow heel and wide forefoot has been the answer for me. It is a shoe you done want to take off, and provides a smooth responsive ride while facilitating mid foot strike. Now I hope they aren't changing it too much for the second version!
From: Jeff, Bloomington, Il

Comments: I have loved altra shoes ever since I got a pair. They really helped me to utilize a more natural way of running (a style that I had been using before I had zero-drop footwear). All in all a great shoe that will last a long time and help relieve/fix running injuries.
From: Phil, Ogden, UT, USA

Comments: Love these shoes.  Have been running the last 1-1/2 years on Kinvara's - which are nice, but still have heal-to-toe drop and worst of all - narrow toe box.  Like other state, if you are a mid-fore foot striker, these are the shoes for you.  My weekly mileage is anywhere from 25-40 miles (depending on the week)...with long runs being 10-15 miles, and usual runs from 4-6.  While I originally ran with the thin insole, my left one often wiggled out of place, so, I now run with no insole.  Suits me fine.  Highly recommend these shoes!   
From: Anonymous, USA

Comments: These shoes are perfect in every way.  If you have a natural running form (e.g. land flat footed or midfoot) these shoes are perfect.  The right amount of cushioning, roomy for your toes.  I run everything in these shoes.  I have tried every other minimalist shoe you can think of and I always go back to these shoes for the majority of my runs.  They can't be beat, a general all around useful zero drop shoe.
From: Josh, Dallas, Texas, USA

Comments: I was a little bit hesitant to try a zero drop running shoe after wearing traditional running shoes with a 10mm heel to toe drop. I was amazed at the comfort when I first tried them on. When I run, my toes feel so relaxed because of the roomy toe box. The zero drop has immensely improved my running form and made midfoot striking seem effortlessly. I run between 30 to 40 miles a week. I was a little disappointed that the smallest size they come in is a size 8 men, I wear size 7. The extra room does not effect my running. This summer, a size 7 men's (Lone Peak) the trail version will be available and you better believe I will purchase these too for my trail running. One word to describe these shoes, AWESOME!
From: Adam, Prescott Valley, AZ, USA

Comments: These are the future running shoes... I've tried every shoe on the market and they all failed... I've had almost every injury including PF being the worst until I came across Altra. My runs are now painless and very comfortable. This is the only shoe I will wear from now on. Thanks Altra for putting me back on the road.
From: Jorge, Whittier, CA USA

Comments: Had these a couple days, and so far I like them.  They feel pretty natural, but a little more substantial than a lot of the other minimalist shoes out there.  A lot of other reviewers are saying they run a 1/2 size too small.  That may be true, but I think with these shoes it's important to not get them too long for your foot.  Because they are widest at the toe box, and they taper down from there, if you get them a little too long you won't get the full benefits of the wide toe box.  I tried a size 8, and I felt I could use a bit more room in the toe, there was a little less than 1/2 inch of space.  So I tried an 8.5, and what I noticed is that since my toes were further back in the shoe, I had less wiggle room for my toes.  Hope that makes sense... My wife thinks they're ugly, I kind of agree, but I'm hoping they'll grow on me.  Comfortable shoe!
From: Dan, Santa Monica, CA USA

Comments: I love these shoes. I run 70-80 miles most weeks.  I have put almost 600 miles on my Instincts, and they have very much became my go-to shoe.  Most of the miles I have on them have been on asphalt or concrete, and they have held up like champs. 

I've run in Saucony Hattoris (toast after 400-something miles--still good for the money), Merrell Trail gloves (which aren't great for road-running, where I worry about the lugs), FiveFingers (seriously, I run barefoot at times and can't figure out why some love these so much), and Inov8s.  The Altras have enough padding that they comfort my calves a little, but they are designed well enough (zero-drop, large toe-box) to allow me to maintain proper running form without a hitch. 

My longest run in them has been a marathon.  I expect they will easily last another 400 or so miles.  I wear a 10.0 in most shoes, and a 10.5 in these fit like a dream.  Even through rain, snow, sleet, and mud, these have never given me a sore spot or a blister. Can't beat that.  Hundreds of miles from now, I'm sure I'll order another pair.  There's only one other shoe I can say that about, so that's high praise from me.
From: Ryan, Bellefontaine, Ohio USA

Comments: When I opened the box and put these shoes on, the only way I can really describe the initial feeling, is disappointment. I put it on and I was unimpressed. It felt simply, like a shoe. Nothing outstanding, nothing miraculous about it. Nevertheless, I took them on my run the next day. A 9 miler. The only word I can use to describe it, is amazing. As someone who's tried almost every "minimalist" or "natural" trainer under the sun, I had nearly given up on a more natural running form. Regular trainers have too many bells and whistles (including massive heels), true "minimalist" shoes on roads didn't provide enough protection for me and no matter which shoe I seemed to try, nothing could properly accommodate for toe splaying. After my long search, I have finally found the right shoe for me. It doesn't feel as heavy as advertised but provides more comfort than I ever imagined a shoe so light could. There wasn't a single second of discomfort and they allowed me to go at marathon pace with ease. Having something with no heel that you can feel so protected in is something I never dreamed of having. I realize now my initial disappointment is actually the one thing that makes this shoe so incredible. No crazy shock absorbing gel in the heels, no chunks of shoe missing for more "flexibility" and certainly no pain. Just a well made, solid trainer that allows for a natural stride. The other reviews are not embellishing how great these shoes are. They are well worth the money.
From: Alex, Providence RI USA

Comments: 85 miles so far in Instincts. I was using NB 12 4E before. This was a bit narrow initially but after using the lacing style shown on Altra site now things are good. Super light shoes. So far held up well. I am a casual runner and not very technical. I like these shoes. Hope they don't change the base features on the next version. Also seems like
using the Instincts have reduced the calf pain I had on for a long time on my right leg. My right calf also used to get very tight always. Also I had sprained my right ankle playing soccer long time ago which used to ache a bit. Now the ankle does not seem to ache. I run up to 25 miles a week now. Using this for 3-4 weeks now.  Sometimes I feel like the top
of my big toes are rubbing on the roof of the shoe. Overall 4.5/5 stars.
From: Anonymous

Comments: I have wider feet and have tried just about every shoe over the last year (I've bought like 10 different shoes). This shoe is what I have been looking for. Everything about it makes sense. The firmness yet flexibility of the sole, the wider toe box, the lightness of the shoe etc. I ran a few miles yesterday and ran a half marathon today and have zero blisters and feel great considering I am somewhat of a weekend warrior. I have been running in vibrams and newtons so I am already used to forefoot striking... I would say these are good shoes for forefoot/midfoot striking if you're wanting something in between a newton/kinvara type shoe and a minimalist shoe like vibrams in terms of cushioning.
From: Justin, Rockwall, TX USA

Comments: Just finished my first run in these shoes (12 miles).  I typically run in a pair of Brooks Green Silence and rotate them with a pair of NB Minimus Trails.  These shoes were an amazing combination of the two.  The zero drop heel/toe ratio allows you to land mid-foot without much effort.  At the same time, the shoe has enough cushioning in it that makes me feel like I could run an ultra in these shoes without an issue.  You don't have the road or trail feel that the minimalist runners look for in these shoes, but you do get the right form, and that more than anything is the key to running injury free.
From: Anonymous, USA

Comments: no minimal cushion fad and durable as all hell. I run 6 miles daily in these and my legs are
strong. I was buying 25 shoes a year till I found these. No more plantar, no more knee pain
and no more dealing with all that pronation BS.
From: B, New week new city

Comments: These are probably the most comfortable shoes I have ever owned. Finally some shoes that don't squash my forefoot and which are also flat and flexible enough to not interfere too much with the natural movement of the foot. They feel very cushioned, which may make them too forgiving for someone who wants to improve their running technique. I don't feel that these shoes force me to land on my forefoot or midfoot in the way that running barefoot does. I bought these in my usual size, and they fit perfectly. They are small for their size length-wise, but it does not matter because of their width.
From: Sara, Trondheim, Norway

Comments: Completed my first run in these shoes today, a ten miler. I am very pleased with the Instinct. I found them to be very comfortable and they felt surprisingly lighter than their advertised weight. They seem to be durable and well made. I ordered the same size as I wear in other running shoes and they fit perfect. If you land on your mid-foot or forefoot, I'd say these should be considered as your go to shoe for long runs at the very least.
From: John, USA

Comments: Great transition shoe for the minimalist runner! Ordered the 10.5 but they were just a bit too snug so thanks or the easy return process I got the size 11 today and already took them for a five mile run.  The fit is VERY good, huge toe box with lots of room for your toes to spread as you run with the barefoot stride.  I have wide feet and these are the first shoes that fit well in addition to not forcing my toes toward the center.  The shape is as follows the form of the human foot! Plan on taking them for a 10 mile run this weekend then work up to 16.  I have a pair of Feelmax that is just about worn through.  On long runs my feet begin to heat up from the hot road surface so I needed something a bit thicker and the Altra Instinct fits the bill.
From: Terry, North Charleston, SC, USA

Comments: They give me a good shoe to use when I'm going longer on mixed road and trail runs, especially the very-rocky trails around my house. My Vibram Five Fingers are a bit thin on the rocky trails and the Instincts give that extra protection (10mm) I need. As I have a wide foot, I have never found a shoe that allows my foot to really relax, except the VFFs. This shoe, especially with the "Strengthen" footbed, is more comfortable and roomy than anything I have tried so far. Though this is a cushioned shoe, the drop is only 10mm, which isn't excessive, and the true zero-drop, as mentioned by the previous reviewer, encourages proper midfoot strike. This makes it a nice trainer that I can put some miles on without losing my mechanics. I have taken them on a 7-mile mostly uphill road run at a medium/high pace (for me anyway), a couple of gravel trail 4-5 milers, a pure trail 4.5 mile run on a rocky trail and some 800-meter intervals on a rubber track (I normally wouldn't use trainers for that, but wanted to see how they felt on a track). They have a firm ride that doesn't feel spongy. They are also quite stable, which will allow me to use them successfully in mixed weights/run sessions (think Crossfit). I wear the same size in these as my other shoes. They are a bit heavier than other minimalist offerings, at 11.2 oz for a size 13. For comparison.
From: Anonymous

Comments: just did my first 6 mile run in these on a paved park trail. Easy run. Since I am just learning the correct footstrike for zero-drop shoes, my calves did hurt later. It is a steady transition from my current trainers down to the zero-drop Altra's. I am also training in Merrell Trail Gloves. Between the two of these, I have my natural running cut out for me.

The Instincts came with two sets of insoles: "Strengthen" and "Support." I found the "Support" to take up too much of the shoe room. My feet felt a little squished. The "Strengthen" insoles are a lot skinnier. They left enough room for my toes to really mash out when my foot touched down on the stride. That is a big deal when the only part of the shoe that is touching down is the toe box and mid-bridge of the foot. 

I bought these shoes because my toes were getting pretty hammered running on roads in only water-slippers or traditional high-heel trainers. With the zero-drop heel, heel-striking is quickly disciplined out of the running form. The Instincts are SUPER comfortable. They do great on the roads. They are NOT a minimalist shoe, but a zero-drop shoe that you can wear for literally hundreds of miles. I expect with the build quality of these shoes, I can get at least 500-1000 miles out of them before blowing out the nylon. For right now, I can't recommend these enough for a high-milage "natural" training shoe.
From: Jeff, Tucson AZ USA