Altra Instinct/Intuition 3.5 Review
The Altra Instinct 2 was a favorite shoe because of its comfortable and design, but the updates since then have been a gradual decline. Each iteration has become slightly firmer, resulting in a shoe that's too heavy for the cushioning it provides. I still like it for being designed to fit the human foot, but I'd far rather cutting open the toe box of a Hoka Clifton or an Asics Gel Hyper Speed. That said, the Instinct 3.5 has no flaws or reasons why you wouldn't want to run in it; it's just that there are better options available. I've rated the Instinct 3.5 as "worth considering", and the Instinct 2 as I've rated it as "Highly Recommended." For reasons known only to marketing people, the Women's version of the Instinct is called the Intuition. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)
- 1 Characteristics
- 2 Cushioning and Shoes
- 3 Visualizing the Attributes of the Altra Instinct 3.5
- 4 Comparisons
- 5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes
- . The Instinct is too firmly cushioned for its weight, with similar levels of cushioning to shoes that are much lighter. The cushioning it provides is smooth, even, and has reasonable spring, so don't think this is a rock.
- . Like all Altra shoes, the Instinct is zero drop, which is great.
- . The Instinct uses just one density of foam, and doesn't attempt to manipulate or interfere with your natural biomechanics. The midsole is not flat however, with some rise under the midfoot.
- Hoka Clifton, but far more than the other Hoka shoes. . The Instinct has more flexibility than I expected, and it's similar to the
- . There's a good layer of harder rubber outsole over nearly the entire sole of the shoe. There's a gap in the outsole near the smaller toes, which is an odd choice, but doesn't cause a problem. (I have no signs of wear on my Instinct 2's after many, many miles.) The sole of the Instinct does not conform to stony trails in quite the same way that many of the Hoka shoes do, so it's best kept for road running.
- try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.) . The Altra Instinct is one of the few shoes truly designed to fit the human foot. Even some other Altra shoes have a toe box that lacks sufficient height, but the Instinct is remarkable in its fit. However, this is another area where the Instinct 2 was better, as the toe box height seems to be reduced with each version. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should
- . The upper it has a thick overlay that goes over the big toe which I didn't like. It's not enough to cause me problems, but I could see it being an issue for some runners. The forefoot area is unpadded, but generously padded in the rear. It's not like the second version that reminded me somewhat of a skateboarding shoe but it's still pretty good.
- . The Instinct has a traditional tongue that is sown in on one side, which I think is the ideal approach for a tongue. This is the only improvement I noticed over earlier versions of the shoe. Like much of the upper, the tongue is softly padded.
- . The traditional flat laces stayed tied.
- . The Instinct has a far more ridged, exoskeleton heel counter than I'd like, but the thick padding isolates it from your foot.
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2 Cushioning and Shoes
It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.
3 Visualizing the Attributes of the Altra Instinct 3.5
Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.
4.1 Altra Instinct 2, 3, and 3.5
The Instinct 2 was softly cushioned, which made it a remarkably comfortable shoe, even though it wasn't up to the cushioning-to-weight level of shoes like the Asics Gel Hyper Speed. Each subsequent iteration has made the Instinct firmer, though the change from the Instinct 3 to the 3.5 is quite small. The Instinct 3 is lighter than the 2, though the 3.5 erodes some of that advantage. The other noteworthy change is in sizing; a size 10 Instinct 2 is the same size as a size 10.5 Instinct 3, while the 3.5 returns to the original sizing.
4.2 Altra Instinct and Asics Gel Hyper Speed
The Asics Gel Hyper Speed provides more cushioning in the heel than the Instinct and similar cushioning in the forefoot, even though the Hyper Speed only weighs about two-thirds as much as the Instinct. This makes the Hyper Speed the clear winner, over the Instinct 3.5. (The Hyper Speed is far from uncomfortable, but when my feet are tired and beaten up, the softness of the Instinct 2 was welcome, but that's not the case with the Instinct 3.)
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4.3 Altra Instinct and Hoka Clifton
The Hoka Clifton is the best Maximalist shoe by far, combining massive cushioning with light weight. The Instinct is the same weight as the Clifton, but it offers far less cushioning. What the Instinct does offer is a shoe designed for the human foot, plus a little more padding in the upper. I would choose the Clifton every time over the Instinct, except those occasions where I didn't want to cut the toe box open. This would be in ultras where I'm walking a lot and having problems with debris getting in the openings. (That said, check out the Altra One below first.)
4.4 Altra Instinct and Asics GT 2000
I like to compare shoes against my benchmark "normal running shoe", the Asics GT 2000. The GT 2000 is heavier than the Instinct, and has slightly more cushioning, but the two shoes could not be farther apart in their use of The Science of Running Shoes. The Instinct doesn't try to interfere with your stride, or encourage a heel strike like the GT 2000. Comparing how the two shoes feel, the Instinct is like running barefoot on a well cushioned track, while the GT 2000 is like running in a wooden clog. The Instinct is a clear demonstration of what's wrong with traditional running shoes and how they should be created.
5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes
For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.
|Full Review||Name||Rating|| Recommended
|Asics 33-DFA Review||33-DFA||Worth considering||$90||5.7||10.6||16.5||27||27||0||6.1||6|
|Saucony Type A6 Review||A6||Highly Recommended||$100||8.2||6.1||9.5||17||21||4||5.0||8|
|Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review||Adios||Worth considering||$140||4.7||8.6||13.4||17||27||11||4.0||7|
|Hoka Bondi Review||Bondi||Highly Recommended||$150||8.0||10.9||17.0||41||45||5||8.8||0|
|Hoka Bondi 5 Review||Bondi||Review Pending||$150||6.1||11.6||18.1||38||42||5||7.1||4|
|Hoka Clayton Review||Clayton||Best of the Best||$150||8.8||8.3||12.9||26||30||3||7.3||5|
|Hoka Clifton 3 Review||Clifton3||Best of the Best||$130||9.1||9.8||15.3||34||38||3||8.9||6|
|On Cloudracer Review||Cloudracer||Worth considering||$130||5.7||8.2||12.8||19||27||5||4.7||8|
|Hoka Conquest Review||Conquest||Worth considering||$170||5.0||11.9||18.5||28||34||5||6.0||3|
|Saucony Cortana 4 Review||Cortana||Worth considering||$150||4.4||9.9||18.7||22||28||5||4.3||5|
|Mizuno Wave Cruise Review||Cruise||Worth considering||$120||6.6||5.9||12.5||17||20||7||3.9||7|
|Newton Distance IV Review||Distance||Worth considering||$155||7.5||9.1||14.2||26||31||3||6.8||6|
|Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review||DS Racer||Worth considering||$110||8.2||7.0||10.9||21||26||6||5.8||6|
|Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review||Ekiden||Worth considering||$115||5.7||5.7||14.6||13||18||6||3.2||8|
|Saucony Endorphin Review||Endorphin||Highly Recommended||$125||11.1||4.1||6.4||14||13||-1||4.5||9|
|Adidas Energy Boost Review||Energy||Worth considering||$160||7.2||10.0||15.6||20||30||7||7.2||6|
|Altra Escalante Review||Escalante||Review Pending||$130||9.1||8.7||13.5||28||25||-1||7.9||7|
|Puma Faas 100 R Review||Faas 100||Highly Recommended||$90||8.4||6.1||9.4||15||20||1||5.1||9|
|Saucony Fastwitch Review||Fastwitch||Highly Recommended||$90||9.5||7.1||11.1||20||22||4||6.8||8|
|Topo Fli-Lyte Review||Fli-Lyte||Highly Recommended||$100||6.0||9.4||14.6||23||24||4||5.6||6|
|Nike Free 4.0 Review||Free||Recommended||$120||5.3||8.2||13.6||24||30||6||4.4||6|
|Saucony Freedom Review||Freedom||Recommended||$160||5.4||10.7||16.6||25||29||3||5.8||7|
|Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review||Gel Lyte||Not recommended||$90||8.0||7.3||11.4||17||24||4||5.8||9|
|Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review||GOmeb 3||Worth considering||$120||6.9||8.1||12.6||20||24||4||5.5||8|
|Skechers GORun 4 Review||GORun||Not recommended||$100||6.1||7.5||11.7||15||23||3||4.5||7|
|Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review||GRU||Worth considering||$90||7.5||10.0||15.6||28||34||8||7.5||5|
|Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review||GRU-R||Worth considering||$105||6.5||11.3||17.6||30||40||6||7.4||7|
|Asics GT 2000 Review||GT 2000||Not recommended||$120||4.8||11.2||17.4||28||35||5||5.4||4|
|Hoka Hupana Review||Hupana||Recommended||$115||6.1||8.9||13.9||31||36||7||5.4||5|
|Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review||Hyper Speed||Highly Recommended||$75||10.9||6.3||9.8||22||26||5||6.8||7|
|Altra Instinct 3.5 Review||Instinct 3.5||Recommended||$115||4.9||9.3||15.2||24||23||0||4.5||6|
|Altra Instinct 4.0 Review||Instinct 4.0||Review Pending||$120||6.0||9.8||15.3||29||25||-1||5.9||6|
|Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review||Kainos||Worth considering||$130||10.0||6.9||10.7||17||27||9||6.8||7|
|Saucony Kinvara 7 Review||Kinvara||Best of the Best||$110||7.4||8.2||12.8||23||27||3||6.1||6|
|Nike LunaRacer 4 Review||LunaRacer||Recommended||$90||9.9||7.0||10.9||22||30||7||6.9||6|
|Nike LunarSpider R5 Review||LunarSpider||Recommended||$125||6.9||6.7||10.4||17||21||3||4.6||7|
|Hoka Mafate Speed Review||Mafate||Best of the Best||$170||7.6||11.9||18.5||39||40||4||9.0||3|
|Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review||N0||Highly Recommended||$100||7.9||6.5||10.1||14||20||4||5.2||8|
|Saucony Nomad Review||Nomad||Review Pending||$110||4.3||10.5||17.2||25||27||2||4.5||5|
|Hoka Odyssey Review||Odyssey||Highly Recommended||$130||8.5||9.4||14.6||37||45||5||8.0||4|
|Altra Olympus Review||Olympus||Highly Recommended||$130||5.4||11.8||18.4||27||27||3||6.4||4|
|Altra One 2.5 Review||One||Highly Recommended||$100||8.5||7.1||11.1||22||25||2||6.0||8|
|Altra Paradigm Review||Paradigm||Highly Recommended||$130||6.4||9.9||15.4||25||25||1||6.4||4|
|Asics Piranha SP 5 Review||Piranha||Recommended||$100||10.1||4.2||6.5||11||15||3||4.2||9|
|Brooks PureFlow 5 Review||PureFlow||Worth considering||$110||6.0||9.7||15.1||26||29||5||5.8||8|
|Salming Race Review||Race||Worth considering||$130||6.9||6.5||10.1||16||19||4||4.5||7|
|New Balance RC1600 v2 Review||RC1600||Highly Recommended||$110||8.8||5.6||8.7||15||21||5||4.9||8|
|New Balance RC5000 Review||RC5000||Best of the Best||$125||12.2||3.4||5.3||13||17||3||4.2||8|
|New Balance RC5000v2 Review||RC5000v2||Best of the Best||$125||14.2||4.0||6.2||13||21||6||5.7||8|
|Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review||Ride||Worth considering||$85||5.9||8.5||13.2||18||28||6||5.0||9|
|Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review||RXT-220||Worth considering||$120||5.2||8.0||18.2||14||17||3||4.2||9|
|Topo ST-2||ST-2||Highly Recommended||$90||8.2||7.3||11.4||20||18||0||6.0||8|
|Hoka Stinson Lite Review||Stinson||Highly Recommended||$160||7.3||11.6||18.1||35||40||6||8.5||2|
|Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review||Streak LT||Best of the Best||$80||8.8||5.4||8.4||16||21||4||4.8||6|
|Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review||Takumi Sen 3||Highly Recommended||$160||7.7||6.6||10.2||17||21||4||5.1||6|
|Altra Torin 2.0 Review||Torin||Worth considering||$125||5.8||9.6||14.9||28||25||-1||5.5||5|
|Hoka Tracer Review||Tracer||Recommended||$130||7.2||7.4||11.5||21||24||2||5.3||6|
|Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review||Trail Glove||Best of the Best||$100||2.9||6.9||24.7||11||11||0||2.0||9|
|Topo Tribute Review||Tribute||Recommended||$100||5.9||7.3||11.4||20||18||-1||4.3||7|
|Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review||Universe||Highly Recommended||$125||10.7||3.1||10.6||9||12||1||3.3||9|
|Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review||Vapor Glove||Highly Recommended||$85||2.1||6.1||27.6||6||5||0||1.3||10|
|New Balance Vazee Pace Review||Vazee Pace||Worth considering||$110||6.0||8.6||13.4||18||24||6||5.2||6|
|Asics TartherZeal 3 Review||Zeal||Worth considering||$140||10.9||6.3||9.8||17||27||9||6.8||7|
It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.