Altra Instinct/Intuition 3 Review

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The Altra Instinct 2 was a favorite shoe because of its comfortable and design, but the update to the Instinct 3 has resulted in an inferior shoe that I can't recommend as strongly. It's too heavy for the cushioning it provides, and even though it's one of the few shoes designed to fit the human foot, I think you're better off cutting open the toe box of a Hoka Clifton or an Asics Gel Hyper Speed. If you want to avoid cutting your shoes, then look to the Altra One, or find a pair of the Instinct 2 (and see below for comparisons with each of these shoes.) That said, the Instinct 3 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 as "worth considering", and the Instinct 2 as I've rated it as "Highly Recommended." (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.) (For the latest version, see Altra Instinct Review.)

Altra Instinct 3 top
Altra Instinct 3 bottom
Altra Instinct 3 inside
Altra Instinct 3 outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. The main issue with the Instinct 3 is that there are better shoes available, and it suffers by comparison. It's not a bad shoe, as it lacks any serious problems, but it's not as good as its predecessor, or the Hoka Clifton, Asics Gel Hyper Speed , Altra One, and others. The main reason for buying the Instinct would be for longer ultras where the open toe box could cause problems with debris from walking, but try to find the Instinct 2. (I've not had a debris problem when running with an open toe box.)
  • Cushioning . 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.
  • Drop. Like all Altra shoes, the Instinct is zero drop, which is great.
  • Structure. The Instinct uses just one density of foam, and doesn't attempt to manipulate or interfere with your natural biomechanics.
  • Flexibility. The Instinct has more flexibility than I expected, and it's similar to the Hoka Clifton, but far more than the other Hoka shoes.
  • Outsole. 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. The sole of the Instinct does not conform to stony trails in quite the same way that many of the Hoka shoes do. This means the Instinct is best kept for road running.
  • Shape. 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. (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 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.)
  • Upper. The upper is unpadded in the forefoot, but has some of the nicest soft padding in the rear of the shoe that I've come across. The Instinct is so comfortable that it reminds me somewhat of a skateboarding shoe. The upper is more comfortable than the Asics GT 2000, especially around the ankle opening which is deeply padded.
  • Tongue. The Instinct has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. Like much of the upper, the tongue is softly padded.
  • Lacing. The traditional flat laces stayed tied.
  • Heel Counter. The Instinct has a far more ridged heel counter than I'd like, but the thick padding isolates it from your foot.
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This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don't get "reviewer specials" that are better than the retail versions.


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

How Altra Instinct 3 compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Altra Instinct 3 compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Altra Instinct 3 compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Altra Instinct 3 compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

4 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

4.1 Altra Instinct 2 and 3

The Instinct 2 was softly cushioned, which made it a remarkably comfortable shoe, even though it wasn't up to the standard of shoes like the Asics Gel Hyper Speed. The main change for the Instinct 3 is the use of much firmer foam in the midsole. The Instinct 3 is a quite a bit lighter than the Instinct 2 (1.6oz), but that's not enough to compensate for the reduction in cushioning. The other noteworthy change is in sizing; a size 10 Instinct 2 is the same size as a size 10.5 Instinct 3.

Altra Instinct 3 top
Altra Instinct 3 bottom
Altra Instinct 3 inside
Altra Instinct 3 outside
Altra Instinct 2 top
Altra Instinct 2 bottom
Altra Instinct 2 inside
Altra Instinct 2 outside
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Please support this site

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don't get "reviewer specials" that are better than the retail versions.


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. (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.)

Altra Instinct 3 top
Altra Instinct 3 bottom
Altra Instinct 3 inside
Altra Instinct 3 outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside
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Please support this site

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don't get "reviewer specials" that are better than the retail versions.


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.)

Altra Instinct 3 top
Altra Instinct 3 bottom
Altra Instinct 3 inside
Altra Instinct 3 outside
Hoka Clifton 2 top
Hoka Clifton 2 bottom
Hoka Clifton 2 inside
Hoka Clifton 2 outside
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Please support this site

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don't get "reviewer specials" that are better than the retail versions.


4.4 Altra Instinct and Altra One

The Altra One offers slightly more cushioning while weighing quite a bit less than the Instinct. Both are remarkably comfortable and are shaped for the human foot. However the One will not offer the same level of protection from stones on rocky trails, and it can get stones trapped underneath. Also, while both are shaped for the human foot, the One has a toe box that doesn't quite have the height you need, so it may still cause toe blisters if you don't cut the toe box open.

Altra Instinct 3 top
Altra Instinct 3 bottom
Altra Instinct 3 inside
Altra Instinct 3 outside
Altra The One 2.5 top
Altra The One 2.5 bottom
Altra The One 2.5 inside
Altra The One 2.5 outside
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Please support this site

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don't get "reviewer specials" that are better than the retail versions.


4.5 Altra Instinct and Saucony Kinvara

The Saucony Kinvara 6, is lighter than the Instinct, has better cushioning, and is nearly zero-drop.

Altra Instinct 3 top
Altra Instinct 3 bottom
Altra Instinct 3 inside
Altra Instinct 3 outside
Saucony Kinvara 6 top
Saucony Kinvara 6 outside
Saucony Kinvara 6 bottom
Saucony Kinvara 6 inside
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Please support this site

This review was made possible by readers like you buying products via my links. I buy all the products I review through normal retail channels, which allows me to create unbiased reviews free from the influence of reciprocity, or the need to keep vendors happy. It also ensures I don't get "reviewer specials" that are better than the retail versions.


4.6 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.

Altra Instinct 3 top
Altra Instinct 3 bottom
Altra Instinct 3 inside
Altra Instinct 3 outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

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If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 was my top pick, but the latest version (LT 4) falls short of it's predecessor. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills, but all have their weak spots. Probably the best option at the moment is the Altra Vanish-R, which offers great cushioning for just over 5oz/150g.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. For trail running, I've become a fan of Altra, and I think their best shoe is the the Altra Timp, though the Altra Lone Peak is really close.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running 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

Brand Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A Review Saucony A/A7 Recommended $100 6.0 6.7 12.1 19 22 1 4.1 7
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 7.7 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 4.7 7
Saucony Type A8 Review Saucony A8 Highly Recommended $90 7.1 6.2 9.7 19 20 -1 4.4 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.4 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 3.8 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 5.7 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 6.7 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 8.6 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.1 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.2 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 6.7 3
ON Cloudflash Review On Cloud Cloudflash Worth considering $180 4.2 8.3 14.6 19 26 7 3.5 6
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.4 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.4 7
ON Cloud X Review On Cloud CloudX Not recommended $140 4.3 8.3 16.3 21 27 7 3.6 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.3 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.7 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.1 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.4 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 7.8 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.4 5
Altra Duo Review Altra Duo Recommended $130 5.6 8.4 13.1 29 29 1 4.7 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.3 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.0 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 7.5 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 3.8 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 6.8 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 6.8 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 8.6 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.5 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.0 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.4 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.4 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 5.8 5
Reebok Floatride Run Review Reebok Floatride Worth considering $150 7.2 9.6 14.9 28 34 10 7.0 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.1 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.4 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 5.7 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.3 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.1 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.1 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.5 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.1 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.1 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 4.9 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 5.7 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.1 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.2 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.4 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 5.7 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.6 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 9.4 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.4 6
Altra King MT 1.5 Review Altra King MT Recommended $140 4.1 10.7 20.8 19 21 -1 4.4 5
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 8.8 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 7.5 5
Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Review Altra Lone Peak Highly Recommended $120 4.9 11.4 17.7 23 25 -2 5.6 4
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike LT3 Best of the Best $80 8.3 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.5 5
Nike Zoom Streak LT 4 Review Nike LT4 Recommended $90 9.2 5.5 8.5 15 21 5 5.0 7
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.5 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.3 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Highly Recommended $170 7.1 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 8.5 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.5 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 4.9 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.1 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.3 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.0 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 7.5 3
Altra Olympus 2.5 Review Altra Olympus Highly Recommended $150 6.9 11.8 18.4 34 34 2 8.2 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 5.8 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.1 6
Altra Paradigm 4.0 Review Altra Paradigm Highly Recommended $150 3.6 11.0 17.1 28 30 3 4.0 9
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 13.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 5 5.5 8
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 4.3 9.7 15.1 26 29 4 4.2 6
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 7.1 6.5 10.1 16 19 5 4.6 8
Altra Escalante Racer Review Altra Racer Highly Recommended $140 7.1 7.6 11.8 24 26 6 5.4 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.4 5.6 8.7 15 21 6 4.7 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 17.6 4.0 6.2 13 21 4 7.0 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 4.6 8.5 18.9 18 28 3 3.9 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Review Nike RNDist2 Worth considering $120 8.7 9.2 14.3 25 28 3 8.0 4
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 6.6 8.0 12.5 14 17 1 5.3 6
Salomon Sense Ride Review Salomon Sense Worth considering $120 5.7 10.0 15.6 24 29 0 5.7 7
Altra Solstice Review Altra Solstice Highly Recommended $90 9.9 8.1 12.5 23 25 6 8.0 0
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 7.3 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 5.4 5
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 4.1 11.6 18.1 35 40 4 4.8 5
Altra Superior Altra Superior Highly Recommended $110 6.3 9.9 15.5 22 25 2 6.2 3
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.9 6.6 10.2 17 21 -1 5.2 4
Topo Terraventure Topo Terraventure Review Pending $110 4.6 10.8 16.8 24 24 2 5.0 5
Altra Timp Review Altra Timp Best of the Best $130 2.3 11.6 28.8 30 31 0 2.7 10
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 4.2 9.6 14.9 31 25 -1 4.1 6
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 4.2 7.4 17.3 22 24 1 3.1 9
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 6.0 8.4 13.1 13 13 0 5.1 8
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 1.7 7.3 29.5 20 18 0 1.2 10
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 22.9 3.1 4.8 9 12 8 7.1 2
Altra Vanish-R Review Altra Vanish-R Recommended $100 9.2 5.3 8.2 19 21 6 4.9 5
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 10.6 6.1 9.5 6 5 9 6.4 6
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 11.1 7.2 11.2 25 37 4 8.0 6
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 7.9 8.6 0.0 18 24 8 6.8 3
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.3 6.3 0.0 17 27 1 6.4 5
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 6.0 9.5 0.0 29 32 0 5.7 7
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 6.6 8.7 0.0 29 36 -1 5.7 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, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
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, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.