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Altra Minimalist Running Shoes – Adam, Instinct, and Lone Peak

The minimalist running movement appears to be gaining steam at a rapid rate these days. Word is that the topic of minimalism was all over the place at the recent Outdoor Retailers Show in Utah, and more and more manufacturers are jumping into the fray with their own minimalist offerings. Even some of the big players in the shoe business are getting involved – most recently, New Balance unveiled their soon to arrive Minimus line of running shoes, and I suspect that it won’t be long before others follow suit.

To date, however, few manufacturers have gone so far as to produce a zero-drop shoe, which is considered by many minimalist runners to be the most critical feature of a minimalist shoe. Zero-drop means that the shoe has no heel lift, and thus the heel and forefoot are the same distance from the ground when seated in the shoe (i.e., the sole is flat). So far, the Vibram Fivefingers, Terra Plana Evo, and a few others are the only offerings out there that meet this criterion. I myself have come to realize the value of a zero-drop shoe, as the Vibram Fivefingers are the only shoes in which I can reliably land on my midfoot or forefoot. Any type of heel lift or excessive amount of cushion allows me to get sloppy and fall back on my heels when I run. While I’m a big fan of the Fivefingers, and don’t mind the toe pockets at all, I’m quite aware that the strange, foot-glove appearance is a turn-off for some people.

I was recently contacted by a representative from a small start-up shoe company named Altra. Altra has been working to develop a line of zero-drop minimalist running shoes, and they have some very interesting looking shoes ready to go into production (more on these below). On their website (which is still partially under development), Altra’s mission is stated as follow:

Our Mission is to bring proper running technique to the masses.  Altra will provide zero drop footwear that will allow everyone from the hardcore minimalist to the person just getting off their couch to run with proper form, therefore making running easier, more fun, and less injurious.

According to Altra, their shoes should be available in late 2010, and their goal is to have them priced under $100. Initially, the lineup will include three models, with several additional models currently in development. Here are the first batch:

The Altra Adam

The easiest way to describe the Altra Adam is that it’s like the Vibram Fivefingers without the toes – it’s the most minimalist of Altra’s offerings. It’s a super lightweight shoe (<5 oz), and has a very thin sole for a close-to-ground ride. This looks like a great choice for someone who likes the idea of the Vibram Fivefingers but is hesitant about their unusual appearance. Altra is also apparently working on swappable footbed inserts so that individuals can vary cushioning based on their preferences or needs on a given day. I could definitely see myself running in these.

Altra Adam

Altra Adam

Altra Adam

Altra Adam Sole

Here are the specs for the Altra Adam:
Weight: 4.7 Ounces
Foot Shaped
3mm Siped Performance Rubber Outsole
Forefoot & Rearfoot Adjustable Velcro Closures
Stretch Mesh for Breathability
SeeNoSeam Stitch Free Footbed

The Altra Instinct

As it’s appearance would suggest, the Altra Instinct is Altra’s all-purpose road running shoe. Zero drop and a low profile should make this shoe appealing to the minimalist runner, though I personally would like to see a bit of weight shaved off. The listed weight of 9 oz is light compared to most road shoes, but I like a shoe to be as light as possible (ideally in the 6-7 oz range or less). One question that I do often get is which minimalist shoe would be a good choice for someone with a wide foot – given the anatomical, foot-shaped last with a relatively wide forefoot, the Instinct might just fit the bill.

Update 2/29/2011: Just posted a review of the Altra Instinct.

Altra Instinct

Altra Instinct

Altra Instinct

Altra Instinct Sole

Here are the specs for the Altra Instinct:
Category: Neutral
Weight: 9 Ounces
Midsole: 8mm-8mm
Foot Inspired Outsole for All Around Flexibility
Breathable Airmesh

The Altra Lone Peak

The Lone Peak is Altra’s trail shoe offering. Since I’m not a hard-core trail runner, I’ll largely withhold comment on this one. One interesting point to note – the unusual flap sticking out of the back of the sole is called a Trail Rudder, and is supposedly helpful for bombing down steep trails. It seems to me like it would get in the way on footstrike, but hard to know for sure without trying it out – I suppose it would be easy enough to trim it off if you didn’t like it.

Altra Lone Peak

Altra Lone Peak

Altra Lone Peak

Here are the specs for the Altra Lone Peak:
Midsole: 7mm-7mm Zero Drop
RockGuard: 1mm Multi-Sectioned Rock Protection
TrailClaw Outsole w/Sticky Rubber for Max Traction in any Conditions
Quickdry Mesh

That’s all I have for now. I’ll likely be adding additional info as it becomes available, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to try a pair or two of these out and do a full review. I like to support small companies with big ideas, so hopefully the Altra shoes will perform as well as they look! Stay tuned…

Update 2/29/2011: Just posted a review of the Altra Instinct.

For more information, visit the Altra Running website.

For more shoe images, visit Altra’s Flickr page:

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a biology teacher, track/soccer coach, and dad (x3) with a passion for running, soccer, and science. If you'd like to learn a little bit more about who I am and what I do, click here, or visit


  1. I’m really interested in the Instinct… Though the 9 oz. is a bit of a turn-off.

  2. Wow those are great shoes. The style is awesome and looks the it is very comfortable and light to foot. I love it.

  3. Hi Runblogger and thanks for your efforts in writing a such an interesting and informative running blog! I am looking for shoe reviews of the Saucony Fastwitch and the Adidas Adizero Adios models, have your reviewed them or know where to find a thorough review of these shoes?

    Kind regards,

    • Pete Larson says:


      I have worn the Fasttwitch 2, and it was my first lightweight trainer.
      Decent shoe, but has a fairly high heel for my current tastes. It did carry
      me to my current PR’s at both the 5K and half-marathon. Don’t know much
      about the Adios, but it does make an appearance in my newest post:


  4. Altra Footwear says:

    Fantastic article Pete! thank you for the great write up! It is great to read your content.

  5. Mark C., Ph.D. says:

    My problem with Vibram FiveFingers is not the appearance, which I think is pretty cool. It’s crappy fit they offer for my feet. The Altra Adam looks interesting, though. I’d love to give a pair of those a go.

  6. gahh… they got so close with the instinct…
    thinking about getting the adam once they come out. they are zero-drop, right?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Yes – zero drop. Instinct looks great, sounds like they may have some nice
      follow ups on the boards already.


  7. StemFootwear says:

    Looks like a promising minimalist product. It must come from a small company. Large footwear companies simply won’t do this. Looks like they got the natural width of the foot right. A++

  8. Pete,
    Any word on when the Altra running shoes are coming out? There website has been down for a while now. Seems kind of weird for a company who’s getting ready to launch a product.

  9. If you need other suggestions of minimalist shoes or any tips about avoiding running injuries, I strongly suggest

  10. searayman says:

    Great article, I can’t wait to try a pair of these!!! If any of you are interested in an inside look into the company check this article out:

  11. looking forward to getting the adams!
    just gotta get 10 more months out of my vibrams

  12. woops, totally forgot
    anyone know anything on the adam regarding being able to be washed?

  13. Hydrosapien says:

    I bought a pair of Instincts in June 2011 and fell in love with them after growing disenchanted with the Nike Free line.  In the 3 weeks the Instincts lasted I logged 161 miles mostly on hard pack trails.  The longest run I did in them was 16 miles along an asphalt service road.  A couple of weeks ago I ran 10 miles round-trip along a semi-technical trail using the Instincts.  The trail  involved several river crossings where the shoes were submerged when I lost my balance once as I hopped rocks across.  The shoes drained well and didn’t chafe.  However, when I took the shoes off they literally fell apart.  The cloth liner on the insole split off the rubber.  When I cleaned the shoes with Penguin Sneaker Cleaner the stitching on the left shoe became undone. What was most troubling was the customer service. When I attempted to take them to the store to see if I could at least replace the insoles with some that fit the unique toe box, the salesman couldn’t help and asked me to come back when the owner was around.  When I contacted the manufacturer they blew me off.  So as much as I loved these shoes three weeks is an indication of construction issues they haven’t ironed out, and their small shop retailer could probably use more support too.  So I am back to hunting for a minimalist replacement for the Nike Free 3.0 v.2 which lasted me at least 600 miles…given that Nike has abandoned its niche with its later generation Frees.

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