Friday, September 13, 2013

Is Altra Growing Too Fast?

A year ago I became a HUGE Altra fan after discovering their Instinct 1.0 on sale at In fact, I applied to be an Altra Ambassador and decided to to go all Altra in my training and racing. After only a few months, I owned five pair of Altras for myself. I have recommended Altras to at least half a dozen friends and my wife and son. Buying a pair for my son was a big deal: they were $50, more than double what I normally spend on shoes for him. After all, he is 8 years old and tends to wear out or outgrow shoes every 6 months. Only three weeks after purchasing them, the shoe literally fell apart. Admittedly, he is a boy and hard on shoes, but come on? Look at the photo below. Yes Altra replaced them, to their credit. But it just one example in what is becoming a trend in quality complaints for them.

Last night I was commenting to a friend how much I love my Instinct and was making plans to buy a pair of Instinct 1.5 for myself. Then I started doing some reviews and discovered that they are getting ripped on their own website for a shoddy upper that is wearing out. I had to write this email to my friend this morning:
Steve -
I know you seemed intrigued by my post last night about the Instinct. If you like the Lone Peak, then you'll love the Instinct. I wear mine everywhere -- the gym, cycling, work, around town, etc... -- and they are durable and comfortable. They have 350 miles on them and probably 2x that in equivalent wear from all the cross training.

That said, if you want to get a pair, I highly suggest getting a pair of the 1.0 from a discount/liquidation site. That is the version I have. I Googled and found a few lying around. The new 1.5 have received pretty poor reviews for durability, many people complaining the upper is wearing out after less than 200 miles, some as little as 100 miles.

I am frankly a little disappointed with Altra right now. They had a really good thing going with just a couple of well made, high quality shoes like Lone Peak, Instinct, and Provision. After one year, they doubled their models with new shoes like The One, 3-Sum, Instinct Jr, Olympus, Superior, Torin, and growing. The quality seems to be going downhill with this explosion in models.  Dylan blew out a pair of Instinct Jr in less than a month. The entire out sole just cracked and fell off the shoe. My Torin have held up to less than 100 miles so far, but they feel cheaply made and there was a manufacturing goof where some shoes went out with 6 eyelet and some with 7 eyelet. We'll see if they last. My Superior are starting to shred on the lateral side after 235 miles.

Anyway, I love the Instinct, but would not recommend the 1.5 unless you get a screaming deal and can tolerate a blow out after 200 miles.
There you have it, I went from being one of their biggest fans to being nervous about recommending them to my friends in less than one year. It is worth noting that I am the one who convinced Steve to buy his Lone Peak and watched him destroy the Leadville Silver Rush 50 course in them, wearing a pair of my own as I crewed for him.

Is their insane growth responsible for these issues? I think it contributes. As a fan, I would love to have seen some refinements to the existing models, including new colors and a little more stylish look. But I cannot help but wonder if all the new models were necessary. When I compare their rise to a shoe with a similar cult following, the Hokas have only recently added a 4th model. In fact, they used to offer their shoes in unisex sizes. They started by building a few shoes really, really well. (UPDATE: Hoka is now also making an insane number of shoe models.)

Whatever the case, I really don't care why this has happened, but I know it makes me disappointed. I maybe just a midpack runner with a small blog, but I sure hope my experience with Altra help other runners steer clear of expensive mistakes. I love some of their shoes and the idea on which they created them. But I certainly don't want to continue to spend $100 on shoes that fall apart. And it will be very hard to convince my wife to buy another pair of them for my son if his Instinct Jr don't hold up for at least six months. Make no mistake, I am pulling for Altra, but I am a skeptic of the explosive growth and change right now.


  1. I'm a huge fan of Altra's as well (Instinct 1.0, Lone Peak 1.0, Superior, and Torins) and decided to stay away from the Instinct 1.5s due to the reviews. I think it was just a bad design. If you look at the women's Intuition 1.5s....they have the waffle detail to the back of the shoe and the material in the front is closer to the originals...which I think is a lot sturdier. Instinct 2.0s look well as the Torin 1.5s. I'm anxious to get both in addition to the Lone Peak 1.5s in black...all of which are coming out in January I believe!!! One bad shoe does not make or break a brand!!! I think they're truly listen to and learn from all the feedback to improve their products.

  2. cmoyer22 - I have tried five pairs of Altras now (Instinct 1.0, Lone Peak 1.0, Torin 1.0, Superior 1.0, and Instinct 1.5). In my opinion, their flagship shoes where the best (Instinct 1.0 and Lone Peak 1.0). The forefoot in the Instinct 1.5 feels a bit narrower, and so far I don't like it as much. But I am waiting to see how it feels after I wear it in. My biggest concern is that I have just seen the quality degrade over those flagship shoes. My son has BLOWN through the Instinct Jr. I blew out the sides of my Superior in less than 300 miles. The poor quality in the Instinct 1.5 is well documented. Hopefully the 2.0 lines bring some much needed stability to the designs of the shoes and improved quality. Sadly, now that Saucony makes a wide model in the Kinvara, I am starting to head back that direction. I really hoped Altra would be it. But with a heavy price tag on all their shoes, I cannot afford to be shredding them in under 300 miles.

  3. Just wanted to share my experience with Altra....the only BAD thing about the shoes that I have come across is that the MESH on the upper of the Instinct 1.5 is what most commonly wears out. I have the Instinct 1.0s, Instinct 1.5 (exchanged), The Torins, The Ones, and now the Lone Peaks which I just got the other day, no runs in them I think I'm somewhat qualified to speak on their behalf, lol.

    I was able to talk with Golden Harper a little bit this year at the Runner's World Half Marathon weekend a couple times (He sold me my Instincts at last year's RW Half) and asked him specifically about some of the growing pains they are experiencing. I had the Instinct 1.5 mesh issue, and he personally exchanged them (i got the Torins which have another issue which I'll explain in a minute). But all the other shoes I have, have no issues with durability. It was an isolated incident with the type of mesh, and the black Instinct 1.5s corrected that issue with different mesh design...just don't get the orange or blue models.

    The Torin has 2 issues, one mine, one Altra' issue is that my feet are a little longer now than when I exchanged them (go figure with all that pounding, lol), and although they fit great and were comfortable at first, I now find them a little tight (but removing the insole solves that as it adds a half size to the shoe. Altra's issue (coming straight from Golden) was that the last that was used was incorrect when they were finalized, and Golden wanted that corrected, but now since they are bankrolled by a larger company, they were pushed to market too fast. If you look at the Torins, you can see the sharper curve in the toes as opposed to the Instincts/Provisions....and you will see what i'm talking about.

    SOOOOO, in conclusion, don't be afraid of getting Altras...yes they are new...yes, you probably have to purchase them online...but the guys in Utah are extremely responsive to any issues, even sizing issues (I use to compare and use Shoefitr to comfirm sizing and fit (haven't gotten a wrong sized shoe online yet). The new models are coming in Jan...they look great and are more get a pair and get out there and run run run!

  4. Joe - excellent commentary, thanks for sharing. I have not given up on Altra, but I really hope the new versions coming out in January blow me away!

  5. I LOVE almost everything about Altra but there quality across the board is pretty bad. The early stuff was ok, but the materials seemed very stiff and abrasive and required a good break in. The new stuff has better materials but just falls apart. My Instinct 1.5 lasted just shy of 100miles and my Lone Peaks 1.5 lasted a bit more 120ish. I will say in general shoes these days shoes just don't las. So Altra is not alone. My NB Minimus stuff lasted a bit longer and a bit less depending on model. Worst of all my Nikes Wild horse some how destroyed my feet and feel apart in about in 3 runs with a grand total of 27 miles. But thats Nike what else would you expect. Long story short, Altra please work on the quality, I love what you guys are doing and cant really stand anything else, get control now otherwise you will have a reputation like Nike where bad quality is the norm and is most likely away to sell more shoes and make more money.

  6. I have Altra Instinct 1.5 but the breathability isn’t good as the Instinct 1. In the 1.5 they added a thin layer of fabric behind the mesh which doesn’t let air pass through. They also changed the mesh in The One 2 making it less breathable thanj vesrion 1. .

  7. I came across your blog as I was searching for another pair of original Intuitions. I bought my first pair on clearance at a local running store, then got a pair of lone peaks for winter. I absolutely love my Intuitions but the fit on the Lone Peaks was a bit different and I didn't like them as much. So after winter when I no longer needed the lugs on the sole, I got my Intuitions out again. I put another 100 miles on them and restitched what came loose but eventually they were just completely worn out. I tried the Intuition 1.5 but they aren't the same fit. It's a slight change but a change none the less.

    I also bought my 9 year old and 6 year old each a pair of Instinct Jr's for the beginning of school (2013). We didn't have the same problem you had, but the material on the top of the toes just shredded on both pairs within a week. My son really liked his Altra's so we bought another pair in the spring with the assurance from Altra that the kids' line had been significantly improved. They were not. They were the exact same shoes we bought in the fall. Apparently the new and improved Instinct Jr comes out in July. We sent the Altra's back and got a pair of kids Brooks Pure Flow.

    For myself, I have a pair of Skora's on the way. I've seen nothing but great reviews so far for them.