Monday, December 12, 2011

New Balance Minimus Zero Road Initial Review

No other shoe has made a better first impression on me in terms of fit, feel, and yes, even looks.  I rarely comment on the look of shoe simply because it is not that important to me.  For anyone who has worn Vibram FiveFingers or Soft Star Shoes understands what I mean.  These shoes however, just look damn good on and off. 

Luckily they feel just as good as they look.  The interior of the Zero Road or MR00 is silky smooth with no seams.  The few overlays are welded and thus there is zero irritation when wearing New Balance Zero Road sock-less.  This shoe also has the perfect amount of width.  It hugs your foot in all the right places while allowing great freedom in the wide toe box.  The Zero Road comes to a sharp point, but your toes are not shoved into the end of the shoe.  They feel much wider than they actually look.  

One of the most unique features of this shoe and one that I wish was standard on all shoes is the tongue.  The upper is actually all one piece that has simply been cut down one side to allow easy on and off.  I also really like the laces and how the hold the foot in the shoe. Usually I take remove the standard laces the shoes come with and replace them with Yankz laces. With the MR00 I have no plans on removing the laces.  They allow you to tighten certain areas while leaving other areas loose.    

While the upper and interior of this shoe is great, the outsole of the New Balance Minimus Road may be the best part of this shoe.  It provides a great combination of protection, ground feel, and flexibility. In addition the high wear areas are composed of Vibram rubber which should mean great durability.  Only time will tell how durable this shoe will be but I am very optimistic.  This shoe isn't the most flexible or has the best ground feel of the minimal shoes on the market but it is above average in all aspects.  The Minimus Zero Road is also extremely light weight.  My 10.5 weigh only 6.4 oz.  This makes them one of the lightest shoes in my collection.  

As you can tell, my overall impressions of this shoe are very positive.  I am yet to find any real weaknesses in this shoe.  I do wish the shoe was a bit more "foot" shaped but this shoe will be available in widths so that should help those of us with wider feet. 

This shoe reminds me a lot of a racing flat but a racing flat that is zero drop and a wider toe box.  With that said I really think this shoe could be used for all distances.  I plan on using it for my next 5k and it has quickly become a contender for my next marathon.  That is how truly versatile I think this shoe is.  After I put some more miles in this shoe I will post my additional thoughts but you should really consider picking this shoe up when it releases early next year. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011


This review is long over due.  I was planning on reviewing the EVO I and II much sooner. However, once I decided that the EVO would be on my feet for my first marathon, I decided to wait to write the review after it was complete. I finished in 3:34:54. I am pretty happy with my time for my first attempt.

Mile 26. Notice the heel strikers
behind me as I am still able to land
on my midfoot in the EVO
Choosing which shoe to wear during your first marathon, in my opinion, is as complex and important as choosing a mate (I hope the future Mrs. Obsessive Runner doesn't read this).  Is there really a more intimate relationship than the one you spend with your shoe over 26.2 miles?  Maybe between a mother and her child over 9 months of pregnancy, but only just maybe!  Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit but the wrong shoe choice could make for a very painful and miserable 26.2 mile run. There really isn't a more important decision you will make for your marathon.  Yes, wearing the right clothing and choosing which and how many gels to consume is important, but for over 40,000 steps, your shoe choice is what matters most.  That is why after trying several different shoes, I finally decided to break down and try the EVO. After my first 10+ mile run, I knew that I had found the ONE!  THE SHOE! The shoe to get me through my longest run to date.  Our training together wasn't always a perfect relationship, but it was very productive and fruitful one.  Now onto the review.

EVO I on left EVO II on right
The fit of the EVO is its greatest strength and also its biggest drawback.  For me the EVO fits perfectly.  Especially after I added some Yankz laces to them.  I add these to just about all of my shoes as I believe they holds the foot securly in the shoe, but the elastic component allows the foot to flex where regular laces can be restrictive. The EVO is just wide enough, but not too wide to make them feel sloppy.  The upper of the EVO is very unique. VIVOBAREFOOT calls the outer material aTPU Hex Flex Cage.  I like to think of it as the shoe's exoskeleton. Under that is a thin mesh material.  This is where others have had problems with this shoe.  When the shoe flexes, the upper material can and does press on the big toe which may lead to abrasions.  I tend to wear socks with my EVOs and thus don't have any problems with this.  The upper is really the only difference between the EVO I and EVO II.  The EVO II has the interior liner that extends all the way to the toe box where as the EVO I liner stops around the midfoot.  This makes the EVO II a bit more comfortable sockless, but also a bit heavier and warmer.  I generally where the EVO I during warmer months and the EVO II as the weather turns colder.  

Ground Feel
The ground feel of the EVO is very good with its unique hexagon outsole.  It is a very firm durable outsole that transmits ground contact very well.  Without the removable insole the EVO's ground feel is probably on par with the VFF Bikila or Komodosport.  It is not as good as say the KSO or Altra Adam but it is better than the Merrell Trail Glove.  The EVO is also extremely flexible.  Again not as flexible as say the Altra Adam, but much more flexible than most other shoes. There are runners who have claimed to have gotten 1,000 miles or more out of a single pair of EVOs and I tend to believe them.  I have several hundred miles on mine and could easily get several hundred more.

It is really tough for me to find any real areas of improvements for this shoe. The issue with the upper rubbing on the big toe is probably the only area that needs improvement and from what I have heard, the newer "version" of the EVO have eliminated this problem.  The only other area of improvement is possibly to lighten the shoe, but to be honest the EVO has never felt heavy to me even rain soaked at the end of my marathon. 

It is tough to give a shoe a bigger compliment then choosing it for your first marathon and that is how strongly I feel about the EVO.  It is my go to long distance road shoe.  It provides me just enough protection and amount of ground feel for those 20+ mile road runs.  I have not taken the EVO on the trails a lot but I'm sure they would do well in most conditions.  VIVOBAREFOOT has really produced an exceptional shoe that I believe all runners need to have at their disposal. 

Weight: 8.4oz EVO I / 9.3oz EVO II
Toe Box: Wide
Heel to Toe: 0mm
Flexibility: Very Flexible

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Altra Adam Shoe Review

The Altra Adam has become my favorite all around minimalist running shoe.  However, it is not my favorite road running shoe, trail shoe, or casual shoe I have ever worn, but it is solid in every application.

The Adam is Altra's version of a mininimalist shoe.  Unlike the Altra Instinct, the Adam is a true minimimst shoe.  Like every other Altra shoe, it is completely level or what Altra terms as zero drop.  I find the Adam to be one of the best shoes at allowing a natural mid-foot strike.  The shoe just feels like an extension of my foot.

It has an extremely flexible, durable and thin out-sole with zero cushioning. The Adam has exceptional ground feel especially when the two insoles (support insole and strengthening insole) provided by Altra are removed.  I would say the ground feel is on par with the Vibram KSO.  When running on the roads, I take the insoles out but when I take the Adam on the trails, I put the "strengthening" insole in to provide just a bit more protection.  For me the Adam can handle just about any trail as long as it isn't too technical or rocky.   

I have put several miles on the Adam and the out-sole shows no wear to speak of.  Since there is no EVA to breakdown, this shoe can be worn until you wear a hole through the out-sole or the upper breaks down.

Also like the KSO the Adam has siped out-sole to provide greater traction.  The traction is adequate in most conditions that runners will face.  The only exception would be extremely wet sloppy trails.  

The Adam is extremely light weight.  My size 10.5 weigh only 6.3 oz making them one of the lightest shoes I own. The Adam is also foot shaped and thus has a wide toebox but not as wide as the Altra Instinct which I believe is a positve.  Any wider and the shoe would feel too sloppy.  I have worn the Adam on roads on the trails and just casually and it has replased my KSO and my Komodosport as my go to multipurpose shoe.  I can't say enough positive things about this shoe but it is not with out its faults.

The Adam is a great shoe but it is not perfect.  The upper of the Adam needs some work.  The actual material is very soft and moves very well with the foot.  It also breaths very well but  it has some large seams that caused hotspots on my first sockless run.  The seams have softened a bit since that first run but I tend to where socks with the Adam to avoid potential issues.

 The upper is also secured with two velcro straps.  One that cinches close to the ankle and one the cinches closer to the toes.  Velcro allows a shoe to be slipped on and off quickly but it can lead to some unwanted movement in the shoe.  I really appreciate a shoe that allows toe movement but I do not like shoes that allow my foot to slide forward or backward. Therefore, I used to tighten both straps pretty snug but I found that if the toe strap is too tight it restricts the movement of the toes and creates a hot spot where the the straps meets my pinky toe.

Now I only tighten the ankle strap to reduce movement of my foot.  However, my foot still has a tendency to slide around a bit in the shoe especially on trails where the surface is uneven.  Fortunately, Altra is coming out with a laced version of the Adam called the Samson.  This maybe my perfect shoe as it will have all of the great features of the Adam but should fix any of the fit problems with the velcro straps.  I am anxious to get my hands on a pair of them.

For the reasons mentioned above the Adam is not my go to trail shoe or my favorite road shoe or even my favorite casual shoe but if I could only buy one shoe for road running, trail running, and casual wear, the Adam would be at the top of a very short list.  As always, you can and should pick the Altra Adam up from the Natural Running Store.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kigo Drive Shoe Review

The Kigo Drive has recently become my new favorite casual shoe.  While minimalist running shoes have exploded, there are only a handful minimalist zero drop casual shoes on the market and Kigo has developed a truly great product to fill a large void in my shoe collection.

The Drive has everything that I look for in a minimalist shoe.  It is built completely level from the heel to toe.  This is often the biggest challenge I have in finding a casual shoe.  After running only in zero drop shoes, it feels awkward to put on any shoe with a large heel to toe drop.  The Drive features a 2 mm out-sole that provides great ground feel that is enhanced by removing the insole.  The out-sole also has more than adequate traction with their "fingerprint" tread.

With the out-sole only being 2 mm it is no surprise that the Drive is extremely flexible.

The Drive is also extremely light weight.  My size 10.5 Drive's weigh a measly 5.7oz without the insole.  The Kigo Drive features speed laces which quickly allow you to adust how snug or loose you prefer to wear them.  I generally like to wear them as loose as possible to increase the width of the shoe.

What really separates Kigo from many other shoe companies, is their dedication to create environmentally friendly foot wear that emphasizes using recycled material and low carbon output production.

While the Drive is a very good casual shoe, there are still a few elements that can be improved. The Kigo Drive toe box is wider than most traditional shoes but comes to a pretty abrupt point.  If Kigo rounded the toe box more the shoe would feel much wider. The out-sole is pretty flexble right around the arch area but directly under the forefoot the Drive is much less flexible.

The Kigo Drive has become my all around favorite casual shoe.  I have worn them in just about every setting except when dresser shoes are required.  They are extremely comfortable to wear without socks and even though I dislike wearing most shoes for any extended period of time, I do not mind having the Drives on my feet.  I have not yet run in these shoes since that isn't their intended purpose but I really haven't found any reason why they couldn't work as a minimal running shoe.  I have confidence that cinching the speed laces  down would secure the Drive enough to my foot to allow for any type of run.  That being said, I have enough shoes that are designed to be run in unless curiosity gets the better of me, I won't be taking these out for a run anytime soon.  As always if you want to purchase a pair the Kigo Drive.  I can't recommend enough getting them from the Natural Running Store.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fasting for Running?

I recently started doing something that many would consider a bit odd if not down right nuts.  My fiance has called my crazy several times over the past month (more so than usual).  I recently read a post by Jason Robillard on Barefoot Running University (great site if you haven't been there yet) that really intrigued me.  Essentially in his post Jason talks about one of his training methods for the Western States 100.  Training for one of the most difficult and prestigious 100 mile race or any 100 mile race for that matter, can lead to some pretty unorthodox methods. During his training, Jason will not eat a significant amount of calories for a significant amount of time then he would run. The purpose is to run on depleted glycogen stores.  Often it would take runners of Jason's fitness level several hours to hit the "wall" or bonk but while fasting, he will hit the wall after only several miles.  The thought process is that you will become physically and mentally more prepared if and when the "wall" hits during a race. You will then have a better understanding of what hitting the "wall" feels like and some of the warning signs.  It may also lesson the severity of bonking.  Read Jason's post for more detail on his training. He does a much better job of explaining it than I.  I should point out that he has trained like this for other ultramarathons with success.

This made a lot of sense to me and therefore I went in search of fasting on the internet.  I came across a lot of info on fasting.  Fasting is practiced in many religions and in many cultures for various reasons all through out human history.  None of which really intrigued me or concerned me.  This is a running blog after all so I am much more concerned how fasting could help or hurt my running   I ended up coming across intermittent fasting or IF.  I found a website by Mike O'Donnell called The If Life. The IF Life gives some good background knowledge and some ideas on how to start intermittent fasting.  On his site is where I found the IF plan that I do now.  There are three IF "diets" he refers to.  There is the Warrior Diet, Leangains, and the Fast-5 Life.  I could have went with any but Fast-5 has a free e-book to download just for registering for a free account.  I read the book in a day and was fairly impressed.  Basically what Fast-5 calls for is 19 hours of fasting or not ingesting a single calorie and then you have a 5 hour window to eat.  For me this means I usually break my fast at around 4:30pm and won't eat anything after 9:30pm.  I then do the same thing the next day.  At first I found it pretty difficult.  I was the most hungry at times that I usually ate. For me it meant that at 6am and 12pm were the hardest times.  I combat this by drinking a lot of water and black coffee! I would also get very hungry starting around 3pm. However, over the next few days and weeks, the hunger dissipated.  I still get hungry but it is more something that is just there rather than something that bothers me or something that is always on my mind. 

The theory behind intermittent fasting makes sense to me as well. As someone with a Masters in Biology, anything that has roots in evolution I am very curious about (a bit different theory than the one on Jason's post).  Basically the theory behind IF is that for most of human history, we have not had access to an abundance of food.  We often had to go hours and maybe even days with out a significant source of calories.  Whats more is that we probably had to expel a significant amount of energy to gather or hunt those calories.  We couldn't just walk to the fridge and throw something in the microwave.  We couldn't pick up the phone and have pizza delivered to us that would feed an entire family.  We had to actually work, sweat, and yes even run to get our food.  Therefore it is reasonable to believe that our bodies evolved to function in a "fasted" state.  Our bodies may even function more efficiently in a fasted state.

I have actually enjoyed fasting much more than I thought I would and for different reasons than I thought.  I really was only doing it to experiment with my running and trying to become a more efficient runner. However, IF has actually simplified parts of my life. Which for me is always a good thing. Think about all the decisions in your day that are based on food.  For those of us that normally eat plain old cereal for breakfast, we have to decide which size bowl to use, which spoon, which cereal to poor, how much to poor, do you put anything on the cereal, how much milk do you poor, do you eat all of the cereal, do you drink the milk afterward, do you drink OJ and that is just for breakfast. We make most of these decisions with out giving them much thought but other decisions we agonize over. Often after making certain decisions we end up feeling guilty and then torture ourselves for eating the extra piece of pizza, or having and extra dessert or two.  Fasting during the day gets rid of those decisions and the guilt.  The only choice I make all day is not to eat.  I don't worry about what to have for breakfast or what to pack for lunch or if I'm going to order out for lunch.  I was shocked how much relief I got by eliminating these decisions from my life.  I just know that when I get home I get to eat pretty much whatever I want.  Intermittent fasting isn't about starving yourself.  I probably ingest close to the same amount of calories as I normally would.

There are many claims about the health benefits of IF.  These include reducing blood glucose, reducing insulin levels, weight loss, lowering blood pressure, and finally the potential to live longer.  All these benefits sound great and if intermittent fasting produces some of these results than great but as an avid runner I am not really concerned about weight loss or low blood pressure as they should all be taken care of by running 30+ miles a week. 

Now before everyone jumps at me, I too have heard that breakfast is the most important part of the day and that you need to east six meals a day to boost metabolism.  However, stop to consider where this information is coming from.  Then look in your cupboards at all the food we have.  Look at cereal, bagels, bread, oatmeal, fruit juice, milk and everything else we consume just for breakfast.  Then think about who would stand to lose a huge amount of money if we all stopped eating breakfast. Then think about everything we eat for lunch.  Food is constantly being thrown in front of us without us even realizing it.  What if western civilization only ate one large meal a day?  How much money would major food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants, fast food chains and countless other lose?  Then think about how much money you would save!  I understand that many people rely on jobs related to the food industry so there is never a simple answer but I believe there may be a healthier option.  Americans in particular just eat way too much food and way too much of the wrong kinds of food.  Maybe eating less often would be a good thing.  Maybe actually knowing what truly being hungry feels like would help us to know when we should eat not just because the clock says we should or because that is when society tells us we should eat.  I'm sure that many that read this blog will be a much more open minded.  As I am sure many of you are either veterinarian, vegan, or follow the paleo diet (would love to do this with my fasting), as these lifestyles seem much more common amongst the running community.  However, this IF is not for everyone and I am not telling you you need to do this but rather think about your eating habits and think about if eating differently could make you a healthier and happier person. 

As far as fasting and running.  I have yet to hit the "wall" while running.  This is probably because I have yet attempted a run over 4 miles in a fasted state but I plan to increase my mileage gradually. I do feel a bit more lethargic running after not eating all day but while I have no way of proving it, I believe that running in as fasted state will improve how efficiently my body can and dose use the energy it has available to it.  I am confident that when I do a longer run or race with full glycogen stores my body will process it in a much more efficient  manner and thus allow me to finish strong.  If it doesn't improve anything than I'm okay with that.  I really enjoy pushing my body to see what it can do.  So far, I have been very impressed with the limits of the human body.

Leave a comment below if you think I'm completely crazy or if you see the logic behind it.  Either way I am curious to hear what you have to say.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Natural Running Store - Where you need to buy your next pair of runnning shoes

Disclaimer:  I do not personally know Patton Gleason(president and founder of Natural Running Store).  He has not asked me to write this post.  I have not been promised compensation for writing this post.  I just genuinely feel compelled to let as many people as possible know about the experience I had after purchasing a single item at Natural Running Store. 

When I first started this blog I had zero intentions of posting about a running store.  I haven't had a shoe purchase experience worth blogging about, until I purchased a pair of Altra Instincts a couple weeks ago.  There are several reasons why I will only purchase my running shoes from the Natural Running Store.  
South East Iowa is anything but the mecca of running culture.  I typically run 5-7 days a week and I can go days without seeing another runner.  As you can imagine, as few runners as there are, there are even fewer specialty running stores.  I only know of one within 50 miles (very limited selection of minimalist shoes at this particular store).  I try to keep my business local but with option so limited I'm forced to turn to the internet for my running shoe purchases.  I have had fairly good luck with purchasing shoes online but there are a few draw backs.  For me the biggest obstacle to purchasing running shoes online is the inability to try shoes on.  This makes sizing difficult.  I usually remedy this buy purchasing several sizes and sending the other sizes back.  Therefore, I only purchase from sites that offer free shipping and free returns which narrows the options down considerably.  Buying shoes online is also a very impersonal.  Usually you get an email saying your order has been processed and hopefully another one saying your shoes have shipped.  That is usually all the contact that is received.  I prefer the personal attention that is often received from brink and mortar specialty running stores.  I like to know that the person I am buying shoes from knows what they are talking about and that they believe in their products.  This kind of attention, hasn't been available online.  However, the Natural Running Store has rectified all of the draw backs of purchasing running shoes online and even surpassed all of my expectations of purchasing shoes online or in person.  

I won't try and tell you who Patton Gleason is and what his beliefs are towards running and life.  He can do a much better job than I could.  He has an exceptional video posted on his store website that does a good job summarizing his beliefs for you. 
From the video and the name of the store you can tell that the only shoes that are available to purchase on his site are shoes that are minimalist or transitional shoes. Therefore, there is not a huge selection of shoes available to purchase but for me this is a positive instead of a negative.  I have a moral issue purchasing minimalist shoes from a place that also offers the typical over built, high heeled, motion control shoes that we are all familiar with.  I understand that selling shoes is a business but I do not believe in compromising ones beliefs to make buck.  If you truly believe in the benefits of minimalist running shoes than I don't see how you can sell a shoe like the Mizuno Wave Prophecy pictured below.  The Natural Running Store does not compromise their beliefs in natural running form and only sell shoes that promote it.  I do not know this for a fact but I would bet that Patton has personally run in every single shoe that he sells and wouldn't sell shoes that he didn't truly belief in.  Therefore I would feel comfortable purchasing any shoe from Natural Running Store. 

Natural Running Store not only sell shoes that promote natural running but they also have videos and tips on how to transition to proper running form. Most running stores just want to sell their shoes and not take the time or effort to show the customers the proper way to run.  Patton as well as I feel this is irresponsible. 

As I mentioned previously, I have an issue with not being able to try shoes on when purchasing them online.  Therefore I buy multiple sizes to make sure I get a correct fit.  I then return the ones that are too big or too small but even then I do not run in these shoes for fear of not getting a refund.  Natural Running Store takes this issue and makes it a complete non issue.  I had to read their return policy  multiple times just to make sure I was reading it correctly.  There are other online shoe stores that  offer free return shipping but no other store that I know will allow you to return the shoes within 30 days in ANY condition. Most stores tell you to wear their shoes on carpet as not to put any wear on the out-soles. Natural Running Store feels that you actually need to run in the shoes to know if they are the shoes for you.  What a crazy concept!  I know some shoe stores that will let you take the shoes for a jog around the block or on their in-store treadmill but 30 days of risk free actual running, that is unbelievable.  I was told in an email from Patton I could run an ultra and if I was not satisfied, I could return them. As far as shipping is concerned, I ordered the Altra Instincts on a Saturday and was not expecting them to be processed or shipped until Monday.  However, they were shipped on Saturday and arrived on Tuesday!  I was shocked by this.  Fastest shipping I have ever experienced.  I'm sure many of you know, that waiting for a new pair of shoes makes you feel like a 7 year old waiting to open presents on Christmas morning.  Fortunately, Patton and Natural Running Store make this as painless as possible.

The final reason I will never buy another running shoe from any other retailer, is the customer service I received.  As I mentioned before, buying shoes online is very impersonal.  Once again I was blown away by Natural Running Store.  Previous to buying shoes from thereI had emailed the Natural Running Store with some sizing questions and got a response back with in an hour or two.  Once I finally made my purchase I got the standard emails that I have become accustomed to, "Thank you for your order", "Your order has now shipped" but then I received an additional email.  I do not know what is "standard" at Natural Running Store but I have a feeling the level of customer service that I received is common.  I also don't want to give away all of Patton's "secrets" but the follow up email I received was anything but impersonal.  When my shoes arrived, in my shoe box was more than just a pair of shoes.  I received a couple very nice "extras".  I would like to think that my order was special but I'm nearly certain every customer gets this level of service.  This was the first purchase of any kind where I was actually more impressed with the customer service than the actual product and the product was fantastic. 

Pricing at Natural Running Store is on par with other online running store prices but they often offer fantastic discounts.  Currently they are offering 25% off all of their Newton Running shoes.  I have not had the opportunity to run in any Newtons yet but I have only heard great things about them.  This might be my chance to get a great long lasting, shoe at a decent price.   

After receiving my shoes I emailed Patton and told him that if more people ran their business the way that he does, the world would be a better place and I sincerely believe that.  

Cheers to YOU Patton and Natural Running Store.  Keep up the fantastic work! 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Altra Instinct Shoe Review

Warning:  This is not a minimalist shoe (but I still dig them)!

As someone who has recently switched to minimalist shoes, and natural running form.  I have been looking for a shoe that would allow me to keep running long distances but also a shoe that maintains many characteristics that are important to me in a minimalist shoe.  All of the minimalist shoes that I own are zero drop, light weight, have a wide toe box, and are super flexible.  However, they are also have very little cushioning.  This is normally a good thing as less cushioning means more ground feel.  However, running long distances on pavement can put a lot of stress on the muscles, tendons, and bones in your feet.  Transitioning to minimalist foot wear takes a lot of time and patience.  Two things that I am often short on.  I didn't take enough time or patience and ending up with a stress fracture in my left foot after running a half marathon in  Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sports  (review coming soon).  Therefore, I needed a shoe that would allow me to run long distances while my feet continue to strengthen.  This is where the Altra Instincts come into play. 

The Instinct from Altra Running is in a shoe in a class all to it's own.  It has many of the features of a minimalist shoe with out being minimalist. 

Minimalist Characteristics

First and foremost the Instincts are zero drop.  They are built completely flat from heel to toe.  Having a zero drop shoe makes it extremely easy to maintain a natural running form.  What is great about Altra Running is that they not only make great shoes but they also show you how to run properly in them through their Learn to Run Initiative .  They also provide information on and in the shoe box which is extremely helpful to those who are just learning proper running technique. 
Much wider last and much more foot shaped than the Saucony Kinvara
The Instincts have by far the widest toe box I have ever seen in a shoe.  The shoe looks a bit different because it is actually foot shaped.  What a weird concept!  Because of the shape of the shoe, the Instincts for me, run a half size shorter than my normal running shoe.  The ultra wide toe box gives your toes room to splay completely with out any constraints.  With a wide toe box, comes the possibility that the shoe will feel sloppy. The Instinct locks the foot in place nicely via asymmetrical lacing, Altra's heel claw, and A-Wrap .

Heel Claw
Altra does a nice job of making the shoe customizable with two different insoles.  Altra provides a "support" insole that has a bit more cushioning and small amount of arch support.  They also provide a "strengthening" insole that is completely flat and very thin.  The shoe can also be worn without the insole to provide more room in the shoe with less cushioning and more of a minimalist feel.  The Instinct can be worn sock-less with or without the insoles.  I have not encountered any rubbing or blistering to this point. 

Support insole on left. Alternate lacing method shown

 Altra refers to the outsole as their FootPod outsole. The outsole of the shoe seems to be extremely durable and that seems to be very common amongst minimalist shoes.  I would expect to get at least 500 miles out of this shoe if not many more. 

Less Than Minimalist Characteristics 

Keep in mind that Altra has a true minmalsit shoe set to release later this summer.  The Adam is a shoe that I am very excited to get my hands. The Instinct while having many minimalist characteristics it also shares some characteristics of "regular" trainers.  The Instinct is by no means a heavy shoe.  It comes in right around 9 oz in a size 9.  This is much less than most shoes with comparable amount of cushioning but also weighs more than true minimalist shoes.  However, this is not a deal breaker for me because this shoe will not be a short distance race shoe or a tempo shoe for me.  I don't believe the shoe was designed as an up tempo trainer even though it would perform just fine in fast pace run.

The Instinct also has more cushioning than your typical minimalist shoe.  The negative of this amount of cushioning is that there is very little ground feel.  Ground feel is important to make sure that when running you do not land too hard or land on improperly (on your heel).  However, because this is zero drop, landing on the heel is not a problem. I seem to land  ligtly with this shoe.  The other disadvantage is that shoes with cushioning aren't usually flexible.  The Instinct is actually a little more flexible than I expected.  It is by no means as flexible as other minimalist shoes but it definitely flexes enough for me.
The advantage of some cushioning is that it provides protection against long runs on unforgiving pavement. The Instinct works great for long runs and my feet have never been happier after putting in long miles.  The Altra Instinct will be my shoe of choice for all my long runs and probably my marathon in late September (tough to give a bigger compliment than that).

Altra has more shoes that are set to release in the coming months that include a trail version, a laced version of the Adam and Eve to accomidate more foot types, and other models that they are being pretty tight lipped about. Keep checking their website for updates.