I've been anxiously waiting to write this post for some time now. I wanted to wear these enough to give an honest perspective, but it has been difficult because I have them in rotation with 4 other pairs of shoes at the moment. This is going to be more of a layperson's review, as I'm not necessarily well-veresed in the hyper-techinical jargon of footwear.
This year has been one of transition for me, not necessarily on purpose though. The New Balance Trail Minimus came out in March of 2011, and I jumped on the bandwagon, having become a huge fan of Anton Krupicka. I had done some running in the past in some Nike Free's, and over the winter picked up a pair of New Balance MT 101's. That's what I used on the trails this entire year (over 500 miles worth). Eventually, as the year wore on, I wore the Trail Minimus more and more for everyday use. A few months ago I began to run in them, and now have about 170 miles on those. I also purchased my first pair of VFF's this summer, and wear those 3-4 days a week to work. So, my current rotation of running shoes consists of the Nike Free's, Nike Lunar trainer, New Balance Trail Minimus, and the Altra Instincts. I suppose the reason I gave the Altra's a try is because I loved the significantly smaller drop of the NB MT101's and NB Trail Minimus. I did a ton of research online of the Altra's and spoke to a few friends who had given them a try, and decided to pull the trigger myself.
The first thing I noticed after trying them on, was the roomy toe box. This seems to catch a lot of people's attention, and rightfully so! They almost felt like there was too much room at first, but once I got out and began running in them, this became one of my favorite features! The zero drop was another surprise, as my mid foot strike feels completely natural when I run in them. Thankfully, I spent many months working on my foot strike and running in more minimalist footwear, so that there wasn't much of a transition period at all for me. Within a week or so I had logged my first 10+ mile run in them. I'm finding it increasingly difficult to keep up my rotation of footwear, because I keep wanting to pull these out for every run.
The Altra's have definitely been worth the investment. While not flashy in appearance, they more than make up for it in performance. Actually, as a financially restricted runner, I appreciate the fact that a bunch of cost in flashy, unnecessary additions hasn't been passed on to me. I'm paying for what I'm getting. And, that may just be the most attractive thing about this product. They are worth every penny. Functional. Comfortable. Great reputation.
The only thing left, is to see how durable they end up being. I've read numerous reports of runners putting well over 1,000 miles on them, in some cases with more of those miles being trail miles than road. So, with only 128 miles so far, it seems like these could last me quite awhile yet!