From the top, the Intuition looks pretty much like your standard trainer, with a breatheable mesh upper that provides good ventilation in hot weather. The upper has asymmetrical lacing that is designed to be open in the foot’s natural flex zones, providing a secure fit with fewer pressure points. The upper is also shaped in what Altra refers to as an A-Wrap, which makes the midfoot area snug while leaving the toe box area more roomy.
Merrell employs this same concept with its Barefoot shoe line, but the midfoot of the Altra isn’t nearly as snug as Merrell’s models. To many runners, that will be a point in Altra’s favor, as one common criticism of Merrell’s shoes is that they are too narrow in the forefoot, making them difficult to put on or uncomfortable to wear for long durations. From heel to toe, the shape of the Intuition’s female-specific last is wider than Merrell’s Pace Glove , which is a strength or a drawback depending on your preference. One of the things my wife really likes about the Intuition is the width of the toe box, which gives her feet plenty of room to splay upon impact.
All Altra shoes come with two insoles, one of which helps accommodate zero-drop newbies. The “support” insert has a molded arch and heel wrap like traditional insoles, which helps ease the transition to flat platform shoes. The “strengthen” insole is completely flat with no arch support, which is the recommended choice for truly natural mechanics.
As for that zero-drop platform: it’s approximately 10mm high, making it fairly low to the ground, but it provides enough cushioning for a smooth ride. My wife was actually surprised to learn that the Intuition has less midsole than the GoLite Micro Lite (20mm) or Merrell Barefoot Pace Glove (12mm), because she feels that the Altras diminish impact much better than those others. She said that she feels the ground impact much less with Altras; from my minimalist perspective, this was disappointing, but from her “I just want natural biomechanics with the comfort of a regular running shoe” standpoint, this is her favorite aspect of the Intuition.
Part of the explanation for the comfortable ride is a midsole material called A-Bound, a proprietary compound which Altra claims returns energy back to the foot with each step. There’s also something called a Natural Ride System, but I’m not quite certain how it works. Here’s how the website describes it: A combination of unique design elements and materials, working together to let the foot do its thing. Components include outsole and midsole componentry with proper metatarsal parabola, Zero Drop, and foot shaped lasts working together to allow you to run as nature intended. No artificial flavors! If you can make sense of that, you’re doing better than me. Whatever they’ve got going on in there, it certainly makes for a comfortable platform.
One drawback of the midsole is its relative stiffness, as you can see in the above photo where I’m really pushing hard to curl up the shoe. I’d like to see slightly more flexibility here, but newcomers to zero-drop shoes may appreciate the similarity to traditional trainers. Weight of the Intuition is 8.1oz, which is comparable to regular running shoes (as well as the 9.0-oz Micro Lite), but significantly heavier than the 4.7-oz Pace Glove which is also a lot more flexible.
Altra uses different outsoles on its minimalist and zero-drop shoes, and the Intuition features a FootPod design which mirrors the bones and tendons of a naked foot. This is intended to allow maximum flexibility at all the points where your foot wants to flex, but I suspect that some of the effectiveness of this outsole is hampered by the stiff midsole. Otherwise, it’s a very durable rubber material that’s ideal for roads and grippy enough for fire roads or mellow trails.
Obviously from a spec standpoint, there’s nothing about the Intuition that jumps off the page to make it clearly superior to the other models my wife has tested. So when construction features are a toss-up, you go with how the shoe feels – and by that standard, the Intuition has clearly been the running shoe of choice for my wife this summer and fall. It offers an ideal combination of natural biomechanics with the protection and comfort of traditional running shoes. It’s not exactly revolutionary, but it’s pretty darn good – and that’s probably the best you can hope for from any new company.
The Altra Intuition retails for $100 from the company website .
*Product provided by Altra
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