Gear Review: Altra Provision

I’ve been somewhat in a state of wanderlust lately with shoes. I’m stuck in a place where traditional shoes lift my heel too high but total minimalist shoes beat up my feet too bad. There had to be something in between.

That something was the Altra Provision. Altra is an odd duck of a shoe company. Their story is pretty cool (click through to their site to read their history) but the bottom line is that they wanted to build a shoe with no rise but with padding. They run a number of configurations, including a trail shoe, but I chose the Provision.

Now interestingly Altra considers the Provision a “motion control” shoe (and we all know how much I love those with my hosed right ankle) but as it turned out, this nomenclature referred to a wedge inside the shoe that was supposed to slightly tilt the foot inboard, helping to correct for pronation. Luckily that wedge was just a piece of rubber that I quickly tossed, along with the footbed. Even though I like padding, I also like the cradling effect of a shoe without the inner liner. I know, I’m weird.

The shoe is sturdy and solidly built, weighing in at 9.1oz without the wedge (9.9 with). It is zero drop with a 15mm stack height in no footbed configuration. The shoe is uniquely shaped (they call it “foot shaped”), allowing your toes to spread out. All Altras run a bit tight so I got mine a half size bigger.

Running in the Provision is extremely odd at first. Unlike a “normal” minimalist shoe, there’s actually a lot underfoot. Also, while my Merrells hug my foot like a sock, the Altras act much more like a normal shoe, with a bit of movement and space and, at least for me, some heel wiggle.

Cushioning is excellent for forefoot/midfoot striking and there is plenty of protection against rocks and other road debris. I would venture to say you could even take the Provision on some trails if traction wasn’t a huge concern (they make a trail shoe for that though). There is a lot of stability underfoot as well, but the shoe does a fairly good job of not being too obtrusive.

I did run into a few issues. The biggest one, and the one that has absolutely killed the shoe for me for any distance running, is the heel counter. The counter is stiff. It vertically locks the heel tight in the pocket. However, the inward curve bites the shape of my left Achilles  and there’s just enough side play for serious blisters to form. The other issue I had was weight. This isn’t a terribly heavy shoe, but it certainly isn’t a light shoe. The problem here is that I’m used to running in shoes that weigh 6oz (or less) and this shoe is 9oz. I definitely feel that underfoot after a few miles. Finally, I guess I’m just shallow, but the look of the shoe doesn’t do it for me. However, I will say that I’ve seen some of the new shoes they are putting out and they look better and better with every generation.

If you’re looking for a zero drop shoe with cushioning, give Altra a look. They actually have a fairly wide range of models, and as a very new company they are constantly improving their products. As it happens I was looking for less shoe and a more comfortable heel counter, but I continue to wear the shoes walking all the time. They are also my “recovery” shoes after an especially grueling run, as their cushioning is quite plush after putting miles in on a set of minimalist shoes.

Cost: $104.99
Score: 8/10 RAWRS (Pretty nice, just not for my feet, you should try them)

High: Lots of cushion, zero drop, lots of toe room due to “foot shape”
Low: Expensive, visually clunky, heel counter way too stiff

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