The goal of the Altra shoe company is to manufacture shoes that allow feet to breathe, without constricting them in any way. When I was trying the Altra the Instinct line of shoes, one of the first things that I noticed was just how roomy and comfortable that they are. Although many shoes have a pointed toe, these are anatomically designed to move with your feet, because the shape is inspired by your own anatomy. It's foot shaped, which is unique in the world of aerodynamically designed running shoes. The Instinct is also a shoe with a zero-drop, so there is no change in the sole's thickness in between the heel and the middle of the foot. Although it is zero drop, it is well cushioned, however, so you will still feel supported.
Once you have worked out that the Altra the Instinct is shaped just like a foot and has no drop on it, you can move on to looking at the other features that it offers. With adequate cushioning, you can run on a variety of different terrains and feel safe and supported. This makes it easy on the calves as well, particularly in comparison to other barefoot or minimalist shoe products. It is a firm sort of padding, rather than the soft foam that you can sink into. With a firm rubber sole, the shoe is designed to be worn for training or long distance running purposes.
The upper part of the Altra the Instinct is a loose, breathable mesh that leaves your feet feeling refreshed. You can choose to wear socks with this shoe or simply rely on the sock liner inside of it, depending on how barefoot of an experience that you want.
These shoes seem to strike an ideal balance between the extremely minimalist shoes out there with relatively no padding, and those that are too heavily structured and pinch the toes. They are extremely roomy and comfortable, but at the same time they do have some structure and give you enough support and stability that you can use them for longer distances. One thing to think about is that as is the case with any minimalist design, you may have to take some time to get used to them if you are accustomed to a lot of padding in your shoes. Overall, this is a solid effort from the Altra brand and the Altra the Instinct is a shoe that stands out from the pack.