Product Review – Altra Provision 1.5

The new Altra Provision 1.5 is an extremely comfortable 0mm drop road shoe, but might not be the right choice for a strict minimal shoe runner.

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When I got back into running a few years ago, I was (like a lot of people) inspired by the Christopher McDougall book ‘Born To Run’. I had grown up in a small-ish town, a lot of forest area, and I spent a majority of the time barefoot. And I liked to run. I wanted to get back to that feeling. Reading ‘Born To Run’ inspired something in me that the years of track coaches and competition pressure had been beat down to remove the joy of running I felt as a kid.

Getting back to running wasn’t easy…I’m super lazy. But it was something that I wanted to do, and damn it I was going to get back to running. My goals weren’t that grandiose. No desire to run a marathon, no need to run a six minute mile. My goals were much simpler: be able to run a mile confidently and not feel like I was going to have a heart attack, and then run a 5k without crapping myself before the finish line.

I also wanted to get that feeling of running around barefoot again, in and with nature. I don’t know if you remember what that feeling is like, but there’s a connection you make to your body and movements when you can feel the actual surface you are running on. Every rock and crack you step on tells your body and feet how to proceed. There’s something in there that takes me back to a more child-like state of mind. I couldn’t tell you, scientifically, what’s going on, but it’s a drastically different feeling when I run in minimal shoes. Not to get all hippie or anything, but it feels more natural. Excuse me while I apply some more patchouli.

So, after a cautious progression of working may way up (or…down, I guess) to minimal running shoes, I was getting back to that feeling. I don’t have the greatest running form, and I’m  sure that I’m probably nowhere near as efficient as I should be, but I was running happy again and that’s what I wanted. For the record, I started out in Nike Free’s, moved to 4mm drop New Balance, then to 0mm drop New Balance for road shoes. I loved running up hills in the forests around my house in the town I grew up in, so I also got a pair of 0mm drop VivoBarefoot Breatho (which I swear were called Terra Plana when I bought them). It took a while to get there, but I felt that I was back to where I could run with a sense of joy.

Then I noticed that I was starting to get shin splints whenever I ran on the road. Not a single issue on the trails, but the road work was starting to get painful. It doesn’t help that I clomp around like a freaking Clydesdale, I’m sure.

Enter my friends at Fit Right, a local independent running store. Full disclosure here, I’m not being paid by any company to promote their store or product, but I did work on a video with FitRight promoting local running retailers. I was a customer long before that, but I do now have a business connection, albeit through a third-party. Take that for what you will. Anyway, I asked one of the guys at the store about solutions to my shin issue, and, aside from the always smart info of icing and exercising those muscles to make them stronger, I got some insight into my running form. I’m a toe-runner, most likely from my years as a sprinter, and that taxes my lower leg muscles (especially those damn shins) a little higher than average. And the minimal shoes I was running in weren’t doing much to help. *sigh.

But, there was an option: a 0mm drop shoe that actually had some forefoot padding and heel support. It also had a corrective pronation insert (something else I have to deal with). Yes!

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce and review my new favorite pair of shoes, the Altra Provision 1.5.

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I have been running in these for over a week, and my shins are feeling better and they are actually helping correct my running form. I couldn’t be more pleased with a pair of running shoes. I actually had a project the other night where I had to be a stand-in for an athlete (for a commercial where they are running around at night), and the Altra’s kept my legs feeling fresh the entire time.

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It’s lightweight (under 10oz.), which is good for me as I’m used to pretty light shoes, and it has what Altra calls ‘a sockless-friendly premium liner’. I don’t run without socks often, but I gave it a shot and I didn’t notice any kind of hotspot/blister development feelings. Admittedly I didn’t run that far without socks, but even without, the shoes were comfortable. I’m also a fan of the asymmetrical lacing systems, and Altra did a good job on these shoes.

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Are they for everyone? Probably not. If you are a hardcore minimal shoe fan, these are definitely built up and might feel like you had clown shoes on your feet. BUT, for someone that was used to a 0mm drop and was looking for some additional comfort, these Altra Provision are really nice. Like a luxury car for your feet. I will say, though, that I do miss the feeling of being able to identify every small item that falls under my foot as I run, but the removal of the shin pain is allowing me to run a little further and not regret it later.