There are very few innovators in the running shoe market and by that I mean companies that are truly changing the way we we think about running shoe design. Most improvements that come to market are more aesthetic in nature and only result in small performance increases. Altra, on the other hand, is one of those companies that has built its foundation on changing the way people run. Their goal is to help people run better; more efficiently, more effectively, and to also reduce their chance of injury. The Provision 2.0 is one of their newer models targeted for runners looking for additional stability. It features all the Altra trademark designs including an ultra wide toe box and Zero Drop™ technology, all the while providing a high level of cushion and a comfortable fit. Let’s put it through its paces.
Structure and Design
Altra has long been known for its Zero Drop design and shoes like the Provision and even the Paradigm are gateway shoes to get people comfortable with the concept. For those that missed it and to reiterate from prior reviews, Zero Drop refers to a 0mm offset between the toe and heel when your foot is in the shoe. Most running shoes have some level of change with the heel being higher than the toe with the additional cushioning focused around the heel. Zero Drop is about running closer to the way our feet were designed to run. Altra has a great article on this if you want to read a bit more.
The Provision is really well structured and when lacing up I could immediately feel the stability elements known as Stabilipods™. After some calf trouble and physical therapy last spring, I was shown by my therapist how I crash a little onto the front of my arches especially at distance, this can happen when your hips are weak. The Provision provides a solid level of support in that area so I never really felt any sort of attenuation or pain because of my arches. I also felt the structure held up well over the course of a varying array of run lengths.
The next thing most people notice is the toe box. First, you notice it because it’s huge and Altra really designs them this way intentionally, they actually call it FootShape™. It encourages the maximum amount of toe splay possible and all Altras have always been designed with the idea that your toes weren’t meant to be crammed together inside a narrow toe box. Your feet were meant to open up as you make contact with the ground and having your toes nice and open from the get-go prevents any sort of cramping and best replicates the way our feet were designed to run. I can say I definitely buy into this and most of the shoes I run in I like a wider toe box.
The shoe has a lot of cushion and while Altra calls it a “moderate cushion” shoe, at 25mm it definitely feels little more cushy. Not a bad thing at all, as I am starting to like a little more cushion underfoot. Also, it has a super durable outsole, the protection around the toe and sidewalls is there to help with stability, but actually give these a very long lifespan.
The other really noticeable element on the Provision is the tongue which has a significant amount of padding, probably more than any shoe I’ve ever worn. I don’t view it as a bad thing, but it’s so significant that it’s worth pointing out. The odd thing is I’m not sure why it warrants the amount of padding that it does and I couldn’t find a lot of documentation on why it has so much. That padding is usually there to present any sort of tension across the neck of the ankle when lacing up, but I feel like this takes it to a whole different level.
Styling and Aesthetics
When I received my test pair, which was the metallic silver, I immediately was struck by how different this color looks from other shoes I have worn and I actually quite like it. It frees itself from all the bright neons and colors that are out there, but instead of just going to black or grey it went metallic and it makes it quite visually striking, but also keeps it less in your face. I give them high points for this because aesthetics for shoes can be hard and I think this color combination is really compelling. I really like this.
Herein also lies my first gripe with the Provision 2.0, they look a little bulky. First, they definitely look like a distance shoe and that may sound odd I know, but they visually feel a little bigger than other Altra shoes, almost bulky. Probably not a fair assessment, but when I set them next to the Paradigms I actually feel like the Provision is a larger overall shoe.
Running and Feel
At this point, I have put well over 60 miles on the shoes running them at varying lengths and while they aren’t my favorite of the Altra lineup, I think its because I’m not the target for them. I simply don’t require as much stability as these offer. On the plus side, these things are super comfortable. The combination of the tongue, toe box, stability features, etc make for a really cushy run experience. All of this cushioning also keeps your feet really warm, so if you live in a cooler climate that won’t be an issue. On the stability side, they are also wickedly sturdy, almost to a fault. Your foot needs to do nothing really to stay on track so people who really require some stability will really really enjoy these.
On the negative side, all my complaints really start with the bulkiness of the shoe. It weighs in at a mid 10oz range in my size (12), but seems heavier. The shoe is super flexible which is great, but the shoes just don’t make me feel fast. I feel like running in them is a bit of work as they just don’t fade away as I tried to pick up speed. I also experienced a little heel movement and had to adjust my lacing style to get rid of it which I think also contributed to the bulkiness sensation.
Overall, the Altra Provision 2.0s are a great stability shoe for those that suffer from excessive pronation, fallen arches, etc or even want a solid walking shoe. You won’t be disappointed with the results. Visually, the Provision color options are pretty spot on and probably one of the best mixes we have seen from Altra yet. So its a great stability shoe with some pretty sweet color ways. However, if you are just a minor pronator, then I would look elsewhere in the Altra lineup at either the Torin or Instinct as I think you will benefit from learning to run in their Neutral shoe more.
The Altra Provision 2.0s are available for men and women at running retailers everywhere or direct from Altra for $120.