Thursday, June 16, 2016

Altra Instinct 3.5: Full Review

About a month ago I received my second shipment of gear from Experticity which I was to test out for their #ExpertGear program. I was so excited about the experience that I recorded a short Unboxing video and posted about it here. Now that my thirty days are up I think it’s time to write my full review.

Straight out of the box
I received a pair of blue Altra Instict 3.5 running shoes in size 11. This is a neutral shoe with moderate cushioning, designed to be “light, fast and let the foot do what it naturally wants to.”  The shoe weighs about 8.1 ounces and comes in three other colors. Below is a list of the specs and details taken from the Altra website.

The Skinny: I need to admit, right off the bat that this review is based off of my specific use of the Altra Instict 3.5 shoe. As I stated in my short unboxing video, I am NOT a runner. I wore these shoes out walking, hiking, fishing and all around the office at work. Not your typical “runner’s review” but an honest review none the less. 

The FootShape toe box won it for me.
Hits: Where do I begin? I think I will begin with the one thing this shoe does that I haven’t seen anywhere else and which made the most impact for me personally; The FootShape toe box. Altra does a great job explaining on their website why they created the FootShape toe box. But for me the reason I loved it is simple; Freedom. My toes didn’t feel cramped or constricted. They felt free for the first time in a shoe. Free like they do when I walk barefoot in the grass in the Spring and on sand in the Summer. It’s something you need to truly experience for yourself to actually understand it. It just FEELS RIGHT. Next up on the “hit list” is the Zero Drop design. Zero Drop, as I would come to find out, is a description of the distance which your heel and forefoot have compared to each other in relation to the ground. Typical shoe designs have a higher heel as compared to the forefoot. Not Altra. Your foot lays flat and is parallel to the ground, as nature intended it to be. After walking a lifetime in traditional shoes this is another feature which is difficult to explain without trying on a pair and comparing them to your regular shoes. As with the FootShape toe box, Zero Drop just FEELS RIGHT. Another benefit I found in the Instinct 3.5, which is a direct result of the FootShape toe box, is that the rest of the shoe is wider as well. I have a wider than normal foot as well as a very thick foot (the instep is elevated so that I typically have a difficult time with the tongue and laces not bulging). My foot felt right at home in the Altra Instinct 3.5.

Misses: One of the only negatives about the Altra shoes I tested really has nothing to do with the Instinct 3.5 itself. I am traditionally a size 11 in men’s, which is the size I received from Altra and it fit perfectly. I loved the shoes so much I went out to find a pair more suitable for hiking, the Lone Peak 2.5. Upon trying those shoes on I learned the one negative. In the Lone Peak 2.5 I needed an 11.5 shoe. Not all of their shoes are sized similar. That’s a great feature for a shoe that is truly customized to each individual, but not so much for those of us who love to shop on the internet. Who wants to have to return a shoe that doesn’t fit? But then again, it would probably serve better to go into an actual retail store and try these shoes on every time. You start to learn the nuances that make each unique.

Ideal for: Anyone who cares about their feet. Also this is ideal for minimalists or runners who believe in natural running.

Bonus: If you love to run, Altra has some Youtube videos about how to properly run in your new Altras. Check them out below. Even if you aren’t interested in running, the same features I loved can be found in all their other types of shoes from trail running to stability to everyday use. 

Most people I know are exactly like me. They wear running shoes for things other than running. They WANT to get into running but often times find it a challenge. What I learned while wearing my Altra Instinct 3.5 shoes is that, despite not being a runner, they made me feel like I could run comfortably in them if I ever needed or wanted to. The same can’t be said for the rest of the shoes in my closet which I affectionately refer to as “my bricks”. So if you are a runner looking for a great running shoe, or you are like me and just want a comfortable shoe to wear in daily life, go check out the full line of Altra shoes to see which works best for you. Until then keep taking your kids outdoors...

Forward Momentum Posture

Proper Arm Swing

Low-Impact Landing

Monday, June 13, 2016

Stepping up

Me sporting my Engel gear and Salt Armour face shield.

This past Saturday I put my new found Boy Scout training to the test. A few weeks back I was blessed enough to attend a BSA Certified Angling Instructor course. As part of the course BSA encourages their instructors to teach fishing, fly-fishing and fish and wildlife management merit badges as a way for Scouts to earn their Complete Angler Award.

On Saturday I headed up to a local farm pond to teach my first leg of the award, fishing merit badge. I was accompanied by our former Scoutmaster, Colonel Billy Noland, who was teaching fly-fishing merit badge. While Colonel Noland taught those fine young men how to roll-cast and deliver a fly I set about occupying my time by fishing my way around the pond.
Me with the only catfish of the day.
It was mid-day and even using nightcrawlers I was finding it hard to get a bite. I was first able to land a rather large size bluegill which promptly got returned to the pond. I managed to hook into what I thought was a nice largemouth, only to have it break off my leader after wrapping itself around a downed tree. I kept at it and managed to hook a decent size flathead catfish, which upon further inspection was the fish I assumed was the largemouth that broke me off.  Needless to say the catfish went into the cooler as the farmer wants them removed from the pond.

We broke for lunch and shortly thereafter I set about instructing the young men on the finer points of the fishing merit badge. We talked tackle, rod and reels, knots and even demonstrated proper hook removal (from an orange). After a while of tutelage we embarked on fishing the pond again. This time we decided to use some artificial bait. The boys used some salamanders crayfish plastics while I used a suspending jerkbait. It turns out the suspending jerkbait was the lure of the day, quickly pulling in three nice bass that were between two and three pounds and about half a dozen more dinks. The boys had some luck on their plastics as well. We finished up the session by discussion Leave No Trace and conservation.

It was a great experience, being out there and teaching these young men how to fish. Especially given most of them had no exposure to fishing at all. But that is what Scouts is supposed to be about; exposing young men to vocations and hobbies which they would ordinarily not be exposed to, in a safe learning environment. I look forward to teaching my next merit badge, whether it be fishing, fly-fishing or fish and wildlife management. Until then keep taking your kids outdoors…