Altra tries a new way to support runners’ feet with its latest update to the popular Provision running shoe. We tested the Provision’s ‘dynamic arch support’ system through a dozen runs on the way to this early review.
The Altra Provision 4 is one of the most unique shoes we’ve run in this spring. An update to Altra’s popular, supportive running shoe, it has has a massive, asymmetric tongue and a dimpled insole. An internal “harness” for arch support adds to the intrigue, making the Provision 4 among the most innovative new running shoes of 2020.
But while the design is super forward-thinking, the shoe aims for the masses of recreational runners. The Provision model provides foot guidance and cushioning for road runners. It’s a popular model with runners who like the Altra brand and need help with pronation problems.
The biggest innovation in the Provision 4 ($130) is its new approach to arch support. And it does this while maintaining other aspects of the shoe that runners like.
In short: The Provision 4 uses a unique lacing system that connects the lace eyelets directly to a free-floating piece of fabric that wraps under the arch. You can see these white eyelets in the photo above. This “dynamic arch support,” called InnovArch, engages only when the foot needs support.
Beyond that, the Provision 4 is a welterweight running shoe for the road that average and new runners will likely enjoy. Runners looking for speed and more ground-feel may want to look elsewhere.
Altra Provision 4: First Run Impressions
I’ve been running in the Provision 4 for about a month now, mostly on road runs in the 3-mile range. Although my very first impression of the shoe was that it was somewhat clunky, it quickly grew on me for training runs at a modest pace.
The Provision 4 is a very comfortable shoe. Slip it on, and you immediately feel the heavily textured insole. It reminded me of the texture of a golf ball, dimpled under my feet. The point of this dimpled sole is to activate sensory feedback in your feet from the first moment you slip them on. And I’d have to agree that it works.
Once you head out the door and start to run, the shoes provide good proprioception. From the dimples to the dynamic arch support, the shoe seems to constantly remind your feet to wake up. I found myself paying good attention to my foot strike.
The dynamic arch support is interesting, but I had a hard time judging how much it works. I’m guessing this is mostly because I have a pretty high, sturdy arch and therefore wasn’t activating it much. My wife, who has a lower arch and the same foot size, took them for a run and said she liked them also. But she also didn’t really notice the arch support.
I’ve often said that if you don’t notice your gear, it’s working. So this might be the best part of this type of arch support. If you don’t need much, it doesn’t get in the way. But if you need more, it will engage and provide it.
Who Should Buy the Altra Provision 4?
For context, I tend to enjoy fairly minimal running shoes for shorter runs. I move toward more cushioning on long runs over 10 miles and out to ultradistances. But I can definitely see the need for a shoe like this, especially for runners who need help with pronation issues.
I enjoyed putting down some miles in the Provision 4. However, at 8.2 ounces, a 27mm, zero-drop stack height, and quite a bit of guidance built into the shoe, it’s not as fast as some other shoes on the market, even from Altra.
So for me, I expect the Provision 4 will become a go-to trainer for longer runs on pavement. For faster-paced runs or shorter runs on pavement, I’ll look to speedier, more responsive options.
But for those looking for good support and a unique arch-support system, the Provision 4 should be high on the list. With several runs on it, I think it’s a good shoe that should hold up for a lot of long miles and keep feet happy along the way.