Altra Superior review

Altra Superior 5 Review – The Gateway to Barefoot Running

Altra is one of the biggest names in the trail shoe market, and the Altra Superior has been one of the cornerstones of the trail shoe lineup for a long while. If you’re looking for a zero drop, wide toe box, and somewhat lighter cushioned shoe, then the Altra Superior 5 could be for you. Read the rest of the review for the gritty details!

Specs

Weight: 8.8 oz / 251 g
Stack Height: 21mm
Upper: A mixture of stretchy tight-knit, and a soft, reinforced protective shell in the vulnerable areas.

Altra Superior 5

Although the Superior 5 is one of the most minimal offerings from Altra, they still have a decent stack height to cushion your landing. And whereas it can be debated whether this cushion is genuinely required, if you’re transitioning from a standard pair of shoes like Nike, New Balance, or even Hoka One One shoes, having that cushioning is probably a good thing. 

In the end, it’s simple. If you’re looking for more ground feel, or you want to shed some weight from your feet, then the Superior will be entirely up your street. 

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y no means is the following a prescription, and by no means am I a doctor. When making any changes in your life and using new products, ensure you discuss them with your doctor.

Fit

Over the years, Altra has shed some bulk from many of its shoes. Long gone is the skater shoe feel, and we now welcome the more precise and sturdy upper. 

With a burrito-style tongue (only open on one side of the tongue), you get the feel of a snug fit around the midfoot and ankle. And looking up towards the front of the shoe, you’ll find that roomy toe box require to allow your toes to splay how they naturally should. 

I found the depth in the toe area a little shallow at first. My toes were touching the top of the shoe, and I worried that I’d break through the lining pretty quick. But I’m happy to say after around 20-30km, the shoe packed out, and my worry is gone. It’s something to note when trying a fresh pair of Superiors. 

For anyone that’s used Altra’s in the past, they’ll know that thick-walled ankle opening which often didn’t lend itself to an excellent heel lock. Now, with less padding, and a narrower heel, locking in that heel is almost perfect. And even with a burrito-style tongue, I’ve still managed to implement a lace lock for a perfect fit.

Lastly, on the sizing, I usually wear size US9, and for the Superior 5, I fit the US9 perfectly. My wife also has a pair that fits true to size too.

Buy from Altra

When you buy direct from Altra, you get the 30-day guarantee of complete satisfaction, or you get a full refund, with a free return shipping label!

Altra Superior 5

Feel

After my first run, I had mixed feelings.

Coming from truly barefoot shoes, I was missing a lot of ground feel, and that’s something to expect.

The Superior has firmed up its game compared to the squishy Superior 2.0 I’ve used in the past. Even comparing the shoe to its road counterpart, the Escalante, it’s undoubtedly firmer. 

With its firmness comes pros and cons. It does mean that you’re less likely to have a painful experience with sharp rocks (there is a rock guard included if you require more protection). On the other hand, as I said before, you’ll forego some ground feel. 

With the firmness came a strange but welcome forward propulsion, nudging you on to your next step. Much like you would feel from barefoot running. It all makes sense because there’s no soft cushioning putting the brakes on, and restricting your momentum.

After my first 20km, I felt confident enough to head out for longer 20-30km runs without any worry of slipping, blisters, or sore points; to be honest, they felt pretty solid out of the box. And apart from allowing the shoes to pack out a little, I think I would say they’re perfect on the first try!

Durability

Durability is where I expect big things for this version.

In the past, I’ve had Altra’s where I’ve ripped out the side walls in 400km, and whereas some people believe that’s a reasonable distance for a shoe, I feel we need to push shoe companies further to build more sustainable and durable shoes. 

With the new design sporting protection from the heel to the midfoot and picking up again around the toe, your foot is fully protected from the trail elements. With this sturdy protection holding you in place, I don’t think they’ll be any worry of feet ripping out the side of shoes anymore. 

What about the underside? 

The Superior has never used the trusty Vibram rubber that other Altra’s have, and that’s a shame. Instead, the in-house MaxTrac rubber is used, and I’m expecting this to be the area that breaks down first.

With all that said, I’ve racked up 100km on my pair of Altra Superior 5’s, and I see no areas of breaking down yet. For Altra, that’s a big statement. 

Should I buy the Altra Superior 5?

If you’re looking for a lightweight, zero-drop, wide-toes box runner, then the Superior is a no-brainer. There’s no other shoe on the market that hits all those unique points, especially for this price. 

If you’re looking for that barefoot feel, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. 22mm drop is not barefoot and will affect your running style. That being said, if you’re looking to transition to barefoot or have a backup trail runner for when your feet are trashed/going long distance (like I do), the Superior is worth a look. 

If you’ve never run in zero-drop shoes, and you’re transitioning from traditional shoes, or even Hoka shoes, then a larger stack height could be a safer bet. I’d suggest looking at Altra’s like Lone Peak or even the Olympus if you’re coming from the likes of Hoka. 

Buy from Altra

When you buy direct from Altra, you get the 30-day guarantee of complete satisfaction, or you get a full refund, with a free return shipping label!

Altra Superior 5