Gear review: Altra Superior

The Altra Superior right out of the box. Rock plate to the right.

The Altra Superior right out of the box. Rock plate to the right.

Welcome to my very first shoe review!

Back in January, and after A LOT of internet research, I bought a pair of Altra Superiors. I was looking for a zero-drop trail shoe with better tread than my Merrell Trail Gloves (that review will be next, I promise!). Based on reviews, I narrowed down my options to the Altra Superior and the INOV-8 Trailroc 245. I went down to my local specialty running store to try them on. Both shoes were more cushioned than the Merrell Trail Gloves, but still had significant “ground feel”/feedback, which was one thing I definitely wanted. However, the Altras were the clear winner based on:

– Fit. The Altras were wide and comfy whereas the INOV-8s were rather constricting.
– Feel. The Altras were soft and flexible versus the INOV-8’s tough upper.
– Aesthetics. The Trailroc 245 only comes in rather loud, unattractive unisex color combos, IMHO. The Altras are muted and kinda cute with their floppy gray roundness.

rugged

Some technical features of the shoe (from the manufacturer’s website):

  • Ideal Uses: Trail Running, Hiking, Fastpacking
  • Designed to Reduce: Running Slow on the Trail
  • Platform: Zero Drop™ Platform
  • Weight: 6.9oz
  • Midsole: Two-Layer EVA / A-Bound™
  • Outsole: Checker Trail Outsole
  • Insole: StoneGuard™
  • Upper: Quick Dry Trail Mesh
  • Lacing Structure: Asymmetric
  • Other Features: Removable StoneGuard Rock Protection, Foot-Shaped Design
According to two other sources, the shoe has a 14 mm stack height (10mm shoe + 2 mm insole + 2 mm removable rock plate).
After running 50-100 miles in them over the last 3 months on various terrain, I’ve found these shoes to be awesome. During my first outing, I noticed that they were roomy — too roomy, in fact. I have skinny feet, and with lightweight socks on, my feet kept sliding around inside the shoe. By the end of a 6 mile trail run, the balls of my feet were getting tender. Since that inaugural run, I’ve worn thicker socks and tightened the shoe laces, which has completely eliminated the problem. As for the fit, I bought them in size 7.5, which is my usual running shoe size. (Note: I haven’t run with the StoneGuard rock plate in place, though I guess it might come in handy for more technical and rocky trail runs.)
shoes

On the inaugural run in the Altra Superiors.

As for the tread, I’m not sure I’m 100% satisfied in that regard. I took them for a VERY muddy run a few weeks ago, and they were just so-so but did I mention that it was VERY muddy? I’m not sure any trail shoe could have helped me in that scenario. In any case, I’m happy to have the Altra Superiors for a more comfy trail ride. I’ve also worn them on non-trail runs when my feet feel fatigued and they’ve worked well on pavement too. Mike told me he tried the Altra Instinct and couldn’t stand the slapping sound that it made. I’m happy to report that I haven’t experienced anything similar with the Superior.

Muddy shoes! You should've seen the back of my legs...

Muddy shoes!

In summary…
PROS:
– Cushioned, but still good ground feel
– Zero drop
– Wide toe box
– Removable rock plate and insole
– Lightweight
– Tongue is thin, soft, and connected to the shoe so that it never slides around.
– Attractive
– Altra has a great “satisfaction guaranteed” return policy. You can return the shoes for any reason, no questions asked, within 30 days.

CONS:
– Too roomy? — potential for hot spots/rubbing
– Slightly pricey. Retails at $95, but that’s still within the normal range of running shoes these days.
– Tread could be more aggressive.

MISC:
– Not sure what the purpose of the hanging flaps on the back of the shoe. Most online reviewers have removed them with scissors.
– On the same note, I’m not sure what the purpose of the elastic bands are on either side of the shoe. They’re not adjustable… but I guess they look kinda cool?

RATING: 9/10

Disclaimer: The above review is my personal opinion. I have not been compensated (in merchandise or money) to endorse this products.

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About

Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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Posted in Gear
8 comments on “Gear review: Altra Superior
  1. Kimra says:

    Ooh, ooh, can I guess?? I think the hanging flaps are to be able to hook the shoes onto the outside of a bag, like with a carabiner. Maybe? I feel like the laces would work just as well for that, though. Anyway! Thanks for the review!

    • Jen says:

      I think they’re supposed to contribute to “asymmetric lacing” but I’m not sure. I revisited one of the reviews, which says that it’s supposed to secure the shoe. Nice guess though!

  2. Mike says:

    So many trail shoes, so little time! I’m always looking for my next pair, and I’ve been hankering to find a pair of Altras I like for some time now, so the Superior sounds like a good place to start.

    How’s the heel grip? That was my worry when I tried on the Torin, my heels felt like they’d slide around too much. And I think the hanging flaps are designed (theoretically) to reduce back-splash, i.e. the amount of mud you kick up on the back of your legs with each backstroke (I don’t think their road shoes have them). Then again, I could be making that up…

    • Jen says:

      Actually, I think the “rudders” are supposed to help steer you out of slippery situations? They certainly don’t work as mud flaps — I ended up with a lot of mud on the backs of my legs after my muddy escapade at Redwood a few weeks ago.

      As for the heel grip — I’d say it’s pretty good. I’ve only noticed the balls of my feet sliding around, never the heel. So, I’d say you should go for it and try these!

  3. Ryan says:

    Would you recommend these for a tough mudder or is the grip not substantial enough?

  4. […] a Oiselle junkie — I now own many other Oiselle items, and I love them all.  Runners-up: Altra Superior trail shoes and UltrAspire hydration […]

  5. J-Hubbs says:

    Good for soft trails, but if there are a lot of sharp rocks, forget it. Even with the guards in place, too soft. I use my Lone Peaks or other sturdier shoes for those. And I wear Vibrams regularly so it’s not like my feet are tender.The trail rudders on the back are supposed to be for better treaction downhill, is the general consensus. Used to be a big feature back in the day.

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