A queen of lightweight comfort with a tiny bit of cushion, the Altra Superior feels so good to wear on the trail. It offers a delicate balance of foot protection and sensitivity, integrating a rock plate into its thin 21mm midsole. We wore it, almost fresh out the box, running a 50K race in the desert with no problem. While it can hang on all types of trail, it's best for moderate to easy hardpacked surfaces with a few obstacles here and there. If you're seeking an inexpensive trail runner with a zero drop, wide forefoot, and lightweight cushioning, the Superior is unbeatable. Sadly, this shoe does have a reputation for blow-outs but does come at a low price.
Altra Superior 4.0 - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Inexpensive, super lightweight, light cushioning, comfortable, zero-drop, wide toe box yet narrow profile
Cons: Potential durability issues, less aggressive outsole not meant for muddy surfaces
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Altra Superior is an affordable pair of cushioned zero-drop trail runners. The outsole is simple without too many aggressive elements, which allows for great cross-over applications across all hard surfaces. It's a wonderful all-around shoe with a zero-drop design and wide toe box.
This lightweight minimalist shoe doesn't boast the best in protection, but it's enough to keep you running for marathon plus distances! The overlay is comfortable and protects from most particulates on the trail, while the insole contains 21 mm of responsive cushioning that has an embedded rock plate. The cushioning and rock plate work together to ward off general hazards like rocks or roots. The outsole is pretty thin but enhances protection. In general, this is a less protective shoe because of how thin it is, but the rock plate provides enough protection for all standard hazards that you might encounter on your average trail run.
The toe cap consists of a rubberized bumper that curls around the front of the foot, offering okay protection from unwarranted and standard stubs on the trail. While running a 50K run in the desert, we encountered many stray rocks, kicking them on the go, without any significant issues, which is primarily due to the integrated and protective toe cap. Overall, we are happy with foot protection. It's enough to keep you going on the trails for miles, but there are more protective options out there if that's what you seek.
Sensitivity is enhanced with its low profile design, allowing you to feel every inch of the trail. The thin 21mm (about three-quarters of an inch) cushioning offers enough protection that it doesn't take away from a sensitive ride. The rock plate also offers protection. While it allows you to sense hazards underfoot on the trail, you don't feel any pain when you fly right over them. If sensitivity is essential to you, it's a great option to consider.
The outsole is pretty awesome considering that it isn't particularly aggressive. It performs well for all-terrain, except for super slippery steep trails. Given that the outsole is less aggressive, the Superior is a wonderful cross-over shoe that excels on hard-packed surfaces and singletrack. The outsole is one of Altra's least aggressive, making this shoe best for moderate to easier terrain. The outsole is composed of their proprietary MaxTrac Rubber which is sticky while scrambling up steep rock faces.
The lug pattern is not very aggressive in design and features tiny square lugs in the center of the shoe, surrounded by areas of space that offers smooth movement on dry, harder surfaces. The front of the outsole has the namesake "toe pattern" made of these same smaller lugs. Around the entire outsole are closely spaced lugs that are a little wider and bi-directional to promote lateral stability.
In general, on sloppy trails, it's not the best choice. The shoe does a good job maintaining lateral stability and doesn't slip out much, but it does slip back while heading uphill. However, on the same trail angle, if it's dry, they maintain friction like a charm. It also does well on snow-packed trails. Its less aggressive outsole is built for moderate to easy hard-packed surfaces, even though you can take it much further. It also works well in sand, given that the outsole is flat in design and will push off evenly.
As an incredibly stable shoe, it offers some of the best balance and protection on the trail. If you're considering traveling over hard surfaces inlaid with rocks and other ankle-breaking hazards, this trail runner will help to keep you upright. Five things contribute to the excellent stability of this shoe. First, is the zero drop platform, which makes transitions neutral without pushing you forward. Second, the wide forefoot. Allowing your toes to splay out helps you find balance, especially when running over rocks that might throw you one way or another. Third, a specific fit. This shoe locks down the fit, encompassing the heel with a deep cup and hugging the arch. Fourth, the low height. The height to width ratio is small, allowing you to correct positioning on the trail faster. Five, the low weight; you can be nimble and quick, which contributes to overall stability.
It doesn't have integrated stability elements that are heavy or clunky. It is not stiff, and it does not have integrated stability shanks or the like. Its stability comes in the form of flexibility, allowing you to move as you encounter hazards that could ultimately throw you off.
Comfort & Fit
Comfortable and soft, the material of this shoe is flexible and thin, offering comfort in the way of lightweight performance. The fit is best for those seeking a wide foot and a zero heel-to-toe drop platform with minimal cushioning. While the HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 5 boasts comfort in the form of a super responsive and airy insole, the Superior's insole is a little harder but supportive nonetheless. Out of the box, they are ready to go with little to no break-in time. Gosh, we wore our first pair to a 50K race after just putting five miles on them!
The collar features are thin and soft, with a tongue that stays in place during the entire run. The upper is as equally as soft and offers excellent airflow, presenting applications for hot weather. While the Achilles support isn't as thick as the Altra King MT 1.5, it's still sufficient.
The lacing system is decent and offers a variety of eyelets to change up how you tie your laces. Our only caveat with this system is how close the eyelets are together. A friend with super narrow feet couldn't get this shoe to fully wrap around her foot, as the eyelets start pretty close together. By the time she had pulled the laces all the way together, it still wasn't narrow enough (to her liking). We'd love to see them move a little further apart to promote a fit that works for all.
Another cool feature we appreciate is the trail gaiter adaptability that allows you to add more protection to the shoe. Overall, we value the lightweight comfort offered by this trail shoe. It doesn't boast a whole lot of cushioning, so if that's what you're after, take a look elsewhere.
A quick note on fit. These feature a moderately deep heel cup and constrict at the arch. The toe box is nice and roomy, with no additional cushioning in the overlay so that you can spread out your toes. If you have narrow feet, we'd recommend you try these on before buying. If you've got wide feet, you'll probably love them.
Weighing in at 7.9 ounces for one size nine shoe, you'll be flying up the trails. The Superior is super lightweight, and comparatively one of the lightest we've tested. Use it for your next race or set a new PR in this seemingly weightless trail runner.
While its price seems good at first, it's important to note the reputation surrounding this trail runner. Typically, we've seen these shoes blow out right around 200 miles (145 pound women) after running hard in them in the mountains and deserts. With this in mind, we appreciate the lower upfront cost in comparison to other Altra shoes, but know that while the price is low, this may not be the best-valued shoe. It used to be the best buy award winner but lost it for this reason.
The Altra Superior is a lightweight trail shoe with light cushioning and a zero-drop profile. The wide toe box allows you to spread out your toes, offering better balance and stability than any shoe tested. It's a favorite for its responsive cushioning and low price.
— Amber King