Altra Superior 2 Running Shoe Review
Altra Superior 2 Reviewed Over at Least 25 Hours of Running
The Altra Superior 2 has been on the market in the UK since the start of the summer. It is a lightweight trail shoe from the natural running brand Altra and like all Altra shoes is Zero Drop. For thos new to the trademark Zero Drop, this means that the height of the mid-sole at the heel is the same as the height of the mid-sole at the forefoot, essentially it is flat (most running shoes have a raised heel of about 12mm which encourages heel striking).
How Altra differ from most other natural running brands is that their shoes are cushioned. Although the the Altra Superior 2 is a lightweight trail shoe it is no exception. The advantage of having some cushioning in the mid-sole means that the transition from the more traditional 12mm heel can be done successfully over a few months. Trail shoes are easier to get used to than road shoes due to the type of terrain you are running on.
At Northern Runner we see a lot of ‘trail shoes’ from different running brands that simply aren’t grippy enough for UK trail conditions. Essentially they are road shoes in a darker colour with not much tread on the bottom. The free access that we have to the countryside in the UK means that we need shoes with some aggressive tread to keep us up right when running on muddy terrain. To make it easier to find the right type of trail running shoe you are looking for we split our trail running shoes into three categories.
“At Northern Runner we see a lot of ‘trail shoes’…we split our trail running shoes into three categories. [In our opinion] The Altra Superior 2 fits into the second category.”
Road to Trail
e.g. Brooks Cascadia (click for link)
These are shoes that you can wear from the door to do a few miles on tarmac before heading onto the trails. They have some road shoe cushioning but, not too much so they are still stable on more broken ground. They have a grippy outsole but, aren’t too heavily lugged that they don’t feel comfortable on the road. A lot of our customers train off-road and do the odd road 5km or 10km. This type of shoe would cope with that for most customers.
Out and Out Trail
This type of shoe has some cushioning for a bit of protection on bridleways. The outsole is more heavily lugged than road to trail shoes and the outsole is made of a softer rubber to grip better on wet rocks or stones. This makes is less durable so if it was used a lot on harder trails or tarmac it would wear quicker than a road shoe. The shoe will also be more flexible so that the mud drops out of the studs as you run a long. There is usually a rock plate or stone guard which is a thin piece of nylon in the mid-sole that prevents the rocks from bruising your feet. This is particularly useful when the shoe is older and the midsole is a bit more compressed. This shoe is best if you can get straight onto off road running. It will cope with some fell running in the summer.
Cross Country/Fell Running Shoes
e.g. Inov-8 Terraclaw or X-Talon (click for link)
These are the off road racing shoes. The studs are very long and grippy. They are made from very soft rubbers to give the best grip in wet conditions. They are very light and flexible and essentially a racing shoe. For most people this would be a second pair of trail shoes. Unless you are lucky enough to get straight onto soft ground. These are also the type of shoes best used for Obstacle course racing.
The Altra Superior 2 fits into the second category. That said I have mainly used the Superior 2 from the door, which involves some tarmac. They are nice to run in on the road as they have a nice level of cushioning but, the outsole is quite soft so too much of the hard stuff would wear down the studs. They aren’t so versatile that you could use them in a road 10km without damaging the outsole.
My Running Terrain During the Review Time
Once I have run the mile or so of tarmac I am straight onto farmers fields which are often muddy, paths a long the river and grassy parkland with some hard bridleways in between to join it all up. I have loved running in the Altra Superior 2. They are light, flexible and responsive. The grip is good enough for all but, the most extreme mud. They also feel smooth on the rocky bridleways too.
As the cushioning is quite soft the Altra Superior 2 doesn’t feel like it is a zero drop running shoe. As most shoes of this type have a low heel to forefoot anyway then it is a shoe worth considering for most runners looking for this type of shoe. The reason that running shoes of this type have a low heel to forefoot is that on broken or muddy terrain most runners run with a shorter stride so they are more responsive to the terrain and less likely to fall over. A shoe with a high heel to forefoot difference makes the shoe stiffer and encourages the runner to put their heel down first. Which means they have more chance of slipping or falling over.
For those familiar with the Altra range of zero drop running shoes the Superior 2 uses the same midsole as the Altra One 2. Which is Altra’s road racing shoe. The Superior 2 has a more abrasion resistant upper and a grippy outsole but, the fit and feel is very similar.
The Altra Superior 2 also has a removable rock plate. This is in effect an additional thin nylon insole. This does take up some of the volume in the shoe and makes the shoes a little stiffer (although after a few runs the rock plate becomes more flexible). Altra shoes are foot shaped which makes them less pointy and more rounded at the end. This is to encourage your feet to start working as nature intended and spread out upon impact. The Altra Superior 2 is not quite as roomy in the forefoot as the more cushioned Altra Lone Peak 2 and with the rock plate in it would be a snug fit for runners with broad feet that are accustomed to Alta’s usual roomy toe box. However, runners who are new to Altra would still find the Superior 2 to be roomy in the forefoot.
For a lot of running in the UK where you are on softer trails or muddy paths the rock plate wouldn’t be needed. It does give a good bit of extra protection on more stony trails especially as the mid-sole gets more compressed when you have run a few hundred miles in them.
I have run in the shoes for about 25 hours in total over the summer and found that they get more comfortable the more I use them. If you are on the lookout for this type of shoe they are definitely worth considering.
As the Altra Superior 2 is a zero drop shoe if you are used to wearing a running shoe with a high heel to forefoot then it is advisable to get used to these shoes slowly. This is done by walking and short runs to start with. Alternating with your current shoes. For more information on making the transition get in touch on 0191 2614 322, we’re happy to help.