Altra Superior 4.5 Review | Responsive Zero Drop Trail Running Shoes

The Altra Superior 4.5 is Altra’s most minimally cushioned trail running shoe. It is designed for shorter outings than the Lone Peak 4.5 or Timp 2 and has a faster, more responsive feel. The stack height is 21mm, which is nearly the same as the Altra Escalante Racer… so a kind of Escalante Racer with grip! The Altra Superior range has been on the market for some years now and we have many customers who find them to be the perfect combination of feel for the ground, cushioning and protection.

The Superior 4.5 has changed a bit from the version 4.

The first noticeable difference is that the fit is snugger. Your foot feels more locked in place in the Superior 4.5 than it did in the 4. They are still broad, but I found that my foot is held in place better. When running on a camber I didn’t slide around inside the shoe. The latest, more cushioned Altra Timp 2 has lost a lot of volume in the toe box, so has become less appealing to those needing plenty of extra space. The change to the Superior is less pronounced though. If the Superior 4 fit just fine, you are likely to be happy in the latest version.

The upper material has also changed. The new mesh is designed to be more resistant to abrasion from the trail and dry faster. There is no plastic in the heel cup, so the heel of the shoes takes the shape of your heel. As in the previous model, the tongue wraps around and reduces the chance of getting debris in the shoes and helps give a nice comfortable fit.

The midsole is made from Altra’s Quantic material as per the Superior 4. The difference is that the Superior 4.5 has a firmer and more responsive ride. The Superior 4 was softer and more flexible in my opinion. I could almost interchange between the cushioned Lone Peak and Superior 4. The Superior 4.5 is now a much faster shoe. This is because you don’t sink into the midsole as much so your feet spring you into your next stride quicker. This feel is more in line with the old Superior 3 and 3.5. The Quantic midsole does make the latest versikon more flexible and has a slightly more cushioned feel than those much older models.

The outsole is the same as on previous Superior trail shoes. The pattern offers good grip on the trails and the Maxtrac rubber is sticky and durable. The lugs aren’t long enough for pure cross country running. If you are heading over the muddiest farmer’s fields then you may slide a bit in these during that section of your run! However, on all other trail surfaces the outsole works very well. The Superior will function fine as a more responsive road to trail shoe. The outsole does slide a bit on smooth wet tarmac, but this is similar to a lot of trail shoes because the grips you need for trail terrain on the outsole reduce the surface area in contact with the floor and have nowhere to dig in. It really was only noticeable on the smoothest of tarmac. Rutted, stone covered back roads are no problem at all.

The Superior 4.5, like previous Superior’s has a removable rock plate or stone guard. This is a thin insole that you can put into the shoes under the insole. It stops you feeling pointy rocks through the shoes but does stiffen up the shoes a bit, which takes away a bit of the natural feel to the shoes. The firmer more responsive midsole in the Superior 4.5 in my opinion doesn’t need a rock plate in most UK conditions. This might change when the midsole gets more compressed and you are trying to get the last few miles out of your worn shoes! I found that the Superior 4, which was much softer, needed the rock plate putting in about half way through its lifespan.

Like all Altra shoes, they are designed to allow your feet, ankles and lower legs to function more naturally. They are Zero Drop and have a broader, rounded toe box. This encourages you to land more on your midfoot and utilise your body’s natural cushioning from your feet, ankles and lower legs. If you are used to shoes with a pointier toe box and an elevated heel then it would be advisable to gradually increase the time you spend in Zero Drop running shoes. This way your feet and legs will get used to the extra movement and strengthen up gradually.

I think that the Superior 4.5 is the best Superior yet.

The Superior has been a shoe I have enjoyed running in for many years and I think that the latest model has kept the improvements that the Superior 4 brough, whilst keeping the more responsive ride of older versions. It’s the perfect combination for me.

Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle

Other Considerations

Topo Runventure 3: These are the most similar shoe to the Superior 4.5. They have a firm responsive midsole, are zero drop and have a broad rounded toe box. They differ in that the outsole is a bit more grippy in the mid. The toe box has more volume and the rock plate is built into the midsole. This makes the shoes a bit stiffer and so they don’t have quite the same natural ride. Here is our review:
northernrunner.com/blog/topo-athletic-runventure-3-review
Here are the shoes:
northernrunner.com/search/runventure-3

VJ Maxx: These are 4mm heel to forefoot. A narrow fitting and quite a stiff shoe. The outsole is made from butyl rubber which is durable and very sticky.
northernrunner.com/search/vj-maxx

Scott Kinabalu RC 2: A lightweight responsive shoe. Good grip and fast feel. Here is our review:
northernrunner.com/blog/scott-kinabalu-rc-2-0-review
The shoes are here:
northernrunner.com/search/kinabalu-rc-2

Inov-8’s Terraultra’s offer a bit more cushioning than the other shoes in this list. However, they are zero drop with a broad rounded toe box. The G260 and G270 both have a sticky rubber outsole. The outsole pattern is versatile enough to be used on hard packed trail while still supplying some traction on softer ground. Here are our reviews:
northernrunner.com/blog/?s=terraultra
NorthernRunner.com/TerraUltra

NVii Terra TT: NVii (pronounced NVee) is a Finish Oritenteering brand. The Terra TT is their most versatile shoe. The drop is 6mm and the cushioning is soft in the heel and firmer in the forefoot to give a good push off. The shoes are very light and flexible. The outsole is made of short studs made from butyl rubber. This is a very sticky and durable rubber. The outsole pattern rides well on firm ground and the studs grip well on muddy farmers’ fields. We are currently reviewing these so check our blog for a review.
northernrunner.com/search/nvii-terra-tt

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