Altra Superior 5 Review

The Altra Superior 5 is Altra’s lightest and least cushioned trail shoe. This doesn’t mean that it is hard or that it offers minimal protection for the foot. The stack height is 21mm which is a good level of cushioning. It is the same as the previous version and offers the same initial softness with ground floor feel. This is perfect for a shoe designed to allow your feet to function. As your foot can feel that it has touched the floor and gets the message to spread. This absorbs shock stretching out the planta fascia which then recoils springing you into your next step. I am never sure whether the springy feeling I get when I run in the Altra Superiors is due to the rebound of the Altra Quantic midsole or my feet being able to function within the shoe. Whatever the reason the Superiors have that ‘forget they are on your feet type of feeling’.

The upper is made of a very soft mesh and wraps around the foot. There is no plastic heel cup as the upper pulls snugly around your heel. There is no tongue. The upper just opens up on the medial side so you can pop your foot in. This is the same upper design as was used on the Superior 4 and Superior 4.5. The overlay that wraps around the midfoot starts from slightly further back than in the Superior 4.5. This means that there are no overlays near your toes. So, your toes are just covered by a very soft, stretchy mesh. This means that the toe box will accommodate your toes and is less likely to rub. It also means that your toes are free to spread and wiggle. Which encourages them to function more within the shoes.

The midsole is very flexible. This means that it flexes where your foot does not at a pre-determined place. So, whether you have long toes or short toes the Superior will flex at the right point. This gives it a very natural feel.

The Superior 5 is smaller fitting so we suggest trying half a size larger than you used in the Superior 4.5.

All Altra’s are zero drop and have a broad rounded toe box to allow your feet to drop naturally onto your midfoot and then have the space within the shoes to spread. What’s different with the Superiors is that you don’t sink into an overly soft midsole. Instead you immediately get some energy return and your foot is off the floor again.

If you aren’t used to low drop shoes or shoes that are flexible enough to allow your feet to work within the shoe then it’s a good idea to gradually increase the time you spend in the shoes. This is because shoes that are narrow, stiff or have a high heel reduce how much your feet, ankles and lower legs can function. So, you need to allow time for them to get used to the extra movement and gradually strengthen up without overloading them. The advantage of running in shoes like the Superior is that as your feet, ankles and lower legs can function the forces your body has to deal with in running can be spreadout between your feet, ankles, knees, hips and lower back. So, that no part of your body gets overloaded.

As mentioned in our Superior 5 v Superior 4.5 comparison the Superior 5 has a broader base than the previous versions. This has changed the feel of the shoe. The Superior 5 feels less nimble than the Superior 4.5. The Superior 4.5 feel fast and ready to race. The Superior 5 is still a light responsive shoe but, it feels a little smoother and more cushioned. If I am doing hill reps, intervals or a tempo run then I find I am reaching for my Superior 4.5’s. If I am doing a longer run then the Superior 5 gives me the same level of foot function but, just feels that bit more comfortable after a few hours of running.

The outsole is the same pattern and made of Altra’s Maxtrac rubber the same as previous versions of the Superior. Maxtrac is sticky and durable. However, the downside of this outsole pattern is that it is a bit slippy on wet tarmac or smooth rock. This is similar to a lot of trails and doesn’t stop me from using them as a road to trail type trail shoe. Although I am a bit careful on wet days when running on the road. The lugs aren’t long enough to get you through the mud in a cross country race. However, I do find that when I run in the Superiors I am lighter on my feet and this allows me to happily slip and slide across muddy farmers fields in the middle of my multi terrain type of runs. On hard packed tracks and trails of sticky single track the grip is adequate and allows you to lightly skip over the surface.

The Altra Superior 5 comes with a removeable rockplate as with previous versions. This is thinner than in previous versions and takes up very little volume in the shoe. It is designed to give you that little bit more protection from thorns or sharp stones. Reducing the chance of getting bruised feet. I find that when the shoes are new they have enough protection in the midsole. If the paths you are running on are particularly stony then you might find the rockplate a useful addition.

In summary the Superior 5 is as comfortable as the previous versions but, tweaked to make it better for longer runs than the previous version.

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

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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