Altra Superior 5 vs. Altra Superior 4.5

Altra shoes are designed to allow the foot to function within the shoes and allow you to run with a more natural midfoot strike and upright posture. This is achieved by making the shoes Zero Drop, which means that the height of the midsole at the heel is the same as the height of the midsole in the forefoot. The shoe is ‘flat’.  The forefoot is broad and rounded to allow the foot to spread on impact when you land on your midfoot. This gives you cushioning, stability and natural ‘spring’ from your feet.

However, the shape, width and volume of Altra shoes does vary depending on the intended use of the shoes.

The Altra Superior is designed for shorter, quicker running on the trails, so the upper is designed to have a snugger fit than shoes like the Lone Peak that is designed for longer distances at a slower pace. The Superior’s are snugger through the midfoot to hold your foot tightly onto the midsole even on rough trails while running at speed. The toe box also has less volume so although they are still broad in the forefoot you don’t have the same feeling of freedom for your toes that you do in a Lone Peak.

Of course how wide any shoe is to you depends on the width of your feet. If you have a broad foot and usually buy 2E width running shoes or have a high volume foot then the snugger fitting Altra shoes like the Superior 4.5/5 might not have enough volume in the upper for you.

The Superior 4.5 was a popular shoe at Northern Runner. For those runners that like firmer more responsive feel to their shoes and a bit of feel for the ground. There isn’t that soft pillow-like cushioning that you sink into in the softer cushioned shoes. This makes the shoe feel faster and more responsive. The Superior 5 has the same midsole and outsole as the 4.5. So, it has an equally zippy feel.

The outsole is the same as on the previous Superior’s. It is made of Maxtrax, which is a sticky rubber designed to grip well on wet rock. The grip is good on trails but the lugs aren’t long enough for cross country use. They can also slide a bit on smooth wet tarmac. Rutted back roads are no problem!

Like all the previous Superior models the Superior 5 has a removable rockplate. This is a thin nylon insole that you can slip into the shoe under the insole to give a bit extra protection from sharp rocks. The rockplate insoles in the Superior 5 is much thinner and more flexible than in previous Superiors. The previous rockplate used to stiffen up the shoe a little bit but, the new version doesn’t seem to make much difference to the flexibility. I have found that when new the firm midsole does a good job of protecting your feet without the addition of the rockplate insole. However, when the midsole gets a bit compressed half way through it’s life the rockplate insole does offer a bit of welcome protection from sharp rocks.

The Superior 5 is small fitting. In order to get the same length as you would normally use in Altra we would suggest trying half a size larger (this is the same for the other new Altra shoe that has just been released the Altra Torin 5).

The advised fit is the same as all other running shoes. You should have a thumb width of space between the end of your longest toe and the end of the shoes. This is when you are standing up in the shoes with them laced. Width wise there should be no bulging at the sides and your toes should be free to wiggle. If you haven’t tried shoes with a broad rounded toe box before then they will often feel big. In order to encourage your feet to spread on impact you need to have the space. If you have worn narrow shoes with a pointed toe box for years then this might not happen initially. It might take a while for your feet to remember what they should do.

The base of the Superior 5 is slightly broader as the midsole splays out. This makes them look wider than the Superior 4.5. The width of the shoes internally is the same. The broader base is designed to make the Superior a bit more stable. The ride of the shoe is slightly different to the previous version. It feels slightly less nimble and slightly softer.

The toe box of the Superior 5 has less height. So, the Superior 4.5 felt more roomy initially and it felt like my toes where able to move more freely. The toe box of the Superior 5 doesn’t have the overlays that the Superior 4.5 has and there is a little bit of stretch in the mesh. Once running in the Superior 5 they felt plenty roomy and not at all restrictive in the toe box.
The Superior 5 has the same wrap around tongue that the Superior 4 and 4.5 have had. This is designed to prevent debri from getting into the shoes. It also gives the shoes a nice wrap around fit.

The Superior 4.5 has internal tapes that the laces go though. These are designed to pull the upper into the foot and give the shoe a real locked in feel. The Superior 5 only has these tapes on the medial side of the foot. This doesn’t pull the upper in quite a tightly and your foot feels freer inside the shoes. The level of padding on the upper is the same in both version and both shoes have the Velcro tab on the heel counter to attach the Altra gaiters. The Superior 4.5 has a D ring for the gaiter to hook through. The Superior 5 doesn’t have this relying on the bottom lace to hold the gaiters in place. The advantage of not having a D ring means that there is no stitching on the toe box and up onto the top of the foot which means there is less change of rubbing.

In summary, although the fit and feel of the upper is slightly different in the Superior 5 than the Superior 4.5 for most runners the Superior 5 will still be a winning shoe.

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: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/topo-athletic-runventure-3-review/
Shoes: https://www.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.
https://www.northernrunner.com/search/vj-maxx

Scott Kinabalu RC 2: A lightweight responsive shoe. Good grip and fast feel. Here is our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/scott-kinabalu-rc-2-0-review
The shoes are here: https://www.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:
https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/?s=terraultra
https://www.northernrunner.com/search/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.
https://www.northernrunner.com/search/nvii-terra-tt

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