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Altra Superior 4.0 - Women's Review

This Best Buy winner offers lightweight cushioning with a zero-drop platform and wide toe box.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $110 List | $109.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Inexpensive, super lightweight, light cushioning, comfortable, zero-drop, wide toe box yet narrow profile
Cons:  Potential durability issues
Manufacturer:   Altra
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 10, 2019
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 14
  • Foot protection - 20% 6
  • Sensitivity - 20% 8
  • Traction - 15% 5
  • Stability - 15% 9
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 9
  • Weight - 15% 9

Our Verdict

A queen of lightweight comfort with a tiny bit of cushion, the Altra Superior feels so good to wear on the trail. Altra has constructed it with super soft materials that have a few notable and unique features. It provides a delicate balance between foot protection and sensitivity, integrating a rock plate into its thin 21mm midsole that is full of Altra's Quantic cushioning. We wore it, almost fresh out the box while running a 50K race in the desert. By the end, our feet weren't sore, nor were there any weird hot spots or issues during the race. It did perfectly well while we jumped over rocks and ran through deep sand.

Its outsole is moderately technical, unlike the aggressive construction of the Altra King MT 1.5. 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. It's also our Best Buy award winner because of its high value. Sadly, this shoe does have a reputation for blow-outs, but we have high hopes for this newly updated version.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $109.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$150 List$87.38 at Amazon
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$94.96 at Backcountry
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$89.99 at Backcountry
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Pros Inexpensive, super lightweight, light cushioning, comfortable, zero-drop, wide toe box yet narrow profileSuperb traction, amazing durability, wide-toe box, zero-drop design, great sensitivity, highly protective outsole and upperAggressive and versatile outsole, breathable upper, protective, light cushioning, zero-drop, wide forefootVersatile fit, large toe box, breathable, responsive cushioning, lightweight, quick to dry, less absorbent, great stabilityExcellent traction, great balance of foot protection and sensitivity, specific fit, durable outsole
Cons Potential durability issuesLaces come undone easily, lacks a women’s specific fit, upper takes time to break-inDurability issues, expensiveNo rock plate, some durability issues, mesh is not particulate-proofHigher heel is less stable, lugs wear down on pavement
Bottom Line This Best Buy winner offers lightweight cushioning with a zero-drop platform and wide toe box.This Editors' Choice winner is basically scores high in every metric, offering the best balance of features we've seen!A lightweight zero drop shoe with ample toe splay that'll take you anywhere you wish.A low profile and lightweight shoe that makes you feel like you have wings.An aggressive trail shoe that is built for the steepest and most technical trails out there.
Rating Categories Altra Superior 4.0 - Women's Inov-8 TerraUltra G260 Altra King MT 1.5 - Women's Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4 Speedcross 5
Foot Protection (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
8
Sensitivity (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
Traction (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
10
Stability (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
Comfort And Fit (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
Weight (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
4
Specs Altra Superior 4.0... Inov-8 TerraUltra... Altra King MT 1.5... Air Zoom Terra... Speedcross 5
Weight - ounces 7.9 oz 8.75 oz 9.60 oz 8.90 oz 10.7 oz
Ideal Terrrain All terrain All terrain All terrain All terrain Soft surfaces
Relative width (wide, regular, narrow) Wide Regular to Wide Wide Regular Regular and Wide
Heel-to-Toe Drop 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 4 mm 10 mm
Stack Height from toe to heel (mm) 21/21 9/9 19/19 20/24 10/20
Upper Engineered knit Kevlar Mesh Ripstop nylon/mesh Flymesh, TPU toe box Nylon mesh, sythetic overlays
Midsole Altra Quantic EXTERFLOW Altra EGO Phylon molded, Zoom Air units Injected EVA
Outsole MaxTrac/TrailClaw Graphene Grip Vibram MegaGrip Rubber waffle, sticky lugs Contragrip
Rock Plate? Yes Yes Yes None Yes
Sizes Available 6 - 11 4 - 15 6 - 11 5 - 12 5 - 12

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Altra Superior is a lightweight lightly cushioned shoe that offers the best performance on easy to moderately difficult trails. The outsole is simple without too many aggressive elements that allow for great cross-over applications across all hard surfaces. As one of the least expensive shoes that earns top marks in most of the metrics, its a favorite of ours, receiving our Best Buy award.

Performance Comparison


At home in the desert  the Altra Superior 4 is one of our favorite trail runners. It stands out for its zero-drop platform  lightweight design  and wide toe box. It offers great performance on most hard-packed surfaces for distances that go into the ultra-distance.
At home in the desert, the Altra Superior 4 is one of our favorite trail runners. It stands out for its zero-drop platform, lightweight design, and wide toe box. It offers great performance on most hard-packed surfaces for distances that go into the ultra-distance.

Foot Protection


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.


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.

A look at the protective toe cap that offers great water drainage and the porous upper that keeps out debris.
A look at the protective toe cap that offers great water drainage and the porous upper that keeps out debris.

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


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.

Here we enjoy the sights after a long 20-some mile run in the Superiors. They offered protection to keep us healthy and happy the whole time.
Here we enjoy the sights after a long 20-some mile run in the Superiors. They offered protection to keep us healthy and happy the whole time.

Traction


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 Altra 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.

Tackling sandy roads is a perfect application for this trail runner. The mesh is protective from the sediment while the tread is smooth enough to offer transitions  ensuring your foot doesn't completely sink in with each step.
Tackling sandy roads is a perfect application for this trail runner. The mesh is protective from the sediment while the tread is smooth enough to offer transitions, ensuring your foot doesn't completely sink in with each step.

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.

A look at the outsole.
A look at the outsole.

In general, on sloppy trails, the Superior isn't 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. While this shoe can hang on most trails, it's less aggressive outsole is built for moderate to easy hard-packed surfaces. It also works well in sand, given that the outsole is flat in design and will push evenly off this surface.


Stability


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 quickly move if needed, to help find stability as best you can.

The Superior (on the right) is much closer to the ground and far more stable than other trail shoe options. Here we compare it to the tall and less stable Salomon Speedcross 5.
The Superior (on the right) is much closer to the ground and far more stable than other trail shoe options. Here we compare it to the tall and less stable Salomon Speedcross 5.

This shoe 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. If you are heading out to unstable trails, this shoe is a perfect compadre to take along with you.

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 Altra Superior's 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 5 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.

A look at the gaiter adaptability system. The hook in the front and the velcro in the back.
A look at the gaiter adaptability system. The hook in the front and the velcro in the back.

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.

Fit

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.

We don't rate this metric based on fit; we provide an overview of our observations.

Weight


Weighing in at 7.9 oz 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.


The Superior is lightweight and quite comfortable to wear all day long on the trail. Great for racing and moving quickly over terrain.
The Superior is lightweight and quite comfortable to wear all day long on the trail. Great for racing and moving quickly over terrain.

Best Applications


The Altra Superior is for moderate to easy trails, intended for a smooth ride over singletrack. We've tested them through all sorts of mountainous environments with moderately technical terrain, and they've performed well. The outsole isn't super aggressive, so they do slide out on steeps, and sloppy trails make for slippery runs. Boasting awesome versatility, you can wear them year round when the trails in the winter are nicely packed down and aren't too icy. This shoe is best for a person looking for a neutral, zero drop shoe with no additional cushioning and versatile functionality. It' ideal for those also seeking a wide forefoot.

Smooth Slickrock in the desert is a fine place for the lightweight Altra Superiors  a low priced and high performing trail shoe.
Smooth Slickrock in the desert is a fine place for the lightweight Altra Superiors, a low priced and high performing trail shoe.

Value


At $110, it's hard to find a trail shoe with this kind of performance. It's one of our favorites and designed to take you where you please. Unfortunately, Altra, and this model, in particular, has a bad reputation for blowing out at the seams. We haven't seen this yet after putting about 80 miles on them, but with past models, we've observed this issue. We only hope this new model is more durable, but only time will tell. Aside from that, it boasts great performance for a low price.

Conclusion


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