Altra Superior 4.5 - Women's Review
Cons: Less protection underfoot, outsole doesn't do well on slippery surfaces, stability could be better
Our Analysis and Test Results
What's New With the Altra Superior 4.5?
We researched and physically inspected the differences between the newest version of the Altra Superior and the previous model, the Superior 4.0, and this is what we've found:
- Two additional lacing eyelets on the tongue
- More open mesh on the forefoot to enhance breathability and drainage
- Sizing feels snugger around the midfoot for a more precise fit.
The Altra Superior 4.5 is a lightly cushioned lightweight trail runner with a wide toe box, built for moderate trails and cross-over terrain. While it's not for everyone, and the traction could be better, it's still a very comfortable trail runner, designed for buffed-out trails and long distances.
The Superior 4.5 offers just enough protection for moderate trails and surfaces that are a little less technical. This shoe stacks a light amount of cushion across its footbed, with 21mm of support. The Quantic, InnerFlex midsole is softer than most but boasts a rock plate to make up for its lack of protection. Running with this shoe over moderate and technical terrain, we could feel the impact of sharper objects underfoot, but the rock plate does good work to distribute the force across the forefoot.
The mesh is an improvement on the previous version with similar protection, but better breathability and water drainage in our tests. It still boasts four holes at the forefoot which drain water well, when crossing through rivers. Testing across sandy surfaces, the mesh protects and doesn't allow these fine particulates inside. As a softer shoe in nature, the toe cap isn't as reinforced or rigid. As a result, it earns a little lower score in this metric, doing best on less technical surfaces, and taking a little extra time to get used to.
Testing traction across sloppy surfaces and zoomy single track gave us some insight into this shoe's performance. Overall, the outsole is made with MaxTrac rubber, with a trail claw design. The lugs are about 3-4mm in-depth, with alternating directions, meaning it grabs sloppier surfaces while going up and down. The rubber is sticky so it adheres well to rocky surfaces. While we like this outsole, it is limited in muddy weather and doesn't grab as well as other outsoles with a harder rubber composite. Overall, we deem that it can be used on most surfaces, but you'll find yourself slipping around if you encounter mud or kitty litter over rock.
We love the sensitivity of this shoe. With only 21mm of softer cushioning and an ultra-thin rock plate, you can absolutely feel the surfaces underfoot. Undulations, roots, and rocks translate well through the midsole. The only downside is less protection as a result of this enhanced sensitivity.
The stability of the Superior 4.5 is great, but not perfect. The low to the ground feel in addition to the wide toe box offers excellent balance. The shoe is flexible and allows you to easily adjust your positioning on the go. The only downside is the outsole sits right underneath the upper, with a steep sidewall. If you do turn an ankle accidentally, the turning point is sharp and quick because of its steep sidewall, which we experienced a couple of times during a run. While this shoe is sensitive and stable in its design, we wish the outsole was a tiny bit wider than the upper, to add a few extra stability elements.
Comfort and Fit
The best part of this contender is the wide forefoot and fitted design. The newest iteration seems to lock the heel into place while wrapping the midfoot. On the downhill, we didn't notice any slippage or 'toe bang' at the top of the shoe. The zero-drop design means there is no additional padding in the heel in comparison to the forefoot, so it favors a forefoot strike. For those that aren't used to a zero-drop design and have run with a shoe that sports additional padding in the heel, there is added strain on the calves and Achilles that does require time to get used to. If this is the design you seek, this lighter shoe is a nice choice. It doesn't have any additional arch support and is considered a neutral fit.
The midsole cushioning is a little soft, and as such feels quite comfortable for everyday wear. The upper is also flexible with the toe box staying wide and open, almost to the ends of the toes. This means there's no weird pinching and lots of wiggle room for your toes to move freely. On the trail, this helps with balance, which means greater comfort and room for your feet to swell on longer runs. In terms of energetic response though, the foam isn't as responsive which doesn't provide as strong a return on the trail. While it's comfortable and well fitted with a wide toe box, it's not as responsive as other shoes with a more rigid midsole.
This shoe is lightweight and low profile. Race-ready, if you will, weighing only 7.9 oz for a size 9. If you seek a wide toe box with a lightweight design, look no further.
This wider shoe is offered at a lower price than most trail runners in this review. While we love its wide toe box and squishy, comfortable midsole, the Superior 4.5 has a history of breaking down over time. The price is lower, but we have only managed to get between 300-400 miles out of past models before retiring it. After 60 miles of trails on this one, we noticed a bit of wear around the upper and some of the lugs already wearing down, which looks to us like the same pattern. True for many Altra shoes, while the price might be low, expect to replace this model more often than other durable contenders. That said, the performance, when it's good, is really good which is why many Altra lovers keep buying new pairs every year.
The Altra Superior 4.5 is renowned for its lightly cushioned design with a sticky outsole that does well across moderately technical terrain. Its ultra roomy toe box is spacious for toe wiggle and splay, with a softer midsole that feels comfortable for all-day wear. We would easily recommend it for most moderate adventures, whether you're on a training run or running an ultramarathon. Just be sure you're okay with less protection and a zero-drop design, which is best for forefoot strikers.
— Amber King
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