The Altra Superior 5 is an airy and light trail shoe, with the protection to take you over most types of trails. Built with a wide forefoot and a zero-drop design, it offers 21mm cushioning for a protected yet intimate trail experience. It stands out for its race-ready weight, and we wore it for 60 miles while running technical singletrack, county roads, and steep mountain trails. In all conditions, it performed beautifully, except when the trails got super muddy. Overall, this is a choice option for a runner who is looking for a shoe that is lightweight trail-specific with a wider forefoot and light cushioning.Editor's Note: The Altra Superior 5 review was updated on March 6, 2022, with information on which products are comparable and what shoes we would buy.
Altra Superior 5 - Women's Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Very lightweight, wide forefoot, intimate trail experience
Cons: Durability issues, newest iteration has a less specific fit
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Altra Superior 5 - Women's
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|Pros||Very lightweight, wide forefoot, intimate trail experience||Light, very protective, excellent mud shed, superior traction, surprisingly stable||Well-cushioned midsole, excellent traction, good stability, excellent at everything including long distances, high value||Great traction, streamlined profile, encourages speed||Affordable, comfortable, good crossover shoe, great for beginning trail runners|
|Cons||Durability issues, newest iteration has a less specific fit||Narrow fit, runs small, rigid construction, takes time to break-in||Stack height takes some getting used to, less customizable lacebed||Less protective, runs narrow||Not rugged enough for technical trails, less sensitive|
|Bottom Line||A lightweight shoe with moderate cushioning, built to provide an intimate experience with the trail||Stable and deliciously sticky, this contender is just a crusher all the way around, built for training runs and long distances alike||With a comfortable and responsive midsole and enough room in the forefoot for toe wiggle, you'll be happy running mile after mile||When you are looking to ratchet up the speed on technical trails, this is the lightweight and snug-fitting shoe you'll reach for||If you are looking for an affordable shoe to run light trails and fire roads, look no further because this is the perfect shoe for you|
|Rating Categories||Altra Superior 5 -...||Dynafit Feline SL -...||Hoka Torrent 2 - Wo...||Saucony Peregrine 12||Brooks Divide 2 - W...|
|Foot Protection (25%)|
|Comfort and Fit (15%)|
|Specs||Altra Superior 5 -...||Dynafit Feline SL -...||Hoka Torrent 2 - Wo...||Saucony Peregrine 12||Brooks Divide 2 - W...|
|Measured Weight (per shoe)||7.9 oz (size 9)||9.45 oz (size 7)
9.8 oz (size 9)
|7.41 oz (size 7)
8.6 oz (size 9)
|7.76 oz (size 7)||8.0 oz (size 7)|
|Heel-to-Toe Drop||0 mm||8 mm||5 mm||4 mm||8 mm|
|Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot)||21 mm, 21 mm||Not disclosed||31 mm||26.5 mm, 22.5 mm||20 mm, 12 mm|
|Upper||Engineered knit textile||Mesh, continuous nylon||Engineered mesh||Recycled polyester Air-mesh||Synthetic mesh|
|Midsole||Quantic foam||Feline SL midsole||EVA||PWRRUN||EVA|
|Outsole||MaxTrac rubber||Sticky Pomoco Outer||Rubber||PWRTRAC rubber||Rubber|
|Rock Plate?||Yes (removable)||Not disclosed||None||Yes||Yes|
|Wide Version Available?||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Sizes Available||5 - 12||5 - 11||6 - 11||5 - 12||5 - 12|
Our Analysis and Test Results
What’s new with the Altra Superior 5?
We inspected and researched the differences between the newest version of the Altra Superior and the last version, the 4.5. Here's what we found:
- Updated lugs on the outsole
- Less porous mesh on the upper
- Drainage holes have been removed
- No gaiter loop attachment at the base of the shoelaces
- Stiffer upper materials around the laces and collar
- New wider base for better stability (same forefoot width)
- A clunkier and less specific fit than previous models, causing toe bump on steeps
The Altra Superior 5 offers a light level of cushioning with a low-profile design. The wide toe box allows you to stretch your toes and fly down the trail. We tested it on hard-packed roads and steeper terrain, where it feels right at home. If you're used to the previous iterations of this shoe, note the revamp in its fit is significant and doesn't have that glove-like fit anymore that many Superior lovers know and appreciate.
The Superior 5 offers a low level of foot protection. It has 21mm of Quantic foam from toe to heel for a responsive and cushioned ride. It comes with a removable rock plate that you can insert when trails get rocky and rough. In addition, the new upper is impervious to silt and fine particulates, making it a good option for dry, sandy trails. While the shoe does dry out quickly, it is far from water-resistant, and the lack of drainage in the newest iteration makes it a little less ideal for river crossings. During a 16-mile run on rocky, sandy terrain, our feet felt noticeably sorer than if we had been wearing another pair of more protective shoes.
The MaxTrac outsole is made with rubber composite that offers an even ride on smooth pavement with the stickiness to bite down on technical trails. The lugs aren't super aggressive but offer versatile use across a myriad of surfaces. On our hill tests, the Superior 5 slipped just a bit on kitty litter over rocks but did a great job clinging on to slickrock and alpine conditions. It doesn't shed mud well, but it'll work just fine for light rain or snow. Overall, while it doesn't have the best traction for softer surfaces, it's a versatile shoe that can easily take on smooth singletrack, roads, and steep mountain terrain.
With only 21mm of cushioning underfoot, this shoe is sensitive, and it may be the closest you'll get to the ground without wearing a barefoot shoe. It was noticeable that rocks underfoot could be felt with each step, but the welcome layer of cushioning offered just enough protection. Additionally, you can slip in an ultra-thin rock guard to ensure sensitivity isn't lost if you want more protection. While this isn't the shoe we would choose for ultra distances over super harsh terrain; we love it for shorter distances where we want to go fast.
Loaded with a wide forefoot and a low to the ground feel, the Superior 5 feels incredibly stable. This newest iteration offers a little more room between the laces to lock your foot down, ultimately contributing to better stability. The shoe's sidewall slopes outwards and isn't as steep as the previous iterations, making rolling events feel less probable.
Comfort and Fit
We appreciate the comfort and fit of this flexible shoe. It offers a low amount of cushioning in addition to a broader profile for toe spread. The lacing system allows you to optimize the lacing design for a fit that works best for you. The zero-drop from the heel to the toe pushes you onto your forefoot as well. Keep in mind that for heel strikers who aren't looking to change their stride, this shoe may not be the right fit simply because there is no additional cushioning in the heel compared to the forefoot.
This shoe doesn't earn the highest points in this category simply because it's not stacked with cushioning like the Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2. It is not a "cloud-like cushioned" ride and is best for runners that prefer a close to the ground experience, feeling the intimacy of the trail as you move. It's best for those seeking a low-profile experience with just enough cushioning to be worn all day or during their next 50K.
Another important note is the omission of the gaiter loop that many Superior lovers appreciate. This loop has existed through all iterations to make gaiter attachment easier. We aren't sure why this was omitted, as it's a nice touch for those running in super sandy or wet places. That said, the velcro at the back of the heel lives on to make attachment easy.
This race-ready shoe is very lightweight (just 7.9 ounces for a size 9), adding its overall appeal. It is our go-to top choice for high-paced training runs and trying to set new personal records. The latest iteration slimmed down a few elements to save ounces.
Should You Buy the Altra Superior 5?
The Altra Superior 5 is a women's shoe that is ready to be slipped on and taken out on the trail. Any Superior lover will notice the significant changes to fit in this iteration, with it being a little less glove-like than it has in the past. Historically, the Superior has only lasted 200-250 miles (depending on the trail conditions), making it less durable than most shoes tested in this review. However, we think this is an excellent option for runners who appreciate a close-to-the-ground trail experience with a wide forefoot and lighter construction.
What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?
If you're seeking a lightweight shoe with moderate cushioning and a wide toe box, you will see the value in this contender. That said, it is not the highest-scoring shoe in our review, and you may want to check out your other options before committing to this trail runner. The Altra Lone Peak 5 earned a much higher rank thanks to its additional protection and comfort points while maintaining the zero drop and roomy toe box that many users love. If the super lightweight and excellent stability are what drew you to this shoe, the Inov-8 Terraultra G270 is a good alternative to check out.
— Amber King
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