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Altra Superior 5 - Women's Review

A lightweight shoe with moderate cushioning, built to provide an intimate experience with the trail
Altra Superior 5 - Women's
Photo: Altra
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Price:  $120 List | $119.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Very lightweight, wide forefoot, intimate trail experience
Cons:  Durability issues, newest iteration has a less specific fit
Manufacturer:   Altra
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 9, 2021
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 17
  • Foot Protection - 25% 6
  • Traction - 20% 6
  • Sensitivity - 15% 8
  • Stability - 15% 9
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 5
  • Weight - 10% 10

Our Verdict

The Altra Superior 5 is airy and light, with the protection to take you over most types of trails. Built with a wide forefoot and a zero-drop design, it offers 21mm of 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 those looking for a light trail runner with a wider forefoot and light cushioning.

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Price $119.95 at Backcountry
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Star Rating
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Pros Very lightweight, wide forefoot, intimate trail experienceLight, very protective, excellent mud shed, superior traction, surprisingly stableExcellent traction, great balance of foot protection and sensitivity, specific fit, durable outsoleProtective, comfortable, wider toe box, excellent beefy traction for soft surfaces, huge valueSticky traction, protective, rainbow design is fun, great value, all surface capabilities
Cons Durability issues, newest iteration has a less specific fitNarrow fit, runs small, rigid construction takes time to break-inHigher heel is less stable, lugs wear down on pavementNot ideal for roads, huge sizingLess stable than most, harder midsole is less comfortable, narrower fit
Bottom Line A lightweight shoe with moderate cushioning, built to provide an intimate experience with the trailStable and deliciously sticky, this contender is just a crusher all the way around, built for training runs and long distances alikeAn aggressive trail shoe that is built for the steepest and most technical trails out thereA great all-around trail shoe with high value that's superb traction on soft surfacesThis rainbow contender has the ability to tackle all kinds of trail with excellent protection and sticky traction
Rating Categories Altra Superior 5 -... Dynafit Feline SL -... Salomon Speedcross 5 Salomon Supercross... Merrell Antora 2
Foot Protection (25%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Traction (20%)
6.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Sensitivity (15%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Stability (15%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Comfort And Fit (15%)
5.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
6.0
Weight (10%)
10.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
6.0
Specs Altra Superior 5 -... Dynafit Feline SL -... Salomon Speedcross 5 Salomon Supercross... Merrell Antora 2
Measured Weight (per shoe, size 9) 7.9 oz 9.8 oz 10.7 oz 10.5 oz 9.6 oz
Heel-to-Toe Drop 0 mm 8 mm 10 mm 10 mm 8.5 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 21 mm, 21 mm Not disclosed 35 mm, 25 mm 29.3 mm, 19.3 mm 28.5 mm, 20 mm
Upper Engineered knit textile Mesh, continuous nylon Nylon mesh, sythetic overlays Continuous ripstop nylon Mesh and TPU
Midsole Quantic foam Feline SL midsole Injected EVA EVA Foam EVA
Outsole MaxTrac rubber Sticky Pomoco Outer Contragrip Contragrip TD Vibram TC5+ rubber sole
Rock Plate? Yes (removable) Not disclosed Yes N/A Yes
Wide Version Available? No No No No Yes
Sizes Available 5 - 12 5 - 11 5 - 12 5 - 12 5 - 11

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

A look at the new Altra Superior 5 (right) with the previous Altra...
A look at the new Altra Superior 5 (right) with the previous Altra Superior 4.5 (left). This update has a very different fit, with a few changes that some love.
Photo: Amber King

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.

Performance Comparison


The Altra Superior 5 is a lightweight shoe that offers a sensitive...
The Altra Superior 5 is a lightweight shoe that offers a sensitive ride on the trail. While it takes some getting used to for long runs, it's a favorite for its stability and flexible construction. The new update has a wider fit that isn't as glove-like as it once was.
Photo: Amber King

Foot Protection


The Superior 5 offers a low level of foot protection. From toe to heel, it has 21mm of Quantic foam 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 noticeable sorer than if we had been wearing another pair of more protective shoes.

The uppers are burlier than they've ever been, doing a great job...
The uppers are burlier than they've ever been, doing a great job keeping out pesky particulates that you might kick up on the trail. The cushioning is minimal (just 21mm) so it doesn't offer the most cushioned ride underfoot.
Photo: Amber King

Traction


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.

A sticky rubber sole with just enough grip to stick well on steeps...
A sticky rubber sole with just enough grip to stick well on steeps, while drifting breezily over county roads.
Photo: Amber King

Sensitivity


With only 21mm of cushioning underfoot, this shoe is sensitive. 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 sharp terrain, it's one that we love for shorter distances where we want to go fast.

We love the sensitivity of these shoes. You can feel most rocks...
We love the sensitivity of these shoes. You can feel most rocks underfoot, which takes a little getting used to, especially if you crave long distances.
Photo: Amber King

Stability


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 really lock your foot down, which ultimately contributes to better stability. The sidewall of the shoe slopes outwards and isn't as steep as the previous iterations, making rolling events feel less probable.

The improved outsole collar has a nice, sloping sidewall for a flat...
The improved outsole collar has a nice, sloping sidewall for a flat, well-balanced base. We also love the wide forefoot that allows you to spread your toes for better balance and stability on the trail.
Photo: Amber King

Comfort and Fit


We appreciate the comfort and fit of this flexible shoe. It offers a low amount of cushioning in addition to a wider 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: 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.

A look at the wider construction which offers a little more toe...
A look at the wider construction which offers a little more toe splaying freedom than other shoes tested in this review.
Photo: Amber King

This shoe doesn't earn the highest points in this category simply because it's not stacked with cushioning. This 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.

Historically, the Altra Superior has been renowned for its glove-like fit, low profile design, and a minimal amount of cushioning. The fit in this update has changed significantly. The heel cup is wider, which (for our tester's foot) meant our foot slid to the front on the downhill, where this was never a problem before.

Weight


This race-ready shoe is very lightweight (just 7.9 ounces for a size 9), adding its overall appeal. For high-paced training runs and trying to set new personal records, this is our go-to top choice. The newest iteration slimmed down a few elements to save ounces.

This is a super lightweight trail shoe that feels light and easy on...
This is a super lightweight trail shoe that feels light and easy on the trail, with construction elements balanced so there are no bulky or clunky components. A great choice for those aiming to set a new personal record.
Photo: Amber King

Value


If you're seeking a lightweight shoe with moderate cushioning and a wide toe box, you will see the value in this contender. After running 60 miles, we saw very minor wear and tear. Historically, the Superior has only lasted 200-250 miles (based on the trail conditions), making it less durable than most shoes tested in this review. That said, we have high hopes for this newest iteration and hope they stand up for a longer period of time. Overall, we think this shoe is worth the price if you're looking for what it offers.

Conclusion


The Altra Superior 5 is ready to be slipped on and taken out on the trail. Any Superior lover will notice the big changes to fit in this iteration, with it being a little less glove-like than it has in the past. This is a great option for runners that appreciate a close-to-the-ground trail experience with a wide forefoot and lighter construction.

We test the Altra Superior 5's on the rocky trails around Fruita...
We test the Altra Superior 5's on the rocky trails around Fruita, Colorado. We love this shoe for its great fit, wide toe box, and excellent level of sensitivity.
Photo: Amber King

Amber King

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