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Altra Superior 4.0 Review

A very comfortable and lightweight zero drop shoe.
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Price:  $110 List | $109.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Very light, looks great, burrito wrap tongue is far more comfortable
Cons:  Minimal foot protection, foam breaks down quickly, very long laces
Manufacturer:   Altra
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 24, 2019
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 20
  • Foot protection - 30% 4
  • Traction - 20% 7
  • Stability - 15% 9
  • Comfort - 15% 8
  • Weight - 10% 9
  • Sensitivity - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The Altra Superior 4 is a zero-drop, minimally padded shoe that is very lightweight and stable on the trail. It is heavily redesigned from the last 3.5 version, dropping a couple ounces of weight, losing some of the stack height to be closer to the ground, and with a new upper that is more secure and snazzy looking. This shoe is now far closer to the original Superior and is one of the most minimalist shoes in this trail running review. For those who feel that less is more, this is a shoe worth recommending, but we also feel that the average runner will be left wishing there was a bit more support, and a bit more underfoot protection, for their running adventures. We enjoyed its bare-bones feel on mellower terrain and shorter runs, but prefer the Inov-8 TerraUltra G 260 when we are looking for a zero-drop shoe that actually provides the protection we need for the roughest terrain.


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Altra Superior 4.0
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award 
Price $109.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Very light, looks great, burrito wrap tongue is far more comfortableVery protective midsole and upper, sock-like fit, grippy traction, lighter than previous versionPrecise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debrisGreat traction on soft slippery surfaces, extremely comfortable, no increase in priceVery protective, stable, comfortable straight out of the box, good traction, wider fit
Cons Minimal foot protection, foam breaks down quickly, very long lacesExpensive, durability concernsNarrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightestMidsole foam compresses out over time, easily collects rocks and debrisA bit heavy, expensive, not very sensitive
Bottom Line A very comfortable and lightweight zero drop shoe.The shoe that best balances foot protection and sensitivity, all while providing an incredibly fine-tuned fit.A well-rounded shoe offering high performance for short or long distances.Our Best Bang for the Buck winner for great comfort and traction with a price lower than the other top scorers.A great choice for ultras or long distance training due to the excellent foot protection.
Rating Categories Altra Superior 4.0 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 La Sportiva Kaptiva Saucony Peregrine ISO Scarpa Spin Ultra
Foot Protection (30%)
10
0
4
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
9
Traction (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
Stability (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
Comfort (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
9
Weight (10%)
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
4
Sensitivity (10%)
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
4
Specs Altra Superior 4.0 Salomon S/Lab... La Sportiva Kaptiva Saucony Peregrine... Scarpa Spin Ultra
Weight (per pair, size 11) 18.8 oz. (20.8 oz. w/ removable Stone Guard inserts) 22.7 oz. 22.3 oz. 23.1 oz. 23.9 oz.
Heel-to-Toe Drop 0 mm 8 mm 6 mm 4 mm 6 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 21 mm, 21 mm 26 mm, 18 mm 17 mm, 11 mm 22.5 mm, 18.5mm Not disclosed
Upper Engineered knit Mesh Sock-Like knit IsoFit Mesh, TPU
Midsole Quantic foam, InnerFlex Compressed EVA Duel-density EV PWRFOAM, Everun Compressed medium-density EVA with low density EVA inserts
Outsole MaxTrac rubber, TrailClaw lugs Premium Wet Traction Contagrip FriXion XF 2.0 PWRTRAC Vibram MegaGrip
Lacing style Traditional Kevlar Quicklace Traditional Traditional Traditional W/ lace garage
Wide version available? No No No Yes No
Sizes Available 8 - 14 4 - 13 38 - 47.5 8 - 14 40 - 48 EU

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Altra Superior 4 is a very lightweight shoe with minimal underfoot padding. While we loved it for rocking the smooth and buffed trails, we found it to be a bit of a hindrance on really rough or rocky terrain where we wanted protection for our feet, so as to not leave them the worse for wear, or needing to slow down drastically. That is the main reason why we chose not to recommend them as our Top Pick for Zero Drop. While the Superiors are unquestionably more popular, we think more people will thrive wearing the far burlier, protective, and ultimately drastically more durable Inov-8 TerraUltra G 260 instead.

There is no question that this shoe is vastly improved over previous versions that were poorly made and sometimes downright uncomfortable due to flaws in the upper. It has an entirely new upper design that includes a wrap around, burrito-style tongue, and is a bit more breathable due to the inclusion of lightweight mesh. The shoe rides a couple of millimeters lower to the ground, and the outsole is now made with MaxTrac rubber, which is surprisingly sticky on rocky surfaces. The shoe is even a couple ounces lighter than it was before, ensconcing it firmly in the super lightweight division of trail running shoes. However, we think that despite the use of Altra's proprietary Quantic foam, it still suffers from the same problem as old versions and the Altra Lone Peak 4, that is, very quick compression of the foam that can change the shape, and the underfoot feel, of the shoe in surprisingly few miles.

A comparison of the Superior 4  black on the right  versus the dusty Superior 3.5 on the left. The upper material has been completely changed to be more durable on the sides  more breathable on top  more comfortable overall  and look nicer. The tongue has also been changed drastically. Overall  we find the new version to be far more comfortable and enjoyable to wear.
A comparison of the Superior 4, black on the right, versus the dusty Superior 3.5 on the left. The upper material has been completely changed to be more durable on the sides, more breathable on top, more comfortable overall, and look nicer. The tongue has also been changed drastically. Overall, we find the new version to be far more comfortable and enjoyable to wear.

Performance Comparison


Running smooth and fast trails in the high desert of central Oregon in the Altra Superior 4  a very light  comfortable  stable  zero-drop shoe that is a huge upgrade over the previous versions.
Running smooth and fast trails in the high desert of central Oregon in the Altra Superior 4, a very light, comfortable, stable, zero-drop shoe that is a huge upgrade over the previous versions.

Foot Protection


This is one of the least protective shoes that you can buy, and far and away one of the most sensitive. There is a minimal amount of Quantic foam underfoot, and no rock plate or any other protection, so you are going to intimately feel what you are stepping on. In lots of cases, this is an enjoyable experience. That said, for long distances and on rough, rocky trails, or off trail, we experienced more abuse than our feet are willing to take. The shoe still comes with two StoneGuard inserts that can be optionally added in underneath the insole. However, we found that these are now thinner, more flexible, and really do almost nothing to change the amount of underfoot protection. They do change the inside of the shoe a bit and can help tailor the perfect fit, however. Regardless, these shoes are on par with the Hoka Evo Jawz when it comes to lacking protection underfoot, and for that reason will likely only appeal to a small percentage of runners.

With a low midsole stack made of soft Quantic foam  there is very little foot protection to be found under the foot in the Superior 4. As you can see  these shoes are supple and sensitive  but those with soft feet should beware.
With a low midsole stack made of soft Quantic foam, there is very little foot protection to be found under the foot in the Superior 4. As you can see, these shoes are supple and sensitive, but those with soft feet should beware.

Traction


The Superior 4 has the same basic pattern on the outsole as previous versions, although it has been changed a bit. The MaxTrac rubber is impressively sticky on both wet and dry rock and grips the trail effectively. The TrailClaw lug pattern, which has rows of long, narrow lugs positioned across the foot and under the push-off points, is one of the least aggressive patterns found on trail shoes these days.

The outsole of this shoe is slightly changed  but sticks to the same basic pattern. Rows of fairly small lugs are lined up over the push off points of the forefoot. We find this pattern to not be very good on slippery and soft surfaces such as snow  mud  or wet grass  but surprisingly effective on regular trails and on hard surfaces like rock.
The outsole of this shoe is slightly changed, but sticks to the same basic pattern. Rows of fairly small lugs are lined up over the push off points of the forefoot. We find this pattern to not be very good on slippery and soft surfaces such as snow, mud, or wet grass, but surprisingly effective on regular trails and on hard surfaces like rock.

For standard trail running, we think it works just fine, but it struggles compared to the competition, such as the insanely grippy Salomon Speedcross 5, when it comes to off trail, or on mud and snow.

Despite not having a very aggressive tread pattern  the MaxTrak rubber on the bottom of these shoes is really quite sticky  and does a good job gripping on rock and wet rock.
Despite not having a very aggressive tread pattern, the MaxTrak rubber on the bottom of these shoes is really quite sticky, and does a good job gripping on rock and wet rock.

Stability


With a mere 21mm underfoot platform and zero heel-drop, this is one of the most stable shoes that you can buy. It is shaped like a foot, with a much wider forefoot area than most trail shoes, ensuring that your foot has the room that it needs to splay out and expand as it lands on the ground. Perhaps more than any other shoe we tested, running in these feels as if you are landing on the actual ground, rather than on a shoe on the ground. That said, we do have the minor complaint that they are a bit sloppy, and the upper doesn't lock the foot down as securely as many other shoes, such as the Adapterweb system on the Inov-8 Roclite 290, or the quicklace system found on Salomon shoes.

With a wide forefoot  a low stack height  and a zero-drop platform  the Superior 4 are quite stable  with a very low propensity to cause an ankle to roll. They are soft and mold to the terrain they land on  like this grassy side-hill.
With a wide forefoot, a low stack height, and a zero-drop platform, the Superior 4 are quite stable, with a very low propensity to cause an ankle to roll. They are soft and mold to the terrain they land on, like this grassy side-hill.

Comfort


This shoe is very comfortable, far more so for our head tester than previous versions. Gone is the lame tongue design that left large tabs of fabric on the inside of the shoe to rub against the foot, as well as the weird upper material that had a propensity to wrinkle and change shape over time. They have been replaced with a seamless tongue that is attached to the upper on one side, so it wraps the foot. On the other side, it is also attached, gusseted style, with a light, stretchy elastic fabric, a design that helps to limit slippage of the tongue and also helps keep debris at bay. The incorporation of mesh over the toe box increases the breathability, and there are even drainage holes found in the hard rubber toe bumper. Overall, a very comfortable shoe, and one that we love to wear for either running or even simple hiking and walking about.

An interesting new design is the burrito tongue. The left side of the tongue is joined straight to the inner of the shoe so that it wraps over the foot like a tortilla. The right side uses the white elastic shown here to gusset the tongue. This design is infinitely more comfortable than the previous tongue designs on Superior shoes.
An interesting new design is the burrito tongue. The left side of the tongue is joined straight to the inner of the shoe so that it wraps over the foot like a tortilla. The right side uses the white elastic shown here to gusset the tongue. This design is infinitely more comfortable than the previous tongue designs on Superior shoes.

Weight


Our pair of men's size 11 US shoes weighed in at 18.8 ounces, two full ounces lighter than the previous versions, and the second lightest in this review. The lightest are still the Hoka Evo Jawz. If you are to add in the two StoneGuard inserts, then the weight jumps one ounce per shoe, although we prefer to run without these inserts in as they change the volume inside the upper. Almost everyone we have met with these shoes has told us they also don't use the inserts. So, if weight is a critical factor in your decision making, the Superior 4 should be a top contender.

Even with the two StoneGuard inserts seen on top here  these shoes are far lighter than most others we tested. Without them  the way that most people we know choose to run  they are another two ounces per pair lighter! These inserts are meant to go in the shoe under the insole and provide extra rock protection  but we find they do little to add to the protection except change the fit of the shoe  which may be helpful for some.
Even with the two StoneGuard inserts seen on top here, these shoes are far lighter than most others we tested. Without them, the way that most people we know choose to run, they are another two ounces per pair lighter! These inserts are meant to go in the shoe under the insole and provide extra rock protection, but we find they do little to add to the protection except change the fit of the shoe, which may be helpful for some.

Sensitivity


This is far and away the most sensitive shoe in this review. You will intimately feel every detail of the trail while wearing these shoes, either a completely enjoyable revelation, or a big disappointment. For a more thickly cushioned zero drop shoe consider checking out the Altra Lone Peak 4. Alternatively, this shoe makes a great option for learning to run with a midfoot or forefoot landing stride, which can have a lot of physiological benefits in the long term.

Best Applications


This is a great shoe for those who value zero drop and prefer a minimalist shoe. Those not used to a zero drop platform are encouraged to break into it slowly, to avoid injury to the Achilles, calves, or plantar fascia, all of which can be excessively stretched if you are coming from shoes with a much larger heel-toe drop. A good way to do this is run in zero drop shoes once every few runs, alternating with shoes that your body is more accustomed to, and slowly weaning yourself off the large drop. We enjoyed these shoes most for short to medium length runs on relatively mellow trails. We struggled to enjoy them as much on very rocky trails, where their lack of underfoot protection is more keenly felt.

We enjoyed these shoes most on smooth dirt trails  like this one  in scenic places of course! The deep Crooked River Gorge and river are far below the Otter Bench Trail in Oregon.
We enjoyed these shoes most on smooth dirt trails, like this one, in scenic places of course! The deep Crooked River Gorge and river are far below the Otter Bench Trail in Oregon.

Value


These shoes retail for $110, making them one of the more affordable trail running shoes available these days. For most runners, however, they will not be an everyday trainer, and will likely be one shoe in the quiver. While they perform pretty well, the value they offer will depend on whether you like keeping a quiver of shoes (more value), or whether you typically only have one trail runner in the rotation at a time (less value).

Conclusion


The Altra Superior 4 are a vastly improved version of the long-running Superior line, constituting the minimalist end of Altra's trail running shoe line-up. They now have stickier rubber, an improved upper and especially tongue design, and a lighter weight. These shoes are a great option for those who love a very sensitive and minimalist shoe, but may not provide the protection that most runners need for effective trail running. If this sounds like you, we encourage you to check out our Top Pick for Zero Drop, the Inov-8 TerraUltra G 260.

The Superior 4 are the best version of this shoe in quite awhile  and are an enjoyable  minimalist zero-drop shoe to add to your quiver.
The Superior 4 are the best version of this shoe in quite awhile, and are an enjoyable, minimalist zero-drop shoe to add to your quiver.


Andy Wellman