Reviews You Can Rely On

Altra Superior 4.0 Review

A very comfortable and lightweight zero drop shoe
altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review
Credit: Backcountry
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $110 List
Manufacturer:   Altra
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 24, 2019
  • Foot protection - 30% 4.0
  • Traction - 20% 7.0
  • Stability - 15% 9.0
  • Comfort - 15% 8.0
  • Weight - 10% 9.0
  • Sensitivity - 10% 9.0

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 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. This is a great shoe for those who value zero drop and prefer a minimalist shoe. 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.
Very light
Looks great
Burrito wrap tongue is far more comfortable
Minimal foot protection
Foam breaks down quickly
Very long laces

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 zero drop lovers 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, that is, very quick compression of the foam that can change the shape, and the underfoot feel of the shoe in surprisingly few miles.

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - a comparison of the superior 4, black on the right, versus the dusty...
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

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - running smooth and fast trails in the high desert of central oregon...
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 space inside of the shoe a bit and can help tailor the perfect fit. Regardless, these shoes lack protection underfoot, and for that reason will likely only appeal to a small percentage of runners.

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - with a low midsole stack made of soft quantic foam, there is very...
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.


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.

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - the outsole of this shoe is slightly changed, but sticks to the same...
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 insanely grippy and aggressive competition when it comes to off trail, or on mud and snow.

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - despite not having a very aggressive tread pattern, the maxtrak...
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.


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.

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - with a wide forefoot, a low stack height, and a zero-drop platform...
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.


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.

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - an interesting new design is the burrito tongue. the left side of...
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.


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. 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.

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - even with the two stoneguard inserts seen on top here, these shoes...
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.


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. On smooth trails this level of sensitivity makes for a joyful run, but on rocky talus it certainly forces one to slow down. This shoe also 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.

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - we enjoyed these shoes most on smooth dirt trails, like this one, in...
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.


These shoes are 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).


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 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.

altra superior 4.0 trail running shoes review - the superior 4 are the best version of this shoe in quite awhile...
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
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More