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Altra Superior 5 Review

A very comfortable and affordable zero drop shoe that is one of our favorites for short trail runs
Altra Superior 5
Photo: Altra
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $120 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Very light, comfortable, stable, wide in the forefoot, sensitive, affordable
Cons:  Little underfoot protection, poor traction
Manufacturer:   Altra
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 5, 2021
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68
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 17
  • Foot Protection - 25% 5
  • Traction - 20% 5
  • Sensitivity - 15% 7
  • Stability - 15% 8
  • Comfort - 15% 9
  • Weight - 10% 9

Our Verdict

If you love the natural feel and sensitivity of a zero drop shoe and want to save some cash (who doesn't?), the Altra Superior 5 is a high-quality entry at a very reasonable price. This shoe strikes a lovely balance between comfort and security, allowing plenty of room for the foot to splay while staying locked in place with the burrito-style closure system. We aren't crazy about the outsole with its shallow lugs and soft rubber, which isn't particularly sticky or durable. If most of your running is on flowing single track and hardpacked dirt, they're adequate, but we recommend staying away from talus or rocky ridgelines with these shoes.

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Altra Superior 5
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Altra Superior 5
Awards Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award  
Price Check Price at REI
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$160 List
$160.00 at Amazon
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Pros Very light, comfortable, stable, wide in the forefoot, sensitive, affordableExcellent traction, protective and sensitive, light, comfortable, durableGood protection and sensitivity, stableStable, low to the ground, great tractionVery protective, roomier fit than other models from La Sportiva
Cons Little underfoot protection, poor tractionExpensive, tongue comfort affects someNot particularly breathable, fit is smallA little heavy for a trail shoeHeavily padded tongue results in sub-par breathability
Bottom Line A very comfortable and affordable zero drop shoe that is one of our favorites for short trail runsThe perfect definition of a do-everything trail running shoe, which also happens to be zero-dropThese protective tanks will keep going over rocky ridges and scree fields but aren't great for hotter environmentsThis is a very stable shoe with a sticky outsole that's perfect for putting in miles over varied terrainThis burly mountain runner is very protective and is an excellent choice for longer outings in rocky terrain
Rating Categories Altra Superior 5 Inov-8 Terraultra G... La Sportiva Bushido II Saucony Peregrine 11 La Sportiva Karacal
Foot Protection (25%)
5.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
9.0
Traction (20%)
5.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Sensitivity (15%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
Stability (15%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Comfort (15%)
9.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Weight (10%)
9.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
5.0
Specs Altra Superior 5 Inov-8 Terraultra G... La Sportiva Bushido II Saucony Peregrine 11 La Sportiva Karacal
Measured Weight (per pair) 17.4 oz (size 9.5) 20.9 oz (size 11) 21.9 oz (size 9.5) 22.5 oz (size 9.5) 20.2 oz (size EU 43)
Heel-to-Toe Drop 0 mm 0 mm 6 mm 4 mm 7 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 21 mm, 21 mm 22 mm, 22 mm 19 mm, 13 mm 27 mm, 23 mm 29 mm, 22 mm
Upper Sandwich mesh Breathable Mesh Air mesh/thermal adhesive microfiber/high-frequency welded ripstop overlays/TPU toe cap Reinforced mesh Mesh
Midsole Quantic, InnerFlex Powerflow Max 4mm LaSpEVA/compression-molded MEMlex/1.5 mm dual-density compressed EVA PWRRUN Compression-molded EVA/1.5 mm dual-density EVA
Outsole Maxtrac rubber, TrailClaw lugs Graphene Grip FriXion XT V-Groove2 rubber with Impact Brake System PWRTRAC FriXion AT 2.0
Lacing Style Traditional Traditional Traditional Traditional Traditional
Wide Version Available? No No No Yes No
Sizes Available 7 - 15 7 - 15 38 - 48.5 7 - 14 38 - 48.5

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Altra Superior 5 keeps you close to the trail with its zero drop and 21mm stack height while giving you the option of added protection with the inclusion of a removable rock plate. Overall, our testers preferred it over the heavier Altra Lone Peak because it feels more sensitive due to its thinner, less padded midsole.

Performance Comparison


The Altra Superior are light and ride pretty low, making them very...
The Altra Superior are light and ride pretty low, making them very sensitive.
Photo: Matt Bento

Foot Protection


The major talking point regarding foot protection here is the removable rock plates (called stone guards). These thin, flexible pieces of plastic are perforated with tiny holes and cut to fit perfectly under the insoles. Naturally, we did a lot of running with the rock plate in one shoe and left out of the other for a comprehensive comparison. When we intentionally landed on the pointy part of a rock with the rock-plate-enabled shoe, we noticed that the pressure was spread out a little more. Compounded over miles of rock strikes, this could potentially prevent bruising and fatigue. But honestly, we don't feel like the rock plates add any additional rigidity, and when running on hard-packed double track, we could hardly tell the difference between the shoe with the plate and the one without. Removing the rock plate creates the tiniest bit of extra volume, and the main advantage of leaving them out (as far as we can tell) is to make more room for your own insoles if that's your jam.


The upper on the Superior 5 is a tight-knit mesh that won't do much against sharp sticks, while some overlays on the side of the shoe add some extra protection and a little bit more structure. Up front, a thin rubber toe piece blunts impact to the toes fairly well. Overall, we can say these flexible, minimalist shoes are very protective, even with the rock plate, but they're more than adequate for rolling, non-technical terrain.

Not too many trail shoes fold in half this easy because they have...
Not too many trail shoes fold in half this easy because they have thick foam and a rigid rock plate. The Superior has a thin removable rock plate that's still very flexible.
Photo: Matt Bento

Traction


The Maxtrac outsole is a soft rubber compound that allows the shoe to flex and offer a high degree of sensitivity, but like past iterations of the Superior, we aren't wild about the shallow lugs or the stickiness of the rubber.


We slipped around in mud after our annual Eastern Sierra rainstorm and found the Superior 5 poorly suited for scrambling or talus hopping. They're fine for hard-packed single track, but we'd recommend something stiffer with stickier rubber if your runs involve any sort of peak bagging.

The rubber is not our favorite for rock hopping, but the overall...
The rubber is not our favorite for rock hopping, but the overall traction is fine for less technical terrain.
Photo: Matt Bento

Sensitivity


Thanks to its thin midsole, this is one of the most sensitive shoes we've used. We could feel every medium-sized pebble underfoot and every contour as we ran over larger rocks and boulders. These zero-drop shoes allow the foot to land very naturally and are excellent for training your stride and experimenting with striking with the forefoot while still having a fair degree of protection. For longer runs, we're willing to sacrifice some sensitivity for added support. As the miles accumulate, our form tends to get sloppy, and we need to rely a bit more on the structure and support of the shoe. The Superior 5 is nice for shorter training jaunts, "long" and "short" being relative to your individual fitness and experience.


Stability


The Superior 5 offers a low, wide platform that is remarkably stable provided that your foot isn't exceptionally narrow or low volume. Even wider feet have room to splay, creating a natural platform to push from - as close to barefoot as we'd like to go.


Again, all the room and flexibility in this shoe made us feel less stable after 12-15 miles when our form started to deteriorate, and we started to notice the stress on our bones and tendons. Running in zero drop shoes definitley involves some training and patience and should be approached with an element of caution.

Altra is known for their wide toe box that makes for a very stable...
Altra is known for their wide toe box that makes for a very stable platform.
Photo: Matt Bento

Comfort


The Superior 5, like many shoes from Altra, are exceptionally comfortable right out of the box, and we loved wearing them while doing yard work or strolling around town. They have a slipper-like comfort and the typical squish we've come to expect from Altra shoes.


While the laces don't extend very far down to the forefoot, we found the burrito-style closure surprisingly effective at locking our feet in place and preventing them from sliding around, despite the overall roominess of the shoe. We feel it has just as much room in the front as the Altra Lone Peak while having a more locked-in, secure midfoot.

The "burrito style" closure is super comfy and does a surprisingly...
The "burrito style" closure is super comfy and does a surprisingly good job at keeping our feet locked in place inside the shoe.
Photo: Matt Bento

Weight


Our size 9.5 Superior 5 weighs 17.5 ounces, including the rock plates. This is very light and right in line with the minimalist design. We suspect most of the weight savings comes from the thin mid-sole. This shoe is one of the lightest we've tested, and the weight savings is yet another reason folks choose a less supportive, more sensitive trail running shoe.


Value


This shoe is at the lower end of the price range for trail runners, but its quality sure doesn't reflect this. Granted, a zero drop minimalist-type shoe isn't usually loaded with futuristic compounds or technologies, simplicity being the point here, but zero-drop enthusiasts will find a high-quality, well-made shoe with the Altra Superior 5. If this style of shoe is what you're into, then they represent an excellent value.

Conclusion


This is one of our favorite zero-drop models and is great for folks who really like to feel the trail under their feet and are conditioned to running in a less supportive shoe. Just beware that running in a flexible, less supportive shoe takes some getting used to if you've been running in a pair of Hoka's. If you go this route, take it easy on your initial outings.

We really enjoyed the Altra Superiors during training runs while...
We really enjoyed the Altra Superiors during training runs while running on endless dirt roads in the desert.
Photo: Matt Bento

Matt Bento

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