If you love the natural feel and sensitivity of minimalist footwear, the Altra Superior 5 is a high-qualitypiece of footwear, and our choice for a zero-drop shoe. 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 shallow lugs and soft rubber, which isn't particularly sticky or durable out on the trail. 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.Editor's Note: The Altra Superior 5 review was updated on February 1, 2022, with more in-depth product comparisons and tips on which shoes we would buy.
Altra Superior 5 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Very light, comfortable, stable, wide in the forefoot, sensitive, affordable
Cons: Little underfoot protection, poor traction
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Altra Superior 5
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|Pros||Very light, comfortable, stable, wide in the forefoot, sensitive, affordable||Unbeatable fit, very comfortable, fantastic underfoot protection, doesn’t absorb much water, ankle collar keeps out debris, very stable||Ultralight, supportive, uncharacteristically agile||Well cushioned, comfortable fit, sticky rubber grips rock very well, decent price||Affordable, comfortable ride, versatile crossover option|
|Cons||Little underfoot protection, poor traction||Expensive, hard to get on foot, must wear above the ankle height socks, hard to stuff laces into garage||Loose-fitting heel pocket, lack of trail feeling||High heel counter, not the lightest||Soft upper is unstable, lacks energy, inconsistent traction|
|Bottom Line||A very comfortable and affordable zero drop shoe that is one of our favorites for short trail runs||The cream of the crop for trail running shoes delivers fine-tuned long run performance||An ultra-supportive trail runner with an agile feel that is unlike any other HOKA shoe we've ever tested||A very well cushioned shoe that is optimal for heel strikers and makes for a great option for everyday training as well as ultra distances||A comfortable, consistent, and approachable shoe for those looking to crossover from roads to trail running|
|Rating Categories||Altra Superior 5||Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3||HOKA Torrent 2||Salomon Sense Ride 4||Brooks Divide 2|
|Foot Protection (25%)|
|Specs||Altra Superior 5||Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3||HOKA Torrent 2||Salomon Sense Ride 4||Brooks Divide 2|
|Measured Weight (per pair)||17.4 oz (size 9.5)||21.5 oz (size 9.5)||18.3 oz (size 9.5)||20.7 oz (size 9.5)||21.5 oz (size 9.5)|
|Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot)||21 mm, 21 mm||26 mm, 18 mm||23 mm, 18 mm||27 mm, 19 mm||25 mm, 17 mm|
|Heel-to-Toe Drop||0 mm||8 mm||5 mm||8 mm||8 mm|
|Lug Depth||3 mm||4 mm||5 mm||3 mm||3 mm|
|Upper||Sandwich mesh||Anti-Debris mesh with sockliner||Unifi REPREVE recycled mesh, TPU||Synthetic mesh||Mesh, TPU|
|Midsole||Quantic, InnerFlex||Energy Save PU foam with Profeel Film rock protection||HOKA Profly: dual-density foam||Optivibe||Brooks BioMoGo EVA foam|
|Outsole||MaxTrac rubber, TrailClaw lugs||Contagrip MA Rubber||Rubber||Contagrip MA rubber||Brooks TrailTack rubber|
|Lacing Style||Traditional||Quicklace with garage||Traditional||Quicklace with garage||Traditional|
|Wide Version Available?||No||No||No||No||No|
|Sizes Available||7 - 15 US||4 - 13 US||7 - 15 US||7 - 14 US||7 - 15 US|
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, zero-drop options because its thinner, less padded midsole feels more sensitive.
The major talking point regarding foot protection 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. We intentionally landed on the pointy part of a rock with the rock-plate-enabled shoe and 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 a 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. A thin rubber toe piece blunts impact to the toes reasonably well up front. 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.
The Maxtrac outsole is a soft rubber compound that allows the shoe to flex and offer a high degree of sensitivity. Still, like past iterations of the Superior, we aren't wild about the shallow lugs or the stickiness of the rubber.
After our annual Eastern Sierra rainstorm, we slipped around in the mud 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 peak bagging.
Thanks to its thin midsole, this is one of the more sensitive shoes we've used, and it scored just above average in this metric. 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. They are excellent for training your stride and experimenting with striking with the forefoot while still having a fair degree of protection. We're willing to sacrifice some sensitivity for added support for longer runs. 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 excellent for shorter training jaunts, "long" and "short" being relative to your individual fitness and experience.
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. It earned a score that is near the top of the pack.
Again, all the room and flexibility in this shoe made us feel less stable after 12-15 miles when our form deteriorated, and we started to notice the stress on our bones and tendons. Running in zero drop shoes involves some training and patience and should be approached with an element of caution.
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 other Altra models while having a more locked-in, secure midfoot.
Including the rock plates, our size 9.5 Superior 5 weighs 17.5 ounces, which is very low and right in line with the minimalist design. We suspect most of the weight saving is found 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.
Should You Buy the Altra Superior 5?
This shoe is at the lower end of the price range for trail runners, but its quality sure doesn't reflect this. Granted, zero-drop minimalist-type footwear 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 shoe style is what you're into, they represent an excellent value.
What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?
These Altras are our favorite zero-drop model and are great for folks who like to feel the trail under their feet and are conditioned to running in a less supportive shoe. The similar Altra Lone Peak 6 is another zero-drop option for runners who don't feel the need for a lot of cushion in their shoes. If you go this route, take it easy on your initial outings, and be aware 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 are an ultradistance runner, and minimal support and thin midsoles sound like a nightmare to you, we recommend sticking with the HOKA Torrent 2 or the Salomon Sense Ride 4, which have optional protection to keep you going mile after mile.
— Matt Bento
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