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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
Credit: Altra
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $130 List | $97.46 at Backcountry
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  ⋅  Mar 7, 2022
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 19
  • Foot Protection - 25% 5.0
  • Traction - 20% 6.0
  • Sensitivity - 15% 9.0
  • Stability - 15% 8.0
  • Comfort - 15% 8.0
  • Weight - 10% 10.0

Our Verdict

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.

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Pros Very light, comfortable, stable, wide in the forefoot, sensitive, affordableUnbeatable fit, very comfortable, fantastic underfoot protection, doesn’t absorb much water, ankle collar keeps out debris, very stableVery protective, roomier fit than other models from La SportivaUltralight, supportive, uncharacteristically agileAffordable, comfortable ride, versatile crossover option
Cons Little underfoot protection, poor tractionExpensive, hard to get on foot, must wear above the ankle height socks, hard to stuff laces into garageHeavily padded tongue results in sub-par breathabilityLoose-fitting heel pocket, lack of trail feelingSoft 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 runsThe cream of the crop for trail running shoes delivers fine-tuned long run performanceThis burly mountain runner is very protective and is an excellent choice for longer outings in rocky terrainAn ultra-supportive trail runner with an agile feel that is unlike any other HOKA shoe we've ever testedA 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 La Sportiva Karacal HOKA Torrent 2 Brooks Divide 2
Foot Protection (25%)
5.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Traction (20%)
6.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Sensitivity (15%)
9.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
6.0
Stability (15%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort (15%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
9.0
9.0
Weight (10%)
10.0
6.0
7.0
9.0
6.0
Specs Altra Superior 5 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 La Sportiva Karacal HOKA Torrent 2 Brooks Divide 2
Measured Weight (per pair) 17.4 oz (size 9.5) 21.5 oz (size 9.5) 20.2 oz (size EU 43) 18.3 oz (size 9.5) 21.5 oz (size 9.5)
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 21 mm, 21 mm 26 mm, 18 mm 29 mm, 22 mm 23 mm, 18 mm 25 mm, 17 mm
Heel-to-Toe Drop 0 mm 8 mm 7 mm 5 mm 8 mm
Lug Depth 3 mm 4 mm 3 mm 5 mm 3 mm
Upper Sandwich mesh Anti-Debris mesh with sockliner Mesh Unifi REPREVE recycled mesh, TPU Mesh, TPU
Midsole Quantic, InnerFlex Energy Save PU foam with Profeel Film rock protection Compression-molded EVA/1.5 mm dual-density EVA HOKA Profly: dual-density foam Brooks BioMoGo EVA foam
Outsole MaxTrac rubber, TrailClaw lugs Contagrip MA Rubber FriXion AT 2.0 Rubber Brooks TrailTack rubber
Rock Plate? No Yes Yes No Yes
Lacing Style Traditional Quicklace with garage Traditional Traditional Traditional
Wide Version Available? No No No No No
Sizes Available 7 - 15 US 4 - 13 US 38 - 48.5 EU 7 - 15 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.

Performance Comparison


Altra Superior 5 trail running shoes - 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.
Credit: Matt Bento

Foot Protection


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.

Altra Superior 5 trail running shoes - 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.
Credit: Matt Bento

Traction


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.

Altra Superior 5 trail running shoes - 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.
Credit: Matt Bento

Sensitivity


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.


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. 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.

Altra Superior 5 trail running shoes - 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.
Credit: 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 other Altra models while having a more locked-in, secure midfoot.

Altra Superior 5 trail running shoes - 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.
Credit: Matt Bento

Weight


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.

Altra Superior 5 trail running shoes - 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.
Credit: Matt Bento

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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