Altra Superior 3.0

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Altra Superior 3.0 Review Facts
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Fairly new to European market, Altra has done well in North America for a few years now. Their zero drop designs and different levels of cushioning in their different model types, for both road and trail.

Altra sent us the newest version of their Superior 3.0 trail running shoe to put through its paces, literally, and share what we thought with you. Like the previous version, the 3.0 has a zero drop sole, Altra’s Foot Shape forefoot, and of course the Gaiter Trap. Now into the third update to the Superior, some things have changed, yet other¬†features of the series have stayed pretty much the same, at least when compared to the previous version.

Pros

FootShape design offers a wider toe box with a more anatomical fit, allowing the toes to spread and the feet to function naturally

Altra's Gaiter Trap grips their proprietary running gaiters to keep them in place

The grip provided by the outsole design and treads is exceptional over various types of off-road surfaces

The upper construction is supportive and durable

The shoe's midsole provides adequate cushioning without taking away necessary ground feel

Cons

The sizing seems to run about a half size smaller

Outsole

Outsole

The outsole hasn't really changed too much. Perhaps because it just works for the shoe. The tread is fairly soft, when compared to trail models from Salomon and such, but it doesn't seem to matter much. After quite a few miles over slightly rough and various terrain, the outsole held up really well. Other than the expected slight wearing down of tread edges, everything has performed well and maintained its form.

The TrailClaw tread has a design that kind of sweeps around, giving the Superior really good grip on inclines. In all, the the outsole is quite durable as long as you stick to what the shoe if made for, which is medium trails that are not too technical.
Midsole

Midsole

The A-Bound midsole is nice, although something that will take some getting used to if you are used to running in more minimalist shoes previously. Though not as thick as some other models from Altra, there is decent cushioning. On trails it sometimes feels like prospect of having too much cushioning can make you susceptible to injuries like twisted ankles, due to the lack of ground feel.

The superior innerflex seems to provide a good balance of flexibility, cushion and allowed ground contact, resulting in pretty confident control and responsiveness.
Upper

Upper

The ripstop upper material is quite durably constructed. The ability to resist abrasion and maintain its shape is quite impressive. After running the Superior 3 through different levels of terrain, various weather conditions, through the mud, water, and even snow, they still look great.

In addition to the durable ripstop, there are supportive overlays that are strategically placed, to include the lacing eyelets. The toe and heel are reinforced with an abrasion resistant material to not only help retain shape and provide protection, but also to add more to the durability of the shoe.

The lacing is standard, without any special features, which works just fine. The tongue is nice and padded, however it would have been great if there were a place to tuck the laces, as the laces that are provided seem to be a bit longer. That is just a personal preference though, which doesn't really affect the overall view of the upper's general quality and function.

On the heel you will find Altra's Gaiter Trap, which basically uses velcro to hold Altra's proprietary trail gaiters in place if you choose to buy them separately.
Breathability

Breathability

Though the upper is well made, it seems to not be quite as breathable as I thought it would be. It isn't the case that they aren't breathable at all, because in fact they are. It is just that it would be nice if they breathed just a bit more. However, when running in the winter they were actually really nice. Perhaps not totally ideal for scorching climates, they do breathe well enough for moderately warm environments.

The tongue is well padded, but actually has a decent amount of breathability, which I was surprised by. Airflow is helped some by the fact that you are able to spread you toes nicely, allowing the air to effectively move through the shoe.
Comfort

Comfort

Overall these are comfortable trail runners. From the precise fit in the heel to the roomy toe box that has been designed for real human feet, a lot of thought has obviously been put into the design and build.

Although these aren't overly feature rich, but do have enough put into them to make them effective on the trails.

The A-bound midsole construction isn't super soft, but does provide more than adequate cushioning, while still allowing you to keep a great amount of responsiveness and contact with the ground.

The fit of the upper is snug, but not uncomfortably so. It hold the foot right in place, reducing any risk of interior irritation or blistering. Out of the box, there were no issues of blisters.
Style

Style

These aren't really something that some would think about wearing with a pair of jeans, as they are clearly designed for running. Many are hesitant about the wide forefoot of the shoe, until they go for a run that is. Then the look of them doesn't seem to matter much anymore. Not that they are ugly. In fact, they tend to grow on most people.

The color options are a bit limited, but the options available are all pretty nice. Since the Superior is a purpose focused running shoe, the style should come second when considering them. Still, they look pretty good.
Durability

Durability

They seem to be quite durable. After putting many miles on them, they are still holding up quite well. And, as long as you stick to the terrain they are intended to be used on, it is actually a while before they start to show any real wear after cleaning them.

There hasn't been any issues with the outsole or tread pulling apart. The upper is more than intact, with virtually no real signs of abrasion to the fabric.
Protection

Protection

This one is really intended for light to medium trails. These would be trails that may be fairly clear of heavy duty debris and large rocks. The terrain will most likely be fairly even, at least for an off-road environment. Because of that, there isn't a tone on overt protective features such as hardcore plastic toe guards or abrasion resistant overlays covering the upper.

With that being said, the superior includes a thin stone guard, which can be slipped in under the insole to help protect against sharp rocks along the way. These offer a small amount of protection against the rocks you might encounter while running on the type of trails and terrain for which these are intended. However, those stone guards make the shoes noticeably stiffer and uncomfortable, as they take away some of the ground feel that these shoes do well to provide otherwise.

The toe does have some protection, with a sewn in abrasion resistant toe reinforcement. In all, for their intended purpose, this version is set up just right.
Responsiveness

Responsiveness

This is where the Superior does really well. It seems like the great responsiveness is owed to a combination of factors including the toe design, awesome grip, premium fit if sized right, etc.

They really have great ground feel, which allows you to move fluidly over varying surfaces. The midsole gives pretty good responsiveness, although you don't get any real bounce, it isn't too mushy, it isn't to hard. The feel when running, especially over rough terrain, is just right.
Support

Support

The support of these has a lot to do with the overall fit. We always hear that phrase, "they have a sock like fit", but these really do. The combination of the A-Bound midsole and secure upper provide the Superior with adequate support for the terrain and running environment they are intended for.
Terrain

Terrain

The Superior line was and still is primarily intended for light to medium trails. There isn't really the type of exterior protection that is required for the more technical routes and environments.

Stick to the cleared paths and probably stay away from extremely rocky terrain. However, the stone guards they include for each shoe seem to help some against sharp rocks that might be encountered along the trails.
Price

Price

They aren't what many would consider cheap, but at the same time, they aren't super expensive either. If you are in Europe, the price tag seems a bit higher. This is probably due to the fact that they relatively new there. But you know what they say, you get what you pay for.

For the special features included and the overall quality, the shoe is worth its MSRP.
Traction

Traction

These grip the trail nicely. In fact, I would go as far as saying that these are awesome on hills or inclines, as well as downhill. Testing these in an area littered by bunker debris and trenches, leftover from an old European battlefield, there are many obstacles and surface variations to tackle. The Superior 3 did an amazing job of getting through without any issues. The traction that you get from these allows really confident balance, translating into a great off-road run.

The tread layout under the outsole is very obviously intended for trail use. The direction of the treads is such that it gives positive grip when going uphill, downhill, and straight ahead. The shoes handled toe paths, rocky edges, muddy passages and even snow covered ground beautifully.
Flexibility

Flexibility

Slightly stiff at first, they break in quickly to become flexible enough to do what you need them to do. However, if you decide to slip those stone guards in, which come in the box with the shoes, be aware that they will take away a noticeable amount of the shoe's flexibility.

If you are tend to gravitate toward the more minimalist trail shoes, these won't have that kind of flexibility. With that said, Once you put these on and get going in them, they will flex as much as you need for the terrain they are suited for.
Stability

Stability

Not designated a "stability shoe", these are actually quite stable. This seems to be due to multiple factors such as the durably constructed upper that supports well, the wider toe box that allows the toes to spread out, the interior of the heel that holds the rearfoot in place, or the exceptional traction given by the outsole and treads.
Drop

Drop

Altra's thing is producing zero drop running shoes. The stack height of the Superior 3 is 21mm, however this is a zero drop shoe. If you are used to wearing models with differences in drop, the zero drop might be something you will have to get used to.

They actually put a guide on how to familiarize yourself with running zero drop shoes, in the box when you buy a new pair.
Comparison to different models

Comparison to different models

There really aren't too many differences between this version and the previous 2.0. Altra has another trail runner, the Lone Peak, on which the sole is quite a bit thicker.

Comparing the two, the most noticeable difference is the feeling you get from that thicker sole. For off-road use ground feel is everything. It is how you keep your self upright and safe from injuries an most cases. The Superior is a clear winner in that category.
The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

The Superior 3.0 from Altra is a solid trail runner for those moderate trails. Not really one that I would go with for super technical trails, but still a really great that you can push pretty far for off-road running where grip, responsive cushioning and decent stability matter.

Once you get used to the zero drop platform and wider space for the toes to spread, these might actually become your new favorite pair for those runs through the forest or off-road paths.