Altra Superior 3.0
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.
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
The sizing seems to run about a half size smaller
- These have great grip that keeps you sure-footed on various trail terrain.
- The support is good for trail running.
- The materials used are tougher than the 2.0 version.
- These shoes are very lightweight.
- The design works well for people with wide feet.
- The mid is snug to prevent your feet from slipping forward on descents.
- The toe box has enough room to allow for natural toe splay.
- The upper sheds water quickly.
- There are positive reviews from experienced, avid, and casual runners.
- The outsole easily sheds mud.
- Some runners have said these hold up during trail marathons.
- A removable rock shield is included.
- There is a good amount of flex for forward movement.
- The tread has good grip on dirt, sand, loose rocks, and wet wood.
- The upper is breathable.
- On smooth, wet surfaces such as rock or tile, the outsole can lose its grip.
- The upper is susceptible to faster wear than the sole.
- Although roomy, the toe box is a little narrower than on some other Altra shoes.
- The outsole lugs extend a bit on the sides which means they can get caught on roots, rocks, or against the ankle cuff of the opposite shoe.
- The small extension off of the heel tends to kick up dirt and dust.
- There are mixed reviews on the sizing. Some reviewers recommend buying a half size larger than normal.
- There are reports of issues buying from third party sellers.
- If you aren't accustomed to zero drop shoes, it is essential to slowly ease into using these.
- These are designed for runners who prefer minimalist shoes.
- Although rare, there are complaints of the upper starting to separate from the sole after intense downhill runs.
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.
The superior innerflex seems to provide a good balance of flexibility, cushion and allowed ground contact, resulting in pretty confident control and responsiveness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the special features included and the overall quality, the shoe is worth its MSRP.
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.
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.
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
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
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.