The Altra Superior 3 is an outstanding zero drop shoe suitable for a variety of distances and firm terrain. But the outsole had problems on loose surfaces. This shoe is extremely well cushioned for its weight class.
The Superior 3 is Altra’s mid- to light-weight running shoe. The Superior is built on Altra’s signature zero-drop platform, but what makes this shoe a little different from other Altra models is the reduced weight and overall cushioning. At right around 9 oz, the Superior 2 fills a nice sweet spot between lighter trail shoes and heavier, more cushioned models. And as with most zero-drop shoes, agility and precision foot placement are enhanced because the heel easily stays out of the way. The lighter weight also helps facilitate quick-stepping through technical terrain.
The Superior only has a few minor drawbacks. The first is the boxy fit, which could be problematic for runners with narrow or low volume feet. The second issue is that the outsole lugs don’t grip very well on loose surfaces like gravel, scree, and snow (traction was otherwise not a problem). Lastly, although the light weight of the shoe makes turnover fairly easy, the zero drop also makes it less efficient. Runners who are used to a more aggressive platform might therefore find the Superior to be a little lacking at high speed.
The Superior will appeal to runners with wide feet who want a shoe suitable for daily training on a variety of terrain. It also will appeal to Altra brand-loyalists who want something a little lighter for up-tempo training or racing. Performance-oriented runners should have no problems using the Superior for long distance training runs and ultramarathons.
Comfort The Superior 2.0 is more comfortable than a lot of shoes in the 8-9 oz range. The upper materials are soft and compliant, and the midsole foam is supportive without being harsh. If anything, the heel cup has a bit too much padding. While this would be appropriate in a heavier shoe designed for a more cushioned ride, it is less so for a shoe that comes in under 9 oz.
Speed Like most zero drop shoes, the Superior struggles with turnover. This is simply a consequence of a heel that is low to the ground. A slight rocker profile and the lighter weight help, but it will never feel as quick as a more aggressively designed platform.
Security of Fit The Superior has a somewhat boxy shape, which can make a secure fit somewhat of a challenge both in the forefoot and the heel. Sufficient lock down could be achieved, but only by tightening the laces to the point that the upper material started to bunch up on itself. This is likely to be more of an issue for runners with narrow or low volume feet. The natural stability of the Superior does compensate for this somewhat and makes a secure fit less critical to performance.
Agility The Superior has a great deal of natural agility and stability due to the low overall stack height and the zero drop. These characteristics make the Superior very easy to manipulate on technical terrain. The lighter weight also makes the Superior feel a little less clunky than some of Altra’s heavier offerings and thereby enhance precision foot placement.
Responsiveness The Superior generally offers good energy return both at higher speeds and on steep climbs. Unfortunately this can be a bit hard to take advantage of on flatter terrain because of the turnover issues, but the Superior really shines when running uphill at effort.
Protection The Superior has a small but effective toe bumper up front, and the full length outsole provides adequate push through resistance against rocks and other trail debris. The Superior also has a removable full length rock plate that can be used for added protection at the cost of some weight and flexibility.
A competitive road cyclist in his younger years and lifelong outdoor enthusiast, Jacob discovered his love for long distance trail running as an adult. He lives in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe. Follow him at Google+.