With an on-foot feel that’s uncontroversial, light and fun, the Altra Superior 4.5 is a good all-rounder and a great option for first-time zero-drop-curious runners.
Light, fast and fun
Grip in sloppy mud could be better
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The Altra Superior 4.5 is a shoe with wiggle room. Altra often get pigeonholed, erroneously, as a wide shoe company. It’s really the shape that’s key with Altra – they produce foot-shaped shoes, which not only makes me happy, it allows your toes to splay, especially during toe-off. There is certainly plenty of forefoot width in the Superior.
Altra shoes are also always zero drop, which they now call ‘balanced cushioning’. This puts them in the natural running/minimal shoe bracket, even if they don’t especially identify with the barefoot running movement. To be fair, the lack of drop feels like it owes more to extra cushioning under the ball of your toes, rather than less under your heel.
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The Altra Superior 4.5 is the most minimal shoe in their trail range. The upper is a thin, soft and flexible engineered knit, lightly padded in the mid-foot, a little more around the heel collar. Like the padding, the midsole is ‘just right’ for a fast shoe, with 21mm of Quantic midsole and MaxTrac rubber giving responsive cushioning and dependable grip over most terrain. Only muddy conditions cause occasional slips.
Under the 6mm insole is Altra’s StoneGuard – a removable plastic layer that could save you 30 grams and increase ground feel, although we left them in and enjoyed the protection they provide.
• RRP: $110 (US) / £120 (UK)
• Gender availability: Men’s, Women’s
• Weight (per shoe, men’s UK11): 302g / 10.6oz
• Colors: Black / Blue & Yellow / Green & Lime / Blue & Lime / Yellow & Port
• Drop: 0mm
• Compatibility: All trails
On the trail
The Altra Superior 4.5 is a shoe that makes you want to change plans and run further. The cushioning is minimal but protective and the fit allows for toe-splay without feeling problematically wide. Technical contouring would be their weakest point, but everything feels predictable on the trail. Bigger lugs would also boost their UK cred in my opinion.
They have good ground feel, but I wish there was more ‘spring’ rather than the ‘cushy’ feel – maybe Altra’s Quantic midsole needs more depth to really come alive. It leaves me wondering if their bouncy Ego foam would have worked better in this shoe. I’m nit-picking though, because there’s so much to enjoy with the fit and ride of the Superior.
Mid-pack fell-plodder Paul has been writing about his outdoor adventures for about ten years. Initiated by a move from Coventry to the Peak District in 2010, Paul quickly evolved from jogger, reluctant gym-goer and occasional camper to full-blown fell-obsessed trail runner and wild camping adventurer. Paul’s 2016 attempt at the Cape Wrath Ultra was only curtailed (on day six!) by an infected big toe; the story of its Vesuvius style release, with supporting photos, is something Paul is too keen to share.