Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Altra Superior 1.5 ZeroDrop Trail Running Shoe Review

Women's Altra Superior 1.5 ZeroDrop Trail Running Shoe

The Facts

The Altra Superior 1.5 is a 8.2oz (women's, men's is 11.1oz) trail shoe with a heel toe drop of, you guessed it, 0mm. The stack height is 15mm and of course, it has Altra's signature FootShape toe box. It was released last year with a MSRP of $105, you can now find it on Amazon for around $70 (men's here). The Superior 1.5 features a removable StoneGuard (Altra's name for their rock plate), a GaiterTrap to hold your gaiters in place, and the multi-directional outsole has a flexible Trail Rudder that sticks out from the heel to provide better traction on tricky descents.

The Down and Dirty Dirty Dirty


Altra Superior 1.5 outsole
Okay, so my pair is actually pretty clean, cause that's just how I roll, er run. The Altra Superior shares many of the same pros and cons as the other Altra shoe I've reviewed, the Torin, but with one being a trail shoe and the other a maximal road shoe, the features and specifications are very different. Like the Torin, the Superior's FootShape toe box gives it a bulbous, clown shoe look, but I think a trail shoe can get away with this more than a road running shoe. I think of a trail shoe as a piece of gear that is much more technical because, well, even the less technical trails are still more technical than a city or county maintained roadway. While I said I would never wear the Torin if I wasn't running, I wore the Superior to the store yesterday without too much thought.

Also like the Torin, the Superior has way too much upper. In the case of the Superior, the collar of the shoe is very heavily padded. The padding is comfortable but unnecessary, increasing drying time and occasionally causing my narrow heel to slip out of the shoe. I'd rather have a more streamlined shoe that weighed a little less. Speaking of weight, 8.2oz is good for a trail shoe but I would expect a ZeroDrop shoe to weigh a little less since the heel stack is often what makes up a lot of the weight in a shoe. For example, the Salomon Sense Pro has stack heights of 22mm heel and 17mm in the forefoot and weighs 8.5oz in a women's size 8. (Edit: I've notice that the update to Altra's Superior, the 2.0 weights 7.5oz so they have improved the weight).

Thin, flexible rock plate from the Altra Superior 1.5
The Altra Superior 1.5 is a versatile trail shoe, I've used it on hard and soft-packed dirt trails, muddy trails, gravel trails, grassy trails, wide and easy fire trails, and technical, single-track mountain bike trails. I currently have over 40 miles on these shoes, and plan to put on a lot more. In muddy conditions, the traction was okay, but left a little to be desired. The only type of terrain I did not like the on is the gravel trails. The Superior has a pretty flexible sole with a lot of ground feel, traits I love in a trail shoe, but when it comes to gravel, it hurts. There aren't many shoes well suited to gravel anyway, and I prefer to stay away from gravel trails, there just happens to be a few gravel sections in some of the trails I like. I should also point out that I've only ran with the rock plate in the shoe, I've yet to try them without and haven't found a reason to. I have not ran more than a few hundred yards on pavement with these and I would not recommend them for pavement. The outsole is a bit too rugged for it and the underfoot feel is very firm. This is a trail shoe and it's good at being a trail shoe.

Altra Superior 1.5 GaiterTrap
You may be curious about those other "features" of the Superior, such as the GaiterTrap and the Trail Rudder, in fact you may be here because you did a google search to find out what those things were for. The GaiterTrap is a small velcro flap on the back of the shoe that can help hold gaiters in place. Gaiters are a fabric device that go over the top of your shoe, around your ankle, to keep dirt and debris out. I've never seen anyone use them around here and I've never used them myself but if your only reason for not running trails is because you hate getting dirt inside your shoes, you should give them a try. Since I don't use gaiters, I can't speak as to how well the GaiterTraps work.

Altra Superior 1.5 Trail Rudder
The rudder is another mystery to many consumers, with some saying they've found it helpful in pulling off their shoes after a dirty run and other opting to just cut it off. Very few seem to know its actual purpose, much less see a benefit from it, yet Altra keeps sticking it on there (out there?). At least on the Superior 2.0 it appears to be a little smaller. Supposedly, the rudder is there to provide extra traction on descents. The shoe performed fine on the mild descents I've used them on but I can't say if the rudder had anything to do with that. The only real test for this would be to have two pair of Superiors, one with the rudder and one without and run with them on the same trail, in the same conditions. So who knows, maybe it's just a weird thing for us to talk about.



In Conclusion


The Altra Superior 1.5 has proved to be a versatile trail shoe that performs well on most types of trails with the exception of gravel where its excellent ground feel turns into a negative. The Superior is responsive and flexible, with ample room for toe splay given Altra's FootShape toebox. It's nimble with a ZeroDrop heel to toe ratio, and ground feel that surpasses many other trail shoes. This is a great trail shoe for beginners to the trails as well as more experienced, technical trail runners. However, don't buy the Superior thinking you'll use it for road as well as trails, your feet will not be happy with the lack of underfoot cushioning on pavement. If you're just running a half mile from your house to the trail, it would make an okay road to trail shoe in that sense, but this is a true trail shoe. As far as improvements, Altra could cut back on the generous padding in the upper of the Superior and improve the traction through mud and I would be ready to call it my perfect trail shoe.

Altra Superior 1.5 on my feet

Have you ran any good trails lately? What's your favorite trail shoe?


  1. I recently came across your article and have been reading along. I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make readers read from the beginning to the end. I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you. jeans for guys with big thighs


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...