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Run Confidently on Rugged Trails in Altra’s Minimalistic Superior 5

This lightweight shoe conquers gnarly terrain, and has a removable stone guard and toothy tread.

altra superior 5
Lakota Gambill

The RW Takeaway: The Superior 5 looks—and feels—minimalistic, but has all the features for blazing over technical trails.

  • Removable stone guard insert
  • Snug upper with burrito-style tongue
  • MaxTrac outsole with multidirectional lugs

    Price: $120
    9.6 oz (M), 8.6 oz (W)

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    The Superior is the closest you can get to running barefoot while still reaping the benefits of a traditional trail-running shoe—gaiter attachments, resilient mesh, a grippy tread. One standout feature of the Superior is the removable stone guard, a pliable yet protective full-length insert you tuck under the insole. This “take it or leave it” component caters to trail runners who want the extra buffer underfoot as well as those partial to the ground-feel that a thin, flexible midsole delivers. Yank it and you save nearly an ounce of weight, too.

    Lakota Gambill
    Superior 5

    Removable Rock Shield

    I tested the shoe with the stone guard over a mix of cinder, gravel, and pavement. The guard’s positioning was a little awkward; the insert in my size 6.5 is slightly bigger than the bottom of the shoe. But the guard flattens when you start to run—no distracting folds or bumps beneath the insole. The shoes felt just a tad heavier and stiffer with the inserts, but my form and speed weren’t hampered. They do offer peace of mind, however, considering the Superior’s thin sole and tread that’s tamer than other Altra trail offerings like the Lone Peak, which has claw-like lugs. So save this accessory for rocky hikes or truly technical runs on gnarly singletrack (the kind where you jump over fallen trees).

    altra superior 5
    Rubber outsole has a multi-directional tread for claw-like traction.
    Lakota Gambill

    Secure Upper

    The shoe’s “burrito” tongue, which was introduced in the Superior 4, remains divisive. It connects to the upper on one side only, allowing easier entry than a fully gusseted tongue, yet it still prevents trail debris and particles from getting trapped inside. One tester called it a “huge miss,” and reported that he was unable to center the tongue over his foot. I, on the other hand, am a fan of the one-sided construction. The wraparound closure creates a secure hug around your ankle, so you don’t need any special lacing technique to get a great fit.

    Minimalistic Yet Hardy

    The rest of the Superior’s upper has a streamlined profile and plenty of flex. Its minimalistic construction is ideal for off-road racing—it’s the trail shoe version of a racing flat. During a virtual 10K on a rail trail, I soared along at a 7-minute pace, deftly avoiding small rock piles and stray sticks strewn on the path. Its breathable upper and wide toebox also make it a suitable trainer for running long. I could enjoy an easy 10-miler and not experience any friction around my toes as the increasing heat caused swelling.

    altra superior 5
    A removable full-length rock plate adds protection.
    Lakota Gambill

    More Tester Feedback

    John Krumenacker, tester since 2017
    Arch: Flat | Pronation: Neutral | Footstrike: Midfoot
    Previously tested: Salomon Speedcross 5, Altra Olympus 3.5, Saucony Peregrine 11 ST
    “The shoe does a great job of temperature management. I specifically went in a storm that was sleety rain. Everything I wore was wet and the shoes stayed dryer longer than I would have thought. There is no stink to speak of. Breathable upper worked very well. All in all, what you have here is a shoe that fits true to size and is comfortable for the day to day. No rubs, no hot spots, no odd areas.”

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