Altra Superior 5 Review – The Gateway to Barefoot Running

Altra is one of the biggest names in the trail shoe market, and the Altra Superior has been one of the cornerstones of the trail shoe lineup for a long while. If you’re looking for zero drop shoes, a wide toe box, and somewhat lighter cushioned shoes, then the Altra Superior 5 could a great option.

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  • Weight: 8.8 oz / 251 g
  • Stack Height: 21mm
  • Hard midsole
  • Flexible – unstructured
  • True to size
  • Spacious flexible upper
  • Perfect heel lock


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If you’re looking for new trail runners, read the rest of the review for the gritty details!

Although the Superior 5 is one of the most minimal offerings from Altra, they still have a decent 21mm stack height for a low-impact landing. And whereas it can be debated whether this cushion is genuinely required, if you’re transitioning from a standard pair of shoes like Nike, New Balance, or even Hoka shoes, having that cushioning, which is still fairly low profile is a good thing.

In the end, it’s simple. If you’re looking for more ground feel, want to shed some weight from your feet, and still feel nimble over technical terrain, then the Superior will be entirely up your street. 

If you’re unsure which Altra trail shoe is for you, I’ve got you covered. Head over to my Altra trail running shoe round-up post, and I’ll lay out the exact formula for you to decide.

Affiliate Disclosure: By clicking through the links on this page and purchasing the products, you’ll be helping me out. This is done because I receive a kickback from the sellers at no extra cost to you! Thank you so much for supporting us!


Over the years, Altra has shed some bulk from many of its shoes. Long gone is the skater shoe feel, and we now welcome the more precise and sturdy upper. 

With a burrito-style tongue (only open on one side of the tongue), you get the feel of a snug fit around the midfoot and ankle. And looking up towards the front of the shoe, you’ll find that roomy toe box required allowing your toes to splay how they naturally should. 

I found the depth in the toe area a little shallow at first. My toes were touching the top of the shoe, and I worried that I’d break through the lining pretty quick. But I’m happy to say after around 20-30km, the shoe packed out, and my worry is gone. It’s something to note when trying a fresh pair of Superiors. 

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For anyone that’s used Altra’s in the past, they’ll know that thick-walled ankle opening which often didn’t lend itself to an excellent heel lock. Now, with less padding, and a narrower heel, you feel secure. And even with a burrito-style wrap for a tongue, I’ve still managed to implement a lace lock for a perfect fit. But with a narrow heel, problems can arise.

The heel counter.

I’ve never had any rubbing on the heel from the Altra Superior, but that’s not saying too much because it’s not an issue I often face. But it should be known that this heel counter is pretty stiff, for an Altra shoe. If you’re coming from the road lineup, and in particular the Escalante, you’ll notice a big difference in the heel.

I’d suggest doing a few short runs first to ensure you’re not going to get any rubbing before heading out on long runs.

If you’re using a traditional shoe, you’ll likely feel no difference, but if you’re coming from a minimalist shoe, or other Altra’s, just take note.

Lastly, on the sizing, I usually wear size US9, and for the Superior 5, I fit the US9 perfectly. My wife also has a pair that fits true to size too.


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After my first run, I had mixed feelings.

Coming from truly barefoot shoes, I was missing a lot of ground feel, and that’s something to expect.

The Superior has firmed up its game compared to the previous version and the squishy Superior 2.0 I’ve used in the past. Even comparing the shoe to its road counterpart, the Escalante, and the trail brother the Altra Lone Peak, it’s undoubtedly firmer. 

With its firmness comes pros and cons. It does mean that you’re less likely to have a painful experience with sharp rocks (there is a rock guard included if you require more protection). On the other hand, as I said before, you’ll forego some ground feel. 

Also, having a harder base welcomes forward propulsion, nudging you on to your next step. Much like you would feel from barefoot running. It all makes sense because there’s no soft cushioning putting the brakes on, and restricting your momentum.

It’s a great feeling when dancing down technical trails and navigating rocky terrain. No more sluggish lead weights on your feet!

After my first 20km, I felt confident enough to head out for longer 20-30km runs without any worry of slipping, blisters, or sore points; to be honest, they felt pretty solid out of the box. And apart from allowing the shoes to pack out a little, I think I would say they’re perfect on the first try!


Durability is where I expect big things for this version.

In the past, I’ve had Altra’s where I’ve ripped out the side walls in 400km, and whereas some people believe that’s a reasonable distance for a shoe, I feel we need to push shoe companies further to build more sustainable and durable shoes. 

With the new design sporting tough protection from the heel and around the side of the shoe, and then a relatively firm toebox, your foot is fully protected from the trail elements. With this sturdy protection holding you in place, I don’t think they’ll be any worry of feet ripping out the side of shoes anymore. 

To be honest, the shoe could have shed some weight and made a lighter weight shoe by using less material, but as I’ve said before, I appreciate the possibility of getting more miles out of them! 

What about the underside? 

The Superior has never used the trusty Vibram rubber that other Altra’s have, and that’s a shame. Instead, the in-house MaxTrac rubber is used, and I’m expecting this to be the area that breaks down first.

The multi-directional lug pattern has proved decent over dryer scrub and uneven terrain, just like many of the trails in USA. But if you ever hit muddy conditions as you can get in the UK, the lugs just don’t seem to do the trick.

With all that said, I’ve racked up 100km on my pair of Altra Superior 5’s, and I see no areas of breaking down yet. For Altra, that’s a big statement. 

Last be not least, as with many Altra shoes, there is a velcro gaiter trap that works with the Altra gaiters. So if you’re ever heading out over sand dunes or in really dry stony environments, be sure to pick some up with your order.

Should I buy the Altra Superior 5?

If you’re looking for a lightweight, zero-drop, wide-toes box runner, then the Superior is a no-brainer. There’s no other shoe on the market that hits all those unique points, especially for this price. 

If you’re looking for that barefoot feel, I’d suggest you look elsewhere. 22mm drop is not barefoot and will affect your running style. That being said, if you’re looking to transition to barefoot or have a backup trail runner for when your feet are trashed/going long distance (like I do), the Superior is worth a look. 

If you’ve never run in zero-drop shoes, and you’re transitioning from traditional shoes, or even Hoka shoes, then a larger stack height could be a safer bet. I’d suggest looking at Altra’s like Lone Peak or even the Olympus if you’re coming from the likes of Hoka.


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Nick is a UESCA-certified ultramarathon coach and avid barefoot runner, having over 5 years of experience in barefoot training and has competed in multiple ultra marathons wearing barefoot shoes. Starting his journey in the running industry over 10 years ago in New Zealand, Nick evolved from a running shoe salesperson to a passionate advocate for the transformative power of barefoot running. He believes in its potential to enhance running experiences for all and combines his unique insights from both personal achievements and professional coaching to guide and inspire the running community."

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