The king of minimal trail shoes is back! The Altra Superior 6. And there are some all-important updates from version 5, but we still see the same old features that made it a rockstar in the first place.
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The Superior is the lowest stack height trail shoe Altra makes, coming in at 21mm. The zero-drop platform and wide toebox make it a favorite for short trail races, and being a barefoot runner myself, it makes a great Ultra distance shoe.
So, is the upgrade from version 5 worth the cash?
In this review, I will take you through the fit, feel, and durability and compare the Superior 6 vs. Superior 5. Then you can decide if it’s a buy or a pass for this year.
The short answer for this fit section is….. It fits almost the same as version 5!
If you have a shallow to average depth foot, you’re not too wide around midfoot and prefer a nice wide-toe box –the Superior 6 is for you!
Let’s dig into the details.
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Choosing your standard shoe size is perfect in length and width. I’d say version 6 fits a few mm longer than version 5, and that’s a good thing to me. I have around a thumb-width space at the end of the shoe, which is enough for any swelling during a race and to avoid stubbing my toes into the front of the shoe on tricky descents.
The forefoot is nice and wide and beautifully squared towards the big toe. Altra’s foot-shaped toebox still exists! It’s wide enough for super toe splayers and even fits my stupid bulbous big toe. 🙂 So yeah, it’s wide enough for most of you out there. The taper on the little toe side is not too aggressive, so it should fit a more square-shaped foot.
As with many Altra shoes, the shoe isn’t all that deep. If you have a lot of volume in your foot, you may have felt a lot of pressure on the top of the foot in Altra’s. For me, the Superior 6 is no different. I felt a lot of pressure above the balls of my feet on the upper because there is not enough depth for me. So my super sneaky trick is to replace the insole with something thinner, like a Xero Shoes insole.
The heel lock is distinctly average. When I first pulled on the Superior 6, I was hit with the lack of a heel lock. I had to give it a good lace lock to make it feel ok on the trail. But there are some explanations for this.
1. I need to break them in. The foam will pack out a little, allowing my feet to sit deeper in the shoe.
2. I need to replace the insole with a thinner one so I can sit deeper in the shoe from the start.
For some, this lack of depth is an excellent thing. For example, these styles of shoes suit my wife much better. So it’s just a case of knowing your foot type.
Email me if you don’t know your foot type, and I can walk you through it!
Even though this is the Standard Altra fit, the midfoot is the same width as a Lone Peak! Other than the depth, I’m convinced the Superior 6 is just as wide as the Lone Peak, a shoe many people claim is wide for them! If you have a combination of depth and width, I’d suggest looking at the Lone Peak Wide option instead. There is just not enough space in the shoe for such feet.
It’s always hard comparing shoes to the previous version.
I want to say the Superior 6 is a tiny bit stiffer and more firm. That could make sense because, in this version, we’ve seen a switch from the old Quantic midsole to the Altra Ego midsole.
That being said, the difference is minor, and as the midsole breaks in over time, the difference will diminish.
Generally, if you like ground feel and good flexibility in every direction, you’ll enjoy the Superior 6.
This really is a shoe for those that thrive in responsive shoes, or like me, your regular shoes are minimal, and the Superiors are in the rotation for long technical runs.
You need to be comfortable with your feet doing the work! If there is one thing we’re passionate about at Barefoot Run Review, it’s foot function. Most modern shoes don’t allow your foot to move, let alone contribute to the running gait. The Superior’s do allow your feet to work! The shoe is flexible enough to feel your foot engage on toe-off and minimal enough that your calves will get a good workout.
Warning! If you’re not used to flexible shoes, i.e., coming from Hoka or any conventional shoe company, slowly work yourself into the Superiors. You will use your lower leg strength much more.
And that’s a good thing! You want to build resilience by lightly stressing different muscles in your legs.
It’ll take a little time for all the materials to break in. The upper is just that little bit thicker than version 5. In general, it feels like the whole shoe, from the midsole foam to the toe box, feels a little stiffer. Again, it’s only a minor difference, and because of that, I think the material will break in over time.
It’s all about the new outsole! So much grip! One of the most significant updates in this version is the new outsole rubber. We felt this same rubber on the Lone Peak 7, and I was super happy with it, and I’m glad to say it’s performing just as well on the Superior 5! On dry days, these shoes just stuck to the rocks, and in the wet, the large lugs down the sides of the outsoles should perform a little better than version 5.
The lack of a rock plate makes little difference, but that’s my opinion. The Superior 5 used to ship with an optional rock plate you could place under the insole to dull any sharp rocks you may step on. That’s no longer true for the Superior 6, but that’s not an issue. There’s still 21mm of foam to protect you from sharp rocks, and the cushion is firm enough to take the edge of those stones anyway. Over time you learn better foot placement –which is critical to efficient and pain-free running!
The responsiveness felt “poppy,” like I was bouncing forward with nothing holding me back. No, it’s not because an all-new “super-foam” is being used; it’s just less foam! And it’s denser. When you’re closer to the ground, the windlass mechanism of your foot-ankle complex (essentially your foot and ankle muscles working) creates pop for you, not the foam! This version felt particularly poppy, but that could be the new shoe feeling!
It was hard to notice the 0.7oz (20g) weight gain, but I’m still disappointed it happened. One advantage of lower stack height shoes is the weight cut that comes along with it. But sadly, the Superior 6 has gained weight, coming in at 9.5oz (270g) for a men’s US9. That’s not heavy for a trail runner, but I feel there are areas they could trim some weight without affecting the quality.
I’ve had my Superior 5’s for 500km, and they’re looking pretty battered now. My wife also got around 500km out of her first pair before retiring them and switching to a fresh pair.
That’s not an excellent lifespan for a shoe, and I’d hope to see a little more from the Superior 6.
The redesigned toe box is much more stout! If you kick a rock, that means more protection for the shoe and your feet. It also helps keep the shape of the toe box nice and square over the top of the toes, even if we could do with a bit of wiggle space.
The upper materials are slightly more reinforced and less prone to scuff damage. The toe box upper on version 5 was super thin, and I was always amazed I never ripped through it. This time they’ve gone with a slightly thicker material, which is a good idea for the trail.
Around the midfoot, rather than big chunks of vinyl, we see a hybrid mesh material with a cross-hatched overlay. The plastic vinyl-like material always seemed overkill for this minimal runner. Altra has semi-moved away from this, but we’re still stuck with an overbuilt midfoot. That’s great for durability, but they could have dropped some weight in this area by going for less.
There’s heavy stitching across most seams. Many modern shoes opt for delicate stitches and use welded overlays to combine two materials. That’s not true for most of the Superior range. There’s still heavy stitching which will only increase the upper’s longevity.
It’s all about the outsole rubber! Softer, tackier rubbers like the one on the Superior 6 usually wear quicker than tough rubbers. I feel this will be the weakest part of the shoe in terms of durability. Only time will tell us that, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed they’ve managed some Vibram-like magic here!
It’s a pretty simple answer.
The Altra Superior 6 takes the edge over its predecessor. But not by much.
The minor upgrades like the updated outsole rubber, reinforced toe cap, and updated upper material are worth the $0 extra!
That’s right; the Superior 6 has been released at the same price as version 5!
Thank you, Altra!
Now if you were to find a deal on Superior 5’s for under $100, I’d fully support you buying those over the 6’s. You still get an excellent shoe with mostly the same features as the 6s.
I’m so happy that the Superior has remained mostly unchanged.
It’s a model that stands out among a sea of maximal behemoths and offers that unique ground feel that most of the market lacks.
So if you want a shoe that complements your minimal/barefoot running, or you want to cut down in stack height, the Superior is for you.
It can be a great transition shoe when working towards a minimal shoe transition.
And it can serve as your race day shoe for speed and a little protection when racing down those rocky descents.
Oh, if you haven’t noticed….. I like the Superiors…. I hope you do too!