Altra Superior 6 Review – What’s changed between 5 vs 6

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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  • Weight: 9.5 oz/ 270 g
  • Stack Height: 21mm
  • Burrito style tongue
  • True to size
  • Wide Toebox, fitted upper
  • Amazing grip

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Superior 6

(free returns)

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. 

How does the Altra Superior 6 Fit?

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. 

Altra Superior 6 toe box

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! 

Altra Superior 6 heel

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. 

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Superior 6

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How does the Altra Superior 6 Feel?

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. 

Altra Superior 6 outsole

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. 

Altra Superior 6 tongue

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!

Altra Superior 6 burrito

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.

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Superior 6

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How Durable is the Altra Superior 6?

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. 

Altra Superior 6 tongue

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. 

Altra Superior 6 lacing

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! 

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Superior 6

(free returns)

Superior 5 vs. Superior 6, which is better?

It’s a pretty simple answer.

The Altra Superior 6 takes the edge over its predecessor. But not by much. 

Altra Superior 6 vs. Superior 5

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 in buying those over the 6’s. You still get an excellent shoe with mostly the same features as the 6s. 

Conclusion

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!

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Superior 6

(free returns)

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Nick
Nick

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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18 Comments

  1. Hey Nick,
    Thanks so much for a detailed review of the new Superiors! As you are, i’m a big fun of this model and ran in every Superior generations since v1.5. In fact, it is the only trail running shoes i use. Was waiting for the 6th gen and went to try them out once they got available in my local Sports Basement — and i was shocked by how narrow the shoe feels, even compared to the 5 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Feels like (and actually looks too) Altra removed a bit of the toebox from the big toe side — making it look more rectangular as you’re mentioning in the review, — which bites into the toebox space. At least that was my initial impression, and it is a bummer.
    Perhaps i rushed with my conclusion as i was expecting a roomier toebox in this version, i might gonna go and try them on again. I wonder, if in your experience the shoe materials stretched a bit? Although the updated toebox shape and thick vinyl on it doesn’t seem to be very stretchy =)

    • Nice! We’ve seen a lot of change over the years haven’t we! 🙂

      So I’m 98% certain that the width hasn’t changed. But I think there’s some other things coming into play here.
      1. The toe box is solid! Which is great for protection, but if you’re anywhere near the end of the shoe, it’s going to have zero give.
      2. The upper material is thicker, and a little stiffer than the 5. Again, if you’re pressing up against the upper, you’re going to feel it move in the 6’s.
      3. The 6 is shallow. Meaning it doesn’t have much depth. When I first tried the shoes I found them super tight over the midfoot and the toebox. But after around 30km, the insole had packed out and now they’re feeling familiar.

      So if it’s one of the first 2, I’d suggest trying a half size larger.
      But if it’s number 3, just know the insole will pack down after 10’s of km. Or you could switch out the insole for a thinner one. I did this with the 5’s in the past.

      I hope this helps!

      • Thanks Nick! I will try on the 6’s one more time to see if i wanna wait until they stretch out a bit. I always buy Superiors in 1 full size up to be safe on technical downhills, but my regular 9.5 in the 6’s feels like it has too much room in front of my longest toe (something you’re also mentioning in the review), but going 1/2 size down — and the shoe feels so narrow.

        Well, worst case scenario — i’m stocking up on the discounted 5’s =)

        • Yeah, if the Superiors 5’s work for you (that’s what’s important), stick with it!

          If you want me to help further, feel free to email hello@barefootrunreview.com and we can do a little digital foot analysis to understand why the fit is narrow, and possibly find other models too.

  2. Thanks so mich for your reviews, great detaik. I feel the seams and adusted fit where the side has the plastic part sewn to the laces. Does that get better? Do these wear super fast on cement?

    • Thanks for the kind words!

      Yeah, I think it will get better over time. I think one reasons you feel this so much is the lack of depth to the shoe. I’ve now got +50km and they’ve packed down a little more and are becoming more comfortable. You couldn’t try switch out the insole for a thinner one to get more room instead.

      I imagine this rubber compound would wear on cement very fast and I would advise against it. If you’re looking for a trail shoe that could potentially go on road, maybe the Altra Outroad is for you?

  3. Thanks for sharing your review.

    I’m still wishing for a superior 4 or escalante racer. I highly prefer the suppleness of these shoes and found the superior 5’s too chunky and too supportive. Can’t stand the shape of the heel and arch it seems to tighten up the leg muscles and shorten the stride, interfering with natural foot strike, although a few millimeters longer might help because I was sort of between sizes in the 5 and went down.

    Hoping to someday see the return of a very flexible midsole and soft sock-like upper.

    Superior 4s forever!

    • Ha yeah, many of us feel like that. But I’ve brought my self to a place where I enjoy, barefoot shoes for the ground feel and flexibility, then Altra’s for racing or rough terrain.

      Have you trying any minimal shoes (Xero Shoes, Vivobarefoot)? You may like them if you love the old superiors.

      • How does the shoe compare to the Xero Mesa Trail II. Is the Xero wider in the toebox and has more depth? In almost every altra shoe I have heel slip. The Lone peak and the superior is the only shoes from Altra that holds my heels just a little. So I would like to know how a Xero Mesa Trail II size 43 vs Altra Sup 6 size 43 is? Please help me 🙂

        • Sure thing!
          So the toebox of the Superior is wider than the Mesa Trail II but much less deep. I switch out the insole to give myself more depth in the Escalante. And in general, the shoe is nowhere near as deep as Xero Shoes, so keep that in mind.
          The heel lock is “ok” on the Superior; again, I needed to sit deeper in the shoe. But a good lace lock fixed any slippage.
          And then, lastly. I would order the same size in the Mesa Trail II and the Superior 6. The length of both shoes is very similar.

          All in all, the Superior will feel very different, and that’s to be expected! But give it some time, and you’ll get used to the difference in fit.

          I hope that helps!

    • I have 2 pairs of Escalante Racers. The best shoe I’ve ever ran in, period. I think it strikes the perfect balance for a minimalist shoe by having the right amount of cushion to chase every route you desire, no matter how rough the terrain is.
      It’s also minimal enough to keep your natural running form and works your feet almost the same as being unshod or as wearing other true minimalist shoes. Just brilliant. Hopefully it will not be abandoned since it’s the only Altra shoe I want to wear for road running (which is what I do most). The other shoes in their lineup feel to clunky and far away from minimalist style hindering the foot strengthening abilities that the Escalante Racer possesses.

      • I hear you! Many people love the Racers, and I’m hoping, as we keep seeing new colors, etc. It means they’ll continue it for the time being.

        I see it differently for trail shoes because the upper has to be more rigid to ensure your foot doesn’t slip off the base on technical terrain. Naturally, that makes the upper materials stiffer than those on road shoes. As for cushion, I prefer denser foams on the trail to get quick feedback underfoot while maintaining some protection. But I go with more minimal options like Xero Shoes.

        But hey, it’s all personal preference! Do what works for you!

  4. Did you experience any ripping in the upper material of your Superior 5s? Mine split at the connection between the thin toebox mesh and the harder overlay above the pinky toe. Started to see after just a month. They fit me really well, but I’m hesitant to get another pair of either Superior 5s or 6s in case it happens again. Altra Customer Service no use when you purchase through another retailer.

    • No I didn’t, and my wife has had 3 pairs of Superior 5’s and the only issue she’s found is the toe box melts in the sun, or on the radiator. 🙂
      The toe box is very different on the Superior 6, much better in my opinion, and the upper material is a little thicker, but that says nothing for the connection to the outsole. If I were to guess, you’d be find with the 6 though. I hope that helps!

  5. Even if I like my new superior 6. I really felt the sup. 5 much more minimalist.
    It feels like much more heavier.
    Am I the only one?

    • I think you’re exactly right. It gained a little weight, and the midsole is just that tiny bit more stiff/solid. That being said, the alternatives for ~20mm stack height zero drop shoes are few and far between. I still think the Superior 6 is the best on the market!

  6. I had Superior 5 and they were one of the few shoes that fit me. They had a defect and were replaced by Altra with the 6. The 6 is definitely narrower, shallower and unusable for me. They might be the shape of someones foot, but they sure as hell aren’t the shape of mine. If you needed the width and/or depth of the 5 then I would avoid the 6.

    • I’m not sure about narrower, but I agree they feel shallow. That’s why I change out the insole for a thinner option (old Xero Shoes insoles work well for me). I’d say, try that, and give it 30km, and they’ll pack out a bit. I remember the first run was a bit constricting.

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