Altra Superior 2.0 Review

When I initially saw the redesign of the Altra Superior 2.0 ($110) last year around this time, it occurred to me that this could be the Altra trail shoe that I’ve been waiting for. The shoe appeared to be a lot more like the Lone Peak and a whole lot less like its predecessor, the Superior 1.5. That kind of information means a lot, to Altra fans. The problem was, I wasn’t that big of a fan. The idea of running long distances in a zero-drop shoe frankly scared me due to the fact that I frequently rotate out shoes with a higher drop. I envisioned Achilles issues, calf cramping, lower-back spasms, and various other malaise effecting middle-aged adult men with imperfect gaits.

But, I also imagined a less-cushioned, less-responsive minimal shoe like the original Superior. I had yet to try this second (or third) generation of Altras which have been totally redeveloped, from upper materials to EVA foam. So, I dedicated a few solid weeks of running primarily in the Superior 2.0, capping off the stretch with a solid 8,000-foot climb up the local hill in December to truly see if my fears of the zero drop were warranted.

Altra Superior 2.0

The Altra Superior 2.0.

Upper
First of all, size up in this shoe at least a half size. I learned this the hard way and Altra was kind enough to send me a half size larger than I typically wear in their shoes and the difference was immediate. The Superior 2.0 is one of the best-fitting running shoes I’ve ever worn, hands downThe fit, with the generously natural-last toe box, and snug midfoot and heel reminds me of the original New Balance Minimus last in the MT110. I reference that shoe often because, for my foot, it is hard to find a better fit. When I first looked at photos of the shoe, I was concerned about a shallow toe box, but this is remedied by getting the correct size. I will say that the toe box isn’t as deep as the Lone Peak 2.0, but this snugger fit keeps it more locked down on technical terrain.

The upper is completely seamless and features a very tough dual-density mesh which I’m sure some runners will complain is too hot. I didn’t have this problem, but I didn’t run in temperatures warmer than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. This tougher mesh also really prevented any dirt or sand from getting into the shoe. A tough but minimal welded-on toe bumper covers the entire front of the shoe around all toes which was very appreciated. The heel cup is minimally reinforced and the upper maintains a very low profile and flexible fit overall. It felt dialed in right out of the box.

A simple, slightly asymmetrical lacing system made it easy to establish a snug fit, and a gusseted tongue kept small rocks and dirt out when the well-padded tongue moves out of place toward the toe box (a cosmetic issue if one at all). The heel cup also features a Gaiter Trap, a tab with velcro underneath which accommodates Altra gaiters as well as other brands that use velcro on the back rather than a strap underneath the shoe.

Altra Superior 2.0 lateral upper

The Altra Superior 2.0 lateral upper.

Midsole
If you haven’t tried A-Bound EVA foam, Altra’s recycled EVA, then you’re missing out, in my opinion. I have found it to be incredibly responsive and durable, and after almost 200 miles in the Superior 2.0, I’m not seeing any creasing, wrinkles, or paint flaking. I actually feel like I’m at that sweet spot of the shoe now where every run in them feels better than the last. Despite this fantastic amount of cushioning for a relatively lightweight package (8.7 ounces), the Superior 2.0 maintains a minimalist ground feel appropriate to its heritage.

The Superior 2.0 comes replete with a removable rock plate which sits very nicely beneath the insole. This one-ounce StoneGuard offers just the right amount of protection without sacrificing flexibility or ground feel. I actually had put about 50 miles in the shoe prior to realizing that I’d left the StoneGuards in the shoebox, and the ability to remove them to save weight on less technical trails was appreciated.

Altra Superior 2.0 medial upper

The Altra Superior 2.0 medial upper.

Outsole
Altra’s updated Trail Claw outsole is a great combination of durable traction mixed with softer, less-lugged rubber which doesn’t get in the way of your footstrike on buffed-out trails or roads. I was worried about durability with some of the softer rubber toward the center of the outsole, but my Superior 2.0s show barely any wear.

Altra keeps the Trail Rudder, a tab of outsole rubber off the back of the heel, purportedly to aid in steep downhill running. I cannot attest to this feature helping or hindering any type of running, and a simple weight saver for those not impressed is to excise the offending rubber with an X-ACTO Knife.

Altra Superior 2.0 outsole

The Altra Superior 2.0 outsole.

Overall Impressions
Zero-drop shoes have never been my cup of tea, and I’ve always considered my sweet spot to be between 4-6mm of heel drop. I think that the reason I’ve eschewed zero drop was simply because I learned it didn’t work for me during the minimalist craze when I was trying to wear bonafide slippers on trails. I’ve learned since that combining zero drop with a sane amount of cushioning, I barely notice the difference in my gait or post-run soreness. The Superior 2.0 does a very nice job of incorporating a minimalist ground feel, flexibility, and natural fit with a just-enough amount of cushioning that it can really handle ultra distances above 50k. The outsole handles dry and rocky terrain, snow, soft mud, and clay well while not feeling awkward on dirt or concrete.

The Superior 2.0 will be a great shoe for runners looking for a natural last, plenty of toe-box room during ultras, and a pseudo-minimalist feel with more than enough protection. Some runners could handle 100 miles in this shoe, but for me it feels like a 50k to 50-mile specialist ready to take on rocky and buffed out trail alike.

I do think some Altra devotees and runners with high-volume feet might be disgruntled by the lower-profile upper and toe box. However, this might be just the trail shoe Altra was intending to design to gain more of a crossover audience in the trail running market, and in my opinion the Superior 2.0 is a ‘must try’ trail shoe for 2015.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you run in the Altra Superior 2.0? What features of the shoe do you really enjoy, and which are your feet struggling with?
  • For those of you who ran in the previous Superiors, how is the 2.0 similar and different for you?
  • Like Tom, many people have become fans of zero-drop shoes because Altra shoes simultaneously offer no drop along with some of the creature comforts found in non-minimalist shoes. How does the marriage of concepts work out for you in the Superior 2.0?
Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 29 comments

  1. chrispyb

    So glad they went with a stickier rubber on the sole. I've slid a lot on wet rocks trail running in NH at VT in the LP 2.0 and Olympus. That being said, I think I'll try to keep my new Superiors off the road and on trails, because I bet concrete would wear that sole quickly. Can't wait to try these out!

  2. @scottcorgan

    Even with the minimalist craze going away, I'd like to hope that a shoe this good (in my own experience) doesn't go away. This shoe fits so well, feels so light, and doesn't get it the way.

    Don't let the lack of maximal cushioning scare you from using this shoe. It gives a very real experience on the trails.

  3. DogrunnerDavid

    Have this shoe and have put about 100 miles on them. I really like everything about it – nice responsive ride, good grip, solid protection, etc. The only issue I've experienced has been my foot sliding forward on steep downhills so toes were hitting the front of the shoe. Maybe I didn't size up enough (went half size up). Basically I felt the upper wasn't locking the foot down enough, but then I took out the rock plate and that has seemed to improved the situation to a degree. And the protection is still really good without the removable plates.

    1. TomCaughlan

      I agree about that, and I was thinking about it this morning on my run going down a steep downhill. I think that is part of having a foot shaped toe box. I'm very used to having my big toe and pinky toe squeezed by the sides of the shoe on downhills, which has led to some issues. With the Altras, all of my toes go to the front of the shoe on steep downs which seems less painful and traumatic.
      I sized up half a size as well, and I'm wondering if I'd notice this less if I went up a whole size. I will say that I've gotten used to it, and on a recent run with a four mile steep downhill trail I didn't have any problems with toe soreness afterwards.

  4. ggianniny

    Can't wait to try these, they look like a great improvement over the previous version! By the way, does anyone know if the 8.7oz weight includes the rock plate?

    1. @WilliamsRunning

      I am not a 100% sure but my guess is that's the weight without the rock plate. Regardless, the shoe feels awesome with or without it in and the weight difference is so minor that you're good to go either way.

  5. davethecanuck

    I have run in the 2.0s for the last month, and they might be my favorite trail shoe. Tom's review is spot-on in all respects. I also have the 1.5s and though the fit of the the 2.0 is quite similar, the new version is a vast improvement in the following ways:

    – Much stickier rubber for technical/rocky terrain.
    – Smoother ride on pavement (though I minimize road-running in these shoes for fear of excessive wear).
    – Much less brick-like in feel than the 1.5s – very responsive and flexible.

    My tastes run on the more minimal side, so these are the most cushioned shoes in my repertoire. My previous favorite trail shoe is the Inov-8 TrailRoc 245, and the Superior is very similar to this shoe, but with lower drop and slightly more generous toe box.

    Size-wise, they do run a 1/2 size small, which means a size 15 fits me perfectly (I have a theoretical 14.5 – nobody actually makes that size).

    I will definitely be wearing these for my next ultra.

  6. rmsquires

    After 40miles or so, two complaints: The upper does not feel locked down at all, I sense quite a bit of movement. My impression is it needs overlays or something to lock the mid-foot. The box should include thinner stock insoles, as the rockplate + stock insole stack takes up much toebox room, and the rockplate itself has sharp nubs that preclude going insole-less. The 'barely any wear' comment does not apply if you have any uneven stride problems like landing on the lateral edge or a braking stride: The 3rd lateral outside lug was 1/2 sheared off after my initial 6mile jog on a flat trail. I can't blame the shoe for this though.

    During a recent 50k with them, I was very pleased to not have any fear of tripping on protruding rocks, which I get with some shoes, that's delightful. And post-race there was no grit in the shoe, which I credit the gusseted tongue and fine mesh for: Nice.

    1. TomCaughlan

      I go back and forth between the Lone Peaks and the Superiors. The Lone Peaks have a lot more cushioning but retain flexibility. Definitely a roomier upper on the Lone Peaks. For me it just depends on how much protection I want on my foot that day. For 100 miles, I'd be in the Lone Peaks. For a 50k, the Superiors.

      1. sasquatch2310

        Thanks for the distinction. I'm practically always running in Skora but have a few places where a little extra something would help. I have had the Instincts before and liked them so I was curious how the LP and Superior stacked up.

  7. rmsquires

    One last update on my pair: I did a steep and rocky run with them on the weekend, with just the stock insoles, no rockplate. So fun and grippy. But on the way back down the toes sliding into the forefoot and hitting the front was even more distracting than on previous runs. This shoe badly needs an update to the upper that reduces this effect, I'm not buying another pair till this is done: make it so! You'll say: 'size up!' Uh, no. I already sized up 1/2, and the next available size is another full size up: This is a problem with the shoe, not my foot. One other item of note is aching of the metatarsal joints after a long run. I'm not casting this as a negative, as there are no hotspots, and it doesn't feel like a more dangerous plantar fasciitis, but I would probably not go 50miles in this shoe, 50k max for me.

  8. a_r_m

    Hey, Tom, do you have time for a recommendation? I've found that a number of the shoes you recommend in your reviews here have suited me well and suspect that I gravitate toward the same sort of shoes as you–the Pearl Iz N1, Patagonia Everlong, Brooks Pure Grit 3, and Montrail Fluid Flex 2. I had been running in Germany where winters are moderate and trails are quite hilly but not very technical and overall soft and wet. I just moved upstate NY, where it's colder, snowier, icy, and the trails are extremely rocky and steep. Can you recommend these Altra Superior 2 for my new conditions, and do you have other recommendations? I know I need a little more shoe here, at least for winter,and would certainly appreciate your advice!

    1. @tomcaughlan

      Hey-
      Sorry I missed this. I wrote a long reply the other day but my intense debate account was not posting it. So, here it goes again.
      We do seem to like the same kinds of shoes, so I'll give this a go. I have no advice for running on ice. The Pure Grit 3 is a great snow shoe though.
      As far as shoes for your current conditions, sounds like you're looking for something that feels locked down, with good grip, and probably a wider forefoot? Here are my choices.
      Saucony Peregrine 5 – The new Peregrine is great. Nice toe box and a great mid foot grip. Ballistic outsole.
      North Face Cardiac- I've been running in this for a couple months (review to come). Firmer feel but plenty of cushioning. The fit is very secure and I can bomb down things in these shoes.
      Nike Kiger 2- I love this shoe for techy trails because of the fit. Not enough outsole in my opinion, but I've been impressed by how grippy they are.

      I wouldn't recommend the Superior 2.0 for steep downs and techy trails. Even with the rock plate my feet don't really like sharp rocks in the Superiors, and on steep downs your feet will slip forward in the shoes. I like the Superiors for easy-moderate trails. I usually don't wear them if the trail is really rocky.

      Hope this helps.

      1. a_r_m

        Thanks for the advice, twice no less. I ended up trying some NB winter110s and have been wearing microspikes over them. I don't think these shoes are made anymore, but I found a pair online. With the cold and snow and ice, this combo is working well (and I think these shoes look awesome.) As a person with poor circulation in hands and feet, I'm pleased these shoes are keeping me running in this never-ending winter; I'm staying warm and dry and have plenty of room for moving my toes around. The fit is great and they make me want to run. And I suppose you all know about microspikes, but as a newbie, and someone who runs alone, I feel like I've discovered a beautiful secret. They are working well with the W110s so far. If the snow and ice ever melt, though, I'll definitely be revisiting your list here and really appreciate your suggestions and the thorough reviews you write. Thanks!

  9. naturalenduranceathletics

    great review. I ran altras for three years and predominantly used the superior model. I loved the 1.0 but within a week of using 1.5 I developed plantar fasciitis. Tried to stay in a zero drop but determined I can't. In hindsight I'm bitter towards the 1.5s but this shoe looks legit.

  10. doctorrino

    my experience with altra superior 2.0 is not to good,
    it feels realign nice but it is so fragile.
    first wear I had a hole in the upper.
    after buying service from altra was not resolutive, it seems like you were talking to a robot machine, they just have one answer to every case, they don't hear the individual problem, so it made me feel like I bought a 110 dollars trouble instead of a nice pair of running shoes.
    hope I get to show a picture of the defect

  11. spotlight76

    I have read some reviews stating that the hell feels a bit loose and doesn't lock the foot well. Ha anyone experienced this?

  12. T_M_S

    Really enjoyed my pair. Put 330 great miles on them, then they literally came apart at the seams – on both shoes, upper had inch long gashes and were rapidly separating from the lowers. My local store replaced them for me at no charge (thanks guys!) but they did say that's probably normal on light shoes like these after 300 miles. I liked them enough, that I'd buy them again anyway, but I am def not impressed with their lifespan.

    Regarding fit, I went a full fize larger than I normally do. Then, it felt loose, but after tying with a heel lock, they are dialed right in. Felt great.

    One concern: I've been having arch pain in one foot. It's fine while I walk barefoot, but if I put on these shoes, the pain shows up. I often run through it, but sometimes have to cut it short. Should I find a new shoe, add an insert, or something else? Avg. miles around 30-50/wk, and compete around 4:30's on 50ks.

  13. TomCaughlan

    So, a little bit more of a long-term review comment. I ended up purchasing an additional pair of the Superior 2.0s and went a full size up! From 9.5 to 10.5! This totally alleviated the foot sliding and sore toes due to banging against the front of the shoe. My current pair has about 380 miles on them and they're about toast, with a bit of a hole wearing in the upper around the pinky toe. Additionally, the EVA feels about dead.
    I do love this shoe, and I think it deserves the great press it has received. I'm looking forward to the update!

  14. Silas Peterson

    I am a huge fan of the Superior 2.0. I probably have 300 or more miles on my second pair, and they’re still going strong. Since I got my first pair last fall, I have run a 50 miler, a 24-hour race, and a couple of 50k’s. The only time I got a blister was on a soggy, what course – no fault of the shoes. The fit is perfect, the field is perfect – I love everything about these shoes! I hope they never stop making them. I don’t know what I will do.

  15. LarsLaird

    Thanks for a nice review! Since then, the Lone Peak 3.0 has come out – and I am wondering which one to go for. Normally, I like it light, responsive and fast,which goes in favour of the superior. However, The Lone Peak got the weight so far down that it competes with the superior – and in general I get the impression that a lot of work and quality has gone into the LP3. Comments? I run in the forests east of Oslo, Norway – no massive climbs, but hilly and with trails full of rocks and roots.

  16. Len

    Have you tried using these with the rockguard but without the insole? I have used Lone Peaks and found I needed the insole out for extra space. I have high volume feet, particularly in the midfoot. I was wondering how these would work with just the rockguard. Thank you.

  17. Larry

    Len, my main problem is extra width needed not in the toe box, but in the midfoot area as well. Any recommendations on trail shoes that will accommodate this?

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