Altra has updated the popular Superior to version 4.0 for 2019. The Superior 4.0 comes in with a brand new and super comfortable upper, a 19mm 0-drop midsole, and a versatile and sticky multi-use outsole. Over the past few years, Altra has become well known for their zero drop shoes with wide toe boxes that can be found on the feet of thru-hikers and elite trail runners the world over. The Superior 4.0 is the first Altra trail shoe that I can compliment on it’s looks as well. I usually don’t cover a shoe’s appearance in my reviews, as I find it to be highly personal, but I want to give Altra a ‘kudos’ for improving their design aesthetic.
Size, Weight, Fit, and Build
My size 11.5 Altra Superiors weigh a superlight 9.39 oz per shoe, and 10.4oz per shoe with the removable stone guard rock plate. This size 11.5 is the exact same as my Altra Lone Peak 4.0. Both shoes have a very similar fit length-wise.
Starting with the Superior’s fit in the heel, this trail shoe has a lightly padded heel cup with no heel counter. The heel on the Superior is soft and fully collapsible. This makes for a very secure and snug fit without any chaffing or friction, but leaves a little to be desired on technical or off-kilter trails. The overall lockdown of this heel is pretty good, but there are times I think a thin counter would be beneficial.
The midfoot of the Superior 4.0 provides a snug, secure, and seem free fit that makes for very comfortable days on the trail. At first glance, the Superior 4.0 appears to have a one piece upper. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the base is an underlayer of breathable air mesh, with a panel overlay that sits on top. This panel overlay starts at base of the forefoot and wraps around to the back of the heel. This overlay provides lateral structure and keeps my midfoot from sliding around on technical trails or on days when I’m wearing a pack.
The toebox on the Superior 4.0 is wide and anatomically shaped just like every other Altra. Where the 4.0 differs, and in my opinion improves over other Altra models, is in the security of the toe box. Altra has gone with a lower volume fit up front, and has stiffened things up with a series of welded overlays. This keeps the Superior 4.0 from having a sloppy or loose fit like I’ve experienced on wide toe box shoes in the past. The Superior 4.0 is a dream for hiking or running on downhill trails, with the wide toebox keeping my toenails blister and bruise free. This is the major reason that Altra’s have completely taken over many long distance hiking trails.
As I mentioned above, Altra uses two main materials for the Superior 4.0’s upper, with an air mesh base layer supported by a synthetic overlay for structure. The only noticeable seams on the inside of the upper is where the laminate overlay is stitched onto the toebox. The shoe rides friction free though, and that one seam has not proven to be an issue.
Added features on the Superior 4.0 are Altra’s ‘Gaiter Trap’, with a Velcro attachment on the heel and a loop attachment at the base of the laces. There are also four small drainage holes on the semi-rigid toe guard. I’ve kicked a few rocks and roots and found this shoe to provide ample protection up front. The Superior breathes very well and is perfect for hot climates. I’ve also worn these on a few damp and wet trails and have found them to drain and dry very quickly. This shoe is easily one of the fastest drying trail shoes I own.
The tongue on the Superior 4.0 utilizes a burrito wrap design. The tongue is attached and wraps from the medial (interior) side of the shoe and connects via a full gusset to the lateral (exterior) side of the shoe. This tongue is very comfortable and does a great job of keeping out debris. The lacing setup for the Superior 4.0 is pretty standard for a trail shoe, and has performed for me without issue.
For those that are unfamiliar with Altra’s trail shoe offerings, the Superior sits at the bottom of Altra’s trail shoe line up. The Lone Peak, Timp, and Olympus all provide more cushion underfoot (listed in ascending order). So the Superior really is Altra’s minimal trail shoe option, although it has gained more cushion and a more padded feel underfoot over the years.
For version 4.0, the Superior has a 19mm stack height with a 0mm heel to toe offset. For those unfamiliar with zero-drop shoes, make sure to work them into your rotation slowly. Your calves and achilles will need time to adjust and strengthen.
For the composition of the Superior’s midsole, Altra uses what they call Altra Quantic. I would guess that this is just a take on an injection molded EVA. The midsole is on the soft side, and rides much like the Lone Peak 4.0. The major difference between the Superior 4.0 and Lone Peak 4.0 is that the Lone Peak has a dual layer midsole and includes a stone guard sandwiched between the two layers. This gives the Lone Peak and additional 6mm of stack height. The Superior provides underfoot protection with a removable 1mm thick Stone Guard.
In use, I find the Superior 4.0 to be lacking in protection, even with the addition of the Stone Guard. This is Altra’s minimal shoe though, so my experience is not totally unexpected. Although I give up a little in protection and cushion, the Superior 4.0 does provide great stability and ground feel. The Superior 4.0 also provides slipper like comfort, as long as the trail isn’t too rocky and my runs/hikes don’t go too long.
For the outsole on the Superior 4.0, Altra uses their MaxTrac compound with their Trail Claw lug pattern. I earlier complimented Altra’s progression in shoe design, but their greatest improvement over the years (IMO) is with their outsoles. The early models of Altra’s trail shoes tended to lack durability and/or stickiness, but their latest models have been providing both.
The outsole of the Superior 4.0 has uses a durable rubber compound around the perimeter of the shoe, with a stickier compound in the middle. This combination has cutouts of exposed midsole to provide a better flex from heel to toe. Although I like the feel of the flexible outsole, there are times sharp rocks will hit that thin layer of exposed midsole and give me a jolt.
The performance of the Superior’s midsole has been pretty good on a wide range of trails. This shoe really shines on hardpack trails, but also holds its own when the path gets a little soft.
The Altra Superior 4.0 is a great trail shoe choice for trail runners, hikers, and backpackers looking for a low to the ground minimal trail shoe that provides proprioception with a little bit of cushion. The Superior doesn’t provide the kind of underfoot protection I prefer on rockier trails or on days when I’m carrying a pack, but it still sits in my shoe rotation when I want to wear something fast and comfortable. At $110, the Superior 4.0 is very high value pick that is sure to make a lot of feet very happy. Just make sure you know what you’re getting. If you prefer a little more cushion underfoot, the Lone Peak, Timp, or Olympus might be better picks.