I had a positive experience when I reviewed the Altra Lone Peak 2.0 last year, finding them soft, super comfortable and ideal for long runs on hard-packed surfaces. However, for most people I think they are going to be a bit overkill for shorter distances and they offer a little bit more cushioning (and therefore bulk) than I feel that I really need for the majority of my running. With this in mind, I’ve really been looking forward to trying the new Superior 2.0 which is the Lone Peak’s lighter, lower and more compact sibling.
The Superior has undergone a couple of revisions since the first version was released a few years back and Altra have reduced the weight and increased the grip with the 2.0, leading to what on paper appears to be a very interesting package. Before I go any further, I should point out the two major features which distinguish Altra shoes from most other brands. First of all there is the zero-drop midsole, meaning that they are completely flat from front to back. The second is their wide foot-shaped toe box which allows a lot of scope for toe splay and tends to work really well for wide-footed runners. These characteristics may be a bit of a turn-off for some but they have generated a loyal following for the brand they give the shoes a very distinctive feel when running.
On first receiving the Superior 2.0’s, they immediately reminded me of a slightly beefier (and zero drop) version of the original New Balance MT110 in terms of their shape and proportions. The styling is smart and overall they look pretty ordinary for an Altra (in a good way) and I’d have no hesitations in wearing them in casual / social circumstances.
The removable rock plate seems like a great idea to me (as with the Sole Armour insoles I reviewed recently) and I’m quite surprised that the concept hasn’t been picked up by other brands. Another really nice little feature is the fabric loop on the heel which, for once, is actually big enough to get your finger through and is therefore highly useful for getting the shoes on / off, especially when they are muddy and you don’t want to get cr%$ all over your hands. The famous Altra gaiter trap and trail rudder which are also found on the Lone Peak are retained and to be honest, I could do without the latter as it’s always struck me as a bit of a gimmick which doesn’t really serve a practical purpose. My last little niggle about the design relates to the toe bumper which is a bit too flimsy for my liking and could do with a semi-rigid insert along the lines of the Salomon Sense range.
As I said above. the wide toe box of the Superior’s is one of their most distinctive features and although it isn’t quite as roomy as the Lone Peak, it offers loads of room for your toes to splay and move around. A big improvement over the Lone Peak is the security of fit around the heel and in particular the mid foot which feels much more dialed in. The heel cup is thickly cushioned which concerned me a little to start with but it caused me no problems when running. The overall package is more precise that the Lone Peak but not snug enough for really steep ground. What is does do is provide outstanding comfort for general trail use and this makes the Superior one of my first choices for day to day training and long-ish runs.
I’ve heard about a lot of US-based runners having problems with small sizing in the Superiors so I was curious to see how this translated into UK sizing. My pair arrived in a 9.5 which turned out to be snug but not sufficiently small to warrant returning the shoes. However as a general recommendation I think it’s worth considering going up half a size.
I had a really good feeling about the Superior 2.0 as soon as I got them out of the box and after about 40 miles of running in them, I’m pleased to say that I’m not disappointed.
As with the Lone Peak, the Superior features Altra’s ‘A-Bound’ midsole material which is super-soft but also offers good levels of energy return. I’m not usually a big fan of soft midsoles but I absolutely love the way the the Superior provides a deliciously cushy feel without being bulky and retaining responsiveness and feedback from the ground. Protection levels are pretty high and can be increased further by the addition of the clever removable rock plate. This works nicely but to be honest, I only used it a couple of times as I found that the midsole alone offers ample insulation for my tastes.
The outsole compound is soft and the grippy lugs provide good levels of traction on almost all surfaces but will be found wanting in deep mud or steep, slick grass. This does come at a price though as wear levels are a little higher than I would typically expect at the end of the test period and I would certainly recommend keeping them off of the roads as much as possible.
The shoes are nicely flexible and the wide platform offers excellent stability on uneven ground. Despite this, as I said above, the fit of the Superior 2.0’s isn’t a good match for steep descents where I found that my feet moved around inside them more than I would like (mostly towards the front of the shoe) and they wouldn’t be my first choice for racing in unless gradients are pretty sedate. The rest of the time though, they are ridiculously comfortable and I found them a pleasure to have on my feet.
This shoe was purchased for testing by the author. See here for my gear review policy.
The Superior’s are going to be a permanent fixture in my shoe rotation over the next few months as the cushioned, comfortable platform provides an entirely different experience to the rest of the shoes I regularly run in and I feel that this is a great way of giving my body a variety of stimulus and keeping things fresh.
They aren’t super-racey and they are going to be more of a summer trail shoe than a mountain / fell shoe for UK runners but sometimes a shoe just clicks with you and overall, I really enjoy running the Superiors and get excited every time I lace them up. At around £100, the price is a little on the steep side but if you are a fan of zero drop trail shoes I would definitely consider giving them a try.
The Altra Superior 2.0 is available now from Castleberg Outdoors (who offer international shipping).
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