RoadShoe Reviews

Altra Superior 4.0 Performance Review

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The Altra Superior 4.0 is a lightweight trail shoe made for fast movement over varied terrain. We reviewed the Superior 3.5 last year, and as can be expected, there are a few minor changes (and one big change) in the newest version. Don and Erin, our resident badass trail experts, give you a bit more insight into this consistently dependable offering from Altra.

The Good

Erin: The Superior 3.5 was one of my favorite shoes of late 2017/2018; unless I was reviewing another trail shoe, I was running in the 3.5. I put a lot of miles on those shoes and found them to be great for just about any situation, especially racing. I’m not sure what I was expecting with the Superior 4.0, but in many ways, it feels like an entirely different shoe.

In most respects, the changes are good, or at least…not bad. The 4.0 has a stack height of 21 mm, which is the lowest of the Altra trail shoes, unless we’re including the King MT, which I don’t think they’re making anymore. Anyhow, this is what I love about the Superior: it’s a light, fast shoe that allows you to really feel the trail. And man, the new version is light AF. I think the 3.5 weighed somewhere around 8 ounces, and the 4.0 weighs 6.6 ounces. Holy smokes! If I had to guess, I’d say that most of the weight was shed via the upper, which is much less substantial now. I liked the upper on the 3.5. I also like the upper on the 4.0, which is an engineered knit and is very sleek and smooth- it almost feels like a slipper. The tongue is gusseted with elastic, which adds to the slipper-like feel and makes the midfoot feel secure. The heel rudder has disappeared as well.

You know what hasn’t disappeared? The ridiculously long laces. Oh well.

The MaxTrac outsole looks to be unchanged from the Superior 3.5, with fairly shallow lugs that still have decent grip and provide good traction on most surfaces. East coast trails have been a complete disaster for the better part of…well, I can’t even remember the last time I ran on a decently dry trail around here, and I’ve worn these in mud, ice, and snow with no issues.

Don: Altra did it. They made not just a good looking shoe, but rather a GREAT looking shoe. I could see where some people won’t want to take their “clown shoe” glasses off, but this is a damn good looking trail shoe. The details in the midsole and the material of the upper are both fantastic.

I really love the upper on this shoe. The toebox especially stands out to me as an amazing piece of shoe engineering. It’s lightweight, yet pulled tightly enough to not cause any issues on the top of my foot. Often, lightweight materials on a toe box can cause me rubbing and discomfort unless the brand has some sort of welding on top of it; I had no issues with this shoe. Well done Altra!

This isn’t anything new to the brand, but I love the additional removable rock plate used in the shoe. It’s something that needs to be given continued praise. As a trail runner that often runs on both extremely technical trails and sometimes softer dirt trails, I love having the option to customize the feel of the shoe. I really enjoy the feel of the ground, and often feel like some shoes sacrifice that feeling for a tougher rock plate.

Sizing note- I am pretty split across the industry on my shoe size. I am a 12 in a handful of brands and a 12.5 in others. In Altra, I am nearly always a 12, and the Superior 4.0 fit me perfectly in the 12. So, if you’re someone like me who often finds themselves in between sizes, this is one that I recommend going to your smaller size as the fit is generous.

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The Bad

Don: Overall I have no complaints on the fit, feel, or ride of this shoe. It’s been exactly what I’ve been looking for in a lightweight trail shoe. My only complaint is not resigned to just Altra, as it appears to be a recent trend:

What the hell is going on with lace sizing in the industry?

There should be no reason I can reach above my kneecaps with my laces while the shoes are on. The egregiously long laces can be quite dangerous on trails. I can seriously hear my laces saying, ‘Oh hello branch, why yes, I would LOVE to loop over you and trip my master.’ I had to create quite the rat’s nest of laces to get them tucked in enough to feel safe.

Erin: While I really like the 4.0 and think it’s a solid shoe, I found myself missing the 3.5. I think the 4.0 runs a tad large, though this problem can be alleviated somewhat by inserting the removable stone guards that come in the box. While I wouldn’t normally use these (I didn’t with the 3.5), I have them in now just because they improve the fit.

The other change that I don’t love is the midsole. Altra has replaced Abound with a somewhat squishier and less responsive midsole called Quantic. It feels really nice when you step into the shoe, and when you’re walking around, but I really prefer the ride of Abound, especially when racing. I know that a lot of people find that Abound deadens out after 40-50 miles or so, but I have never found that to be the case. The mushiness of the Quantic foam makes me feel like I’m working a little harder in these, and my longest run in the 4.0 (12 miles) left me feeling slightly more beat up than I would’ve expected.

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Altra Superior 4.0 Conclusion

Erin: The Superior 3.5 was an all-around workhorse of a trail shoe that, for me, was perfect for training and racing distances up to 50K. The updated 4.0 is still a great shoe, but one I’ll likely reserve for shorter trail races.

Don: Finally, the shoe that got me out of my Lone Peaks and into something lighter. If you’re in the market for a kickass trail shoe that looks great and won’t break the bank, I don’t think there are many better options out there than this one. It’s the lightweight trail shoe I’ve been hoping for, and has in a few weeks become my favorite shoe I’ve run in in a long time.

Sizing note- I am pretty split across the industry on my shoe size. I am a 12 in a handful of brands and a 12.5 in others. In Altra, I am nearly always a 12, and the Superior 4.0 fit me perfectly in the 12. So, if you’re someone like me who often finds themselves in between sizes, this is one that I recommend going to your smaller size as the fit is generous.

 

Shop Altra Superior 4.0

Erin is our resident female trail runner and enjoys running ultras all over the East Coast, in addition to her hometown of Baltimore. Check out her gnarly review of the Georgia Death Race here.

Don Reichelt is an experienced trail and ultra runner who spends most of his time going up and down the Rocky Mountains. In 2018 he took 3rd place in the Badwater 135, deemed by many as the toughest footrace on the planet.

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