Let’s face it, there are few things that an OCRAddict will usually have more than they need. For some, it is pants, others, shorts. For me, I have more shoes than I know what to do with. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t rest until I have tried them all. I do have a goto pair for certain races, but Altra thinks they have a shoe that can take the top spot and provide me with a shoe that can tackle it all. Enter the Altra Superior 2.0.
First of all, if you haven’t heard of Altra, this will be your introduction. Altra is a company that was started in the back room of a Wasatch Mountain running store. It’s founders, runners, wanted to create a shoe that let you run the way we were born to run.
What began as experimental shoe alterations has transformed into the only shoe company to provide a cushioned Zero Drop™ platform and FootShape™ toe box. This innovative combo promotes low-impact technique and allows your feet to remain in a natural, relaxed position across every terrain.
FOOTSHAPE™ TOE BOX
One prominent feature, outside of their zero drop designs, is a much wider toe box than most other brands. Typically, traditional running / OCR shoes will squeeze your toes (taper) into a tight little package, like some summer sausages. With the unnatural position of your toes, you become more susceptible to bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis. The FOOTSHAPE TOE BOX allows the toes to relax and take on a more natural form .
- Keeps big toe straight for greater stability and a more powerful toe-off
- Allows toes to relax and spread out naturally
- Allows foot to naturally stabilize excess pronation
If I were to try to explain drop as simply as I could, it would be something like this: Drop is the difference in distance of the heel and the forefoot from the ground. You will also hear it sometimes referred to as heel to toe drop, offset, or ramp angle.
FULLY CUSHIONED ZERO DROP™
The term “ZERO DROP™” was coined to describe the level cushioning and perfect weight balance from heel to forefoot. This natural balance aligns the feet, back, and body posture for less impact. It also strengthens the Achilles and lower calf muscles that have been weakened over a lifetime of running on elevated heels.
- Heel and forefoot are the same distance from the ground
- Promotes proper form to reduce initial impact by 3–5 times.
- Natural Achilles loading for better propulsion
- 1-to-1 ratio naturally aligns feet, back and body posture
- Encourages better running technique
- Weight-balanced from front to back
Some popular OCR Shoes
- Inov-8 X-Talon 200: 3mm Drop
- Salomon Speedcross 3: 11mm Drop
- ICEBUG ACCELERITAS4: 4mm Drop
While the idea of a Zero drop shoe might sound attractive, if you haven’t been walking around in All-Stars for most of your life, it may take some time to get used to. Ideally, you would like to transition your way into your Zero Drop shoes through various workout changes to minimize injury and fatigue. Altra will guide you through your transition, courtesy of their website: https://www.altrarunning.com/run-better#KnowYourShoe
Another prominent aspect of a shoe that mostly goes unnoticed would be the shoe’s stack height. To define this simply, this is the “thickness” of whatever is under your foot. Trail running shoes can vary greatly with stack height and finding the right balance can be a bit difficult. Some runners “like” the softer feel of a shoe, while others, like me, like to feel the ground beneath their feet.
Stack height can be broken down into four basic categories:
|Feel the ground||Some feel for the ground||Some feel for the shoe||Feel the shoe|
Altra’s Superior fits into the “some feel for the shoe” category with a stack height of 21mm.
- Sizing: Slightly Short
- Weight: 8.7 oz./247 g.
- Stack Height: Height: 21mm
- Sizes 7, 8–13, 14, 15
- Cushioning: Light
- Ideal Uses: Trail Running, Hiking, Backpacking, Off Road Racing
- Designed to Improve: Running Form, Toe Splay, Stability, Push-off, Comfort, Traction
- Platform: Natural Foot Positioning: FootShape™ Toe Box with Fully Cushioned Zero Drop™ Platform
- Midsole: EVA/A-Bound™ Blend with InnerFlex™
- Outsole: TrailClaw™ Sticky Rubber Outsole
- Insole: 5 mm Contour Footbed with Removable StoneGuard™ Rock Protection
- Upper: Quick-Dry Air Mesh
- Other Features: GaiterTrap™ Technology
These shoes also ship with a removable rock plate insert, StoneGuard, that helps to protect your foot from some damaging terrain. With the StoneGuard present, there is a very small change in the way the shoe fits, and after walking around the house like a shark, I decided that I would run these without the StoneGuard in place.
When it comes to grip, the Superiors don’t have large lugs like you would find on Salomons, X-Talons, or All Out Crush. Instead, the shoe features TrailClaw™ outsole technology with canted lugs beneath your metatarsals.
The cutouts allow the shoe to flex and move with you as the terrain varies.
First, I wear a size 9.5. However, I run in 10’s to allow my feet to swell and shift. When speaking to the manufacturer, they suggested I wear my true size due to the shoe’s larger toe box. In my experience, running in my true size leads to blisters on the front of my toes because they rub up against the front of my shoe, as there is little room for them to move and swell.
In preparation for the shoe, I wrapped my feet up in some Mudgear socks, slapped some Trail Toes on, and took to the local trails. Having worn Inov-8’s for the majority of my OCR runs, the first thing that I noticed was how incredibly roomy the Altra offering is. The roomy toe box takes a bit of time to get used to. Call me a bit crazy but I feel claustrophobic if I cannot move my toes! In the Superiors, I was dancing inside my shoes.
Taking to the local trails does nothing for me but allow me to break in my shoes. There is no great test of grip or function, but the terrain here in the trails of NJ allows me to get them going. I have a decent mix of mud, water, grass, dirt, and incline.
With the amount of wiggle room in the shoe, my concern during break-in was that my foot would move around too much in the shoe during a race; I could feel my feet sliding around a bit inside already. Other than that, the five mile trail was uneventful, no blisters and no pain.
For me, I will typically run an event twice; once for time, once for fun. The fun day is a great day to test out new gear. Having received these just in time for the Spartan Race Tri-State Super, I felt this was as good a time as any to give the Superiors a whirl.
Saturday was pretty much just brutal. The weather was cold and wet and on a timed event, I try to stick to what I know. I took to the course with 200’s strapped to my feet. I know their strengths and their weaknesses, which makes things predictable. It would also give me a good reference point for the Superiors performance. The Jersey course would lead us through elements like rocks, mud, water, dirt, etc. A bit of everything… except snow.
Sunday was dry weather-wise, but the course was pretty beat up and muddy, which means the Superiors would have to perform well in some sloppy conditions in order to be considered for a run in the competitive/elite heats.
As soon as I took off, I could feel the difference. My fears were subsiding. As we navigated our way through the course, my feet didn’t slide around like a bobsled in an ice track. Instead, they stayed firmly planted and the extra room allowed my toes to flex as I pushed off of objects. The spread felt natural and almost like my feet turned less when navigating up some rocky terrain trying to find grip.
While on the rocks, the Superiors were simply fantastic. They provide great grip and allow my foot to flex in the toe box enough to find additional balance. On the obstacles, there was little request for their assistance, but they did not inhibit my motion or movements.
As for the mud and muck, they were good. They weren’t exceptional… exceptional being better than my X-Talon 200s, but I wouldn’t say they were any worse either. The canted lugs did a fine job of releasing the thick stuff making continual traction possible. If the lugs had just a bit more depth, they might be better than anything I have worn, but there is a double edge on this sword, the smaller lugs were far more comfortable to run with on sturdy, more regular terrain.
As for the Quick-Dry Air Mesh Upper, it dropped water quickly. The course in Jersey featured an extended and very cold gallop through the water that led us onto a sandy shore before we were to continue our run. The shoes threw the hair back, wicking the water away, and let me take to the course.
For me, the Superiors put on a good show. They are very roomy, comfortable, and allow me to feel enough of the ground while on the course. The included StoneGuard is a nice addition, but I prefer it in the box instead of the shoe. The large toe box gives you plenty of room, allowing your foot the flex naturally on take off and landing, and the lugs provide satisfactory grip. The shoes are light enough, strong enough, and inexpensive enough to make them a smart choice. However, don’t jump into a zero drop shoe without doing your research; it takes a bit of getting used to.
Bottom line, I loved them. Are they good enough to take the number one spot in my catalog of shoes for my next race? Yes and no. I have different shoes for different races, as should you.