Altra Superior 3.5 Review Facts
Individuals who enjoy running trails in the backcountry or hiking around the mountain will find a lot to appreciate in the Altra Superior 3.5. These shoes offer a robust set of features that will appeal to off-roaders in addition to a durable design that can accommodate a wide variety of environments and terrains. This is especially nice if you are a runner looking for a more all-purpose shoe to run in rather than a more specialized product with design bottlenecks. With these shoes from Altra, runners can feel in control and under excellent protection whether they’re on or off the beaten path.
The key to any good shoe, whether it’s for regular running environments or the unforgiving trail, is a solid foundation
. This is most often found in the outsole of the shoe, where it comes into direct contact with the ground. In the case of the Superior 3.5, Altra implemented their own proprietary design known as the TrailClaw. Similar in appearance to a bear’s claw, this specific design is intended to provide an excellent grip to the ground in a similar manner to that of a predator such as a bear or a tiger. The result of this inspired design is a solid, protective, and grippy underfoot that provides an excellent foundation for the rest of the shoe.
Just as important as the outsole is a well-made midsole. This is the second part of a shoe’s foundation as it works in tandem with the outsole to provide extra cushioning
and support in a supplementary fashion. The go-to trend for designing midsoles in recent years is to use a particular lightweight and highly condensed cushioning known as EVA foam, which Altra has done for the Superior 3.5. The benefits of its inclusion are manyfold since it manages to provide a greater feeling of responsiveness and a solid line of defense against injury from repetitive ground striking. This first point about responsiveness is especially important when it comes to trail shoes since they are often too heavy to offer quick feedback to a runner’s actions without it.
With a solid foundation, the next most important aspect of a comfortable and high-performing shoe is a well-made upper portion. For the majority of casual running shoes and sneakers, the most important thing for an upper is that it allows the foot to breathe
and provides a comfortable cradle. In the case of trail shoes like the Altra Superior 3.5, these factors are still important but protection takes much greater priority. In regards to a comfortable cradle, Altra implemented a FootShape toe box which allows for a naturalistic fit around the wearer’s forefoot. A StoneGuard rock plate has also been added to protect this vulnerable part of a runner’s foot from injury when coming into contact with errant debris. This ultimately means that breathability takes a hit but Altra still manages to provide some airflow through a ventilated mesh material.
The weight of a shoe plays a significant role in its performance, with every design decision needing to justify any additional burden it adds to the overall product. With trail shoes, a bit more leeway is provided by designers and wearers because protection and traction are major priorities. At roughly ten ounces for each shoe, the Altra Superior 3.5 has a noticeable presence on the wearer that can feel like a hindrance in some situations. Despite many design amenities, this can cause wearers to avoid more traditional running environments
, despite the many features present in this shoe that accommodates them. However, it can be said with confidence that every ounce was put to good use.
Due to the need for extra protection around the forefoot of the shoe from potential impact with sharp rocks or exposed roots, breathability is hampered in this area of the Altra Superior 3.5. Some effort was put into mitigating this by designing the toe
box with an emphasis on conforming to a natural foot shape but for the most part, this aspect of the shoe’s upper will feel a bit stuffy. Wherever possible, Altra has implemented a highly ventilated and moisture resistant mesh material on the upper portion in order to encourage some airflow throughout the rest of the shoe. However, the lack of solid breathability means that these won’t be very comfortable trail shoes in warmer climates.
Due to the need to provide solid protection, stability, and durability in the design of these trail shoes, Altra wasn’t able to devote as much effort and material to providing comfort. For that reason, runners shouldn’t expect the same amenities that are commonly found in comfort-oriented running shoes, such as a soft plush insole or extra padding around the tongue and collar. Fortunately, the Superior 3.5 is not an uncomfortable shoe by any means, since Altra emphasized a naturalistic fit that cradles the foot while also providing excellent protection from trail hazards. However, comfort lovers who are used to a highly insulated
fit will likely find these shoes to feel too rough for them.
When it comes to running shoes and casual sneakers, style plays a major role in deciding the popularity of a specific shoe model. In the case of trail shoes, much less emphasis is placed on visual appearance than it is on actual performance
and overall foot protection. However, an appealing aesthetic can help a particular trail shoe distinguish itself from other models, as is the case with many Salomon products. The Altra Superior 3.5 doesn’t do much with its style to stand out from the crowd but does offer enough visual appeal and color variety to appease the vast majority of trail runners. In a word, this shoe’s style is passable.
One of the most important aspects of any shoe that is seldom talked about is its durability. A shoe can perform well, look great, and feel comfortable on the wearer’s feet, but if they don’t maintain this state for a very long period of time it’s all a waste. Trail shoes in particular are sought after for their long lifespan since they often cost more than the average running shoe. This additional cost is seen as an investment, which is why it’s very fortunate that the Altra Superior 3.5 offers an excellent return in this department. Thanks to the quality of materials used, these shoes can last hundreds of miles in some of the roughest conditions without losing much of their performance.
This is the single most important aspect of a good trail runner. Trail running is one of the most dangerous forms of recreational running and can even be life-threatening, so a good trail shoe will need to protect the wearer from many different hazards at all times. The Superior 3.5 from Altra offers excellent protection for the wearer’s toes thanks to its StoneGuard rock plate, which can prevent the danger of getting caught on an errant root or rock on the trail. The outsole also provides protection from slipping or tripping on uneven terrain with its specialized design that resembles an animal’s paw. Finally, an absorbent and supportive midsole protects the foot from chronic stress injuries such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis thanks to its EVA construction.
With a shoe as heavy as this one, responsiveness can be hampered. Thanks to the use of EVA cushioning in the midsole, the Altra Superior 3.5 manages to provide a modicum of responsiveness through its ability to store and then explosively eject energy from each ground strike. However, this is severely limited due to the much greater emphasis placed on durability and foot protection. This means that using these shoes for speed work such as sprinting is discouraged as the extra weight will likely get in the way of progressing.
Instead of focusing on providing targeted support to a key area of the foot, the Altra Superior 3.5 focuses on providing equal support to the entire surface area of the wearer’s foot. This can be an issue for runners that have a proclivity toward chronic stress related injuries such as shin splints. Heel strikers will also find these shoes to lack the same amount of support they may expect from common running shoes since the heel drop of the Superior 3.5 is significantly lower than these other models. Because of these design features, customers who need additional support will likely want to invest in some orthotic insoles if they choose to purchase these trail runners.
As a trail shoe, this product from Altra is designed to withstand some of the harshest possible running surfaces. The secret to its success can be found underneath through its TrailClaw outsole that grips the ground like a predator’s paw. No matter what the trail can throw at you, these shoes are ready to respond in kind; sharp rocks, slippery mud, and overgrown trails are no match for these mighty shoes. Altra even boasts that these shoes will function well on other running surfaces that aren’t related to trail running or hiking, such as an asphalt road or sidewalk. While this is certainly a possibility, the nature of this shoe’s design makes them a less appealing option for these environments.
Being the current model in one of Altra’s most popular lines of trail runners, you may expect these to cost an arm and a leg. Fortunately, these shoes are priced in a very reasonable range with a slight variance for different sizes and colors depending on what website they’re posted. For the most part, these are in the same price range as a budget running shoe, making them one of the most affordable running options on the market right now.
As its name implies, the TrailClaw design used for the Superior 3.5’s outsole is designed to grip the trail with the strength of a beast’s claw. This is the secret to any trail shoe’s success and the reason why they are a must-have for any serious trail runner. When the difference between a successful trail run and a trip to the hospital is a runner’s grip on the ground beneath them, it’s important to wear a pair of shoes that can provide that grip in rain or shine. That’s why Altra placed so much emphasis on this aspect of their shoe’s design.
For the most part, trail running shoes aren’t known for their flexibility. There’s a balance that needs to be struck between a pliable comfort and a stable fit, with just about every trail runner placing more emphasis on the latter than the former. The Altra Superior 3.5 is no exception, with its extremely solid outsole and a protective upper with little wiggle room. One area in which flexibility is provided is surprisingly in the midsole thanks to the EVA foam’s Inner Flex design. This slight amount of give means that these shoes feel comfortable and responsive enough to avoid feeling like coffins for your feet.
Trail shoes are expected to provide a stable ride, since having control over your footing and pace can be the only thing keeping a runner from sustaining a nasty injury. Much of the stability provided by this shoe can be found on the underside through its TrailClaw outsole, but some extra stability is also provided on top of the rigid StoneGuard rock plate. This may cause some discomfort to runners who are used to a more flexible model of running shoe or minimalist barefoot runners, but this rigidity is paramount to their safety.
These shoes have a ZeroDrop design, meaning that no difference in elevation is present from the heel to the toe. While it results in an even weight distribution for the runner’s foot, it can take inexperienced road runners some time in order to adjust to the change.
- TrailClaw outsole emulates the paw of an animal in order to provide traction
- EVA midsole allows for responsiveness and a small degree of flexibility
- StoneGuard rock plate provides forefoot protection from errant debris
- Heavier weight ensures protection and durability at the cost of responsiveness
Thanks to the excellent design work and high quality build, the Altra Superior 3.5 is an excellent pick for any serious trail running enthusiast. It also features a very enticing price tag, making it a must buy for anyone looking to break into this exciting way to run.