The Times They Are a-Changin’ – a review of the new Altra Running Superior 2 Trail Shoe
In 1964 Bob Dylan released a song titled “The Times They Are a-Changing”. It is said that he was inspired by Irish and Scottish ballads and it was his intention to attempt to inspire a hunger for change through the song. In 2005 it was ranked #59 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of all Time.” The song became heavily influential in causing society to seek change where change was necessary and has been covered by many artists after Dylan wrote it.
When I think about the running shoe industry the song that comes to mind is this one, and boy the times sure are a-changing! For the first time in a long time shoe manufacturers are actually listening to their customers requests and feedback. They are finding what works through extensive testing with their Pro athlete’s out in the field as well as through the consumers who actually buy and use their products. The days when the companies set the trends, in terms of shoe function, are gone. The new era of the informed consumer seeking specific specifications has dawned. We as runners, have essentially changed the running industry. I think Bob Dylan would be proud.
A few years ago a book called, “Born to Run”, came out and people went ballistic for minimalism and barefoot running. Although you still get the die-hard fans (myself being one of them) the demand dried up quite quickly as the masses went straight into running barefoot without the proper coaching and transitioning, resulting in injuries and ironically a backlash in the industry to the other side of the spectrum.. Maximalist shoes (Think Hoka One One). I am not for or against any size of cushioning but one thing I am a huge fan of is the low heel-to-toe drop. The best thing that the barefoot running craze did for the running industry was show people how important a minimal (0mm-4mm) heel-to-toe drop is.
I first came across Altra Running on the net when it was still only available in America, to me it seemed like the perfect balance. Some shoes with minimal cushioning, some with maximal but thankfully everyone one of them with 0mm heel-to-toe drop. How the company started making the shoes in the first place could have been a music video for Bob Dylan’s song. Runners used to bring their shoes to Altra Running founder, Golden Harper, who began cutting up and melting down runners shoes to decrease the amount of drop between the heel and toe. It became more and popular as customers were seeing results that eventually Altra Running was born. Altra has carved a serious niche for itself in a fiercely competitive industry
So how does the shoe that has continued to inspire change, like Dylan’s song, perform on the trials.
One word. Fantastic.
Let me start with the negatives so we can get to the good stuff, as fantastic as these shoes are I unfortunately have an issue with one aspect. I am sorry to say but in the wet this shoe is a hazard. It really has poor grip in the wet, and by wet I mean running in the rain over wet and slippery rocks. In the shoes defense no shoe is going to give you complete stability on the very wet and rocky surfaces but unfortunately I found these to be a little too slippery for my liking. It’s not all bad though because in the dry they are phenomenal. If Formula 1 teams have different tread for different conditions then these would be Ferrari’s dry tyres. There are a lot of different factors that have made this shoe one of my favourite dry ground, semi-technical shoe. The TrailClaw™ outsole features canted lugs which, in the dry, provide you with fantastic grip regardless of the terrain. The low stack height gives you a low ground feel and the zero drop platform all come together in an incredible way. All 3 factors really do make for a fast and agile ride on a dry trail.
As I mentioned earlier the shoe has a low stack height which is great for confidence. This gives you more of a feel of what’s going on underneath your feet giving you the confidence to push the pace. The stack height is 21mm all round which in my opinion is still minimal. The shoes come with a removable rock plate for really technical terrain, this works very well in releasing some of the pressure from below. There are grid-like grooves in the midsole which allow your feet to flex freely. There is very little rigid feedback from the shoe. This also inspires a more ‘natural’ and agile feel to your run. The shoe for me feels like it has more than 21mm of cushioning as it is more comfortable compared to other shoe’s I have run in with a similar stack height. Altra uses what they call “A-bound” technology in their midsole, which according to them helps recycle the energy and return it to the running gait. Reducing the impact of hard surfaces and adding a spring to the step. I found this to be true, especially on tar or hard pack running. In fact this shoe for me has been brilliant on the tar.
The Upper has been very well constructed. As far as I have run in the shoes I have not seen the Upper coming loose from the sole or tearing in any places. My favourite feature of the Upper is the wide toe box, there is nothing worse than cramped toes in a tiny toe box so Altra have made sure this is not the case in the Superior 2. Use with a pair of INJINJI toes socks and all your little piggies will have as much space as they need. There are no stitching overlays inside the shoe the which adds to the comfort and the Superior 2 breathes incredibly well. Not only do your toes have space but the breathability of the shoe keeps them fresh. The shoes do ride a half size bigger according to Altra (I went a full size bigger) so if you are buying these online I suggest trying on a pair at a local running shop first. The grey and green contrast really give the shoes a ‘classy’ feel for me.
All in all these really are an award-winning shoe, very comfortable, and have all the right features to keep the performance levels up there with the best. They unfortunately aren’t great on large wet rocks but if you looking for a fast and comfortable dry weather shoe you won’t go wrong with these. The terrain I found these shoes to perform at their absolute best was desert / dune / beach running. The wide surface area of the outsole gives you a massive advantage on the soft sand, this along with the Gator Trap behind the heel and the high breathability make this the absolute perfect shoe for a Desert Race.
- The Men’s Superior 2 runs 1/2 size short.
- Weight: 8.7 oz
- Cushioning: Light
- Ideal Uses: Trail Running, Hiking, Fastpacking, Trail Racing
- Designed to Improve: Running Form, Toe Splay, Stability, Traction, Comfort, Trail Protection
- Platform: Zero Drop™ Platform, FootShape™ Toe Box
- Stack Height: 21 mm
- Midsole: Dual Layer EVA with A-Bound™ Top Layer
- Outsole: Sticky Rubber TrailClaw™
- Insole: 5 mm Contour Footbed with Removable StoneGuard™ Rock Protection
- Upper: Quick-Dry Trail Mesh, Minimal Seams
- Other Features: Trail Rudder, GaiterTrap™ Technology