An everlasting quest of mine is to find a running shoe. Correction. I have found my holy grail of shoes, only for it to be stripped away in discontinuation. I am looking at you Patagonia. None the less I recently came across the Altra Superior 1.5 and got an amazing deal on a pair. I really like the ability to find lightly used runners on eBay at a sliver of the MSRP. It has allowed me to try out shoes that I would have never paid full price on without knowing if they would work for my running style. None the less the Altra Superior 1.5 is a reasonably priced shoe that I was excited to try.
The Altra Superior 1.5 is a zero drop shoe. It has a extremely generous toebox and a 18mm stack height. The shoe feels low and fast when you put it on. The tread of the shoe has opposing facing teeth that provide traction climbing or descending. The rear of the shoe has a 'trail rutter'. This is basically a flap of tread that hangs off the back and supposedly improves control on downhills. Also on the rear of the shoe is a 'Gaitor Trap' that does exactly what it sounds like. A hook and loop closure secures your gaitors to the heel of the shoe. Altra sells specific gaitors or you can use my favorite, DIrty Girl Gaitors. The inside of the shoe has substantial cushioning along the heel cup, and tongue. The footbed is comprised of two parts, a standard footbed and a removable rockplate. The shoe is modular in the sense that you can remove the rockplate for more ground feel or leave it in for more protection. This is different from most shoes that have the plate built in. The footbed can obviously be replaced with your personal preference also.
I have been using this pair of Altra Superior 1.5 shoes on trails at South Mountain, roads, and backpacking trips (Grand Canyon, Payson) for a few months. The shoe has roughly 320 miles on them, primary trail miles. Initially I noticed a difference in the drop from my previous 4mm drop shoes. The amount of effort on my muscular system seemed to be elevated, but nothing was severe enough to warrant not using the shoe. The shoe has moderate traction. At times I wish the shoe had deeper lugs to prevent slipping on loose gravel. The tread has worn at a similar rate to most my minimalist style shoes. This tends to be about 400 miles a pair. As the traction has faded the confidence on sketchy terrain has progressively diminished. Really this is nothing out of the ordinary. The uppers of the shoe have always been comfortable and not caused any chaffing or blisters. I left the rockplate and footbed in and have no issues with either throughout my runs. The amble room in the toe box has allowed me to really spread my toes when running, which I have enjoyed. There have been no instances of blisters or toenail damage while on long runs. The flat laces hold solid and so does the 'Gaitor Trap'. The only issue with the 'Gaitor Trap' is when using Dirty Girl Gaitors the lip has nothing to stick to on the back and is ascetically unpleasing, flopping in the wind. Obviously if using Altra's branded gaitors this is not an issue. The shoes build quality seems solid and there have been no structural issues to date. While running technical terrain I have had to adjust to the wider toe box. At times I have caught the lip of the shoe when clearing (or not clearing) rocks and tripped. This has gotten easier the longer I am in the shoe, but it is still a concern.
-Relatively light shoe with zero heel to toe drop.
-Solid build quality, and reasonable prices on last seasons model.
-Build in 'Gaitor Trap' is convenient and doesn't require adding hook and loop closure to the rear of the shoe.
-Interior of shoe has excellent padding that has held true to form through the miles.
-'Trail Rutter' seems pointless. Maybe I am missing something here, but it just seems like unnecessary material.
-Lug pattern could be better designed to provide more traction on loose gravel.
-As with most minimal shoes the tread wear is fast.
-The color patterns available are not impressive. Either rather boring or just ugly.
If you are in the market for a solidly built zero drop shoe for dry conditions, the Altra Superior 1.5 is your ticket. The prices on this older model are reasonable. The price of the shoe at MSRP is not terribly high either. The features are well thought out and provide the user a plethora of options to customize your fit. Overall I would recommend the shoe for ultralight backpacking, trail running, and fastpacking. You can find the Altra Superior 1.5 at altrarunning.com as well as their latest version of the shoe the Superior 2.0.
*Shoes were purchased and not provided by Altra.