In comparison to most outdoor hobbies, running is one of the least gear intensive. At the foundation of any runner is their feet. What they wear defines the runner internally and externally. Altra exploded onto the market a few years ago and has been producing some of the most comfortable footwear available. In a previous post I evaluated the Superior 1.5 shoes. Although not perfect, they were a great shoe. After 400 plus miles my feet had blown out the uppers and were taking on more sand than I could tolerate. The next few months I spent exploring my options in the footwear road. Ultimately I returned back to Altra with the hopes that the new Superior 2.0 had acquired the improvements I was seeking.
Initial Impressions- Upon first glance the Altra Superior 2.0 looks very similar to the 1.5. The first thing thing I noticed was that they eliminated the supportive material that wrapped around the arch, and thus had to change the lacing design. The 2.0 have more of a traditional eyelet design. The toe box received a slight modification that uses a lighter, and more flexible wrap. The material covers the same amount of space as the previous model. Moving to the back of the shoe the heel cup was redesigned with a more rigid material that extends higher up the heel. The gaiter trap appears to be identical to the predecessor. Altra decided to beef up the Trail Rudder with a sturdier material. The tread pattern was redesigned with a lugs of a similar depth. Rather then using the same material for the entire length of the tread, Altra mixed it up. In high wear areas they used a sturdier rubber compound, while incorporating a midsole type of material in other locations. It should be noted that the stack height is 3mm higher then the Superior 1.5. Internally the padding around the ankle and heel cup was turned down a notch. the footbed has a slightly shallower heel, while the Stone Guard appears to remain the same. The overall weight of the shoe is slightly lighter then the Superior 1.5s.
Use- After receiving the 2.0s I was eager to hit the trails. After weeks of blisters from other shoes, the Altras felt like putting on a pair of slippers. The redesign of the upper using more flexible material was immediately noticeable. The upper now has more flex around the arch, and above the foot. Although it may have been the fact that the shoes were new, the small increase in stack height seemed to soften the ride slightly. With the improvement of the tread the traction on slippery rock improved dramatically. The shoes pictured in this post have over 200 miles on them and the tread seems to be holding up better then the 1.5s did. As the tread diminishes I am noticing a drop in performance on slippery surfaces, but that is to be expected. The toe box has the same feel that Altra is known for, roomy. Even on technical terrain my foot feels locked in and there is no slop. Due to the reduction in heel padding I have noticed that my heel appears to be slipping slightly and causing wear around the back of the shoe. This is something that I have never noticed while running. The Stone Guard offers the same level of protection as the previous model, and is just enough for the rocky Arizona trails. Although the footbed has changed slightly, i have not noticed any change in how the shoe feels on the foot. Overall the shoe has the feel of a well worn pair, right out of the box. Somehow Altra managed to achieve this while still maintaining the support needed.
Final Thoughts- The Altra Superior 2.0 is an improvement over the 1.5s, while still maintaining the great feel. The changes made did not alter the shoe to much, allowing for runners to find comfort in the shoe. Improvements to the tread, upper, and toe box have created one of the best zero drop shoes on the market. The 2.0s have done excellent in the dry, technical trails around Phoenix. If you are in the market for a zero drop, low cushioned shoe the Altra Superior 2.0s may be the shoe. Due to the sizing being off it is best to visit a local brick and mortar store or buy from altrarunning.com. On their website they have a 'Shoe Me How This Fits' feature which allows you to compare your current running shoes (most brands/models supported) to the fit of your future Altras. This allows the user to get an accurate idea of which size will best fit them. I have been more then satisfied with the performance of this shoe and highly recommend it.
*These shoes were purchased through a Pro Deal at my place of employment.