Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Altra Superior 2.0 Review

I've been meaning to do some updates on Altra shoes for a little while now. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time and I really want to wear shoes for 200-300 miles before I critique them. I was really excited to learn of the Altra Superior 2 release over the winter and quickly snagged a pair of size 12.5 in black. I had the original Superior and liked them a lot. My hope was that they would be a trail version of One Squared, one my favorite shoes I've ever worn (and I'll review soon). The original fit of the shoe and feel of the shoe made me quite optimistic that they were at least close to achieving that....

Things I liked:
In general, I found the shoes very comfortable and light weight. Even as a larger runner, I enjoy more minimal feeling shoes and these fit the bill. Also, I felt quite comfortable wearing them as a road shoe when circumstances dictated (like combined road/trail runs during the winter months). I think they nailed the cushion aspect -- just enough enjoy the ride, but not so much that you couldn't feel the road or trail beneath your feet. I really found this an upgrade over the previous models that had significant trail feel and were much heavier. The upper material is quite breathable and dries fast as well. The lugs are more aggressive and grippier than earlier models. The addition of the gaiter trap is a great feature in this shoe as well. And, I think the "removable" rock plate is a genius idea! However, I find myself wanting to put that rock plate in other shoes (like Byron Powell) these days, because...

Things I disliked:
Honestly, the simplest thing to say is that the shoe feels quite cheap to me -- a shoe built to last about 250 miles. I don't mind having a shoe like that, but not at a $110 price tag. Pretty much every element of the shoe is falling apart quickly from 150 miles on. At 200 miles, I completely blew out the lateral side of my first pair. I called customer service and was told that was a common problem. I checked reviews on their website and many customers reported the same issues. I have two friends that have had blow outs on the lateral side as well (one at 122 miles and another at 250 miles). As an aside, they seem to have purged all their reviews from their site, eliminating at least a dozen poor reviews of the Superior 2. I know some of the former reviewers. I don't know if this was on purpose, but it sure stinks.

In addition to my lateral tear, you can see very rapid wear in the lugs both in the front and the back of the shoe. The lugs in the front appear to be chipping away and creating edges that would likely catch and shred, if the shoe was still wearable, that is....

Total shred on the lateral side.... fail!

Cheap looking lugs!

Lugs wearing and showing gaps.
Some lugs off a friend's pair after 232 miles

Another issue I consistently have with Altra is their sizing. I measure out at a true size 11.5 but sometimes wear all the way up to a 13 due to their screwy shoe fits. I found the size 12.5 pretty snug around the tips of my toes -- to the point I got blisters on the tips of my toes on a 38 mile run. I later purchased a pair of size 13s (that I still own and wear). The size 13s feel gigantic to me. How can a size 12.5 feel so tight and a size 13 feel so large? I had the same issue with the original Olympus. Anyway, the newer pair (not pictured) is showing significant wear along the toe-bumper area from toe-scuffs. This section appears like it will wear out quickly as well.

Overall I really find these a comfortable shoe that nearly hit the mark as a serious shoe for those not inclined to go with more and more cushion. The changes from the original Superior were spot on to establish the shoe in this space. Unfortunately, it is a continuation in a long line of quality issues for Altra. And, I continue to find myself wishing that Altra would start to refine what they do instead of reinventing themselves every six months. I'd like to seem some standardization among the lasts they uses so the heel, forefoot, and midfoot are more consistent from model-to-model and year-to-year. I'd also like to see them consider wide options because a wide toe box does not mean a wide shoe.

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