Altra Women’s Superior 3.5 Trail Running Sneaker Review
UPDATE: Really disappointed with their customer service. After only a couple of weeks, the one shoe developed a small hole in the upper (which does happen, I get it), and trying to get it replaced is like pulling teeth. I’m still waiting to sort out what happens with the replacement, but they couldn’t have been LESS helpful. The regional rep I eventually got sent to has been really helpful, though, but I’ll reserve judgement until I actually see if the problem gets resolved. (That said, the shoes themselves have been super comfy and the rest of the review is still accurate, but I just can’t deal with crappy customer service.)
For the last eight years or so, I’ve been a barefoot, minimalist runner for almost 95% of my running. The only time I shifted back to shoes with a bit more support was for Ironman, and even that was only for runs over 18 miles. I love barefoot shoes, and most of you know I’m obsessed with Vivo Barefoot, especially the Otillo SwimRun sneakersI’ve been using since November. But with a 50 kilometer mountain run coming up, and an 80 kilometer trail run I’m hoping to do in September, my feet were getting the $hit kicked out of them running seriously rocky trails for 2+ hours with no support. Even more important, though, without much by way of a sole, the barefoot shoes that I love just weren’t able to navigate slippery terrain like I wanted them to. Before I dive into this review of the Altra Women’s Superior 3.5 Trail Running sneaker, though, I’ll add the caveat that I’m still a huge fan of minimal shoes… I just needed something for when runs got longer and terrain got rougher.
So, after a lot of research, I decided to check out the Altra Women’s Superior 3.5 Trail Running Sneaker, which luckily, I found in the Strides running/XC ski store in Canmore. The major allure for me? Zero drop! So despite a thicker trail-running-specific sole, these shoes were about as close to a minimal feel as I was going to get. As soon as I tried them on, I knew they were winners for one major reason: the toe box was actually big enough for my now-wider toes (again, thanks to a lot of years of barefoot running, my feet are healthy, but have a hard time in narrow toe-boxes now. Wide width shoes don’t work, since the rest of my foot is still pretty narrow.)
They also felt really comfortable all around, and despite the fact that the only pair they had in my size was the pink instead of the much prettier charcoal color, I went with them because TBH I didn’t want to wait around on getting used to new shoes since I’m 4 weeks out from the race!
Anyway, even on the first run, they felt totally broken in. I figured they’d get serious trial-by-fire as the day after I bought them, there was a 5.5km mountain run at the Nordic Center in Canmore, and I decided to hop in (it was my first 5K in 5 years + second ever trail race… Why am I like this?!)
So, lined up, had a freaking hard start, and quickly found myself sitting third woman, somewhere in the top 10 (out of 50 and to be fair, this was a CASUAL race. I just figured I wanted to test the racing waters). The shoes were AWESOME. I was actually able to speed down the loose, technical trails in a way that my barefoot shoes just didn’t allow for, and I felt super solid. Just enough cushion to feel smooth, but the zero drop and wide toe-box kept the barefoot free-feeling vibe I’ve come to love.
So, if you’re a) barefoot curious and want to dip your toe in without going full-on, or b) you love minimal but need a bit more protection for trail running, I HIGHLY recommend checking these out. So far, I’ve put about a hundred miles on them and they still look and feel great, so I’m really happy with them. They’re around $110, so not the cheapest but far from the priciest, and for trail-specific sneakers, that’s actually super affordable. Give them a shot!
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