Gear review: Altra Superior 3.5

After my review of the Salomon X Ultra 3 shoes, I had a surprising amount of inquiries asking more about my experience with the Altra Superior 3.5 shoes.

I am on my third pair of these shoes since my initial purchase in November 2017, so I feel I can give an honest assessment of the Altras. They’ve been used for everything from the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau, into Texas, to the southeast Appalachians, and accompanied me in the Canadian Rockies.

Without question, they are the most comfortable trail shoes I’ve worn. At ~20 oz for the pair and a wider toe box that fits my feet, and feel like a better fit than the popular Altra Lone Peaks, the Superiors feel more like bedroom slippers. At $110 a pair retail, they are reasonable in price compared to similar shoes, too.

Hiking in Cathedral Wash. PCO Wendy G.

The Superiors (with the obvious nickname of “The Ruby Slippers” coined by my Dad!) excelled when being used on a trail or non-rough terrain. Even hiking along canyon bottoms, I enjoyed using these shoes.

In Bandelier National Monument. PCO Joan W.

However, these shoes do not fit my overall hiking style. They are not durable, the soles wear out quicker than other shoes,  and get chewed up quickly over any rough terrain. They lasted only two weeks and about 300 miles before they became thrashed, and I had to replace them near Banff.

I walked into the outfitters with the front lip of the shoes coming off and gaping holes in the mesh.

The soles are not aggressive, have shallow lugs, and I slip on any semi-technical terrain. The footing is not secure on talus and scree. Not that I could not use them in those conditions, but they ended up not being ideal and more of a compromise versus other shoes. I often felt jab of roots or rocks often when off a well-maintained trail. And, as mentioned, they soles wear out quicker than other shoes I find.

About halfway through the lifespan on my most recent pair.

To be fair, I don’t think Altra ever intended these shoes to be used in the conditions I often favor. Ideally, the Superiors are primarily used on trails with the occasional foray on scree, talus, or rough conditions.

End of the line in New Mexico. The Canadian version ended up being more chewed up because of all the rain and stream crossings. But the worn-out soles, more than the mesh, is the main concern.

However, most of my hiking tends to fall outside of well-maintained trails and non-rough terrain. I tend to use trails to get to where I am hiking all day rather than use rough terrain as an interlude to get back to trails.

The Altra Superiors are indeed comfortable. Perhaps the most comfortable trail shoe I’ve worn. However, any rough terrain (or lightly maintained trail), talus and scree walks, etc. beyond what I consider a narrow type of use and I found the shoes do not work well for me.

Overall view? If you stick to mainly well-groomed trails and don’t mind replacing shoes a little more often vs. other shoes but enjoy the lighter weight and comfort, the Altra Superiors are a potentially good shoe choice. I love the shoes, but can’t use them as much as I’d like.

Disclosure: I purchased the Altra Superiors with my funds.

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5 years ago

Paul, you are on fire lately with a high powered string of great posts. It is obvious that you are refreshed, energized, and have more time on your hands these days. From a purely selfish perspective of entertaining me with your website, you should have turned your life upside down years ago!