By: Morgan Sauer
Anticipation. A feeling each one of us is familiar with. It follows close behind each step of our day waiting to for its time. A time like running a race on an unknown course. Or in shoes you’ve never raced in before. Or at an appointment with a doctor, you’ve never met. No matter the reason, that electrifying urgency and anxiety leading up to something new or unknown isn’t something we’ll ever gain distance from. No matter how secure our lives may seem.
My success in running has been born more from pure determination than any kind of in-born skill. I was always naturally fast over short distances, but keeping that speed over a long distance wasn’t anything that came easy for me. Which is perhaps why I fell so easily into trail running. There’s ups and downs, areas where speed is necessary, but only in short bursts.
It took a few years after college to uncover the whys of running and the intricacies it had in my life. Racing post-collegiate has had many tribulations to surpass. There was even a time I firmly believed I’d never be able to run again. Not being able to walk will do that to a person. Injury, bodily health, and mental struggles combined like a bad recipe to create setback after setback. And in all honesty, none of that is over just yet. I could list on more than one hand the setbacks I’ve faced with post-collegiate running. But no matter what obstacle reared its ugly mug, I couldn’t turn my back on running.
And isn’t that a big part of trail running? Overcoming obstacles at the right moment and velocity to be able to keep going. And when doing that, it helps to have the right tools to do it.
A lot of the success in a race and in running can be attributed to shoes. In trail standards, the shoes you wear must have enough traction to keep you upright on tight curves and even tighter inclines/declines. They can even be a life saver at times when traversing dangerous terrain where one misstep could mean the end. So yeah. Shoes are important. So that’s why it’s important to find the right shoe for you in trail running. There are lots out there from every brand, all with their specific qualities. But how to know which is right for you?
Well, ya gotta try ‘em on.
Maybe this is redundant coming from a business that sells shoes, but facts are facts, whether you like them or not.
In this blog series, I will be featuring three different Altra trail running shoes: Superior, Lone Peak, and Olympus. Each shoe has its own shining qualities and I’m here to show them to you.
So first off. The Altra Superior 5. A shoe built for speed. Altra’s website will tell you that this shoe has got it all. And . . . they’re not really wrong. The shoe features the Standard Footshape which is slightly narrower than Altra’s Original Footshape. Despite that, you will still find the width you’re looking for when you set out in search for an Altra shoe. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Altra’s shining qualities are the wider, foot-shaped toe-boxes that all of their shoes possess. That, matching up with a zero-drop heel-to-toe offset, sets you up for a more natural way to run, walk, work, whatever you need to do.
Now, I will admit. Training for the Tuthill Trail Race (3 mile) was the first time I ever did serious training and racing in Altra’s, having only used them for some intense and technical hiking on the east coast prior. And boy was I excited. I did feel some Achilles pain while training in these shoes. Although never growing past a dull ache, I made sure to monitor it continuously. Did I mention your body might let you know something’s different? Usually, people feel it in their calves or Achilles and some people feel nothing at all. Lucky ducks. (More about ducks in a moment.)
An important distinction to make with the Superior is that . . . this is not a shoe meant for cushion. Sure, there is cushion there, this isn’t a slab of marble counter top you’re putting on your feet, but if lots of cushion is what you’re looking for in a trail shoe, I urge you to look elsewhere. Additionally, the Superior is solidly a neutral shoe, so for you pronators out there, again, maybe look elsewhere. Or, you can find an insert to put in the shoe that will give you that extra support without sacrificing speed and weight with a more stable shoe.
That’s what I did.
For the first few outings, I ran in the Superior just as is. No rock plate, no inserts. And loved them. But as I increased mileage, I felt that my feet weren’t getting the support they needed so I slipped in a Currex insole and that solved the problem right then and there.
As someone with, there’s no flattering way to say this, duck-shaped feet, as was so generously made known to me by a college professor in the Roman Forum, the overall fit of the Superior is fantastic. It has a narrow heel that slips very little and v’s out into the wide toe box creating such a comfortable fit, my feet had no complaints to put in the suggestion box.
This lightweight shoe had no trouble on rocky, steep, or slippery terrain, holding up quite well no matter what I put them through. Not to mention drying off quickly whenever wet.
If you’re looking to do gravel in these shoes, I’d suggest using the rock plate as it really does catch the rocks and creates another barrier between your feet and the larger rocks under them.
So, would this shoe be right for you?
Maybe. I can’t really say for sure. If a wider toe box is something your feet have been aching for. Give them a shot. If you’re looking for a trail shoe that’s meant for speed. Definitely slip these on. If you’re a duck masquerading as a person. This may be your only hope.
But honestly. Whether or not you’re looking for a speedy trail shoe, be conscious that there are many options out there for running shoes, even in the trail community. And if you choose Altra, your toes will thank you, and maybe give you a raise.