Saturday, August 26, 2023

Altra Superior 6 Multi Tester Review: 6 Comparisons

Article by Dom Layfield and Mike Postaski

Altra Superior 6 ($130


Dom:  The Superior is the least-cushioned shoe in Altra’s trail line-up, and has seen many iterations over the years.  With version six, the most notable change is that Altra has dropped the removable “StoneGuard” insert that allowed the user to fine-tune the amount of protection provided.  This has long been a signature feature of the Superior, so it is in a way slightly sad to see it go.  However, my personal experience has always been that this feature sounded better in theory than it worked in practice.  Despite the StoneGuard being just a thin sheet of flexible plastic, it still noticeably altered the roominess of the shoe, leaving one with a choice between minimal rock protection and a roomy fit, or more protection and a snugger fitting shoe.  Generally I would leave the StoneGuard inserted, irrespective of the terrain I was running.  My guess is that most runners tended to “fit and forget”, and not make much use of the tunability of the shoe.  So ditching the StoneGuard seems like a sensible move from Altra.

Despite a totally new upper and sole, the character of the shoe remains strikingly similar.  The upper still has a ‘burrito’ type construction, and the shoe still feels soft and flexible.  With a Superior 6 on one foot and version 5 on the other, I could barely tell the difference.


  • Low stack height (21 mm) makes the shoe very stable.  [Dom, Mike P]

  • Flexible build provides outstanding ground feel.  [Dom, Mike P]

  • Upper hit excellent balance between roominess and foot retention.  [Dom, Mike P]
  • Updated, more durable outsole rubber [Dom, Mike P]
  • Durability seems promising.  [Dom, Mike P]
  • Midsole doesn’t seem to “bottom out” as in previous versions [Mike P]
  • Great casual/walking/hiking/travel shoe [Mike P


  • Rock protection is a little meager for rocky trails.  [Dom, Mike P]
  • Upper can feel a bit unstructured [Mike P]


Approx. Weight: men's 9.5 oz  / 269g (US9)

Samples: US M10:  10.1 oz / 286 g

US M8.5: (9.35 oz left / 9 oz right)

v5 approx. 9.63 oz / 273g  (US9) including 24.5 g / 0.86 oz “Stone Guard” removable rock plate)

Stack Height: men’s 21 mm heel /  21mm forefoot (zero drop) : women’s stack is the same

$130. Available now.

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Dom: As mentioned above, the Superior 6 ditches the “StoneGuard'' removable rockplate that has long been a signature feature of the Superior line.  For me the problem with the StoneGuard was primarily that it changed the fit of the shoe, leaving the user a choice between less protection and a roomier fit, or more protection and a snugger fit.  Despite a wholly new upper and sole, on the foot the new Superior 6 feels almost identical to a Superior 5 with the StoneGuard inserted, in terms of both upper roominess and underfoot protection.

Dom: The new upper retains the burrito construction introduced way back with the Superior 4, but switches out the quarter panel overlays for a more flexible (and likely breathable) reinforced mesh.  

The fabric used in the forefoot of version 6 feels a little burlier and crinklier than version 5.  From a style viewpoint, I actually prefer the cleaner lines of the outgoing shoe, but this is subjective.  Despite the many changes, what’s most striking is that the new shoe feels very similar indeed to the previous version.  It is still unusually flexible and soft for a mainstream trail shoe, providing ‘just enough’ support and protection to accommodate the needs of most runners, while encouraging a natural gait.

Dom: The only slight downside of the new upper is that heel retention has regressed somewhat compared to v.5.  S6 heel is lower and wider, with less of a counter.  That said, I didn’t notice this until I ran in with Superior 6 on one foot and Superior 5 on the other.  S6 felt a just a little looser in the heel, which seems to be a trend in recent Altra shoes.  Both Timp 4 and Mont Blanc felt like they were falling off my narrow heels, although I didn’t find Superior 6 nearly as bad.  I assume the tweak is a response to complaints from stouter runners with touchy achilles tendons.  Personally, I don’t have achilles issues, and prefer a tighter heel fit. 

Mike P: I’ve had the Superior 6 in test for quite a while now.  A big summer of racing and associated recovery led me to put way more “casual” miles in them initially. I was immediately struck by the general comfort of the Superior 6 when I first received them. I’ve previously run in versions 3 and 4, but not 5. Specifically in comparison to V4, V6 seems to have just a slightly different fit for me.

I never really used the removable StoneGuards in previous versions, so my fit comparison should be accurate. I find V6 to be absolutely true to size, where as with V3/4, they always felt just a touch short. V4 also felt a bit wider across the forefoot, and I find that V6 seems to be just a touch more streamlined while still remaining comfortably wide. 

The upper material is quite pliable, so much so that at times I do feel like it’s not really strapping my foot down as much as I’d like. I can’t compare it to V5, but similarly to Dom, I also find heel hold to feel a bit soft. The heel itself is low, and squared off, again with the material being quite pliable and not rigid at all. I had no issue with actual heel hold, so I think it’s just a matter of feel and perception. 

[Quite a soft, pliable, squared-off heel]


Dom: Although the Superior 6 has been totally redesigned, including new sole molds, midsole thickness and foam (Altra’s in-house Quantic) look to  be unchanged.  Certainly, the underfoot feel is essentially identical to Superior 5 with the StoneGuard insert installed.  This is interesting, as Altra ditched the StoneGuard in version 6, so I’m not clear if the continuity is accomplished with a non-removable stiffening elements.

Mike P: I guess I have an interesting perspective in comparison to Dom, as I haven’t run in V5 so I’m essentially comparing V6 to V4 (without the StoneGuard). There’s two things that I absolutely notice in this new version. The V6 midsole compound absolutely feels more substantial than the previous Superiors that I’ve run in. With previous versions, I felt like that foam really bottomed out, especially under the balls of the feet, and especially after putting some decent mileage into them.

The midsole foam feels more resilient as well as durable. My previous V4’s weighed in at a much lighter 8.8 oz (250g), so that gives me some hint that they must have beefed up the midsole foam in some way, which is an improvement in my book, despite the added weight. 

The 2nd aspect I notice is that V6 feels much more supportive and contoured underfoot - which is a big win for me. I’ve always found Altra’s to be a bit flat under the arch, which I guess is a more natural style, but I personally prefer a bit more support. The Superior V6 seems to have more of a subtle, underfoot wrapping contour - in comparison to say, a Topo shoe, which has a more defined and noticeable raised arch. 


Dom:  Accompanying the redesigned upper, the Superior 6 features a redesigned outsole.  In keeping with the other changes, the new sole feels very similar to the outgoing version: It’s not clear to me exactly what Altra were trying to improve with the redesign.  

Superior 6 (above) outsole compared to Superior 5 (below).  

The new outsole uses only a single color of rubber, which presumably simplifies manufacturing slightly over the multicolor outsole in the Superior 5.  

I also noticed that the peripheral lugs are slightly wider than before, making them less prone to buckling under load, and providing more contact area on smooth surfaces.  

Dom:  Historically, Altra’s proprietary ‘MaxTrac’ outsole rubber has been a weak point: it doesn’t particularly shine in grip (especially on wet rock), nor durability, nor lightness.  However, Altra have recently revised the formulation and the Superior 6 features the new rubber.  (As does the Lone Peak 7.)  I did a side-by-side comparison of the two shoes in a local creek, and the updated rubber is clearly grippier on wet surfaces.  Similarly, in the past I have noticed faster-than-expected outsole wear on certain shoes (e.g. Timp 4).  Altra say that the new rubber is also more durable.  It’s hard to test this, particularly within a short time window, but so far the durability of the Superior 6 looks promising.  I took my sample pair on a trip to Hawaii and did several longish runs over volcanic rock, which is highly abrasive.  I then followed this up with five days of yard construction work, pushing a wheelbarrow of dirt and rock up a steep hill.  The outsole seems almost untouched; only the exposed midsole looks a little scuffed.

Mike P: Dom covers most of the outsole above, so I don’t have much to add. I will concur that I noticed the wider and larger outsole lugs along the lateral side. Previous Superior outsoles tended to be a bit “nubby” in this particular area, so it’s definitely an improvement. Improved durability is also noticeable for me as well. I’ve got 50 running miles in my test pair, and I’ve been using them as an everyday/casual shoe as well since they’re so comfortable. The outsole (and midsole) still look and feel brand new. 


Dom:  If you liked the ride of previous Superior versions (certainly v4 onwards), the Superior 6 will feel instantly familiar.  Despite several redesigns, Altra have kept the ride and overall experience very consistent.  If you’re not familiar with the Superior, you should know that this is a lightly cushioned, low-to-the ground, flexible, comfortable trail shoe.  The low stack height and flexibility make the shoe very stable, with outstanding ground feel.  The downside is that the shoe doesn’t provide much rock protection and has minimal structural support for the foot.  Like all Altra’s, this is a zero-drop shoe, and the heel cushioning is probably a bit meager for heavier heel-strikers. So this shoe is perhaps best suited to lighter runners running shorter distances on fairly smooth terrain.

Mike P: I’m still quite amazed that some runners can take the Superior for very long ultra distances. I think that’s just a testament to the wide variety of running styles, biomechanics, and feet (!) that exist in the running world. If it works for you, go with it!  But as Dom sums it up - the Superior is low on cushioning, low to the ground, and high on ground feel. 

I’d say that flexibility is the defining feature of the ride, as the shoe contours effortlessly over the terrain underfoot. Of course you do tend to feel those contours, but again, that’s just a matter of setting the appropriate expectations for the shoe. Zero drop is of course another issue, or feature, depending on your perspective. I do find that with what seems to me like a more contoured midsole feel underfoot with the zero drop of the Superior 6 less jarring than some other pure zero drop options.

The Quantic foam, while resilient and durable, doesn’t give much in the way of “energy” or “bounce”. Clearly the shoe is designed to allow the runner to do the work, and not get in the way. That being said, as I mentioned earlier, and also agreeing with Dom - there’s minimal structural support for the foot. The lack of feeling “strapped down” - in technical terrain and at higher paces, can make the ride feel a little sluggish. But on the other hand, that comfort and pliability may be preferable for some runners.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Dom:  The Superior 6 smoothly continues Altra’s Superior lineage.  Everything has been changed (the shoe has been totally redesigned) and yet still remains the same (the burrito construction remains, and the overall character is preserved).  I really liked the Superior 5, and have similarly enjoyed testing version 6.  This is a soft, unstructured, flexible, low-to-the ground, lightly cushioned trail shoe.  To a barefoot-running zealot, the Altra Superior is probably not extreme enough to qualify a ‘true’ barefoot shoe, but it’s a decent approximation that will reach a much wider audience, and encourage a less leaden-foot gait in most runners.  As long as you understand the raison d’être of the Superior, this shoe will not disappoint.  

Altra’s decision to drop the removable ‘StoneGuard’ rock plate seems reasonable.  In previous iterations of the Superior, I invariably kept this in, as did I suspect nearly everyone.  So while this diminishes the tunability of the shoe, the simplification makes sense.  I’m slightly disappointed to see that this wasn’t accompanied by a weight reduction but frankly, this is not a race shoe, and 99% of runners won’t care.  Altra have also improved their outsole rubber, enhancing both wet grip and durability – both weak points of previous versions.  I’ve had the Superior 6 for several months and so far, the durability looks promising.

For lighter runners, running shorter distances on mellow trails, this is a lovely training shoe.  Nothing flashy: no superfoams or dazzling tech, just solid competence and refinement.  Five out of five smiles here.😊😊😊😊😊

Mike P: This is my favorite Superior version and my favorite Altra shoe to date. In comparison to previous Superiors, I feel like the fit is improved - more streamlined, with a more accurate true to size fit. The midsole foam also has been improved, noticeably more resilient and overall it is more substantial underfoot. These comparisons also stand against other Altras I’ve run in, most recently the Timp 4 - which I found to be overly wide, too flat and unsupportive under the arch, and having a poor outsole. 

I’m not quite a zero-drop fanatic, so I don’t typically do long distance runs in them, but I do throw in a run here and there to keep my lower legs in shape. I find the Superior 6 to be the most accessible Altra so far, and they deserve a look from most runners, even if only for casual use. Speaking of which, I’ve been walking and hiking in them almost every day all summer since they just feel that good and comfortable. They were my pick for both going and coming back from Germany - 20 hours of walking, standing in line, and airplane time.  

Mike P’s Score:  9.05 / 10

Ride: 9 - Smooth, comfortable underfoot, midsole foam is improved

Fit: 9 - Extremely comfortable, almost to a fault. Can feel too unstructured at times

Value: 10 - Running, hiking, casual use - and very durable

Style: 10 - Sleek and not overly flashy - great for all around usage

Traction: 9 - Solid lugs, similar to previous Superiors

Rock Protection: 8 - Not the hallmark of this shoe, but it’s to be expected

Smiles 😊😊😊😊😊

6 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Superior 6 (right) compared to Superior 5 (left)

Altra Superior 5 (RTR Review)

Dom:  Differences to Superior 5 are discussed extensively above. To summarize: despite a complete redesign, the Superior 6 feels very much like the Superior 5.  The most obvious difference is that Altra have finally discarded the removable ‘StoneGuard’ rockplate that has long been a signature feature of the Superior.  Some may mourn the loss of tunability, but personally, I never found this very useful, and always left the plate installed except when I was testing shoes for RTR.  Additionally, Altra’s ‘MaxTrac’ outsole rubber has been updated for improved durability and wet grip. Weight is basically unchanged compared to Superior 5 with StoneGuard installed (increase of 0.2 oz, 6 g).

Altra Superior 4 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): I never ran V5, so I am adding my V4 comp, as described throughout the review. V6 is slightly longer and more streamlined in terms of width. The Quantic midsole feels more durable and does not bottom out as much as V4, especially under the balls of the feet. I also detect more contouring underfoot - less flatness under the arch. These differences add up to V6 feeling much more usable and comfortable for running as well as hiking and casual usage. 

Altra Timp 4 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0): I found the Timp 4 to be overly wide, more in line with most Altras, although not quite as wide as the Lone Peak. I did have ½ size up, but the width difference was so much that I don’t think my usual  9.5 would be much different, relatively speaking. The Timp’s foam was more energetic-feeling, and definitely thicker underfoot, with less ground feel. But the shoe overall was very flat underfoot, perhaps preferable for zero drop/natural enthusiasts, but a bit uncomfortable for me. I found the outsole to be poor as well, with very low lugs, and not very durable.

Dom:  I enjoyed the Timp 4, and ran a lot of training miles in it.  The two major issues for me were the lack of heel retention (the back end of the shoe felt very insecure) and the outsole, which was neither particularly grippy nor durable.

Altra Lone Peak (RTR Review)

Dom:  The Lone Peak is the next step up in Altra’s trail line-up, with 25 mm compared to 21 mm of stack height.  Apart from the increased stack height, the Lone Peak uses a wider last than the Superior, which makes it a standout for wide-footed Altra loyalists, but simultaneously diminishes its mainstream appeal.  The slightly slimmer shape of the Superior is a better match for most feet.

Topo Runventure 4 (RTR Review)

Dom: This is the closest shoe to the Superior that I can think of, with zero drop, and 20 mm of stack height.  Both provide near-minimal running experiences.  The Runventure’s ride is slightly firmer than Superior, and generally the shoe is a little stiffer and feels more conventional than the slipper-like and flexible Superior.  I’m a big fan of both shoes.  In the past, I’d give the nod to the Topo, as the Vibram outsole rubber is gripper and more durable.  But if Altra’s updated outsole rubber is genuinely improved, this may be moot.

Mike P (9.5): Yes, a very close comp to the Superior. I agree with Dom - the ride feels firmer, and also stiffer, likely due to the thicker, more full coverage outsole of the Topo. I find the Superior upper to be more comfortable, but the Topo upper feels more secure. But it could also be the stiffer ride that gives the Topo a more secure feel. In terms of midsole, I have to give the edge to the Superior 6. It feels more resilient, whereas the Topo can feel thin at times (not necessarily a knock). The Runventure 4 midsole feels more similar to previous Superior versions, but the Superior V6 is now a bit better.

Inov-8 TrailFly G 270 V2 (RTR Review)

Dom:  The TrailFly G270 is a zero-drop shoe from Inov-8 that has a little more cushioning underfoot (22 mm stack?) than the Superior and an energetic, bouncy ride.  The  upper has more structure, and is a little narrower, giving the shoe a more conventional feel.  The Superior is more flexible and with more ground feel.  The Trailfly 270 is the mainstream choice, but it lacks the barefoot-like experience of the Superior.

Tester Profiles

Dom 51, trains and competes mainly on trails in Southern California.  In 2017 he was 14th at Western States 100 and in 2018 finished 50th at UTMB and 32nd at the 2018 Los Angeles marathon in a time of 2:46.  In 2019, his only notable finish was at the multi-day Dragon’s Back race in the UK.  In 2022 Dom finished 4th in the Angeles Crest 100 and was 10th in his age group at UTMB.

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to 100+ mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. From 2022-23 Mike has won the Standhope 100M, IMTUF 100M, and Scout Mountain 100M trail ultras. He also set a CR of 123.74M at the Pulse Endurance Runs 24H and completed the Boise Trails Challenge on foot in 3 days 13 hours, besting the previous record by 7 hours. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

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Anonymous said...

Hi - did Altra tell you the midsole was Quantic? At least in the EU their retail website says it is Ego. As you noticed- the midsole doesn’t feel the same as previous iterations (4.0 in my case) and doesn’t seem to compress as readily. That said I also don’t think it feels exactly like Ego midsoles in other Altra shoes I have run in recently Lone Peak 5.0, Paradigm 4.0 - it feels a bit stiffer/less bouncy.

Mike P said...


No we did not receive any info or spec sheet from Altra. There's no indication on the shoe itself either, so I guess I figured it could be a different flavor or what they used previously.

As I noted in the review, and I agree with you, it does seems denser to me and more durable (compared to previous Superiors). I haven't run on those two shoes you mentioned, but it feels slightly stiffer than the Ego Max of the Timp 4. I think it's ok though since the shoe itself is so flexible.