This Spring, Altra has introduced two “half updates” to two of their popular trail models; in Altra parlance, a new whole number represents a significant redesign of the shoe, while a half-point (or .5) version has more subtle design changes along with new colorways. Both the Superior 3.5 and King MT 1.5 fall into the latter category, although there are noteworthy changes to both models.
|Altra Superior 3.5||Altra King MT 1.5|
|Weight||10.3oz men’s, 8.2oz women’s||8.5oz men’s, 7.0oz women’s|
|Last||RFS (Racing Foot Shaped)||PFS (Performance Foot Shaped)|
|Midsole compound||EVA / A-Bound Blend with InnerFlex||Altra EGO|
|Rock protection||Full-length removable StoneGuard||Built-in full length rock plate|
|Insole||5mm contour footbed||6mm contour footbed|
|Outsole||DuraTread rubber with TrailClaw 4mm lugs||Vibram MegaGrip with 6mm lugs|
|Upper||Quick-Dry Air Mesh||Quick-drying and draining Ripstop nylon with drainage openings near toes and midfoot|
|Ideal use||Ultrarunning, fast packing||Fell running, off-trail scrambling, obstacle course racing|
|Color options||3 men’s, 3 women’s||3 men’s, 3 women’s|
Altra Superior 3.5
Primary updates to the Superior 3.5 include a lighter weight – a full ounce lighter than the 3.0 version – with an updated mesh upper. It also adds Altra’s four-point gaiter trap anchor points for increased protection from outside grit.
Improvement of the uppers was a key development, as in our experience, the life span of Altra trail shoes is frequently determined by tearing of the uppers rather than breakdown of the midsole or outsole. The new mesh material feels more durable and abrasion resistant than the 3.0 version, but still retains its flexibility and comfort. Reinforcement on the sides of the upper is provided through overlays and an extended toe bumper.
The Superior 3.5 uses the same DuraTread and TrailClaw outsole from the 3.0 version, which positions rubber strategically along with exposed EVA to shave weight while making the lugs functionally deeper. The 4mm lugs are moderately aggressive, and spaced widely apart to shed mud easily. We love the tread pattern on this shoe, and we’ve found it very dependable to handle virtually any type of terrain.
Altra King MT 1.5
Altra’s original King MT shoe debuted last year, and was geared specifically for sustained water and mud exposure, such as you find in obstacle races with multiple water hazards, or European fell running – or for that matter, the majority of winter runs in the Pacific Northwest.
One key distinction between the King MT line and the rest of Altra’s established trail running line is the use of the RFS last, which is cut slightly narrower than Altra’s PFS last without compromising the foot-shaped toe box. It’s a sleeker overall footprint that is designed to fit snug, which is important in sloppy conditions or when pushing the pace.
As with the Superior 3.5, the key construction updates are with the upper. The King MT 1.5 is optimized for rapid water drainage after immersion, with vent openings strategically placed on the medial side as well as the front of the toe box. The idea is that when you place weight through your forefoot at the end of stance phase, water in your shoe or sock will get squeezed forward, and when you pick that foot off the ground to swing it forward, the water can easily drain downward and out of the shoe.
In addition to adding vent openings, the primary fabric of the uppers is a new ripstop fabric that is thin to the point of being nearly translucent, but has strong durability and flexibility. There is a new large stitched overlay on the medial side of the shoe for extra reinforcement in that area, and a number of welded TPU overlays to keep the foot anchored to the midsole. These all seem effective in securing the fit, and they avoid causing any unwanted creases or hot spots. The thinner upper material results in a slightly lighter overall weight for the King MT 1.5 compared to the original.
One piece that remains with the King MT 1.5 is the presence of a Velcro lock-down strap on top of the midfoot, which is something of a love-it-or-hate-it feature for many users. It wraps the entire midfoot and is helpful for adjusting the tension of your shoes quickly on the go; you can keep the strap loose on a long climb, then pull it down tight before bombing a downhill to prevent forward sliding. In our experience, the strap isn’t uncomfortable, but frequently isn’t necessary, as the regular lace system does a great job of holding the foot in place on its own. It’s also a convenient place to tuck laces underneath, but makes regular on/off application of the shoe a bit trickier than it should be.
Below the upper, the King MT 1.5 is largely unchanged. It utilizes Altra’s advanced EGO midsole material that combines soft cushioning with strong bounce resiliency, and is especially effective on a shoe with a relatively low stack height. There is a built-in full length stone guard for impact resistance, and the outsole features Vibram’s MegaGrip compound, which is the stickiest, grippiest, most advanced material the company offers. Based on its underfoot construction, the King MT is an excellent choice for cranking out speed on race day, but for longer events the relative lack of cushioning could become a challenge for some runners.
The Altra Superior 3.5 and King MT 1.5 are now available in both men’s and women’s styles at www.altrarunning.com as well as other retailers.