Sunday, November 29, 2015

Altra, you're fired

I fired the Altra Superior 2.0 as my trail shoe last week. 

And until they get their problems with the upper's durability fixed, I'm not going back. 

This was my second pair of Superior 2.0's. The first pair failed two weeks before Superior 100 at my 30K birthday run. Both shoes were torn on the inside and outside next to the balls of my feet. The fabric when shredded looked like a flimsy woven tarp with its crinkled threads. No biggy, I thought. Those shoes ended with just under 220 miles on them. They'd had a good go, but the outsole was still in wonderful condition. But for the tears, they had lots of good life still in them. 

I was frustrated and wanted to look elsewhere, but the proximity to Superior 100 and minimal miles between that Saturday and the race in 13 days meant I couldn't adequately ensure that a never-before-raced-in shoe would cut it. Cardinal Rule #1: nothing new on race day. And so I dutifully got a second pair, this time a half-size smaller (to my usual 8.5) with the thought it would minimize side-to-side movement in the toe box and eliminate one potential for lateral stress on the fabric. 

The shoes performed admirably at Superior 100 - no (new) blackened toenails and the soles looked great considering how rugged that course is and how much I walked. But there was a similar hole on the inside of my left shoe, just behind the ball - right in the same spot. It looked like there is stiff backing to the upper just behind where the hold was, like the stiffness is contributing to the tearing of the softer, more pliable fabric that comprises that portion of the toebox. 

I wore pair number two one more time, at the Afton Fat-Ass race last week, and only because we were instructed to wear clothing that could sacrificed to the deer-trail god of the single track. I did as instructed, and made the hole bigger. The shoes were retired with 143 miles on them, ~103 of which was Superior 100 and eight were from the Afton FatAss.

I'm not the first person who has complained about durability that I'm aware of; those that I run with have anecdotes, either of themselves or personally, from these issues. The durability is a major issue, as a failure in-race could mean a DNF for lack of footwear. Runners have been forced to drop because of a shoe failure, and I don't want it to happen to me. 

I'm not broken up about this right now either. The Superior 2.0 had some other non-major issues, mostly related to fit, and so I'm OK looking for something better. The padding around the heel and ankle was the biggest issue, as it was cushy and made it difficult, if not impossible, to really get a good lock on the heel. Ginger Runner had a great review of the shoe, and I agree with his praise and criticisms. Hopefully these issues get fixed if and when they issue version 3.0. 

It's also the off season, and so I'll have plenty of time to test another trail shoe or three in time for the 2016 season. I also usually do plenty of running in dedicated trail shoes in the winter because of the snow conditions here in MN. The City may plow the paved public trail behind my house, but it doesn't - and can't - get everything. 

What will I look for in a new pair of trail kicks? Lots of the same stuff that I did when I first went searching after New Balance discontinued the 1010's.

What that is, I'm not sure right now. 

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