Altra Olympus (Spring 2014)$130 | 11.0 oz | 0mm drop | www.altrarunning.com
The Dirt: This max-cushioned debut from Altra has introduced the adjective “HOKA-esque” to the trail runner’s vocabulary. With an oversize midsole that puts 36mm of cushioned, springy shoe between your foot and the ground, the Olympus is designed for the ultrarunner seeking a plush, zero-drop shoe.
To promote a midfoot strike and easy toe-off, the cambered front of the shoe creates a distinctly rockered feel that startled most testers initially, though many came to appreciate it after an adjustment period. The highly breathable, mesh upper also earned high marks.
Altra promotes the Olympus as a hybrid shoe for both road and trails—and there’s no doubt the extra layers of cushioning work wonders, particularly for those suffering from knee or joint pains. “These shoes are so soft they made running on roads actually enjoyable!” exclaimed one tester.
Best For: Long distances on compacted dirt, gravel or roads.
Traction: The low-profile tread—described by one tester as resembling “Celtic art”—handles dry, non-technical trails well, but lends little confidence on mud or wet grass.
Fit: The Olympus fits pleasantly wide and a hint short. Consider going a half-size up.
The Downsides: The high stack height and non-aggressive tread prevent it from being very agile on rocky, twisting terrain. “On a muddy trail,” said one tester, “this shoe gets manhandled and your foot is free to wobble around and off the sides.”
Tester-Monial: “I would recommend the Olympus to someone looking for extra cushioning during long runs on hard-packed terrain, or anyone wanting better protection for their joints.”
–Jade Belzberg, Carbondale, CO