There are two characteristics which set Altra apart from other shoe brands:
- Zero drop: the heel is at the same height as the toes. This makes it easier to land on your toes, rather than heel-striking, which improves power delivery and shock-absorption
- Foot Shaped toe-box: as the name suggests, the wide front of the shoes lets the toes spread out in a more natural shape, improving the shock-absorption and stability
The Altra range is split, broadly, into road and trail ranges, each with low, medium and high stack-heights (degree of cushioning).
I started running with the Lone Peak (trail, medium stack), but have more recently been running in the more versatile Paradigms (high stack, officially a road shoe, but very capable on trails) for virtually all my running. The one weakness I’ve found with the Paradigm is the light-weight uppers take a pounding between my weight (200lbs) and the rock trails I often run on, resulting in the insteps tearing. You can’t complain too much about a road shoe having limitations on trails, of course!
I’ve taken to reinforcing the insteps with shoe adhesive, which seems to be working so far, but I decided I would also try the Olympus 2.0 – the high-stack trail shoe.
The main reason I wasn’t a fan of the 1.0 and 1.5 versions of the Olympus was the very low-profile tread pattern… a surprising oversight on a trail-specific shoe. However, the Olympus 2.0 introduced a tread pattern very similar to the Superior, the low stack trail shoe which was until recently Altra’s most technical and nimble trail shoe (the King has now taken that mantle). To add to the attractiveness of the shoe, Altra used the Vibram Megagrip compound for maximum traction. Another new feature are the Trailclaws – more pronounced lugs around the edge of the soles, angled slight outward, to give better grip on side-slopes and in corners.
The mesh upper is designed to promote ventilation. It does away with the rubberized reinforcement, but the toe bumper has been reinforced and the square “Footshape” logo, which was a point of failure on earlier years’ models through stress focusing, has been replaced with a softer, rounded one. It will be interesting to see how durable the shoe proves to be, but there are no obvious points at risk, except possibly the instep (a regular failure point on Altras) and possibly next to the little toe, where the relatively stiff toe bumper meets the soft rubber of the sole.
The stack height of 36mm is the same as the Paradigm, once you allow for the thickness of the lugs. At 298g, relative to 275g for the Paradigm and 283g for the Lone Peaks (men’s shoes), the Olympus is the heaviest Altra, but not by a lot. The shoe is built on the Standard last (foot-form used to shape the shoe), so is more “relaxed” and “comfortable” than shoes like the Superior (Performance last) or the even more extreme King (Racing last), at the expense of being less precise and nimble on technical terrain… though this is not a major trade-off with such a large stack height.
As with all trail shoes, there is a Gater Trap – a Velcro flap at the back of the heel to attach the back for the Altra Lycra trail gaiters. This is an efficient, effective method, and the gaiters do a pretty good job of keeping debris out of the shoes.
While the Olympus will never be a fashion-forward shoe, this year’s colours are more attractive than some past years – you have a choice of light grey, dark grey with red flashing, or a green mix.
It was an unexpected pleasure running with these shoes. The tread and rubber gave excellent grip, and the cushy sole absorbed the pointy rocks without feeling unstable. However, some people have reported a feeling of “tipping off” the high stack height. I don’t tend to power through corners, and use a fairly upright body position compared to most people, which is why this may not be a big issue for me.
These would be great shoes for runners looking for long distance shoes for rocky terrain who don’t mind giving up some technical performance.
[Disclosure: I am a 2017 Altra Ambassador]