What makes a perfect fit?
Are You Race Day Ready?
Race day is one of the most exciting times for runners. Whether you’re running a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or full marathon, the right running clothing can make a big difference in your performance and comfort level. In this blog, we’ll go over what to look for when choosing your running clothes for race day.
Have a great race,
RRCA Level II Certified Run Coach
The Mighty Olympus
By: Morgan Sauer
There are tales of the mighty Olympus shoe of the Altra order. Tales of strength and longevity. Tales of comfort. Tales you won’t forget. Tales you will hear today.
So you’ve read about the pros and cons of Altra’s two main hitter trail shoes (Superior and Lone Peak) but are still not sure if they’re for you. Well, you’re in luck because there’s a third Altra trail shoe to discuss. Let’s dig deeper. (Whispers to you from across the way: Actually there’s a couple more but we aren’t going to worry about those. *wink wink)
The Superior, a trim, lightweight trail shoe sure to keep you upright on tight turns and speedy declines.
The Lone Peak, the more well-liked sibling, more cushion, more width, more traction, will keep your feet happy on long runs and light on the speedy ones.
But then we come to the Olympus 5. Surely the beefiest of Altra’s trail line-up. What I would call the sturdy and steady work horse of the three. If you’re familiar with horses then the Superior can be compared to an Arabian horse, the Lone Peak to a Quarter horse, and the Olympus takes the cake at being a full-blown Clydesdale. Have fun reaching that cake, its shoulders are over 6 feet high. Might need to do some climbing to get up there, so good thing you’re interested in trail shoes.
If you’re looking for a speedy shoe, I must encourage you to turn around and walk away. Sure, the Olympus could go fast but with the max-cushioning, the Vibram rubber sole, and reinforced upper, your energy return is not going to wow the crowd.
That being said, be ready for this shoe to take you to the highest mountain and if you’re in Greece it could even be Mount Olympus itself standing 9,750 ft at its tallest peak, all the while keeping your feet happy and squish-free.
Out of the three, the toe-box of the Olympus has a snugger fit despite having the Original Footshape same as the Lone Peak. This is perhaps due to the more rigid upper in comparison to the Lone Peak. Because of that I elected to wear Injinji toe socks for the Newton Hills Trail Race (6 miles) to prevent my toes from rubbing together uncomfortably. As mentioned in previous articles my feet have more in common with a duck than a person which doesn’t match up with my inability to float in water. But that’s a different story. So just take note to make sure to at least try on the Olympus before considering purchase if you are used to the fit of Altra’s other trail shoes.
The comfort level of the Olympus will surprise you. Although not marketed as a stability shoe the Olympus most definitely has the best arch and ankle support. For that I find it to be the most comfortable on longer treks and longer runs. My favorite use for this shoe by far is running on gravel, of which encompasses most of my running, and has become my go-to gravel running companion.
The additional cushion is a welcome sort when it comes to gravel road running. All those pesky rocks felt in shoes like the Superior simply melt away like ice cream left out on a summer’s day. Say adieu to avoiding the rockier stretches of the road. Instead, you can simply focus on the run, the fresh breeze (sometimes a bit ripe depending on where you call home), the sun shining high, the dog panting next to you, or the stars twinkling above.
Let’s see what else . . .
Ah, yes, traction. A worthy factor to discuss in a trail shoe. If you haven’t done any running out at Newton Hills State Park, I would highly recommend it. Anyone who has will understand me when I say that traction on some of those back trails can be dubious at best. Especially after a washout, when muddy, or even when it’s been too dry. One misstep can send you sliding down a ridge into the welcoming arms of the many oak trees that call the park home. So, whatever it is covering your feet you best hope it’s got some good lugs on it. And the Olympus has got you covered.
I consider myself a surefooted trail runner, the only time having tripped on a trail run was when I ran on sidewalk for a stint and very nearly skidded face-first along the concrete. Knock on wood that it stays that way, though such a thing in the trail world is doubtful. Regardless, for the entirety of the 6-mile race route I didn’t trip once on the tricky terrain. And a part of that has to do with the effectiveness of the Vibram® Megagrip outsole rubber coating the bottom of the Olympus 5. Even when I was nearly at an all out sprint on the last half-mile downhill to the finish, I felt confident with each step I took. It was downright exhilarating to be so assured in a shoe’s ability to do its job that I was able to run at my best. We’ve all been there, mid-race or run, when you realize the shoes you’ve got on are simply not going to cut it for the distance/workout you need to do. Not a fun place to be. Usually a lot of anger, regret, and annoyance likes to tag along in those situations to make it all the more worse.
An interesting quirk of the shoe is how it doesn’t feel as much of a zero-drop shoe as it should, since it is a zero-drop shoe. Because of that, this shoe would be a softer transition into zero drop than the Superior or Lone Peak. The high cushion is most likely the factor to blame for this quality.
In addition, there is a surprisingly high amount of reflectivity on this shoe. Reflective material is in the laces, on the toe, and along the sides of the ankle extending around to the back of the heel. A useful quality if, like me, you find yourself running in the darker hours of the day.
So, after many weeks, we finally have the verdict on this trifecta of Altra trail running shoes:
If you’re looking to go the distance and cushion, durability, and comfort are what you need, Olympus is your man. Would not recommend as a casual shoe, these guys are work horses and, like a Clydesdale, belong in the field.
If you need a shoe that can do it all and versatility is key the Lone Peak is going to be your best friend until the day you die. It’s got cushion, traction, and width combined with a weight that is excellent for both speed and distance. Unlike the Olympus, this shoe wouldn’t be so bad as a casual shoe, especially if your casual involves the potential of going from pavement, to gravel, to trail before the cow can go moo which, if it's hungry, will do lickety-split.
Now for the beloved speedster, the Superior. The Superior has a place near and dear to my heart that no bad review will ever be able to rip away. The feather-light weight of the Superior is a refreshing feel every time it goes on my feet. But this guy will get you to wherever you’re going at the fastest speed possible and is a shoe that I would describe as dexterous to the max core. You will crush tight turns and speedy declines in this shoe.
In the end I didn’t hate any of these shoes, but they each have qualities that promote a specific function. I will be honest, at first, I really wasn’t a fan of the Olympus, but as I do more running in it, especially as winter begins to set in, I’ve become impressed by the sturdy qualities of the shoe.
I think I’ve said this before, but if you haven’t tried an Altra trail shoe, or any Altra shoe at that, I would highly recommend it. Obviously, they won’t be for everyone, but you might be surprised when your toes start patting you on the back at the end of the day. You might wonder, since when were my feet happy at the end of the day? And you’ll realize it was all because of you.
Until next time,
Conquering your Lone Peak 26.52.27
by Morgan Sauer
The Lone Peak. A significant name for a shoe by far. But when compared to its trail shoe counterparts, like the Superior and Olympus from Altra’s line up, it doesn’t quite ring the same bell of traditional victory. It evokes a different kind of thought. Because what is a “lone peak”?
Well, it’s a physical location for starters. The Lone Peak takes its name from a peak in the Wasatch Range where the original shoe was initially tested on the Wasatch Front 100 Mile in 2010 by one of Altra’s Co-Founders Brian Beckstead.
The Lone Peak was one of the first shoes Altra ever created. It was developed through trials, tribulations, set backs, and let downs. Funny how such things parallel the very people who wear, train, and race in them now.
When I think of a “lone peak” and what meaning that might hold a “pillar of achievement” comes to mind. Never bending. Never breaking. Standing tall. It’s about pushing through to the very end, to the very top, to reach the peak. Alone and mighty, looking back to all that you conquered. Fighting, striving to succeed in whatever way that means to you as we run to the top of our own “lone peaks.”
But enough of the philosophical stuff, onto the mud and grit of which there is a lot. #trailrunning
The Lone Peak is a literal step up from the Superior when it comes to cushion, upper durability, toe space, and versatility. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the Superior and what it has to offer but the Lone Peak will be able to carry you that extra mile when you need it.
The Lone Peak, like the Superior, features Altra’s Balanced Cushioning™, with equal parts cushioning throughout the whole shoe encouraging better alignment and better form while running. The cushion is soft but not excessive. In the words of Goldilocks the cushion is “just right.” That sweet middle ground where dreams are possible and fears vanish.
The Lone Peak features the original footshape and is the roomiest of the three footshapes from Altra. The original footshape allows extra width throughout the shoe including the forefoot and heel. Due to this, my heel didn’t fit as snuggly into the shoe as it did with Superior, but not so much that it was bothersome. The upper of the Lone Peak is a bit more rigid with some waterproofing qualities, but definitely still flexible. Part of me missed the stretchiness of the toe box upper in the Superior, but the Lone Peak is meant to be more built up than the Superior and that includes the upper.
Good news! I didn’t have a breath of achilles pain while training in the Lone Peak which I’ll chalk up to the additional cushion in this model. This shoe is great for long distance training, hiking, and even being on your feet all day. Every time I put this shoe on all my feet feel is happiness. It is roomy, comfortable, and breathable. Sort of a rarity when it comes to the trail shoe department. Some trail shoes can be stiff and heavy. Neither of those words come to mind when describing the Lone Peak. Definitely an all ‘rounder shoe that can tackle anything from basic miles to race day.
My set of Lone Peaks got put through the ringer this round. Just about every terrain imaginable. We had grass, we had gravel, easy trail, technical trail, pavement, mud, sand, water, all of it.
What helped with that was the course of the Leif Ericson Trail Race put on by the Sioux Falls Area Run Club. Being a flatter course, I was unsure what to expect from myself. I’ve always done better with hills, it forces me to stay alert and keep challenging myself. Meanwhile with flat courses I tend to get lost in it all. That extra challenge of elevation isn’t there to keep me on my toes and keep me focused.
But turns out there was nothing to worry about, mother nature swooped in to save the day by dumping a few buckets of rain on Sioux Falls the night before.
And with rain on any trail race course, that brings mud. Remember me complaining about a course without hills not being “challenging” enough? Yeah. Me too. Mud will make any race interesting. And it certainly did here as well. The single tracks and grass were fine when it came to how wet they were, but the gravel road and trails in Camp Leif Ericson were certainly another story. It gave me just the challenge I was looking for, making the race that much more fun. By the end of it all, I wasn’t even bothering to avoid the mud puddles, too exhausted to waste the extra few steps to go around. Not to mention I was already muddy, what was a little more.
That brings me to another point I wanted to make. It takes a bit for the Lone Peak to get soaked through and even once they do they dry off quickly. An important quality when out on the trails.
The shoes held up exceptionally well. Grass, mud, sharp turns, didn’t matter. The Lone Peak kept me sturdy and confident with plenty of traction. The trail claw lugs on the bottom of the shoe are strategically placed beneath the metatarsals for enhanced grip. In addition there is full rubber coverage keeping the sole of the shoe durable throughout its lifespan.
Overall the route for the race was fantastic. It was creative with little overlap for the whole four miles. If you’re looking for an intro race to trail racing mark your calendars with this baby for next year.
One can understand the lasting impression the Lone Peak has had on the trail community; it’s had a lasting impression on me. It’s a shoe hikers and runners alike can get excited to lace up each time they step out their door. They know that whatever terrain they need to conquer that day, these shoes will get them through it.
You don’t need wide feet to enjoy what Altra shoes have to offer. You just need feet, and not even two of them. I’m looking at you pirates. So, will this shoe work for you? Well ya gotta put it on first. But if you want to trust my opinion, then yes, this shoe will be a comfortable fit for just about anyone.
So you’ve reached the end. Still not sure if the Lone Peak or the Superior are right for you? Well, then stick around for next time when I dig into Altra’s max-cushion trail shoe, the Olympus.
On to the next mountain.
By: Morgan Sauer
Anticipation. A feeling each one of us is familiar with. It follows close behind each step of our day waiting to for its time. A time like running a race on an unknown course. Or in shoes you’ve never raced in before. Or at an appointment with a doctor, you’ve never met. No matter the reason, that electrifying urgency and anxiety leading up to something new or unknown isn’t something we’ll ever gain distance from. No matter how secure our lives may seem.
My success in running has been born more from pure determination than any kind of in-born skill. I was always naturally fast over short distances, but keeping that speed over a long distance wasn’t anything that came easy for me. Which is perhaps why I fell so easily into trail running. There’s ups and downs, areas where speed is necessary, but only in short bursts.
It took a few years after college to uncover the whys of running and the intricacies it had in my life. Racing post-collegiate has had many tribulations to surpass. There was even a time I firmly believed I’d never be able to run again. Not being able to walk will do that to a person. Injury, bodily health, and mental struggles combined like a bad recipe to create setback after setback. And in all honesty, none of that is over just yet. I could list on more than one hand the setbacks I’ve faced with post-collegiate running. But no matter what obstacle reared its ugly mug, I couldn’t turn my back on running.
And isn’t that a big part of trail running? Overcoming obstacles at the right moment and velocity to be able to keep going. And when doing that, it helps to have the right tools to do it.
A lot of the success in a race and in running can be attributed to shoes. In trail standards, the shoes you wear must have enough traction to keep you upright on tight curves and even tighter inclines/declines. They can even be a life saver at times when traversing dangerous terrain where one misstep could mean the end. So yeah. Shoes are important. So that’s why it’s important to find the right shoe for you in trail running. There are lots out there from every brand, all with their specific qualities. But how to know which is right for you?
Well, ya gotta try ‘em on.
Maybe this is redundant coming from a business that sells shoes, but facts are facts, whether you like them or not.
In this blog series, I will be featuring three different Altra trail running shoes: Superior, Lone Peak, and Olympus. Each shoe has its own shining qualities and I’m here to show them to you.
So first off. The Altra Superior 5. A shoe built for speed. Altra’s website will tell you that this shoe has got it all. And . . . they’re not really wrong. The shoe features the Standard Footshape which is slightly narrower than Altra’s Original Footshape. Despite that, you will still find the width you’re looking for when you set out in search for an Altra shoe. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Altra’s shining qualities are the wider, foot-shaped toe-boxes that all of their shoes possess. That, matching up with a zero-drop heel-to-toe offset, sets you up for a more natural way to run, walk, work, whatever you need to do.
Now, I will admit. Training for the Tuthill Trail Race (3 mile) was the first time I ever did serious training and racing in Altra’s, having only used them for some intense and technical hiking on the east coast prior. And boy was I excited. I did feel some Achilles pain while training in these shoes. Although never growing past a dull ache, I made sure to monitor it continuously. Did I mention your body might let you know something’s different? Usually, people feel it in their calves or Achilles and some people feel nothing at all. Lucky ducks. (More about ducks in a moment.)
An important distinction to make with the Superior is that . . . this is not a shoe meant for cushion. Sure, there is cushion there, this isn’t a slab of marble counter top you’re putting on your feet, but if lots of cushion is what you’re looking for in a trail shoe, I urge you to look elsewhere. Additionally, the Superior is solidly a neutral shoe, so for you pronators out there, again, maybe look elsewhere. Or, you can find an insert to put in the shoe that will give you that extra support without sacrificing speed and weight with a more stable shoe.
That’s what I did.
For the first few outings, I ran in the Superior just as is. No rock plate, no inserts. And loved them. But as I increased mileage, I felt that my feet weren’t getting the support they needed so I slipped in a Currex insole and that solved the problem right then and there.
As someone with, there’s no flattering way to say this, duck-shaped feet, as was so generously made known to me by a college professor in the Roman Forum, the overall fit of the Superior is fantastic. It has a narrow heel that slips very little and v’s out into the wide toe box creating such a comfortable fit, my feet had no complaints to put in the suggestion box.
This lightweight shoe had no trouble on rocky, steep, or slippery terrain, holding up quite well no matter what I put them through. Not to mention drying off quickly whenever wet.
If you’re looking to do gravel in these shoes, I’d suggest using the rock plate as it really does catch the rocks and creates another barrier between your feet and the larger rocks under them.
So, would this shoe be right for you?
Maybe. I can’t really say for sure. If a wider toe box is something your feet have been aching for. Give them a shot. If you’re looking for a trail shoe that’s meant for speed. Definitely slip these on. If you’re a duck masquerading as a person. This may be your only hope.
But honestly. Whether or not you’re looking for a speedy trail shoe, be conscious that there are many options out there for running shoes, even in the trail community. And if you choose Altra, your toes will thank you, and maybe give you a raise.