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,