Altra Olympus Review

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The Altra Olympus has the soft cushioning that is similar to the Hoka range, combined with zero drop and a nice wide toe box. It's remarkably flexible given its cushioning, with an outsole that works well on the road. Like the Hokas, the cushioning means the shoe works well on stony trails as well. Like other Altra shoes, the tongue area is wider than most shoes, reducing the pressure slightly on the top of your foot. Unfortunately, the Olympus is nearly as heavy as the Hoka Mafate, but the Mafate is better ate earning its weight, with a lot more cushioning and an outsole that works in nearly every terrain. While the Olympus might pretend to be a trail shoe, it won't handle the soft mud or slick rock in the way the Mafate will. For an even more stark comparison, the Hoka Clifton is much lighter while providing even more cushioning. I've rated it as "Highly Recommended." (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Altra Olympus top
Altra Olympus bottom
Altra Olympus inside
Altra Olympus outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. You're after a Maximalist shoe that fits your foot. However, you might be better with the lighter weight and better cushioned Hoka Clifton , or the all-terrain Hoka Mafate.
  • Cushioning . The midsole of the Olympus is not quite as soft as the typical Hoka foam, but it's softer than the earlier Altra shoes like the Torin.
  • Drop. Altra is known for their zero drop and the Olympus is no exception. However, while the thickness under the ball and heel is approximately the same but there some rise under the arch. This gives some medial support to the ball of the foot, but it does not push up on the arch in a way that causes problems. The Olympus tapers gently and evenly from the ball of the foot to the front, which is quite different to the Hoka which has an abrupt taper at the front of the shoe. Like many Maximalist shoes, the rear of the midsole is cut away to create a bit of a rocker. However, rather unusually the outsole extends back, which may be an attempt to absorb heel strike. The midsole wraps around the lower part of the foot improve stability, reducing the stilt like instability you can get with a thick sole.
  • Structure. This shoe uses single density of foam, though the wrapper that extends above the level of the liner painted a different color to make the shoe look a little less bulky.
  • Flexibility. The Olympus is fairly flexible for shoe of this thickness and this flexibility tends to increase over the first few miles as the foam breaks down and softens.
  • Outsole. The Olympus has harder rubber over most (but not all) of the surface of the sole. Note that the five ovals that are colored to match the midsole and positioned almost like toes are actually outsole, not protruding midsole. .
  • Shape. The shoe is the classic Altra shape, which follows the outline of the human foot much better than other makes. This gives it a broader toe box, but I find there is not enough height for my toes and I still have to cut the toe box open. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is a thicker material than most road shoes, but is reasonably breathable. The weave of the material makes it quite tough and abrasion resistant. There is good padding around the ankle opening.
  • Tongue. The Olympus has a classic tongue rather than a tongue-less sock style of upper. The tongue is partially attached on the inside edge to keep it positioned (see below for an image). The tongue has minimal but adequate padding.
  • Lacing. The flat laces work well and remained tied. Like many Altra shoes, I find the position of the uppermost eyeholes a little old, with the top hole too high and the next hole a little too low. The shoes come from the manufacturer laced in a way that indicates they think you should do a "heel lock" style of lacing, which I hate. I find that approach is very hard to get the tension right.
  • Heel Counter. The Olympus has a surprisingly firm heel counter which is reinforced by the midsole foam rising up around the lower part of the heel. However, there are no strongly defined edges, so it should not cause a problem. The heel counter comes as far up the back of the heel as is normal for running shoe.
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2 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

3 Visualizing the Attributes of the Altra Olympus

How Altra Olympus compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Altra Olympus compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Altra Olympus compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Altra Olympus compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

4 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

4.1 Olympus and Hoka Clifton

Comparing the Olympus and the Hoka Clifton, the Clifton wins on light weight and superior cushioning.

  • Similarities
    • Price. Both are expensive, but tend to have a good lifespan.
    • Trails. Both will handle rocky trails quite well, but not mud or slick rocks.
  • Advantage Altra Olympus
    • Shape. The Altra Olympus has a better toe box.
    • Drop. The Altra Olympus is zero drop.
    • Longevity. The Altra Olympus has more outsole, so it will resist abrasion better though the Clifton has tougher exposed midsole than most.
  • Advantage Hoka Clifton
    • Weight. The Hoka Clifton is a lot lighter, which is a critical advantage.
    • Cushioning . Both are thickly, softly cushioned, but the Clifton achieves the cushioning with less thickness.
Altra Olympus top
Altra Olympus bottom
Altra Olympus inside
Altra Olympus outside
Hoka OneOne Clifton top
Hoka OneOne Clifton bottom
Hoka OneOne Clifton inside
Hoka OneOne Clifton outside

4.2 Olympus and Altra Paradigm

Comparing the Olympus and the Altra Paradigm, the Paradigm wins on weight:

  • Similarities
    • Shape. Both have better toe boxes than the more usual shaped shoes.
    • Drop. Both are zero drop.
    • Price.Both are expensive, but tend to have a good lifespan.
    • Grip. Neither has great traction on wet, slick surfaces or mud.
    • Cushioning . The cushioning is quite close, with the Olympus having more in the heel and the Paradigm having more in the forefoot.
  • Advantage Altra Olympus
    • Longevity. The Olympus has more outsole, so it will resist abrasion better than the Paradigm.
    • Trails.The Olympus will handle mild trails a little better, but it's a close run thing.
  • Advantage Altra Paradigm
    • Weight. The Altra Paradigm is lighter.
I actually ran with an Olympus on one foot and a Paradigm on the other. It's a great way of comparing two shoes, but don't try this at home as it's also a great way of getting injured.

4.3 Olympus and Hoka Bondi

Comparing the Olympus and the Hoka Bondi, the Bondi has slightly more cushioning and is lighter weight. If you're after shape and comfort, choose the Olympus, but if you want lightweight cushioning, choose the Clifton over either.

  • Similarities
    • Price.Both are expensive, but tend to have a good lifespan.
    • Trails.Both will handle rocky trails quite well, but not mud or slick rocks.
  • Advantage Altra Olympus
    • Shape. The Altra Olympus has a better toe box.
    • Drop. The Altra Olympus is zero drop.
    • Longevity. The Altra Olympus has more outsole, so it will resist abrasion better and wear more evenly.
  • Advantage Hoka Bondi
    • Weight. The Altra Olympus is a little heavier.
    • Cushioning . Both are thickly, softly cushioned but the Bondi is a little better.
Altra Olympus top
Altra Olympus bottom
Altra Olympus inside
Altra Olympus outside
Hoka Bondi B top
Hoka Bondi B bottom
Hoka Bondi B inside
Hoka Bondi B outside

5 Gallery

Altra Olympus dissected.
A comparison between the Altra Olympus and Hokas. Notice the difference in the way the sole tapers towards the front of the shoe.
Here is an external comparison of the Altra Olympus and the Altra Paradigm.
The Paradigm (top) has less grip and more flexibility than the Olympus.
Altra Paradigm, Altra Olympus, Hoka Conquest, Hoka Mafate, Hoka Stinson, Hoka Bondi (From left to right).
Hoka Stinson, Hoka Bondi, Hoka Conquest, Hoka Mafate, Altra Paradigm, Altra Olympus (From top left to bottom right by row).
Hoka Stinson, Hoka Bondi, Hoka Conquest, Hoka Mafate, Altra Paradigm, Altra Olympus (From top left to bottom right by row).
A close up of the tongue, showing how it's sown in on each side.
Hoka Stinson, Hoka Bondi, Hoka Conquest, Hoka Mafate, Altra Paradigm, Altra Olympus (From top left to bottom right by row).

6 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes


If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT is my top pick. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills. The Streak LT doesn't have the best cushioning-to-weight ratio, but it has a shape that's closer to the human foot than most running shoes and it's one of the longest lasting shoes I've found. It's not as comfy as the Escalante above, but it's faster.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. I don't generally review trail running shoes, but check out the Hoka Mafate if you're after a shoe with remarkable abilities on a wide range of surfaces. If you want a Hiking Boot, then I love the Hoka Tor Ultra.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review

Brand Name Rating Recommended
Benefit Weight
Loaded Drop
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A Review Saucony A/A7 Recommended $100 6.0 6.7 12.1 19 22 1 4.1 7
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 7.7 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 4.7 7
Saucony Type A8 Saucony A8 Highly Recommended $90 7.1 6.2 9.7 19 20 -1 4.4 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.4 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 3.8 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 5.7 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 6.7 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 8.6 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.1 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.2 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 6.7 3
ON Cloudflash Review On Cloud Cloudflash Worth considering $180 4.2 8.3 14.6 19 26 7 3.5 6
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.4 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.4 7
ON Cloud X On Cloud CloudX Worth considering $140 4.3 8.3 16.3 21 27 7 3.6 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.3 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.7 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.1 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.4 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 7.8 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.4 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.3 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.0 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 7.5 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 3.8 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 6.8 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 6.8 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 8.6 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.5 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.0 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.4 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.4 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 5.8 5
Reebok Floatride Run Review Reebok Floatride Worth considering $150 7.2 9.6 14.9 28 34 10 7.0 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.1 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.4 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 5.7 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.3 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.1 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.1 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.5 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.1 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.1 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 4.9 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 5.7 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.1 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.2 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.4 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 5.7 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.6 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 9.4 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.4 6
Altra King MT Altra King MT Review Pending $140 4.1 10.7 20.8 19 21 -1 4.4 5
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 8.8 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 7.5 5
Altra Lone Peak Altra Lone Peak Review Pending $120 4.9 11.4 17.7 23 25 -2 5.6 4
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.5 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.3 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.1 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 8.5 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.5 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 4.9 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.1 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.3 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.0 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 7.5 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 5.8 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.1 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 9.5 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.0 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 5.7 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.5 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.5 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.2 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.3 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.6 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 13.4 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.4 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.6 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 4.7 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Review Nike RNDist2 Worth considering $120 7.6 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.0 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 4.9 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 3.9 8
Salomon Sense Ride Review Salomon Sense Worth considering $120 8.0 10.0 15.6 24 29 3 8.0 4
Altra Solstice Altra Solstice Highly Recommended $90 6.6 8.1 12.5 23 25 1 5.3 6
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 7.7 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 5.7 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 6.9 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.0 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.3 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.5 5
Nike Zoom Streak LT 4 Review Nike Streak LT Review Pending $90 9.2 5.5 8.5 15 21 5 5.0 7
Altra Superior Altra Superior Review Pending $110 5.4 9.9 15.5 23 25 0 5.4 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.3 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 4.8 5
Altra Timp Review Altra Timp Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.6 18.1 28 31 2 6.2 3
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.4 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.2 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 6.8 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.0 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.2 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.7 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.6 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.1 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.1 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.1 9
Altra Vanish-R Review Altra Vanish-R Recommended $100 9.7 5.3 8.2 19 21 0 5.1 8
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.0 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.2 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 9.8 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.1 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 5.6 8.6 0.0 18 24 6 4.9 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.3 6.3 0.0 17 27 9 6.4 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.4 9.5 0.0 29 32 4 8.0 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 7.8 8.7 0.0 29 36 8 6.8 3

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.