Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Altra Olympus Review

I've been running for close to 10 years -- 5 or so of them quite seriously -- and I have worn dozens of shoes. I am a bit of a shoe junkie and often give up on a pair after only a few hundred miles simply because I want to try something else. In that time, I can only think of four shoes I can say that I have truly loved: early Nike Free (from about 2009?), original Kinvara, New Balance MT101, and now the Altra Olympus. There have been many shoes that I though were pretty good, some that server a purpose in my "rotation", and lots that have good days and bad. But, shoes that I literally want to wear every time I head out are rare. Since I have delayed writing this post for about three weeks too long, I have accumulated nearly 175 miles and close to 30K of vertical on my Olympus -- enough that I think I have fully formulated my opinion on these shoes.

A couple of quite notes to start: first, I bought the Olympus hoping for a cross over shoe that allowed me to do the occasional road run in max cushion. I didn't want a shoe dedicated to this purpose because I rarely do a run with that requirement. The tread on the Olympus seems to me to be designed for this purpose. And, Altra's own website promotes this. Of course, now that Altra has released the Paradigm, I may look at them too! Second, I never really thought I'd love the Olympus this much, mostly because my experience with Hokas left me unsold on max cushion. With a 100 mile race pending in September, I fully expected either the Lone Peak 1.5 or even the Lone Peak 2.0 to my summer racing shoe. And finally, I own only one pair of Hokas (the Mafate 3) and so any comparisons to the Hokas are based SOLELY on my experience with that one shoe. The Mafate are cheap(er) and allegedly have the widest toe box in their line up. I tried on a pair of Stinson once and immediately returned them because of the narrow forefoot.

The Positives:
  • Everything about this shoe feels right to me -- the toe box, the rocker technology, the support, etc..
  • The weight is incredible for a max cushion shoe, barely more than my typical daily training shoe
  • Considering the category they are in (max cushion), the $130 price tag is quite affordable
  • The perfect amount of cushion for big vertical trail runs
  • No rock plate (that I can tell), but I never feel an object that poses a threat to my feet
  • The rocker technology takes a few runs to get used to, but I find it very natural and find my stride feels very efficient when I am using it to land and toe off.
  • This last (SD5-M) from Altra is my favorite. I find the heel width and midfoot width are better for me than the other last used in the Torin and Superior.
  • At 175 miles I cannot say I have durability questions about them
The Room for Improvement
  • I have only gotten them wet once or twice, but I am skeptical about how fast they'll dry
  • The sizing feels slightly off to me and I am stuck between a 12 and a 12.5
  • The material used in the midsole makes the shoe look a little cheap, particularly the paint peeling off
  • The tread can be a slick when combined with sand and exposed rock.  
The Blue Aster is a good combination of tame and stylish

Paint peeling on the midsole material
I don't write real technical shoe reviews. I leave that to other guys. But, I could go on and on about how I love this shoe. The most important criteria for me is always how much I enjoy wearing the shoe and this shoe compares to very few in that way. To me, they are a Hoka killer because of the weight and wide toe box. I don't feel like I am wearing a clunky, over built-up shoe when running fast. And I do feel the cushion and support when running long and pounding downhill. Those traits are an ideal ultramarathon shoe. There is a very good chance that I will buy at least one more pair of these shoes before they are gone. One thing I have learned with my previous shoe loves, buy them while you can!

1 comment:

  1. Great write-up. I just reviewed these favorably as we'll.