First, a confession: I’m a longtime fan of Altra Zero Drop.
I’ve bought and trashed at least eight pairs of Altras. (Maybe 10? I’ve lost count.) I’ve run marathons in the Intuitions and up to 50 miles in the Superiors.
I love the mega-wide toebox and the zero drop footbed. I even loved them when I could only get the Intuitions in a horrible shade of fuschia. (Please, shoemakers, girls like green and gray as much as guys.)
So when Altra sent us a pair of their new max cushion Olympus trail shoes, I opened the box with a less-than-open mind. Could I be objective? Yes, er … probably.
Fit: If you’ve worn Altras before, the fit will feel very familiar. These, like the rest of the line, are very roomy.
The most noticeable detail about the fit, though, is how small these run. I typically wear a size 8 in running shoes. In Altras I’m used to going up half a size. But with the Olympus I had to go up a full size to get the length I wanted.
The downside to going up a full shoe size means these shoes are all-over roomier than I’m used to. Length-wise they’re fine, but I’ve had some issues getting the midfoot snug enough without being tight. The Olympus doesn’t wrap my arch quite as well as Altra’s low-profile Superiors.
On rolling trail these fit fine, but on steep descents I’ve noticed my foot slipping forward in the shoe.
Function: My biggest wish for these shoes is that they could mate with Hoka. Hoka’s pyramid-shaped base makes them much more stable on uneven terrain. Altra’s straight-down stack design means many more rolled ankles.
Pros: Altra has added a Velcro Gaiter Trap to all its trail shoes. This is genius, and I wish other trail shoemakers would add it. I’m constantly forgetting to glue or re-glue Velcro to the backs of new shoes. Now with the trap, my trail shoes are always gaiter-ready. It works well enough with my current pair of gaiters, though the trap is up so high on the shoe that the gaiter edges don’t stay below the shoe collar. Altras will release their own gaiters soon, which should remedy the issues I’m having with my non-Altra gaiters. We’ll let you know how they fit.
The rocker toe on the Olympus is quite aggressive, and very noticeable when walking. But when running it all but disappears, making me feel like my foot turnover is quicker.
Cons: The size. Having to order a full size up throws off the proportion of the rest of the shoe. Slight tweaks to the sizing could greatly improve my fit complaints.
Verdict: If you could keep Altra’s foot-shaped footbed and roomy toe box, and stack it on Hoka’s pyramid-shaped base, you’d have the perfect shoe. On steep and technical trails, I tend to grab the Hokas; but on everything else I opt for the Altras.
Sara Davidson is an ultarunner and our resident women’s gear destroyer.