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SHOE REVIEW: Altra Olympus 5

For anything from singletrack to rocky descents, the Altra Olympus 5 is a delight

Altra Olympus 5 Photo by: Matt Stetson

I’ve been running long enough to know you don’t switch things up on race day, but as I headed out the door to drive to my 54K race, last year’s trail shoes were nowhere to be found. I had planned to test-drive the Altra Olympus 5 on some rolling trails near my house, but decided to wear them for this race (and then another) 54K instead. After my experience in the Olympus 5, I have permanently retired my old shoes.

Photo: Matt Stetson

Drop: 0 mm
Stack height: 33 mm
Weight: 350 g (12.3 oz.)/295 g (10.4 oz.)
Available: Now
Price: CAD $230

The upper

The Olympus 5 has a deeper and slightly roomier upper than other Altra trail shoes. Made of durable, engineered mesh, I gave these shoes a couple of long, dirty days right from the start, and they held up perfectly. The Olympus 5 uses Altra’s Original Footshape Fit so your feet can sit at their most natural. My foot didn’t shift around at all, and there was room to allow for warm socks, if needed. The heel grips come up further on the Olympus 5 than on previous editions of the shoes (along with the useful traditional gaiter trap), making the heel feel more stable and protected. When I first put on these shoes I was nursing an ankle injury, and stability in the heel made me much more comfortable on trails than I anticipated.

Altra Olympus 5
Photo: Matt Stetson

The midsole

The Altra brand has always been known for its generous stack height. The Olympus has the most stack height of any shoe, with 33 mm. True to the Altra model, the shoe is still zero-drop (meaning your heel is not elevated above your toes–they are at the same level; runners who have not worn zero-drop shoes before should break them in very gradually, due to the unaccustomed stress on the Achilles tendon after wearing shoes with a higher heel).

The midsole is made from Altra’s standard compression-molded EVA, and although the shoe surprised me at first with how rugged it looked, once it was on my foot it felt true to Altra design–lots of cushioning, with enough stability to provide balance. There’s no rock plate in the Olympus 5–while this isn’t a shoe that’s designed to protect your feet from extremely technical terrain, the cushioning itself was enough that I ran a full day on moderately technical trails with no foot pain.

The outsole

The outsole is Vibram Megagrip, with a sticky rubber also used in the previous version of the shoe. It offers a balance between grip and durability. The lugs are 4 mm, deep enough for serious trail use but not intended for extreme scrambles.

The verdict

This is the ideal trail shoe for someone who’s familiar with zero-drop footwear. A newer trail runner should have no issues adjusting to these, but they’d also be suitable for the experienced ultratrail athlete who loves their zero-drop comfort, but wants some cushioning and grip when tackling trails.

I was able to easily switch from running up long single-track switchbacks to navigating rocky, moderately technical descents. After both races in the Olympus 5, my feet may have been the only part of my body that looked entirely intact–and that’s a crazy feat (pun intended) after a solid 108K on fast, dusty, muddy trails through the Rockies.