I was first introduced to Altra shoes roughly two years ago, and they immediately caught my attention for a couple of reasons:
- The unique foot-shaped toe box, which gives your toes extra space to naturally spread with each stride, and
- The zero drop design, where your heel and the forefoot are equal distances from the ground.
At the time, I’m having success with minimalist shoes when it comes to injuries, but my toes and feet are getting beat to pieces during long runs. Needless to say, a roomier toe box and zero drop design sound like just the solution.
But, I’m skeptical. “Foot-shaped” and “zero drop” sound like buzzwords, and I’m not one to be easily duped.
Then I actually tried a pair.
First it was the max-cushioned Paradigms, then the more moderately cushioned Lone Peaks, and finally the original Olympus. If you’re curious, I talk more about that skepticism and ultimate shift in perspective during a review of the older Olympus here.
Since then, I’ve been sold on the philosophy, and while I’ve cycled through different shoes and brands over the past few years, I keep coming back to Altra.
Quick side note: Before we get in to this review, I want to fully disclose that I am an Altra Ambassador this year, the shoes were provided for free, and all links are affiliate links … which simply means I’ll receive a small cut from any sales. That said, this review is completely my own. If I bend the truth for a sale on this site, no one will trust me, so honesty and transparency are my top priority. Now, back to the review…
For a quick recap of my review of the original Olympus, I was a big fan. They were comfortable, durable, held tightly to my foot. My big issue was grip, where I didn’t think they had enough traction, and I had issues with the insole slipping to the front on big downhills.
So when I heard Altra was addressing those issues and making changes to the upper with the Olympus 2.0, I was instantly intrigued.
How the Olympus 2.0 Stacks Up
Before we go any further, here are some quick stats:
- I’ve logged about 80 miles on the 2.0s, including the Black Mountain Marathon trail race
- Weight: 11.0 oz
- Stack Height: 36mm (Max Cushioned)
- Upper: Quick dry mesh
- Outsole: Vibram® sticky rubber
- Price: $150
Now on to my standard shoe review format …
When it comes to trail and ultra running, above all else a shoe has to be comfortable. The slightest discomfort will amplify over the miles, making a shoe not even worth trying.
How They Stand Up
Let me be clear about one thing, this shoe is freak’n comfortable. The ride is super smooth, the cushioning gives just enough on rocks and roots, and the design improvements really lock in your foot. Here are a few highlights:
- Just like any Altra, the wide toe box immediately increases comfort level by allowing your toes to spread wide and swell with the miles. The key is to make sure your foot isn’t swimming in all that extra space. I’m happy to report that with the Olympus 2.0, my foot locks down nicely and the extra space doesn’t cause unwanted movement.
- The new quick dry mesh upper is a major improvement over the previous model. Not only is it lighter, but it feels less bulky. The additional padding from the older model isn’t missed, and even in rain and snow, the mesh breathes and dries well.
- When wearing a max cushioned shoe, it’s important not to feel much side to side movement. Again, my foot locked in to place, and I had no issues there.
- The standard “Gaiter Trap,” a built in lock for shoe gaiters included on all of Altra’s trail shoes, is a nice bonus when it comes to keeping junk out of your shoe.
I have nothing but high praises for the comfort of this shoe. They’ve taken an already comfortable older model and only made it better.
For trail shoes, one of the most important factor is how it grips to the dirt, rocks, mud, and snow below your feet.
How They Stand Up
This is the area where I believed the old Olympus struggled the most, and where I think the new Olympus 2.0 really shines.
They’ve completely redesigned the sole of this shoe, introducing the Vibram® sticky rubber, and some very tacky and aggressive lugs along the forefoot and edges.
About 1/3rd of the miles logged in these kicks were on snow, and I felt very comfortable the whole time. During last weekend’s Black Mountain Marathon, I watched runners sliding all over the place, when my shoes were clinging to the terrain nicely.
They also seem to have solved the issue of insole slippage I experienced before.
3) How the Shoe Affects My Stride
The ideal shoe will create an atmosphere in which you are running at or near your natural stride.
How They Stand Up
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the founders of Altra a few times, and this is an area of shoe design where they really put a lot of thought. Really, it’s the whole reason behind the foot-shaped toe box, zero drop design, and creation of Altra to begin with.
One concern about max cushioned shoes is how your stride and foot placement handle rough terrain on the trail. With the Olympus 2.0, your foot sits down in an Eva sidewall wrap barrier that prevents side to side movement, and helps the cushioning to feel more like a natural extension of your foot instead of just padding.
Trail running is tough on shoes. Sharp rocks slice through the upper, gnarly terrain eats away at the sole, and mud and dirt grind away at the seams.
How They Stand Up
After just over 80 miles in these bad boys, here’s what I’ve noticed when it comes to durability:
- The Outsole: I am seeing some wear on the outsole. The lugs are wearing slightly, and the traction seems to be decreasing along with it. That said, some wear is expected with the type of mixed terrain I’m running, so this does not seem abnormal.
- The Upper: So far I see virtually no signs of wear on the new mesh upper. I was slightly concerned about that, since it is a new feature, but nada.
- Laces: One issue I’ve always had with Altra is their standard laces. They don’t seem as tough as they should — I’ve even had a pair snap on me before — and these do appear to be wearing more than I believe they should. Fortunately, that’s a super easy fix.
While looks aren’t nearly as important as performance, looks do matter. How does that saying go?
“Look good, run better?”
Or maybe I’m just making that one up…
How They Stand Up
I have to admit, these shoes have a couple of things going against them:
- The foot-shaped toe box can look, well let’s just say a little different, and
- Max cushioned shoes stand out, regardless of how well they are designed.
But I think the Olympus 2.0 does as good a job as any at minimizing the weirdness and creating a shoe I want to wear. I actually like the simplicity of the maroon and charcoal, and find it to be rather appealing.
While I wouldn’t say this is the most fashion forward shoe I’ve ever seen, the trail gnomes will be pleased.
Are These Shoes For You?
In case you’re skipping all the way down here, let’s quickly sum things up:
I’m a big fan of these shoes. All the changes from the previous model were truly improvements, making for a very solid max cushioned shoe.
So, is the Altra Olympus 2.0 for you?
This shoe is probably for you if …
- You’re looking for a comfortable max cushioned trail shoe with an aggressive outsole and traction.
- You’re looking for an ultrarunning or long distance trail shoe that will be comfortable mile after mile.
This shoe is probably not for you if …
- You’re looking for a max cushioned road shoe. The sole is much more aggressive than the last, and would likely be more than you’d want/need in a road shoe.
- You like to feel the ground beneath your feet with a more minimalist style shoe. This puppy doesn’t shy away from the cushioning.
If you found this review helpful, and want to support Rock Creek Runner, consider purchasing the Olympus 2.0 (or anything else) at Altra, REI, or Amazon through the following partner links: