Article by Jeff Beck
Altra Running Olympus 5 ($180)
-Upper is a nice refinement from the Olympus 4
-Midfoot fit is dialed
-Altra toebox still great
-Plenty of cushioning but still stable
-Vibram outsole in all the places you want
-Laces are a disaster, they don’t stay tied and are much too short
-At $180 midsole foam is standard EVA, rather than the EgoMax in the Timp or Mont Blanc
Sample Weight: men’s 11.75 oz / 333g US10.5
men’s 33 mm heel / 33 mm forefoot :: women’s 33 mm heel / 33 mm forefoot
Available now including at our partners below. $180
First Impressions, Fit and Upper
Straight away the Olympus 5 feels like it could be the Olympus 4.5, following Altra’s tradition of calling minor updates _.5 instead of a full new number. The outsole and midsole are nearly identical, while the upper is a subtle shift. That said, I really enjoyed the Olympus 4, so a slight refinement is great.
The fit is spot on lengthwise, and the width is ample from heel to toe. The toebox is classic Altra, meaning very wide and roomy, with a slightly reinforced toe bumper. It isn’t overly protective, like a shoe designed for extremely technical use and it is so high off the ground anyways there is plenty of height between toes and the ground, but the Olympus isn’t that shoe anyway.
The upper is engineered mesh with a few strategically placed overlays for reinforcement, with minimal foothold reinforcement. The heel and toebox are where you’ll find most of the reinforcement, with the heel massively built up over last year.
Altra didn’t go with a simple pull tab on the heel, they extended the upper and folded it back on itself. As a result it feels like you could lift a car with the heel tab. The heel counter is big and very built up, but also has some flexibility and doesn’t feel overly stiff.
The gusseted tongue isn’t going anywhere, and is adequately cushioned without going full-fledged plush. However, the big issue with the shoe is adjacent to the tongue – the laces are among the worst ever used in a running shoe. They are much too short to be useful in standard lacing, and they also have very little friction and come untied constantly.
I had to relace the shoe to eliminate one crossover low on the foot to free up some extra lace so the shoe could be double knotted and they’d stay tied. Luckily, swapping out laces is a very easy fix, but it’s also very easy for the manufacturer to get length right..
The Olympus 5 is Altra’s biggest stacked shoe, 33mm under both heel and forefoot, sticking with their Zero-drop platform. It keeps Altra’s “Original Footshape Fit” which is their line of their widest shoes. That helps keep the shoe very stable despite the high stack height.
Altra stayed with their standard “Compression Molded EVA” midsole, which in an industry where everything has a special name, feels like a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, the midsole is fine, it’s decently soft and plenty stable, but considering that Altra has an excellent top-tier midsole – EgoMax – and didn’t use it in their biggest shoe priced at a steep $180 seems like a big miss.
The stack is thick enough to provide solid rock protection, even with no rock plate. They don’t completely nullify rock sting if the rock you land on is especially sharp, but that’s not really the ideal use for the Olympus – which is somewhat buffed out dirt trails.
The Olympus 5 sticks with the tried and true Vibram Megagrip outsole for the front third of the shoe, with a ring of lugs around the perimeter of the shoe. There’s still plenty of exposed midsole in the center of the shoe, but that doesn’t really affect anything. The outer rim of lugs provide a little bit of grip, but the concentrated lugs under the forefoot have tons of grip. Durability wise, it’s a Vibram outsole, so it’s safe to assume it’ll hold up well, with the exception of the exposed midsole – but as long as you aren’t wearing them through extremely rocky areas, the foam wear doesn’t seem to be egregious.
In a word (or a few words) “well cushioned and unremarkable” is the best description of how the shoe rides. It doesn’t have noteworthy bounce or spring, and considering how much stack there is, it isn’t that soft of a shoe. The stack height keeps the shoe from flexing very much, but for a big slow and easy trail cruiser midsole flexibility isn’t a high priority.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Altra’s Olympus 5 is a subtle renewal of the previous shoe – so subtle it wouldn’t have surprised me if it got Altra’s _.5 treatment instead of a new number. The midsole and outsole are effectively unchanged, while the upper got a little more structure, and the laces shrank by about 8”.
Ultimately it’s a solid shoe that feels like a slight miss from Altra. When the Olympus 4 debuted, their EgoMax midsole didn’t exist, at least not publicly, but after running in that upgraded midsole their standard compression molded EVA feels perfectly fine, but kind of a let down. And at a very premium $180, going with a very pedestrian midsole material, especially when they have a massive improvement in their lineup, just feels like a disappointment.
Your Score 7.45 out of 10
Ride: 6 Fit: 9 Value: 4 Style: 9 Traction: 8 Rock Protection: 9
Smiles Score! 😊😊 Out of 5
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE
Altra Olympus 4 (RTR Review)
The previous model is virtually the same across the boards. While the newer version does have a much more robust pull tab (and I personally value a good pull tab more than most) you can likely pick up the Olympus 4 at a discount and get essentially the identical experience.
Altra Mont Blanc (RTR Review)
One massive step forward, and one massive step back. Mont Blanc introduced the EgoMax midsole material – which is incredible – making it a big step forward for Altra. However, the shoe had major heel slip issues for many, hence the step back. The outsole is a little more robust than the Olympus’s, but ultimately it comes down to wanting a better midsole with a worse upper, or a solid upper with a very pedestrian midsole.
Hoka Speedgoat 5 (RTR Review)
Hoka’s versatile trail shoe can be used for big mile cruising or more technical terrain. Its midsole material is similar to the Olympus 5, with a more robust outsole, and a much more dialed in fit, especially in the toebox. Personally I like the wide toebox of the Olympus, and my style of running tends to favor the less technical terrain, but I can definitely see why the Speedgoat is a trail favorite.
Inov8 Trailfly Ultra G300 Max (RTR Review)
Inov8’s massive trail shoe has some sizing issues, but the Graphene infused outsole brings something special to the trail. While its toebox isn’t quite as massively wide as the Olympus, there’s still lots of room for toe splay, and the midsole has a much more dynamic ride than the Olympus.
Saucony Xodus Ultra (RTR Review)
Saucony’s big trail shoe is substantially lighter, has better rock protection and traction, and while it has the same listed heel stack with a slightly lower forefoot stack) it feels more cushioned. The Olympus wins in the toebox competition, although the Saucony toebox is adequate. I’d favor the Altra for buffed out trail cruising, but the Xodus isn’t bad for the easy stuff, and can handle more technical terrain as well.
Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup, and as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 30 miles per week on roads and trails around Denver, CO (and sometimes on the treadmill when the weather gets too much for a Phoenix native). Jeff only got into running in his 30s, as a result his career PR’s are 4:07 for the marathon and 5K at 23:39. Jeff has finished several ultra marathons, from 50K up to 50 miles, and is still debating if he wants to go down that road again.
Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’
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