Altra is famous for their natural shape with a lot of toe room.
For anyone with wider feet they are definitely worth considering and have wide array of models suited for various purposes. Me being of heavier build and mostly on trails, I have chosen to get Altra Olympus 2.0 and it has been a good choice!
Fig 1. Brand new out of the box.
They have that duck look due to the toebox design, but to me it doesn't matter much.
If someone wants pretty shoes, these ones will probably not be a first choice.
Sole itself is very thick, but visually it appears even thicker because of rubber protruding from the soles on the sides.
Now we are at main selling point of Altra shoes.
Can you imagine running on clouds? No? Go and run in Altra Olympus 2.0 and you will know how it feels like.
They are so extremely comfortable that I would be happiest to wear them whole day. Damn you social conventions and business attire! Joking aside, I really have never worn more comfortable shoes.
Sole is plushy, extremely plushy. I have tried few Hokas but none come close to this level of softness. Imagine Adidas Boost on steroids. Yes, it does have its' downside but looking at comfort you probably cannot get better than this.
When choosing the size, if you are unable to try them in real life perhaps go half size up.
They are not very long and there is not much space left between toes and front of the shoe.
Width of the toebox is great. Enough room to splay the toes and feel free in them. They are perfect for my wide feet.
Laces are not so good, they tend to unlash themselves even when tightened properly, so you need to double lash them or use some other method of preventing the unlashing. Or even replace them with different laces.
Some parts of the sole are Vibram, other is relatively soft composition. Altogether grip is ok, its not suited for difficult and muddy terrain. Durability seems ok, after 150km sole still looks like new. Sole is soft but I didn't have problems with rocks and roots due to the thickness of the material.
Upper looks to be made of quality build, but it remains to be seen how it will look like after 500km.
Fig 2. After 150km no wear and tear is noticeable.
First of all, forget breaking speed records in them, it will probably not happen. When running on some usual routes I tend to be somewhat slower in them. Maybe it is due to the combination of the softness of the sole and my weight, I don't know.
With my 90+ kg, they are indeed very comfortable and I did not have sore feet even after 30-35km runs, which cannot be said for all shoes. So if you need shoes for long distances then these could be excellent good choice.
Zero drop works good for me, but some people could have problems, especially if they have achilles tendon issues. Due to the Vibram sole, they are slightly louder on hard surfaces, but comfort level remains the same. These shoes should work good for mixed trails and races involving few different types of surfaces. Problem with the shoes and only reason for lowering the grade is severe lack of the stability.
They have problems on uneven surfaces, especially if trail has side slope. They are really unstable, to the extreme. Due to the soft and thick sole, if you step on something poorly it is quite possible that your ankle will end up sprained. Worrying about each step on difficult trails diminishes the pleasure of running in those shoes. Maybe they are more stable for someone with 60-70kg.
Another problem is when going on the steep downhill.
Toebox and sole are relatively soft and if you did not go up with the size, you could experience issues with your toes hitting the front of the shoe. Fortunately for me problem is not extreme so I did not lose any toenails.
Sole and stability
Sole does look aggressive but it is misleading. Having experienced some skidding, I would definitely not choose these shoes for the difficult and muddy trails, running outside of trails, fell running and orienteering.
If you plan to go with them only on moderate trails, fire roads and similar surfaces, then these will serve you really well and you can consider the grade to be 95% because they really are excellent and superbly comfortable shoes. Not 100% only because they are somewhat slower.
Due to lacking of the stability I have reduced the total grade somewhat.
But you probably cannot get good stability and such perfect comfort level in one shoe anyway.
Fig 3. Taking my ducks for a run
Olympus are definitely unusual and interesting shoes. They really are great shoes for soft and moderate trails, also for very long runs. Comfort level is like none other shoes I have ever tried. I did not test them for distance longer than 35km but I presume they are good choice for ultra running. Maybe not necessarily for the whole race but definitely for the later stages when feet and legs are painful and tired.
They do have zero drop, so be careful with the transition if you have never worn zero drop shoes. Also if you have problems with achilles tendon, perhaps it is better to avoid these shoes.
Due to the severe lack of the stability if you have problems with ankles, those shoes could cause you ankle injury in case of misstep, so be extra careful or avoid them altogether.
For me Olympus are most loved shoes I own, but I feel sad they are not better suited for the difficult terrain. Fortunately enough easier terrains do exist so I plan to run in them for a long time until they fall apart.
Fig 4. Enjoying pork greaves on the top of the mountain in remote area far from people. Who needs energy gels? (Disregard fugly orange compression sleeves and hairy legs. Orange is new black.) :D