- Comfortable and premium-feeling upper
- Roomy, unmistakably-Altra fit
- Secure lockdown even for narrow feet
- Smooth and responsive ride
- Good for any distance at an easy pace
- Effective, but not obtrusive, rocker
- Copious amount of padding
- Absorbs impact well
- Cushioning on the firm side, but a toss-up on how firm
- Doesn’t feel like a zero-drop shoe
- Substantial break-in period
- On the heavier side
Who should buy the Altra VIA Olympus
Consider getting the Altra VIA Olympus if you:
- want to have a lower heel-toe drop runner in your rotation.
- need running shoes that accommodate broad or high-volume feet.
- are looking for a cushioned trainer that offers plenty of underfoot protection.
Who should not buy it
If you’re after actual soft cushioning on a zero-drop running shoe, look at the Altra Paradigm 6.0.
And for zero-drop shoes that actually feel like zero-drop shoes, among the best is the Altra Rivera.
The upper echelon of uppers
We've got nothing but praise for the Altra VIA Olympus’ upper. We find it super plush, nicely padded, and well-ventilated — especially around the toe where the mesh is thinner.
Assessing in-shoe ventilation with the help of a smoke-pumping machine, we rated the shoe's breathability pretty high! On a 1-5 scale where 5 is the most breathable, we give it a solid 4.
Altra VIA Olympus (left), Adidas Runfalcon (right)
In the video test below, you can see that the most breathable (=transparent) areas of the upper are located in the toebox and on the sides.
Not much air is able to pass through the tongue given its generous padding — 7.5 mm over the average 5.6 mm. But in return, our feet felt pampered like heaven!
Worth the wait?
As one of the very few max-cushioned, zero-drop road shoes, expectations were high around Altra’s VIA Olympus. Stacked with 33 mm of Ego MAX midsole — the same tech used on the Paradigm 6.0 that many runners love — we were all but ready to dip our feet into this pillow of a shoe.
But alas, what was supposed to be a triumphant debut left us with mixed reactions, particularly on its biggest draw - the cushioning.
Maximum “cushioning” on the VIA Olympus
What was supposed to feel like a pillow of deep cushion ended up being more of an average lukewarm balance of soft and firm.
Comparing the Olympus to its slightly less-cushioned counterpart, the Paradigm, we were puzzled at how adding more foam could make a midsole that much firmer!
It definitely feels like a different kind of Ego MAX foam was used for the Olympus.
Based on our durometer measurements of the foam softness (25.6 HA), we found that it is 7% firmer than road running shoes on average. This Altra shoe fits into the category of "balanced" cushioning types.
Disclaimer: We repeat the durometer measurement five times before claiming the final result. The photo above shows the final measurement.
In cold temperatures, the foam does get noticeably firm. After sitting in the freezer for 20 minutes, the shoe got an astonishing 50% firmer! For reference, most foams only get about 25% firmer. This is something to keep in mind if you are primarily going to use the VIA Olympus in cold weather.
Even though the shoe didn't live up to our softness expectations, it fulfilled its duties of absorbing impact and reducing ground feel.
Measuring the shoe's stack height, we found that it deviates slightly from the stated parameters. Instead of the 33-mm stack and a 0-mm drop, our calliper measurements show that there is 34.3 mm of foam in the heel...
...and 32.6 mm in the forefoot. This gives us a drop of 1.6 mm instead of zero. Zero-drop purists, watch out!
Disclaimer: We always include insoles in our stack measurements.
The insole of the VIA Olympus is well-cushioned. We measured it at 4.7 mm while the average is 4.5 mm.
Altra's Original Fit is back on the road
We were really excited about the return of the Original FootShape (a.k.a. Altra’s widest fit) to the streets after models upon models of slimmer shoes.
That wide and accommodating fit threw us back to the good old Altra workhorses of the past.
We measured the widest part of the forefoot at 101.4 mm. This is 3 mm wider than the average. However, it is indeed slightly narrower than the trail-ready Olympus (103.4 mm). On the bright side, the square shape of the toebox creates a much more generous room for the toes than the majority of running shoes.
Narrow feet are welcome in the VIA Olympus
We believe that even narrow-footed runners will not have problems securing themselves in the VIA Olympus. Its snug upper, padded tongue, fairly rigid heel counter, and extra outer lace holes allow us to cinch down the fit and provide for a good lockdown.
A bit of a clunker but very stable
First of all, the wide base of this neutral Altra shoe delivers a tonne of inherent stability. Based on our measurements, the sole is 114.9 mm wide in the forefoot (2 mm wider than the average).
In the heel, our calliper shows 93.9 mm (4 mm wider than average).
Also combined with the slightly firm nature of the foam, it makes for a highly stable neutral shoe.
There is also barely any flex in the Altra VIA Olympus. The shoe has made it the top 4% of the stiffest running shoes on our roster!
Measuring the shoe's resistance to bending, we found that it is 60% stiffer than the average!
The VIA Olympus also received the maximum 5 out of 5 on our manual assessment of longitudinal and torsional flexibility. That is the stiffest it can get.
Smooth ride but no pep
This Altra shoe comes with a prominent rocker in the forefoot. We found that it kind of distorts that zero-drop sensation and makes it feel more like a 2–4mm drop. But it did make our heel-to-toes much smoother and highly satisfying.
However, there is not much bounce or dynamic to the VIA Olympus. It was just not cut out for faster paces.
While the shoe felt a bit firm initially, we did notice that it was getting better as we clocked up the miles.
After logging about 30 miles, the felt like the VIA Olympus has unlocked its full potential and felt a little softer and more forgiving.
Taking it easy from here on out
We consider the Altra VIA Olympus as a daily trainer that, besides being a great choice for their everyday miles, can serve as a long-distance cruising shoe.
Watch out for wet surfaces
The outsole in the VIA Olympus has good traction on dry surfaces but can become slightly unstable when it’s wet.
Not a featherweight daily trainer
At 10.6 oz (300g), the VIA Olympus is one beefy runner. It is an ounce heavier than road running shoes on average and is even a bit hefty for a max-cushioned trainer.
But for a max-cushioned running shoe, we felt like the bulk was reasonable.
VIA Olympus is pricey
The VIA Olympus retails for £180—more expensive than your average max-cushioned running shoe (£150). Before you buy it, do check out similar but more reasonably priced alternatives like the Hoka Bondi 8 (£170) or the Saucony Endorphin Shift 3.
A few of the shoe's overlays on the side of the upper help to keep you visible at darker hours.