Altra Olympus 4 - Women's Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Olympus 4 is unlike most of the other trail running shoes in our roundup. It has a 33mm stack height, which is dramatic, even for a maximalist shoe. When paired with incredibly sticky Vibram soles and highly functional outsoles, you get a great shoe for thru-hiking and running. This shoe shines for people who need to adapt to running and hiking with neuromas or other issues with their metatarsals.
We tend to look at foot protection from all angles before assigning our numerical scores. Overall, the Olympus 4 scored well in this category, with a few points deducted here and there. It has a strong and highly functional toe bumper, on par with some of our other super protective favorites. However, it lacks a rock plate, which is a feature that we have grown to view as a near-essential in our trail runners.
We also like to consider elemental protection as part of our assessments. The Olympus sheds stray water like a pro, though this water resistance doesn't totally translate if you submerge your foot while crossing a stream. The upper mesh is well-made and durable, but it is only mesh, so water can, of course, sneak sock-side.
When it comes to sensitivity, the Olympus 4 offers virtually none. But when we view this through the lens of the protection it offers the soles of our feet, it is awesome. Good luck feeling a sharp rock beneath a full 33mm of cushion and the dampening effect of a zero-drop shoe. For this reason, these kicks scored a few extra points in this metric. However, the durable, engineered mesh upper lets sand and fine particulate matter in. Since the heel collar is larger than most, we found that we could easily fling sand into the shoe that way too. While we did exaggerate this for testing purposes, if you spend enough time in the dirt, eventually, you're going to kick some up in that way. The saving grace here is that the Olympus has very functional gaiter traps, which can help cut down on the infiltration of dirt.
This metric is where the Olympus 4 really shines. It boasts Vibram Megagrip rubber soles that help you stick to whatever surfaces appeal to you. Only a few shoes outshined the traction of the Olympus, but many of the stickiest ones were on par with the traction it offers.
The Vibram soles are paired with canted Trailclaw lugs on the outsole, which creates a stronger bond between your foot and the terrain. While these are not the deepest lugs we have seen, we didn't find any slippage even when trying to induce it on slippery, wet rocks. The extra space in the toebox allows toes to spread, increasing your overall base of support. While this doesn't technically add to the shoe's traction, the ability to utilize all of the stabilizing muscles in your feet further decreases your risk of slipping.
As mentioned, you might not opt for the Olympus 4 if you are in the mood to get intimate with the trails you run. A sensitive shoe, this one is not. While this lends itself well to underfoot protection, it's next to impossible to feel out the trail beneath your feet. It is up to you to decide if a less-than-sensitive shoe is right for you and your preferences. We found that we loved hiking in the Olympus since we could be less aware of trail features when we slowed the pace a bit. While our main tester's preference is to run in shoes that allow for a bit more sensitivity, the blunted and high-riding stack of the Olympus might be right for you.
While the stack height of the Olympus 4 can require a bit of an adjustment period, we find that we love the stability of a zero-drop running shoe. Even one of this maximalist height makes rolling an ankle nearly impossible. Altra has a knack for making some exceptionally stable shoes.
Because your heels ride at the same height as your toes, your overall base of support becomes more stable, allowing your joints to move in a more supported, linear way. This is not to say that zero-drop shoes work for everyone, but they tend to be perfect matches for people who have a history of ankle rolling due to muscular imbalances and weaknesses. If you are looking for a plush and stable maximalist trail shoe, look no further because we think you've found your solemate (see what we did there?)
Comfort and Fit
The underfoot comfort of the Olympus is plush and very comfortable, though it doesn't have much in the way of proper arch support. While we all appreciate a comfortable shoe, we understand that some runners, ourselves included, are not always in the mood to hit the trails in a pillowy-soft runner. But comfort-wise, the Olympus shows up. Time after time, Altra delivers plush EVA foam midsoles that feel great beneath our feet.
In addition to being popular for zero-drop shoes, Altra is known for their signature foot-shaped design. We love the fit of a shoe with a roomy toebox, and the Olympus 4 delivers that and then some. To our narrow to average-footed runners, this shoe seems to be specifically designed with wide-footed runners in mind. We usually find that foot-shaped shoes can accommodate many foot widths, but we did not share those sentiments while testing the Olympus. We had to tighten the laces a lot, yet we still found the midfoot to be a bit baggier than we preferred to run in. Additionally, the heel collar is wider than most, which further cuts down on this shoe's ability to house narrower feet and ankles. The specially-tailored tongue offers some cushion in all of the right spots but doesn't quite make up for the overall largeness of the shoe's fit. While we do not consider the Olympus to be the best crossover shoe on the market, we did enjoy the feeling of the underfoot cushion as we walked through our neighborhood on our way to our local trail system.
The Olympus is surprisingly lightweight for being a maximalist shoe. A women's size 7 US weighs in at 8.78 ounces per shoe. When you slip these shoes onto your feet, you'll realize just how impressive that is since Altra spared no feature when making these maximal trail shoes. We love when well-featured shoes are constructed to be lightweight, and because of this, the Olympus scored well in this category.
Should You Buy the Altra Olympus 4?
To put it bluntly, the Olympus is not likely to be a shoe that encourages you to run faster. If it fits your foot properly, you might find you enjoy it for long, slow trail runs or hikes. We continue to grab this or the Altra Lone Peak 6 for hiking and multiday backpacking excursions. If you are looking for a running shoe that will help you hit faster paces, the Olympus might not be right for you. But if you want a shoe that allows plentiful space for toe spreading with an incredible amount of underfoot plushness, you'll love the feel of these shoes.
What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?
There is no denying it; the Altra Olympus 4 is a pricey shoe. It is up there with the likes of the coveted Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 and the sturdy Inov-8 Trailfly Ultra G 300 Max. If the unique structure and ample cushion of this zero-drop shoe work for you, we think you'll be pleased with the amount of durability and mileage you'll get out of it. If you are looking for a slightly less pricy way to get into the zero-drop gang, the the Altra Lone Peak 6 offers the same heel-to-toe differential, but for a bit less money. If the idea of a plush heel stack appeals to you, but you'd like to opt for a slightly less maximalist model, the HOKA Speedgoat 5 might be more up your alley. All told, if comfort is king, the Olympus is gold.
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