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Altra’s Olympus 4 Helped This Reluctant Road Runner Embrace the Trail

Despite its burly exterior, the shoe delivers impressive energy return on a fast and plush midsole.

altra olympus 4
Lakota Gambill

The RW Takeaway: The Olympus has been given a major update, making it both unassailable to obstacles on the trail and incredibly soft for long runs.

  • The EVA InnerFlex midsole provides a max-cushioned feel with flexibility.
  • A new gusseted tongue paired with a secure lacing system ensures a snug fit.
  • Vibram MegaGrip outsole handles multi-surfaces.

    Price: $170
    11.6 oz (M), 9.6 oz (W)

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    When I’m not testing shoes, I stick to the road for the majority of my running. But the Olympus 4—and partially the pandemic—had me wandering more outside of my comfort zone and onto the trails.

    To emphasize the 4’s power, I must confess I had my reservations before testing the shoe. Its predecessor, the 3.5, was just too brawny, its bulbous heel making it resemble a platform sneaker from the early 2000s. The wide fit also had my foot swimming inside the shoe; running felt cumbersome and sluggish.

    Lakota Gambill
    Altra Olympus 4

    • Maximally cushioned
    • High rebound

    • Bulky; initially clunky for some runners

    The 4 maintains the same 33-mm stack height as the 3.5, but the updated upper provides a more locked-in fit. There’s no slipping and sliding inside the shoe, and despite its bulky appearance and heavier weight compared to other trainers in its category, the ride feels light, responsive, and fast. Though the wide, squarish toe looked almost clownish and felt clunky at first to some testers, a secure lacing system and new gusseted tongue prevented any foot sliding, ensuring a comfortable and stable ride. “I’d call the Olympus 4 a sports car in a monster truck package,” one tester said.

    Running in the shoe, I felt quick-footed and experienced a rebound that had me trying to go neck-and-neck with passing mountain bikers. (They usually won, but my point is this shoe felt fast enough for the challenge.)

    altra olympus 4
    Pliable InnerFlex midsole.
    Lakota Gambill

    Cushioned and Fast

    Despite its hulk-like appearance, the Olympus 4 delivers a responsive ride on a maximally cushioned platform. Altra’s compression molded EVA midsole provides support for both slow jaunts and speedy quips on the trail.

    One tester who beholds shoes to a “Goldilocks standard,” i.e., handling almost every kind of run with aplomb, said, “The Olympus earned the Goldilocks award despite its beefy appearance. It could go low and slow comfortably over technical terrain and it was also responsive to handle fast miles on hard-packed dirt and rail trails.”

    altra olympus 4
    ‘Footshape’ toe box.
    Lakota Gambill

    Anatomical Fit

    Besides the balanced cushioning Altra is known for, the Olympus 4 also provides an ample, non-restrictive fit—especially in the toe box. I tested the shoe baking under the sun on a couple 10-mile trail runs guaranteed to cause foot swelling, but instead of becoming cramped and stifled, my feet didn’t overheat and stayed blister-free.

    This isn’t to say the overall fit is too wide. The gusseted tongue (along with a heel tab) makes it easy to pull on the shoe, and lends a snug—but comfortable fit—when you tighten the laces.

    altra olympus 4
    A grippy Vibram MegaGrip outsole.
    Lakota Gambill

    Vibram MegaGrip Outsole

    Altra’s TrailClaw tread isn’t too aggressive when you hit some road crossings, but the lugs—paired with sticky Vibram MegaGrip rubber—are strategically placed to prevent slippage on loose, muddy surfaces. One tester, caught in a sudden thunderstorm, neither slipped nor slid during a mad dash on a “greasy” three-mile trek out of lightning’s way.

    “The outsole stuck to the trail surface, gave me comfort and confidence, and actually came out looking like new,” he said. “That’s where these shoes won my vote of confidence. I’m excited to run in them in the snow to see how they do.”

    More Tester Feedback

    Doris G., Tester since 2017
    Arch: Medium | Gait: Neutral | Footstrike: Heel
    “Of all the trail shoes I have tested in the past, including another Altra, this was the most comfortable trail shoe to date. I was hesitant initially, as some previous trail shoes caused shin pain for me. I tested this Altra on the road, treadmill, trail, and rocky terrain. Overall, the cushioning and stability paired with a wider toe box provided optimal comfort.”

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