Maximum comfort for longer road runs
Last winter, we introduced you to the Altra brand story and their philosophy that "shoes need to adapt to your feet, not the other way around". Rather than being 'wide', Altra shoes are designed to fit the natural shape of the foot and reduce the pressure placed on areas like the metatarsal heads.
With the max cushioned Via Olympus road running shoe, Altra wanted to help runners take as much stress off the legs as possible for longer road runs and ultras. The real revelation in this shoe is the propulsive effect of the energy-efficient rocker-shaped midsole! The curved geometry aids forward propulsion, and reduces the amount of work that muscles and joints have to do. This is of particular benefit as more miles tick by when legs become fatigued.
Altra kindly sent me a pair to test out. I’ve found the Original FootShape Fit and zero drop Balanced Cushioning give my feet the space to sit and splay naturally.
Despite their bulky appearance, they are light (312g for men’s and 255g for women's) and feel fairly responsive. In that sense, they share some similarities with the Paradigm, another super cushioned Altra shoe but with extra stability.
Once on your feet, you genuinely forget about the massive midsole (33mm stack height and 0mm drop). They simply feel comfortable, the first sensation is plush and not firm or clunky as you might expect by looking at them.
What I Liked
I am lucky enough to have an extremely broad and varied shoe rotation at my disposal, which is why I did just over 200 miles in them in six months. Had I used them as my only pair, I would have easily reached three times as much.
I used them mainly for easy, long runs on tarmac, from 7 to 20 miles at a time. I wanted to see how responsive they could feel and tested them at a range of paces: recovery run (~5.40min/km), endurance (~5.20min/km) and even some tempo sessions (~4.30-4.45min/km). For such a cushioned shoe, it always felt light and responsive, making my runs easier.
Fit and Feel
Putting your feet in their broad toe-box feels like having slippers on, especially if you have broader feet. The insole is plush and soft thanks to a generous amount of Ego Max foam in the midsole, like a cosy pillow. This compound is made from an EVA-based compression-moulded foam, keeping the Via Olympus lightweight. It is found in most Altra shoes now, such as the Torin and Paradigm.
The overall fit of the Via Olympus is wider than in those other models. The tongue also hugs your foot more securely. If you like a supportive, locked-in feel around the heel, you’ll enjoy the moulded heel collar.
When trying on shoes at Run4It, I often advise going for the ones you forget about on your feet. This is exactly how it felt for me running in the Via Olympus. Like I was barely wearing anything on my feet and could do endless miles. I did give them a quick go on some light trails and had no complaint about the rubber.
How can the Via Olympus improve your run?
The Altra Via Olympus is an everyday shoe designed to make your training feel easier. It takes some load off your leg muscles and joints, making it the perfect partner for long training blocks. It is one of the best options for slow, steady and long runs.
Being consistent is key in running. Using shoes that make the next day or session easier is something not to be overlooked. It is as important as your nutrition, recovery and sleep.
You may not break a PB with the Via Olympus, but it is versatile enough to make you feel good during some faster-paced sessions. Among all the Altra shoes, it is the best option for a first zero-drop model. This is thanks to the help of the rocker shape construction.
The Via Olympus is Altra's best long distance road running shoe. The combination of the rocker geometry and highly cushioned midsole is perfect to take the stress of your muscles and joints. The brand's signature fit feels so comfortable, it makes it difficult to go back to narrower shoes. This model thrives at slower paces and would ideally be coupled with lighter options, like the Torin 7.