Welcome to T3's Altra Via Olympus review. I've been busy clocking the test miles in Altra’s highest stack, max-cushion, zero drop shoe. Altra says its latest road shoe is designed “for a comfortable run, no matter the distance”. It follows the shoemaker’s trademark footprint, combining roomy uppers, a wider-fit toe box and that balanced heel-to-toe cushioning, but this big boy comes with a hefty HOKA-like rockered midsole stack. So is the Olympus a happy, easy-mile cruiser? I put it to the test to find out.
Altra Via Olympus review: Price and availability
The Altra Via Olympus was launched in November 2022. It’s available to buy now for a recommended retail price of $170/£145/AU$290 at Altra US and Altra UK. It’s not the most expensive max-cushioned shoe out there, but it’s also not the cheapest. AU availability TBC.
For comparison, a strong alternative – the New Balance More V4 – is slightly cheaper (£140/$150), while the ASICS Gel-Nimbus 25 (£175/$160) and the On Cloudmonster (£160/$170) are a chunk pricier. If you’re weighing up a HOKA equivalent, the HOKA Bondi 8 (£145/$165) comes in at the same price, or the slightly more versatile HOKA Mach 5 (£130/$140) represents good value for money.
Altra Via Olympus review: What’s new?
The Via Olympus is a first for Altra. A high-stack, max-cushioned daily trainer with a pronounced rocker and some big HOKA vibes. But it also stays true to Altra’s trademark features with a signature foot-shape, wider-fit toe box and what Altra calls “Balanced Cushioning” – essentially a zero drop, 33m midsole stack from heel to toe.
Altra says the Via Olympus are designed for runners who want “an efficient, familiar, and easy running experience.” That includes new runners at all levels and all ages and across a versatile range of distances and paces. Essentially, a versatile cushioned, do-it-all daily trainer. That puts it up against some pretty serious opposition among the best running shoes for daily training.
The standout feature is that chunky midsole – Altra’s biggest ever road shoe stack. It uses Altra’s EGO MAX midsole foam, a pretty firm-ride compression moulded EVA with a late-stage rocker to encourage a more efficient toe-off with better momentum.
Up top you’ve got an open weave jacquard mesh upper that’s dense, big padded, plush heel collars and tongue to beef up that cruising saloon-car comfort. Interestingly, there’s no heel counter. Altra says that’s to avoid potential irritation and unnecessary wear. Sound logic.
Flip them over and most of the bottom has some rubber reinforcements but there’s more substantial outsole rubber strategically placed for grip and protection in the key impact areas. The Via Olympus also has flex grooves that run heel to forefoot not across the shoe. The idea here is that these follow the bones in your foot, working with your natural movements for more natural flex.
The Via Olympus is a chunky looking beast and it’s pretty heavy too. My UK men’s size 9 tipped the scales at 11.0oz/311g. That’s heftier even than shoes like the not-insignificant On Cloudmonster.
Altra Via Olympus review: Fit
When it comes to fit, I ran half a size up in a UK 9 because I’m somewhere between 8.5 and 9. And that was perfectly fine. But I’d recommend going true to size in the Via Olympus.
Altra’s hallmark toe box and natural foot shaping offers loads of wiggle room and I found it easy to get a comfortable fit with reliable lace lockdown and a good heel hold. Largely thanks to the wonderfully plush and luxurious padding in the uppers.
Those jacquard uppers fit well, too. This is a shoe with great step-in comfort. Big padded, comfy shoes can sometimes feel constrictive but the Via Olympus strikes a nice balance.
Altra Via Olympus review: Running performance
In testing, I ran 30 miles in the Altra Via Olympus. A mix of easy paced hour-long plods, a 2-hour long Sunday run and a handful of mixed pace efforts. The majority on roads and pavements but with the odd excursion onto compacted gravel river and park paths.
Confession up front: this is a bigger and clunkier shoe than I’d usually go for. Even for my easy, easy miles. I prefer shoes that are a bit more stripped back, like the Puma Velocity Nitro 2, for example. Or lighter, like the HOKA Mach 5. The comfort on the foot is great from the get-go. The plush uppers, padded heel and tongue cradle the foot in luxury while the big, roomy toe box is a delight. If you’ve never run in Altra’s this is a treat.
The midsole is a different story. From the look of the Altra Via Olympus you expect a max-stack ride that offers that killer combination of energy and protection. However, these shoes run firm. Very firm. And I quite like a firm shoe.
The ride is more reminiscent of the Adidas Adistar, relying heavily on the rocker shaping to bring the momentum, rather than the softer and bouncier New Balance More V4. The Via Olympus’ rocker works up to a point but if you’re a fan of shoes with a springy, soft, squish-and-respond midsole, these are almost the opposite.
I found I had to work to get the best response and the Altra Via Olympus moved best at slightly faster paces, or at least running with a higher cadence. That’s when the rocker kicked in and the firmness subsided. They were far less forgiving on the slower runs where I dropped back on my heels a little more. And if you’re looking for a marshmallowy softness to soak up the impact on recovery runs, these aren’t it.
Altra Via Olympus review: Durability
This shoe is built to last. With no nonsense uppers and nice touches like cutting out the heel counter that often causes wear. The firmer midsole foam feels more robust than some other springier foams. That should mean there’s less risk here of major collapse of the foam over the longer miles. The outsole is nicely protected too and I’d be pretty confident that you’ll get north of 400 miles in these shoes.
Altra Via Olympus review: Verdict
Looks deceive here. Despite the HOKA-like big-stack styling, the Via Olympus doesn't offer the soft, bouncy ride you might expect from max-cushioned shoes. If you’re after a do-it-all daily trainer that offers a light, lively, springy ride, the Altra Via Olympus isn’t it. That’s not to say this is a bad shoe; it just treads a different path. If you like a firmer, denser midsole tacked onto one of the comfiest uppers going, then you’ll love this. But expect a shoe that’s a touch heavy and clunky and lacks the agility and versatility of some of the best daily trainers.
Altra Via Olympus review: Also consider
This section of the running shoe shelves is a highly competitive space.
If you want max-cushioning that comes up softer and bouncier, the New Balance Fresh Foam X More V4 offers a solid easy-rolling ride that’s ideal for recovery miles and head-up running where you’re out for the journey, not chasing times.
The On Cloudmonster is On’s biggest stack shoe to date, and it delivers a nicely balanced ride. It’s firmer than the New Balance More V4 but not as slab-like as the Via Olympus. It’s best for clipping along at an easy pace, but the rocker works well, and this is a shoe with a few more gears and some decent versatility.
The Saucony Endorphin Shift is a very similar ride to the Via Olympus. Another max-cushioned, slightly heavy everyday trainer, recommended for beginners and recreational runners alike. The big difference is the Shift’s 4mm drop and the Speedroll rocker that works a little harder for a snappier ride.