Trying out the very 'stacked' Altra Via Olympus for long-distance road running training proved to be a great investment. The wide-toe box combined with a rocker sole allowed for comfortable runs focused on form.
Posted Apr 05, 2023

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  • Wide toe box
  • High stack height
  • Zero-drop shoe
  • Cushioned
  • Expensive
  • Bulky feeling
  • Zero-drop
  • Light colors

Altra Via Olympus Review

Although I arrived at REI with a goal in mind– buy the Hoka cushioned road running shoes you researched and leave– I never fail to be sucked into the wall stacked with shoes from every brand, just beckoning me to give them a try. REI is my go-to store for shoes because of their kickbacks to Co-Op members, knowledgeable staff, and generous return policy. So I sauntered over to the shoe section after a quick peek at the clearance racks and told the shoe sales employee I was training for a 70.3 Ironman and needed training shoes with cushion. Naturally, in my mind it was an easy decision, I would go with a pair from Hoka since they are known for that large stack height of cushion.  The salesperson obliged but also noticed I was wearing some Altra Lone Peaks and told me he would grab one other pair from the back as well. He returned with a cushy pair of Hokas and the newly designed Altra Via Olympus. The Via Olympus did have a higher price tag but he suggested I just try them out and take a small jog around the store in each pair. 

Well, this guy knew what he was talking about, and as I compared the two models it was obvious I would be spending a bit extra to run with the Altras. 

Design and Features

At first glance, the Via Olympus really portrays its stack height. At 33mm of stack, (increasing my height to a whooping 6’3”!) the Altra EGO Max midsole shows its cushion is designed with lightweight foam while still giving a responsive step. Altra is known for its wide design, allowing toes and foot metatarsals to spread naturally with each step, and for the ‘zero drop’ from heel to toe. The look of the shoe is deceiving and appears to have a drop but the cushioning is even throughout. Although it's ‘stacked’ the shoe weighs in at 8.9 oz/ 255 g for women and 11 oz / 312 g for men. Along with the balanced cushioning throughout the sole, Altra added a slight rocker shape to the forefoot portion that gently propels forward and encourages an efficient stride. The lacing system has a few customizable lace holes that allow a tighter fit around the midfoot and a secure heel lock for dialing in foot comfort how you like. The color options trend on the lighter side for both men’s and women’s shoes. As a trail running brand, they must think road running can handle a white shoe body! At REI, there was only one option for the men’s and women’s shoe colors they carried but if you order online you can choose from 4 different colors. I wear a women’s size 11 pretty consistently throughout shoe brands and the size 11 fit true to size. I tried on the men’s shoe (size 9.5) as well because it came in blue instead of white/pink. The men’s shoe tends to run slightly wider than the women’s design so be sure to try on both shoes from both categories if you are stuck on one color preference. I did not notice a difference in the men’s and women’s as I jogged around the aisles of outdoor equipment so it really came down to color preference. Since I own a pair of Altra Lone Peaks in blue I decided to go against my typical preference of blues and blacks and get wild with white and pink! I honestly cannot recall the last time I owned a white pair of sneakers, maybe in 4th grade with my first pair of white Nike’s, because of the quick deterioration of their bright beauty but I was ready for the challenge. I have trained in them for four months now and they are still holding up with their white exterior! (See photos below!)

Fit and Comfort

Besides falling in love with the supportive structure, and feeling of running on clouds while in the store, four months and 118 miles later I still really enjoy this shoe. I am happy with the size 11 and really appreciate the wide-toe box. After having that extra space around my forefoot every other shoe I try on feels tight, it really does make a difference in comfort. These were my first pair of zero-drop road running shoes so my first few runs did produce soreness in my calves. 

A quick aside on shoe drops–

For reference, I was training in 12mm and 7mm drop shoes before switching to work on my running form in a zero drop shoe. If you are unaware of what shoe drop you are running in, a quick Google search of the specifications of your shoe will inform you. You can also check out this article to get some insider tips for choosing the right shoe for your running style. It is important to note, everyone has a different style, goal, and comfort level that factors into what shoe is best for your body! I have been playing around with zero-drop running shoes to improve my foot strike and alleviate some knee pain, this may or may not work for you but it is worth delving into if you are interested!

Compared to the Hoka Mach 5 shoes I trained with previously the Via Olympus felt like stepping on marshmallows while receiving a foot hug. The cushion along the ankle is fantastic and feels very supportive which follows suit with each step I take in the shoe. There is a good reactivity with each step and the slight rocker allows me to focus on my foot strike. Altra recommends breaking in the shoe for three weeks for an optimal cushioning effect and after a few weeks training in the shoes, my feet molded to the bottom. I did play around with changing the laces on the midfoot area but felt like it hindered the space for my feet. 


Gearing up for a 70.3 Ironman takes a commitment of hours, I was very motivated this year and wanted to beat my time at the Oceanside course from 2022. This put my weekly training time ranging from 8-12 hours a week.  My 12-week training block focused on long zone 2 runs and rides sprinkled with hard interval sessions. I wore the Via Olympus through all my runs and I do believe the stack and fit of this shoe for my training and foot worked so well and kept me injury free. 

This shoe can go the distance and hours! My weekly long zone 2 runs, ranging from 60-120 minutes were a breeze in these shoes. I ran on a paved bike path for these runs and with each step could feel the relief throughout my legs as the EGO Max foam fulfilled its intended purpose. It took me a few runs to dial in where I needed tightness through the laces. I think the wide-toe box can deceive you into thinking you need the laces tighter than necessary. 

During my faster interval runs, these shoes sometime felt a bit bulky. Sprinting in them down a bike path felt a bit awkward and I did feel a small loss of power to the foam with fast foot strikes but the rocker shape really helped keep my form and allowed me to keep a fast turnover of steps. 

Due to inclement weather and unusually rainy days in California, I also completed some runs on a treadmill. These are great treadmill shoes and the response on the treadmill is a lot more forgiving than on the road. When doing sprint intervals on the treadmill they felt a bit more streamlined, most likely due to the consistent levelness of a treadmill. 


After putting 118 miles on these shoes, they are holding up well. The durability is consistent with typical running shoes. The tread on the bottoms are spry with a bit of wear and tear near the toes (really working on that toe strike!). When I remove the insole, you can see my foot has molded it with a bit of dirt and some compression but the foam insert is in good condition. There is little to no visible wear and tear on the outer mesh and the support cushion around the ankle/heel are still plush. 


Overall, I would recommend this shoe to be integrated into your running shoe quiver. If training for a longer race for a few months or consistently putting miles in because you love running, these shoes will give your legs a break and can help you focus on your foot strike while maintaining a zero drop position. The upper mesh is breathable and durable with semi-flat laces that keep them tied in the position you set. Choosing the right color might be the toughest decision with most options leaning towards the lighter spectrum that collect dirt much easier. However, after my training I am happy to report my shoes are still looking fresh without any time spent cleaning them and they match my dorky running shades!


Jamie Guel Ooh, prepping for my first long distance race! Definitely will try these!!

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Natalie Rizzo
Copenhagen, Denmark
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Gear and data-obsessed marine biologist enthused about all things endurance/adventure racing. Currently, I am living in Copen...

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