Altra Olympus 5 Mini Review – A big shoe with a lot of life

If you’re looking for a maximally cushioned trail shoe with a ton of durability and comfort, the Altra Olympus is likely your first stop. With a quality Vibram outsole and a fit that the Altra Mont Blanc would yearn to have, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option on the market than the Olympus 5.  

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  • Weight: 11 oz/ 313 g
  • Stack Height: 33mm
  • Amazing heel fit
  • True to size
  • Wide toe box and relaxed midfoot
  • Great Vibram outsole

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Olympus 5

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In this review, I’ll break down the fit, feel, and durability of the Altra Olympus 5 and ultimately help you decide if the shoe is for you! And if not, where should you look next? 

So, let’s dive straight in with the fit.

Which Altra Shoe is for you?

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How does the Altra Olympus 5 fit?

When I first slipped this shoe on, it was a dream. 

Not because of the cushion or the toe box. It was the heel that took me by surprise. It fit like a glove. 

Heel lock

Your heel sinks deep into the perfectly molded heel counter. A heel counter is usually a bad thing; if your heel is not the shape of the stiff heel, it’ll feel uncomfortable and awkward. And that might be true here, but I found the feel to fit perfectly.

There’s no need to crank the laces too tight because your foot is locked in place already. Because there’s a perfectly shaped heel, lacing becomes less of an issue. I didn’t have to use a lace lock or tie them up tight. That’s great for a trail shoe, especially if you want to take them the distance.

Altra Olympus 5 heel

Is the Olympus 5 a wide shoe?

You’ll notice that Olympus sports the “Original” Altra fit system. You can reference this system loosely, but what this generally means is that the toe box is nice and wide. (It’s wider than shoes such as the Escalante and even the Lone Peak!)

The Olympus 5 is the widest-fitting Altra of the trail range. Sometimes, I’ve had issues in the midfoot in some models, such as the Lone Peak 7. But the Olympus felt plenty wide enough all the way through the shoe.

Does it fit true to size? 

I tried a few sizes in the Olympus 5 and found that sticking to my regular size was the best. The length gave me enough room for foot expansion but was still precise enough to stop my foot from moving around. If you have a narrow or shallow foot, I’d suggest going a ½ size down. 

I see no reason to size up with the toe box and midfoot being wide enough. In other models, you’d often size up to add a little width, but that’s not an issue in the Olympus 5. 

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Olympus 5

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How does the Altra Olympus 5 feel on a run?

This post is a mini-review because I didn’t manage to get a huge bunch of miles in the shoes. But I did manage to get a feel for them.

What about ground feel?

You won’t feel the ground with a stack height of 33mm. No matter how soft or firm the midsole is, 33mm is a colossal wedge under your foot. But that’s not why you buy the Olympus. 

With a mix of soft Ego Max foam and a higher stack height, the ride is buttery. If you’ve read some of my barefoot content before you may know that I don’t exactly believe comfort isn’t always good. You wouldn’t run in pillows, would you? Well, the Olympus’ are kind of like pillows. 🙂 

However, if you’re attempting a mileage you’ve never hit in the past, or you’re super tired from a hard workout, the Olympus could be a good choice, but I would advise you not to use them for all runs. To build running/barefoot strength, you want some runs to be hard, which means low-to-the-ground shoe options like minimal shoes. 

Altra Olympus 5 width

Is the Olympus 5 stable?

The base of the shoe is wide through the whole foot. That’s odd because it will manipulate your biomechanics by not allowing your foot to move from supination to pronation. For those who need support because they’re coming back from injury, that’s a good thing, but for others, opting for a shoe that promotes a more natural gait is a better option. **I’d encourage you to work on removing the need for this support long-term.

I would class the Olympus as a very stable shoe. Even though there are no proper “structural” components, the wide base and stiffer heel take the load off the foot and lower legs. Which again is not always a good thing. Use this stability shoe sparingly, and work on barefoot strength.

Does the outsole offer good grip?

You can always trust Vibram to provide a great outsole. Even though I didn’t try the shoe in various conditions, I’ve only ever had good experiences in Vibram outsoles in the past. 

The mixture of deeper and varied lug patterns will adapt to various conditions. With this tread pattern, I don’t see it being a one-trick pony. It’s flat enough to chew up some flat, hard miles and also provides enough lugs to give you grip in wet, muddy conditions. 

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Olympus 5

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Is the Altra Olympus 5 durable?

Again, I didn’t take the Olympus 5 the distance, but from past experience with the Olympus line and the quality of the build, I’m confident it’ll easily hit +800km (500 miles).

The midsole is soft and will pack out in the first 30-50km, but it’ll last a while from there. Altra often has an issue with feeling “flat” early in the shoe life. And that’s likely true for the Olympus, too. But once you get past that initial loss in bounce, it’ll stay firm for a long time to come. 

The upper has few overlays, which could mean ripping of the upper material. You could be disappointed if you’re unlucky enough to snag the upper. With minimal welded overlays, the shoe is vulnerable to tree branch or rock damage. Otherwise, the upper is a nice lightweight double-layer mesh that will last for miles and miles. 

The use of Vibram, with an intelligent tread pattern, guarantees grip throughout the lifetime of the shoe. This is one area I do not worry about at all. The outsole is one of the best I’ve seen from Altra, and in fact, any shoe on the market. I just wish we could see this on more Altra models! 

Conclusion

This high-stack Altra monster has been a winner for many years. While it goes against the barefoot philosophy of Barefoot Run Review, the Olympus has its place in long-distance racing and long recovery runs. 

The quality outsole, precise and comfortable fit, and rolling soft feel are likely an excellent choice for those looking at long ultras or others looking to up their distance quickly without risking injury. 

Honestly, there’s not much I’d change about the shoe. I think Altra is on to a winner! 

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Olympus 5

Free Returns

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Nick
Nick

Nick is a UESCA-certified ultramarathon coach and avid barefoot runner, having over 5 years of experience in barefoot training and has competed in multiple ultra marathons wearing barefoot shoes. Starting his journey in the running industry over 10 years ago in New Zealand, Nick evolved from a running shoe salesperson to a passionate advocate for the transformative power of barefoot running. He believes in its potential to enhance running experiences for all and combines his unique insights from both personal achievements and professional coaching to guide and inspire the running community."

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3 Comments

  1. I recently received my Olympus 5s after wearing out 2 pairs of Olympus 4s. I purchased the same size as I have worn in all my Altras. No matter what I tried I could not make the Olympus 5s or new Torin 7s comfortable. Length was perfect. The way the tongue is constructed it was so tight across the top of my foot not only did it hurt but restricted circulation. My toes were pinched in what is claimed to be a generous toe box. I tried different lacing patterns but nothing helped. When using the lace locks the laces were so short I could barely tie them. Compared to my Olympus 4s the laces were nearly 3 inches shorter. I had no choice to return them to my REI store. In the past 6 years I have owned 13 pairs of Altra shoes, mostly trail runners. Now the company has slimmed down their whole line of shoes. I guess that’s what happens when a small conscientious company sells to a large greedy conglomerate that puts profit ahead of quality . Good bye Altra it has been a great relationship until now.

    • One option that you could try, would be replace the insoles with something thinner. I have to do that sometimes to increase the volume of a shoe.
      Where on the top of the foot did you find the most pressure? Above the toes, ball of the foot, or mid-foot? Depending on that, there are a few tricks you can try to help with fit.
      Sadly, not all shoes/models fit our feet perfectly, and sometimes we have to tweak a shoe, or look to different brands/models to find a good option.

    • I tried them on and had the exact same feeling. My foot felt suffocated in the shoe. Not sure I could wear these around the house longer than a few minutes let alone run in them. Much less room than my lone peaks. Confusing.

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