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Altra Olympus Tested For 230 ‘Max Cushion’ Miles

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The author puts the Altra Olympus to the test

By Kelly Agnew

As a habitual minimalist runner, I never imagined myself writing about thick-soled, “maximalist“ running shoes, let alone actually wearing them.

Times change. We age, we grow, we experiment, we learn and hopefully become better at the things we love. That’s how I found myself wearing the Altra Olympus, a shoe that, despite having a massive 36mm-thick sole, still weighs in at a respectable 11oz.

I run 100-mile races — a lot of them in rapid succession. Last year I ran in 38 races including 26 ultra marathons, nine of which were 100+ mile races. This can take a toll on the body.

Check out Kelly’s 1,000 mile test of the Osprey Rev 1.5 hydration pack.

That’s a lot of material under the foot

After running the Across The Years 48 Hour Race in December, I found my feet and legs badly damaged from more than 200 miles in a single push. I had never run beyond 100 miles prior to that and when I do run 100-mile races, they usually end well under 24 hours. The time on my feet was a new experience and my body paid a steep price.

So when I signed up for the Pickled Feet 24 Hour Race, another opportunity to go past the 100 mile mark, I saw a chance to test the Altra Olympus with the hope that they would protect my feet on the super-long slog while keeping me healthy for another upcoming race.

Kelly Agnew power-hikes a burly climb in the Olympus

Not only did I want to do well in the Pickled Feet, but I also had my eye on returning to the Zion 100 Trail Run the following weekend. This is one of my favorite events and I was insistent on running these races on consecutive weekends.

Hoping for feet that could do back-to-back 100 milers, I reluctantly strapped on the fat-soled Altras.

I was almost embarrassed when I first slid them on. Walking around felt awkward and foreign. Running, however, did not.

The author’s Altra Olumpus after more than 200 miles of trail racing over consecutive weekends

My feet, legs and stride felt natural and comfortable. Despite being a much more substantial shoe, they weigh a mere 11 ounces, which is comparable to the more minimalist shoes I usually wear. My feet felt free and ironically more like a barefoot than maximal shoe experience, which really surprised me considering the 36mm stack height on the Olympus.

My normal running shoes have between a 4mm and 10mm heel drop, so I was a little worried about shifting to the Zero Drop shoe, especially without prior conditioning. As it turned out, it was a seamless transition and I never experienced any pain or discomfort making the change.

I expected the shoes to feel clunky and awkward and I was fearful of possible ankle rolling. I was surprised that none of those concerns materialized. After a mile or two, the shoes didn’t feel any taller or more substantial than other mid-weight running shoes in my lineup.

I did notice that my gait shortened slightly, which I expected because the shoe is designed to prevent over striding. I’m a solid forefoot striker and to maintain that footfall required a slightly shorter stride. In my normal running gait, I was landing just behind the ball of my foot in the Olympus, but not quite a mid-foot strike. Either stride was comfortable and effective, it just became a matter of finding the greatest efficiency for my effort, which came to me quickly.

I wore the Olympus during my 24-hour race, which consisted of a 2.5-mile trail loop with a mixture of rock, sand, dirt and a short stretch of asphalt. The shoes handled well, felt light and comfortable and kept my feet in perfect condition. I went on to win that race with 130.13 miles, setting a new course record and 100 mile PR along the way.

I was delighted with the performance of the shoe but the real test was still to come.

Continue on page 2 for testing from the Zion 100 Trail Run.

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