Despite having feet resembling swimming fins, I only recently started using Altra running shoes, famous for their zero-drop approach and foot-shaped toe boxes. Although the company has since launched a non-zero-drop trainer, the Altra Via Olympus 2 very much embodies the qualities that made Altra famous: low heel-to-toe drop, wide toe box, and tons of cushioning underfoot.
As such, I thoroughly enjoyed testing the shoes, and for someone like me, the Via Olympus 2 is the best running shoe for recovery and slow sessions when the emphasis is on racking up the miles, not running a PB. It lacks the responsiveness to become a fully versatile daily trainer, such as the Nike Pegasus 40 or the New Balance Fresh Foam X 1080v13; however, thanks to the out-of-this-world comfort the shoes provide, it's hard not to recommend it.
Should you add the Altra Via Olympus 2 to your rotation? Let's find out!
Altra Via Olympus 2 review
Altra Via Olympus 2 review: price and availability
The Altra Via Olympus 2 was launched in November 2023 and is available to buy now directly from Altra US and Altra UK for a recommended retail price of $165/ £145. It's available in both women's (UK sizes 3.5-10) and men's (UK sizes 6-14) versions in a number of colourways.
Altra Via Olympus 2 review: specifications
- Best for: recovery runs, slow training
- Upper: Engineered mesh
- Sole: Rubber
- Stack height: 33 mm
- Drop: 0 mm
- Pronation: Neutral
- Weight: 323 g / 11.4 oz
Altra Via Olympus 2 review: design and build quality
Altra's Via Olympus franchise is all about cushioning. It's neither a fast, agile racer nor the king of trail running shoes (Altra has an excellent trail running franchise called Lone Peak). As such, you wouldn't want to put on the Via Olympus 2 for tempo sessions or interval training.
The shoes feature a new, softer midsole foam, the Altra EGO MAX, and the same 33 mm stack height as their predecessor. The Altra Via Olympus 2 is a zero-drop shoe, meaning the stack height under the heel and the forefoot is the same. This makes the shoes ideal for walking and running.
That said, the Altra Via Olympus 2's rocker-shaped geometry makes for efficient toe-offs. Interestingly – and this is my personal opinion – shoes with massive rockers, like most Hoka trainers, are designed for heel strikers, and those shoes have a considerably high drop (>8mm), unlike the Altra'smpus 2.
I am not saying this is a flawed concept; on the contrary, the rocker shape is something runners are very much used to these days, so this geometry might help runners familiarise themselves with the zero-drop concept faster and with less effort.
The engineered mesh upper is held together by traditional lacing. Laces are of the thick variety, and they aren't long enough if you use the runner's knot lacing technique. However, it's unlikely you'll need that, thanks to the refined moulded heel collar.
Finally, the Footshape toe box, another Altra trademark, allows toe spread, so if you're a runner with wide feet, this is the running shoe you need. It's
Altra Via Olympus 2 review: performance and comfort
I mentioned this a few times already, but the Altra Via Olympus 2 most enjoys slow recovery-style runs. I tried doing faster, pacier runs, but soon realised it wasn't meant to be. Despite the considerable stack height and the rocker geometry, there isn't enough energy return from the EGO MAX foam.
This is fine, though, as the Via Olympus 2 wasn't designed with tempo sessions in mind. It's like saying that the Saucony Endorphin Elite isn't great for recovery runs. Not to mention, most runners don't run fast.
There are more runners today than there were 10/20/30 years ago, which means there are faster runners. However, this also means there are many more slow runners whose primary objective isn't to beat their PBs at every run.
Slow runners appreciate other features, such as comfort, stability, etc. Indeed, the Altra Via Olympus 2 is very comfortable, especially if you have wide feet. My wife has long, narrow feet, so she's probably not as keen on Altra's Footshape toe box, but I love the sensation of my toes not being pressed against each other as I run.
The moulded heel collar feels secure at the rear, although it isn't the firmest, possibly due to all the space at the front. When the upper is a bit tighter, it naturally pushes your feet back, which, should the heel counter and collar have the right shape, helps keep the rear of your foot in check.
Altra Via Olympus 2 review: sustainability
Altra is a new brand – from what I can tell, it was established only ten years ago – and, like most companies producing performance footwear, isn't too keen on sustainability. Sadly, we're yet to see a shift the outdoor industry underwent a few years ago, where sustainability is now baked into every product's DNA.
I couldn't find any evidence of Altra as a company doing anything about its products or manufacturing process becoming more sustainable in the future. The product listing of the Via Olympus 2 doesn't mention anything about sustainability, either.
Hopefully, Altra will start moving toward a more sustainable, ethical business model soon. Or, at the very least, start talking about these things.
Altra Via Olympus 2 review: verdict
There is no question about it: Altra's max-cushioned, zero-drop shoe is a must for runners with wide feet who need comfortable, supportive footwear for slower, recovery-type runs.
It lacks the responsiveness to make it a truly versatile running shoe, which might it hard fomr some runners to invest in them. The Via Olympus 2 isn't the cheapest running trainer on the market, either, further limiting its appeal among runners who use multiple shoes in their rotation.
That said, the shoes are incredibly comfortable and accomodating, and I'll definitely keep using them. Both for running, walking, and anything in between. (what's between running and walking?)
Altra Via Olympus 2 review: also consider
The Altra Via Olympus 2 is a unique running shoe; there aren't many zero-drop, wide-feet-compatible trainers on the market. There are more traditional shoes you might want to check out, including ASICS' Gel-Nimbus 25. It uses a new Gel (PUREGEL), new midsole foam (FF Blast Plus ECO), new knitted upper and new outsole. Plus, it's somewhat sustainable, unlike the Altra. Read my full ASICS Gel-Nimbus 25 review.
If you have narrow feet, the On Cloudmonster is worth a look. It has the best rebound of all the On running shoes, thanks to the tall CloudTec midsole and the springy Speedboard. The Cloudmonster might look like a tank, but it's actually the softest On running shoe to date. Read my full On Cloudmonster review.