Altra Via Olympus Review | 2023 Best Cushioned Running Shoes – Runner’s World
Altra Via Olympus Review | 2023 Best Cushioned Running Shoes Runner’s World
The RW Takeaway: Altra rewired its buff and brawny Olympus trail shoe for the roads. Max-cushioned with high rebound, the Via Olympus provides comfort for hundreds of miles—even in one go.
- Preceded by: Altra Olympus 4, Altra Paradigm 6
- Tech: 33mm stack height, EVA-based compression-molded foam, rocker shape
- Racing Roster: Ryan Montgomery, 2021 Javelina 100, 2nd place, 13:33:52
The Via Olympus provides an uber-cushioned ride with a generous platform of foam for long-distance running—very long-distance running. The shoe already has a podium finish on its dossier. Altra-sponsored ultrarunner Ryan Montgomery came in second at the 2021 Javelina 100, with a time of 13:33:52 (less than 20 minutes behind the winner, Arlen Glick) running in the Via.
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It took only a fraction of what Montgomery ran for me to understand why he ran 100 miles in the Via Olympus—and only the Via Olympus. Running in the luxe upper and plush insole feels as soft and smooth as melting butter.
Inspired by the Trail
The shoe is inspired by its trail namesake. The Olympus 4 was one of my go-to offroad shoes. It had a lightweight, responsive ride despite its burly exterior. The Via also has notes of the Paradigm, Altra’s cushiest stability trainer.
“It kind of started with, ‘Hey, let’s try to make a road version of our Olympus 4,’” said Alex Lind, Altra’s senior product line manager on a phone call with RW. “And then it mutated into, ‘Let’s not only have something that’s similar in terms of stack and foot shape, but that will also provide an elevated experience that’s more appropriate for the road.’”
To make a road iteration of the Olympus, the development team avoided simply slapping on a lug-less outsole. It took three different compounds and three different types of midsole geometries to get the formula right.
The midsole is Ego Max, an EVA-based compression-molded foam that you can also find in the Paradigm 6 and Timp 4, another max-cushioned Altra trail shoe. The Paradigm, a stability shoe, has a linear, more parallel geometric profile to the ground. It also uses Altra’s standard last. In contrast, the Via’s sole is curved to promote a rocker motion, and its foot shape is wider and more accommodating. The molded heel collar and pillowy tongue amplify the comfort factor.
The Via’s outsole has less ground-contact rubber than the Paradigm. The team chipped away extra material in low areas on the outsole, said Lind, to reduce some of the weight in the shoe.
While the weight teeters into 9-ounce territory (women’s size 7), the Via still feels surprisingly lightweight and smooth. It takes me back to those double-digit trail runs wearing the Olympus 4. After my most recent marathon, I was tempted to quicken my pace in the Via—even though I was supposed to scale back and recover. Chalk it up to that propulsive rocker roll and all-encompassing memory foam feel.
Mitchell R. | Tester since 2022
Pronation: Neutral | Footstrike: Heel
“I absolutely loved this shoe. As of today, I’ve logged 113 miles in it. The wide toebox was extremely comfortable, especially on runs over seven miles. The heel cushioning was more than I was used to. In the beginning, I found it cumbersome running uphill. But after I adjusted to the shoe, it became almost effortless. I put these shoes through both dry and very wet conditions and they proved to be durable with excellent grip and good breathability. I will definitely be purchasing a pair in the future. I would recommend the Via Olympus to anyone looking for a shoe to use for recovery runs as the cushioning is wonderful.”
Amanda is a test editor at Runner’s World who has run the Boston Marathon every year since 2013; she’s a former professional baker with a master’s in gastronomy and she carb-loads on snickerdoodles.