In recent reviews of some wonderful new socks, I’ve discussed how bad my foot issues (see pictures below) have been when hiking. Taping and using hiking goo helped, but the new socks did perhaps the most to alleviate my problems. Thankfully, the other biggest contributor to reducing the destruction of my feet was indeed the Altra Olympus 5 shoe. I had seen its wonderful shape, which looked like it could accommodate my foot with the wide, frog-like, frankly disturbing and repulsive-to-women splay of my toes. With a missing big toenail from an injury on my hike in the Gros Ventre, I wanted some extra footbox room, though the lesser lugs and increased stack height and cushioning (as compared to my Colombia Montrail FKT’s) had me a bit concerned. A sloppy, big toebox and a high ride make for less precision with one’s footing.
Given that I was about to go on a 60+ mile hike, I was downright covetous of the Altras when I saw them online. Unfortunately, the REI in Jackson didn’t carry them, and the one store which did was closed, and my hike was for a 6AM drive time the next morning. My hiking crew ended up wanting to start a bit later (a fact I found out after waking up early), which meant that I could stop by the Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale, WY, and pick up some things for the trip that I wanted. Upon stopping in (you should support this wonderful, valuable small business), I was elated to find that they had the Altras in stock, and in my size. I snagged a pair and some of the other items an was soon on my way to the trailhead.
As I noted in the previous post, on a hike in the middle of August, the Gaia track of which is below, I was finally driven NUTS by the pain. (I will link to the review of the hike when I get it posted.) The trip was hot and my toes rubbed so much that I thought I go mad. I taped, re-taped, and taped some more. Nothing worked.
I changed out my socks after that hike and on this next hike matched them with the Olympus 5. You can see the track below, as well as the track for a second hike. They’re both missing some mileage due to me forgetting to track with GPS at times; the total distance was some 60+miles for each. In total, I have over 120 miles now using the Altras.
During the trips above, the weather was stormy the majority of the time, with moderate rain (in the meteorological, 7900.5E sense, which means it was really quite heavy in the backpacking sense) occurring often, and when that wasn’t true, intermittent drizzle or 35kt+ winds battering one about. The weather got below freezing a bunch, and I found myself in ice and snow. I also had a few days that were quite hot.
Below are some pictures of the various styles of inclement weather I took the socks through, though mostly I kept my phone tucked away during the rain.
The Altras are the most comfortable shoe I’ve used, but the laces they come with are basically unusable, so I immediately swapped them out after purchase, taking laces from one of my pairs of Montrails. The ride is well cushioned and the rock plate adds great protection over rocky terrain, where I’m often found scuttling along. Despite the amount of cushion, my proprioception was not compromised, and I felt in control and stable at all times. Compared to my Montrails, my feet just didn’t get as sore. Lastly, the toe box in the Olympus 5s is great for letting one’s toes spread out. Despite this, with the wrong socks (Darn Toughs), my pinky toes still got mashed up, but I didn’t get any other hot spots.
The most uncomfortable thing about the shoes is the lip around the heel, which needs more material than Altra designed it with. It is incredibly flimsy and deforms (pops out laterally) easily. I found myself constantly having to remove debris from the shoes; anything that got lofted up was easily swallowed up by the mouths of the deforming sidewalls. I have not had that problem on any other shoe. The tongue is also really a thin piece of rubber-like material with no cushion. Sometimes it really cut into my foot.
As a last parting thought on comfort, the shoes are insanely breathable, which also means that they keep no water out, and don’t retain heat. For a summer shoe, that’s what I’m looking for.
Below: Some of the pretty terrain I covered in the Altra Olypmus 5 shoes.
The traction on the Olympus 5’s is really pretty great. I never found myself slipping on lose gravel, and they walked up solid slabs of granite without problems. As it’s convenient to compare them to my old Montrails, I will say that the Olympus 5’s are almost equivalent in traction, being bested only in rainy conditions on rocks, where they would sometimes slip a little. None of the slippage was such that I was ever concerned, though I was more deliberate with my footing on wet rocks than I would have been with Montrails.
The lugs on the shoes are deep and feel firm to the touch. The central, black section of the shoes is made out of a very soft foam which I found got torn up quickly, but still provided grip. In the comparison picture below, you can see that the Gryptonite lugs on the Montrails are much more aggressive, even after over 150 miles.
Below: A comparison of my new shoe (left) and old shoe (right), as well as my missing toenail but a tape-free foot.
Now we get to the bad news. You will find multiple people complaining about the poor durability of the Olympus 5s, remarking on tread peeling right off. With delamination you can at least glue the shoe back together. My problem was a little worse: the back right blew out at day 10. Thankfully, Altra has a 30-day “trial run” policy where you can return them for any reason.
I initiated this return and was met with some resistance from Altra: they wanted me to return them to the vendor. The gas alone to do that would cost me $50. Then they didn’t want to go with the trial run policy, and insisted on going through the warranty process on their website. It took two times of doing this before they responded correctly and helped.
In the process, you have to submit pictures of the problem. I did this, including multiple pictures of me actually using the shoes. Altra finally honored their own policy, but told me that I was misusing the shoes and not locking in the heel with my laces, causing damage that might not be covered under warranty again. This fairly enraged me, as the pictures I sent them literally showed me doing just that. The response was probably canned, leading me to believe that they have this issue enough that it’s automatic for them. Anyway, it was a very irritating experience altogether.
So why did this blowout happen? I don’t know. I didn’t get any hotspots, so I wasn’t getting any rubbing. What I imagine occurred was the ingress of debris from the “mouths” that the shoes develop, which probably pierced the thin material. I have never had this problem with any shoe before. I sent Altra some pictures of one of my Montrails from 2016 which has little tread left but which has not suffered such a fate. My Mizunos from 2017 area also fine.
Below: My old Mizunos, some relatively new (year or two old) Montrails, and the state of my Altra’s tread after the second hike.
A similar competitor that I’ve heard of is Topo, and I plan to get one of their pairs in the future; I like that they are considerably cheaper. I will also test the warranty replacements from Altra and see if the second pair holds up better.
The Altras are the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever used, with a stable, confident ride that will leave your feet feeling fresh, even after a 24-mile day with a large pack. Unfortunately, the durability leaves a lot to be desired, and I suffered a failure of one of my shoes on day 10.
I award two stars for comfort and traction. Due to the durability and quality control issues, this shoe should be avoided.