Our verdict

The Altra Escalante Racer 2 marks a notable upgrade that enhances cushioning, outsole durability, and materials from its predecessor—though it comes with a slight increase in weight. In our tests, we found that Altra successfully delivered a minimalist and flexible shoe that's incredibly comfortable, offering plenty of room for your feet and a true zero-drop experience. From our perspective, it’s an excellent pick for speed training and even racing for those who prefer a minimalist approach to the sport.

Pros

  • Enhanced toebox and outsole durability
  • Incredible ventilation
  • Grounded yet cushioned feel
  • True zero-drop experience
  • Spacious, foot-shaped toebox
  • Superb stability
  • Highly durable knit
  • Premium perforated insole

Cons

  • Heavier than previous version
  • Lacks heel padding durability

Audience verdict

81
Good!

Who should buy

Here in the lab, we think the Altra Escalante Racer 2 is an outstanding choice for:

  • Zero-drop enthusiasts seeking a fast, nimble, and agile running shoe.
  • Runners that want a minimalist shoe that's ideal for tempo efforts and short 5K/10K races.
  • Loyal fans of the previous Escalante Racer who value improved outsole durability—this version addresses that flaw effectively.

Altra Escalante Racer 2

Who should NOT buy

We really liked the massively ventilated, engineered-knit upper of the Escalante Racer 2, but we believe it's not the best choice for runners who frequently tackle cold temperatures—it barely retains any heat and quickly dissipates it.

For those in cooler climates, we think there are better options, such as the Altra Escalante 4, which offers a thicker and denser knit without sacrificing the Escalante DNA.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 parts

Additionally, we do not recommend the Escalante Racer 2 for heavier runners due to its low cushioning. For those needing a bit more foam underfoot while still enjoying a zero-drop platform, we suggest the Altra Torin 7, or for those who strike with their heels and prefer a medium 4-mm offset, the Saucony Kinvara 14 might be a better fit.

Breathability

We've evaluated hundreds of running shoe uppers in our lab, so predicting their breathability has almost become an interesting challenge here before we even start testing with smoke. Yet, with the Escalante Racer 2, it was immediately apparent that a top score was inevitable.

Still, we needed to confirm our initial impression. As shown in our video above, there were no surprises—we awarded it a stellar 5/5, delighting those in search of a breathable upper in a zero-drop shoe.

We also wanted to verify whether this breathability extended beyond the toebox, as is often the case with other shoes. Fortunately, it provides consistent airflow from the toecap through the midfoot.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 microscope

Having completed these initial tests, we then examined the engineered knit Altra selected for this shoe under the microscope. The ventilation holes were impressive at first glance and absolutely astonishing under magnification. Wow!

Altra Escalante Racer 2 microscope

In summary, the Escalante Racer 2 features an exceptionally well-ventilated upper, perfect for warm conditions, though we suggest pairing it with thick, winter-ready socks if used in colder weather.

Test results
Escalante Racer 2 5
Average 3.8
Compared to 226 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

While we often accurately predict the breathability score before testing here in the lab, guessing durability before the Dremel test always proves waaay more challenging. Sometimes, uppers that seem delicate surprisingly deliver remarkable performances, and vice versa.

This was one of those rare cases where an airy, knit upper resisted the Dremel with ease. It performed so well that we awarded it a 4/5, which is particularly impressive given the size of the ventilation holes. Truly amazing.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Toebox durability
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 4
Average 2.4
Compared to 160 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

In most running shoes, the heel padding typically outlasts the toebox, a trend that is clear from the averages in our tests.

However, the Escalante Racer 2 consistently delivered unexpected results, and here we discovered a particularly disappointing one—a rating of 2/5 that raised our eyebrows.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Heel padding durability
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 2
Average 3.1
Compared to 156 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

We found again the FootPod Outsole design, which mirrors the natural anatomy of the human foot for an authentic ride. In terms of flexibility, we discovered multiple lateral and longitudinal grooves aligning with the flex points of the joints, named by Altra as INNERFLEX.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 INNERFLEX

Our durometer tests measured the outsole hardness at a robust 86.2 HC, which is in the higher end of the spectrum.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Outsole hardness
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 86.1 HC
Average 80.5 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 277 running shoes
Number of shoes
54.9 HC
Outsole hardness
92.8 HC

Outsole durability

We were particularly impressed with this outsole after our third Dremel test, as we only observed a 0.3 mm indentation.

This is arguably the most significant and eagerly awaited upgrade from the previous version of the Escalante Racer, which had outsole durability as one of its weaknesses.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Outsole durability
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 0.3 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 138 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

We also think that the 4.6 mm thickness might be more than necessary and suggest that Altra could improve the weight of the shoe by slightly thinning the outsole. It's also worth noting that we found the same approach as in recent minimalist shoes by this brand—embedding the outsole within the foam instead of merely glueing it on top. That's a nice touch.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Outsole thickness
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 4.6 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 296 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

While the outsole durability marks a significant improvement from its predecessor, we now face a disappointing setback.

Weighing in at 7.9 oz or 224g, the Escalante Racer 2 has unfortunately gained some unwanted weight. Although it remains relatively lightweight, for a shoe branded as a "racer" and featuring such a low-stack midsole, we think it needs to weigh a bit less to meet expectations!

Test results
Escalante Racer 2 7.90 oz (224g)
Average 9.35 oz (265g)
Compared to 297 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

We previously mentioned that the Escalante Racer 2 features a low-stack midsole, and now it's time to delve into specifics.

Starting with the heel, we measured a notably low 22.5 mm, which, coupled with its zero drop, likely makes this shoe less appealing for rearfoot strikers.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Heel stack
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 22.5 mm
Average 33.6 mm
Compared to 296 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
42.7 mm

Forefoot stack

The forefoot of the Escalante Racer 2 maintains a similar thickness at 21.4 mm. Our perspective is that it's ideal for those seeking a ride that offers some decent cushioning yet still provides a strong ground feel.

We also discovered that the reason for the weight gain is the increased stack height, which has grown over 3 mm compared to our measurements of the previous version. Is the change worthwhile? Well, that depends on your weight vs. cushioning preferences! 

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Forefoot stack
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 21.4 mm
Average 25.0 mm
Compared to 296 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
35.8 mm

Drop

We observed a minimal 1.1 mm difference in height from heel to toe, positioning this as a true zero-drop shoe.

While it doesn’t achieve an exact 0 mm drop, this is practically normal for any running shoe, as we often find larger deviations from the brand-stated drop.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Drop
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 1.1 mm
Average 8.6 mm
Compared to 296 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The insole boasts a substantial cushioning of 5.4 mm.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Insole thickness
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 5.4 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

We used our Shore A durometer to measure the midsole's softness, recording 28.3 HA, placing this EGO foam clearly on the firmer end of the spectrum.

However, it's important to note that using a plush foam in a low-stack shoe could lead to an uncomfortable ride, characterized by a noticeable "bottom out" feel in every stride.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Midsole softness
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 28.3 HA
Average 21.5 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 224 running shoes
Number of shoes
8.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Difference in midsole softness in cold

After enduring 20 minutes in our freezer, the EGO foam went north by 31%. That's not the best performance ever seen in the lab, but it's also what we expect from an EVA-based material.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Difference in midsole softness in cold
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 31%
Average 25.6%
Compared to 223 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

When compared to almost any other running shoe, The Escalante Racer 2 reduces the distance between your feet and the ground, providing exceptional stability for virtually everyone.

We discovered that it also offers this stable feel at all speeds, delivering a smooth, classic and unobtrusive running experience without any stiffening agents or big sidewalls.

Torsional rigidity

If you remember, we discussed the INNERFLEX design that Altra uses to make the outsole really flexible. Here, we confirmed its effectiveness and awarded the ER2 an impressive 1/5!

Test results
Escalante Racer 2 1
Average 3.2
Compared to 275 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The heel counter is subtle and unobtrusive—far from being stiff. It barely offered any resistance under mild pressure, leading us to give it a rating of 2 out of 5.

Test results
Escalante Racer 2 2
Average 2.8
Compared to 259 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

With Altra's commitment to its foot-shaped design, we anticipated a really wide measurement in the forefoot and a narrower one in the heel—just as one might expect from looking at their own feet.

Indeed, our initial measurement came in at a substantial 118.4 mm, confirming our sensation of enhanced stability when running with a midfoot and forefoot-striking technique.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 118.4 mm
Average 113.7 mm
Compared to 297 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

After measuring the forefoot, we moved to the heel, where our anticipation of a narrower profile was confirmed. With a width of just 83.3 mm, it’s clear evidence that this zero-drop shoe is not suited for rearfoot strikers.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 83.3 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 297 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Rocker

A truly natural-running, zero-drop shoe designed should evoke the essence of old-school racing flats, steering clear of the more rockered, maximalist designs like the Hoka Cielo X1. Fortunately, as our video demonstrates, the Escalante Racer 2 remains faithful to its minimalist design.

Flexibility

Stiffness

Requiring just 15.0N in our classic 90-degree bend test, this is the ultimate demonstration of the Escalante Racer's minimalist and exceptionally flexible design.

Test results
Escalante Racer 2 15.0N
Average 29.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 279 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Difference in stiffness in cold

Following a 20-minute nap in the freezer, we re-evaluated the stiffness of the Escalante Racer 2 with our force gauge. This time, the ER2 was 34.3% stiffer.

Test results
Escalante Racer 2 34.3%
Average 36.2%
Compared to 279 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

As with every Altra, we had high hopes for the roominess of the upper, given that the Escalante Racer 2 features Altra's "Original FootShape"—the most generous, natural toebox design by the American brand.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 toebox

Altra's shoes might look weird, but they simply excel at allowing the toes to spread naturally.

Our measurements met our expectations: at a wiiiide 104.2 mm across the broadest part of the toebox, it offers exceptional space.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 104.2 mm
Average 98.3 mm
Compared to 297 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

Altra really excels when it comes to providing ample space for toe splay, with the Escalante Racer 2 offering an impressive 92.0 mm of width in this area. This series continues to stand out for its generous toe room.

The toebox volume comfortably accommodates most runners, and thanks to the upper's stretchy knit material, fit should never be a problem.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 92.0 mm
Average 78.2 mm
Compared to 171 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

Regrettably, the Escalante Racer 2's tongue is (again) not gusseted, which lets it move around during fast runs. Incorporating at least a semi-gusseted design would greatly enhance its fit, and we think it's a feature well deserved in a $140 shoe.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

The Escalante Racer 4's tongue lives up to its racing name, featuring a minimal 1.5 mm padding that provides very little protection across the whole instep.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 tongue

Due to its thin cushioning, we recommend not tightening the laces too firmly to avoid lace bite.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Tongue padding
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 1.5 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 294 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

We discovered that Altra chose to maintain the design elements from the previous version, so, like before, there's no heel tab on this model either.

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Heel tab
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 None

Removable insole

Despite being removable, we suggest retaining the original insole as it's a premium one with perforations, which significantly boosts airflow within the shoe.

Additionally, with its unique FootShape toe design, we think it might make it challenging to fit an alternative. 

Altra Escalante Racer 2 Removable insole
Test results
Escalante Racer 2 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

The Escalante Racer 2 retains the brilliant reflective elements in the tongue from its predecessor, a decision we consider exceptionally smart—they truly stand out!

Test results
Escalante Racer 2 Yes