I have been a fan of Altra for some time. I transitioned to a zero drop shoe last year and found that I am less prone to injury since.
I am a neutral runner with a midfoot strike, about 165 pounds and 6’ 1” tall. I race all distances, from 5ks to marathons, but spend at least half of my year training for an upcoming marathon.
This year, as my birthday drew near, the Altra Escalante was just making headlines. I was in need of a good trainer, as my 22-week marathon training would soon begin, so my wife got me a pair for my 41st birthday.
They have turned out to be a GREAT gift!
I hope to get up to 750 miles on my running shoes. I know that is probably not realistic, but that’s what I expect from my investment.
So far, I have not reached that level with any shoe. With my Altra Escalante running shoes, I have surpassed the 200-mile mark, and here is what I have found.
I run at least 6 days a week and rotate through at least 5 pairs of shoes, but I look forward to sliding these shoes on my feet more than ANY OTHER shoes I wear.
The cushioning is supple, along with the knit upper, giving my feet complete freedom along with support. I told my wife it’s like a memory foam mattress for my feet. That being said…
Personal admission: I’m pretty tough on shoes. Shoes are made to be worn, and I wear them out!
I’ve already seen some odd wear and tear across the Escalantes. As a mid-foot striker, it seems that my mid-foot is located at the wrong point on this shoe.
That being said, I see nothing at this point that would make me think they won’t last for a good while longer.
While I have run in the Escalante on a variety of surfaces – from asphalt to concrete, and from dirt trails to compact sand – I mostly run on streets and sidewalks that need repaving desperately.
I have noticed while running in the Escalante, that when I step on cracks or uneven surfaces, my foot will easily twist, following the contour of the ground.
At this point, I have not been injured, but it is very clear to me that anyone who runs in the Escalante should make sure the running surface is as smooth as possible.
I love the springiness I’ve found in the Escalante. When I run in them, it seems like my feet only touch the ground for a millisecond before the shoe propels my feet up again.
I use the Escalante for tempo runs and long runs with intervals, and it seems to be the perfect shoe. I have found that it is supportive enough for a 16-mile run and responsive enough to squeeze out 5x1 miles at half marathon pace in the middle of a 9-mile run.
- Very comfortable design
- Springy, responsive cushioning
- Zero drop
- Plenty of room in the toe box for natural foot flexion
- Mild instability on uneven surfaces
- Long term durability remains to be seen
I love wearing the Altra Escalante and dread taking them off! I will probably buy another pair before my next marathon and run in them.
The only reason I would not do that is if they don’t last as long as I need them to last. The verdict is still out on their durability for me.
A shoe line that embraces the zero drop and minimal concept with a full spectrum of cushioning options to help runners of all ability levels and gait patterns transition to a, “less is more” approach of running with an emphasis on gradual improvement in form and posture.
race shoe but one that can be neutral toned and comfortable enough for casual wear and the daily grind at work.
Here’s how it held up from my usage as a daily marathon trainer and shoe for work on my feet all day in the healthcare field.
Upper & Fit
The upper is a first for Altra with a woven fabric and a very flexible feel. Combined with Altra’s signature foot-shaped toe box, this seemed like a match made in heaven for those looking for natural foot mechanics and freedom of movement.
Initially, the fit felt a bit tight on the sides and low in terms of toe box depth, but after just one or two short jogs the knit upper seemed to relax considerably, especially in terms of the feel on the top of the foot.
I felt like this shoe fit very true to size (I measure on a 10 and usually wear 10.5 as I chose in this model). I would caution anyone thinking about sizing up as you may end up swimming in the shoe, especially at the bridge of the foot and arch area, leaving you prone to blistering and irritation.
In addition to creating a great fitting upper, the fabric and matched tongue material feels great even to the barefoot (important for those looking to transition into more minimal fare). Even the laces have a smooth feel and patterning that seem to hug the foot in all the right places through the medial arch.
The heel collar of the shoe is much plusher than any other Altra I have owned and the counter is almost non-existent, which may turn off some runners looking to stabilize excessive pronation, but for the purpose of the shoe, it fits well with the concept.
Most importantly, the construction of the material inside the heel collar is tough as nails. I have run in this shoe for 400+ miles and have been wearing it as a work shoe since its retirement from my running rotation 3 months ago and it is still not breaking down or developing the dreaded tunnel in the padding that I am used to seeing at the end of life from most of my shoes.
This is crucial for distance runners and casual all day wearers to prevent irritation in the heel and rearfoot as the foot expands throughout the course of the day or workout.
Midsole and Insole Cushioning Systems
If there is one small detail in this shoe that keeps it from perfection, the Indian flaw, it would have to be the feel of the midsole and the low midsole to outsole coverage ratio.
Altra debuted its new proprietary cushioning foam, the Ego, in this shoe and it does have some good points. In terms of feel out of the box, the Ego material (and a peculiarly beefy insole) have a very soft feel, and this has stayed pretty consistent over the lifespan of the shoe.
It also exhibits supreme flexibility without compromising on shape retention that, when paired with a roomy and flexible upper material and last, allows for wonderfully organic foot mechanics and freedom for one’s toes important to those practicing POSE Method, Chi Running, or any other number of programs designed to bring you one step closer to greater efficiency of gait.
Having said that, for a company that makes its name on responsive cushioning and feel underfoot, the Ego material feels overly mushy at times and is so pliable that the midsole material often makes contact with the ground in stance phase THROUGH the gaps in the outsole and has formed wear patterns in the midsole at the forefoot.
At times (see photo below) I have even had to pick gravel or wood chips from out of the midsole after runs on B level roads and trails.
For those looking for a daily trainer that like a plush and luxurious ride, this tech is worth every penny for the shoe (MSRP $130). For folks who enjoy more feedback from their stride, it is impeded considerably for the first few hundred miles in this shoe.
The insole itself and the drainage system of the shoe is quite impressive despite its girth. Even on longer runs and treadmill workouts in humid conditions, the moisture ports on the bottom of the insole combined with the woven upper seemed to keep the shoe relatively dry for the short runs and damp but manageable on long-distance jaunts.
Most importantly, this keeps the shoe from having that soggy feeling or squishy sensation that can turn a great workout on its head quickly.
Outsole & Durability
The durability of this shoe may be the best I’ve seen since the old workhorse Kayanos and Trances of yesteryear without the weight and clunkiness that accompanied them (only 8.2 oz. listed for Men's size 9).
As previously mentioned, I have logged over 400 miles in this shoe and countless others roaming the halls of the facility in which I work and the cushioning, upper and outsole have kept up to the task admirably.
The rubber compound grips the road and tracks well as it does carpet and tile floors, even in wet conditions. It does not perform well over grassy areas and does tend to bog down in the mud, but as a designed road shoe its versatility in that arena does have its limits.
Most impressively, the shoe has seen very little wear in tread depth up to this point in the shoe. By the time most of my trainers have reached this point, there is usually an outsole pad that is coming unglued, or has worn to almost the midsole, but not with this model.
In fact, the previously mentioned wear pattern showing through the midsole is much more noticeable than any wear on the outsole.
For this reason, the only room for improvement would be to see better strategic coverage of outsole material placement to avoid the above-listed issues. In the same way, the woven upper (which as a general rule can be susceptible to snags, rips, and holes over time) is pristine.
An added bonus that I’ve noticed is that the shoe is easy to clean despite the white sole even with the crosshatches of texture to the midsole and the woven fabric seems to hold its color and tint quite well even after hours in the sun and exposure to various fluids/staining liquids like gatorade, sweat, mud, and dirt.
While this model is still a first for Altra, it clearly wins the seal of approval for versatility and style. Although previous Altra models have looked bulky and awkward at times with the foot shaped toe box and oversized midsole, this model almost feels streamlined and sporty by comparison.
It also has more colorways than you can shake a stick at with special editions for Boston and Running Warehouse along with more than 6 other basic color combos ranging from neutral grays and blacks to Green Bay green and gold and special edition Hot pink with black and heather colored streaks.
There is a little something for everyone looking for WOW or well-to-do. There is now even a special edition racing version for this year’s Boston Marathon as well. For those who are looking for a shoe to go out on the town in jeans and a t-shirt, then head out for a nice evening tempo run and get up in the morning ready for the workday, this shoe can really do it all.
- Lightweight yet supportive for the long haul (400+ mile tread and cushion life)
- Well above average durability and comfort
- Affordability for in-class features
- Above average breathability and moisture management
- Midsole not as responsive as other Altra models (could use a tweaking, especially in terms of midsole to outsole coverage ratio)
- Low toe box may initially irritate runners with larger feet
While I very rarely purchase the first model of any shoe, the Escalante has made me seriously reconsider that policy.
It is by far the most durable and comfortable Altra I have ever owned and has been the most versatile shoe I’ve seen in years. I can’t wait to see the sequel.
The concept of Altra shoes is very attractive. Altra aims to make shoes that allow your feet to work more naturally. There are two main aspects to this.
Firstly, their shoes have a trademarked FootshapeTM toe-box, this is rounded rather than the tapered shape of traditional trainers. Their shoes also have a zero-drop platform, your forefoot and your heels are the same distance from the ground.
This again is different from traditional shoes where your heels tend to be slightly higher. For women, Altra adds a third benefit that shoes such as the Escalante are designed around a female foot – rather than just make men’s trainers a bit smaller.
This all sounds good time me. I do worry about that continuing to squish my feet into snug trainers might have long term consequences. I do have wide feet and the beginnings of a bunion (too much information?) and would like to stop it getting worse. I was also keen to test out zero-drop shoes.
With these things in mind, I started to look into the brand. I decided to try the Escalante mainly because I liked the look of them more than the other models – they seemed less bulky and came in nicer colours (I know this shouldn’t matter by hey ho).
More importantly of the Altra models, these seemed closest to my usual favourites (Adidas Adizero Boston Boosts). That is, they are described as light and responsive but with some good cushioning.
So, how do they look and fit?
There are no two ways about it, Altras are different! Looking down at my Altras, I can’t help but wonder whose foot the Foot shape toe-box is shaped to. There is a lot of extra space around my toes, at the end of my toes.
I sized down from my usual UK5 (in e.g. Adidas and Saucony) to a UK 4.5 but still the forefoot seems quite baggy and the shoes ‘look’ big. I do feel quite self-conscious in them when I’m at the gym.
More of an issue for me is the Escalantes seem quite wide around the heel. They seem very secure around the midfoot but I felt as though my heel is too roomy to move around – this makes me feel less confident when I’m running in them– particularly around twisty routes or very uneven surfaces.
How do they feel?
Plush. The cushioning is noticeable as soon as you try them on. They feel a treat for your feet. They are not ‘pillowy’ just very very comfortable.
They are also extremely light. But, I do seem to notice what my feet are doing more in these shoes. This is probably because the new shape takes some getting used to.
I notice that my toes seem to hit the top of the toe-box a lot – this hasn’t caused any hot spots or blisters, it is just distracting. I think my toes are just wiggling because they don’t know what to do with the new found space.
Most importantly, what are they like to run in?
Fun. The first time I ran in the Altras I was all smiling. They are very springy which you especially notice when you pick up the pace.
I have used them on road runs and the treadmill and some light trails (hard packed paths with the odd stone) and still found them comfortable.
On faster tempo runs you get a good springy return from each bounce making you feel like you have more energy. However, on easier runs I didn’t get the same feedback and my legs feel heavier.
Are they my new favourite shoe?
As much as I want them to be, because they are good fun to run in, they still seem to be my experimental shoes. I mostly wear them on the treadmill where I don’t have to worry about corners or gradients and on shorter, tempo runs.
I haven’t trusted them to run more than 6 miles or so and I still haven’t trusted the Escalante for any races or for any quicker 5ks or hard track sessions for which in theory they should be ideal. I keep falling back to my trusty favourites (sorry bunions!).
Would I recommend them?
Yes, but you do really need to try them out for fit and feel and be prepared to persevere with them while you get used to the drop and shape. I have read that some of the issues with the baggy toe-box and heel lockdown have been improved with the Escalante 1.5 so they might be a better option.
Having burned through nearly a dozen Altra running shoes before I got my hands on the Escalante, I am accustomed to their fit, quality, and ride.
That being said, the Escalante has been my hands-down favorite. The fit is great, knit upper breathes and moves well, the shoe is durable, and the cushioning is excellent.
(Note: I got these shoes for a screaming deal because they were mismatched, so don’t judge!)
The Escalante, like any Altra shoe, has a wide toe box that allows your feet and toes to splay out with every step.
Altra designs all of their shoes this way, which is a dream come true for flat-footed, wide-footed people like me.
While no shoe will fully correct running form, these shoes do much to help mimic the natural mechanics of barefoot running while offering protection and cushioning.
The upper is made up of a comfortable knit material that reminds me of Nike Flyknit shoes. It does allow for more movement of the foot than some other upper materials.
So, if you’re used to getting shoes that are a size larger than normal, try the Escalante on and make sure that the size fits well since you don’t want your feet shifting too much during your runs.
After around 300 miles, I did get some slight tearing in the sides of the upper around the base of my little and big toes.
For me, this tearing is fairly normal for most running shoes with a soft upper—thanks to the anatomy of my feet and running technique, though some glue makes a quick fix.
Most people I’ve interacted with don’t experience the tearing, but it is something to be aware of. While many other shoes that have knit uppers wear out fairly quickly with mileage, the Escalante fared very well.
The upper breathes extremely well, which wouldn’t work well with extreme cold or wet runs, so keep that in mind.
The knit upper, as well as the lower cushioning of the shoe, is very durable. My runs mostly take me on asphalt or concrete with the occasional dirt or slightly rocky trail, but these hold up very well.
I am used to most shoes lasting well for about 300 miles and hang on until maybe 400 or 450. But after 400 miles, my shoes still work great.
This isn’t to say that they don’t wear down at all, as they show normal wear on the soles of the shoe. But, I have not noticed any decrease in mechanics or performance after 400 miles.
This shoe has excellent conditioning for its weight. While it isn’t a maximalist shoe, the cushioning is far better than I had expected it to be and has held up for all of the miles I’ve put on them.
I have run with forefoot, midfoot, and heel-striking patterns to test them in different conditions for different runners. Overall, I have experienced great cushioning for all kinds of footfall patterns.
While it isn’t a trail shoe by any stretch, I don’t notice any small rocks or divots on the occasional dirt trail I encounter.
The superior cushioning of the Altra Escalante surprised me more than any other aspect of the shoe.
Should you buy them?
I highly recommend the Altra Escalante. In my opinion, it is one of the best shoes they have ever produced and would recommend them to anyone, especially if you’re doing lots of road running.
They are extremely lightweight, yet durable, and again, the cushioning is excellent.
If this is your first pair of Altra shoes, I would cycle them into your rotation, as the wide toe box and zero drop use muscles slightly differently than other shoes.
I give the Escalante a 95/100 rating for combining durability, cushioning, and good design into an extremely lightweight shoe. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a lightweight running shoe.
The Altra Escalante is an attractive runner that offers so much comfort; you will wish all of your shoes were Escalantes.
With the selling price of $130, they feature lightweight, flexible knit uppers, 25mm stack height soles, and a flexible sole. Moreover, they are available in various attractive colors.
I usually wear a size 7.5, and the Altra Escalante was no different. I felt it fit true to size. If you have never worn a zero drop shoe (where the heel height is the same as the toe height), you may have to slowly transition from your current shoe with an elevated heel, to an Altra Zero drop shoe.
Otherwise, you may encounter Achilles or calf pain if you jump straight into long runs with your zero drop shoe. Switching to a zero heel to toe drop has helped with pain that I used to get in my knees on long runs. It has helped me improve my running form.
The Escalante, like all of Altra’s shoes, is the shape of the natural foot with a zero heel-to-toe drop to mimic barefoot running without sacrificing comfort. If you don’t like a wide toebox, Altra is not for you.
I have been wearing Altras for over 5 years and have owned more than 15 pairs. I buy them for the fit and function but don’t usually find them attractive. The Escalantes changed that. They are a good looking shoe.
The fabric and color options are conservative. These can be worn as a work type of shoes. A pair for every outfit? Tempting...
I used my Escalantes mainly for treadmill and road running. They had ample cushioning, and my feet felt great, perhaps even pampered. There were no hot spots, the shoes are absolutely seamless.
The engineered knit fabric allowed for good breathability and flexibility giving the upper a sock-like feel. It was like running on clouds, or in your coziest slippers. The sole was soft and flexible to allow a natural stride.
The Altra Escalante was designed for road running, and that is where they shine. The Escalante is so comfortable that I also have a pair I wear to work where I am on my feet all day.
I get about 10000 steps in a shift at the hospital, and the Escalantes save my feet so that I can still enjoy a nice 10km run when I get home. Corns? Bunions? Blisters? Just want a comfortable runner that looks good? Try the Altra Escalante.
If I could only wear one shoe for the rest of my life, it would be these shoes.
The soft, stretchy, sock-like fabric that makes these so attractive and comfortable also allowed my toes to poke through the end within the first six weeks of wearing them.
For the price of this shoe, I would have appreciated some toe reinforcement to prevent this from happening. My husband had the same problem with his toes poking through within the first couple of months. His Escalantes also started to separate on the bottom of the sole.
I love this shoe. I recommended it to my father who was experiencing a lot of pain from bunions and he loved them also.
He said they were the most comfortable shoe he has ever worn, and I have to agree. With some toe reinforcement to prevent that awful hole at the big toe, these shoes would be perfect. So close Altra! So close!
Good to know
- One notable element of the shoe is the fully-cushioned Zero DropTM platform that works together with the FootShapeTM toe-box. This design aims to provide enhanced cushioning and efficient adaptability to changing foot movements.
- Other features are the Altra EGOTM and the InnerFLEXTM layer in the midsole. They are responsible for the impressively softer feel users experienced in the Altra Escalante.
- Lastly, the FootPodTM technology further improves the shoe’s flexibility through its strategic metatarsal mapping.
The Altra Escalante has a standard running length and comes in the standard medium width of D and B for men and women, respectively. Also, its decidedly wider toe-box makes it suitable for runners with wide feet and those who just want natural toe-splay to be accommodated.
The Altra Escalante utilizes the FootPodTM technology in its outsole for efficient mapping of bones and the runner’s foot-tendons. This technology, which is also used in the Escalante 1.5, results in an increased natural flexibility and responsive movement.
The fully-cushioned Zero DropTM midsole is an optimal combination of soft cushioning and light weight. It ensures weight balance from the heel to the forefoot region, thereby allowing the runner to perform more efficiently on the roads.
The Altra EGOTM provides the kind of cushioning that wins the hearts and minds of people in no time. This durable and soft material provides a responsive and springy underfoot experience.
The InnerFLEXTM enables the shoe to adapt itself to the shape of the foot for better flexibility and efficient movement during long distances.
The Engineered Mesh is a lightweight material that has a construction that’s similar to woven cloth. It’s flexible and soft. So, not only is the coverage breathable, but also smartly designed to give agreeable fit and flexibility during runs.
This Altra running shoe uses the FootShapeTM toe-box which lets the user’s feet relax and spread out in a manner that is both natural and potentially comfortable.
The padded collar locks the heel in place and prevents the foot from exiting the shoe accidentally.
A traditional lacing system helps the upper in wrapping around the foot securely.