Altra Escalante Review

The Altra Escalante is the first road shoe from Altra to feature their new midsole material, called Ego. It is also the first road shoe from Altra to feature an entirely engineered knit upper. The Escalante is built on what Altra calls their performance last which is a narrow to medium fit through the heel and midfoot with the traditional wide Altra forefoot fit. This trifecta leads to what I believe is the best Altra road shoe to-date and the best zero-drop road shoe I have ever worn.

Specs:

  • Weight: 196g / 6.9oz (US women’s 8.0); 221g / 7.8oz (US men’s 9.0)
  • Drop: 0mm, 25mm heel/25mm forefoot (includes a 6mm insole)
  • Upper: engineered knit mesh with no overlays and a well-padded, but minimal heel counter
  • Midsole: Ego (think Adidas Boost or Saucony Everun TPU-based insoles in terms of being responsive at speed yet really plush when plodding along)
  • Outsole: FootPod Outsole (translation = durable, awesome rubber only where you need it with the midsole exposed in multiple areas to save weight)

altra Escalante

Presenting the Altra Escalante. My new, favorite do-everything road shoe.

Now for more details. In this review, we’ll break things down in to four areas:

  1. What’s good: the new, differentiating, or simply well designed or built features or aspects of the shoe.
  2. What could be improved: tweaks or improvements that could be made to make the shoe better.
  3. When to use it: the situations or scenarios where the shoe excels.
  4. How it compares: my current go-to shoes and how this compares

I’ll try to be as succinct as possible. After all, you’ve probably got more running you can do today!

What’s good about the Altra Escalante?

  • The ride. The new Ego midsole is simply awesome. It’s super plush and bouncy when walking around or plodding along at slower speeds but then it firms up and is responsive when you want to push the pace. The Escalante is also very flexible. The shoe is both my current most comfortable shoe to wear around on the weekends as well as a shoe I would not hesitate to reach for in nearly all types of road runs.

altra Escalante

The Escalante’s ride is plush yet responsive – it’s great!

  • The upper. Full knit uppers are not really a great idea for trail shoes yet but on road shoes when going in a straight line they can be really comfortable when done right. And Altra did this one right – it’s so stretchy and comfortable.
  • The cushion-to-weight ratio. With 25mm of cushion in a 7.8oz package this shoe strikes the perfect balance of being cushioned enough to tackle any distance on the road in a light enough package to race in.
  • The fit. I really like the performance last from Altra in the Escalante. It’s really snug in the heel, with a really well-padded flexible heel collar, and nice and wide in the forefoot. When you think about the stereotypical Altra fit this is it. Kudos Altra.

altra Escalante

The Escalante’s fit is traditional Altra – plenty of room for toe splay.

altra Escalante

The heel collar is very padded yet doesn’t slip while the heel collar is quite flexible.

  • The style. Specifically, the grey/black colorway in both men’s and women’s looks great. This colorway can easily serve double-duty as a casual shoe to wear post run to grab a beer and/or wear on the weekends.
  • The grip. Looking at the outsole I didn’t expect it to grip the roads very well, especially wet pavement. Boy was I wrong. The outsole rubber compound Altra works well.

altra Escalante

Altra calls the outsole a ‘FootPod Outsole’ and it grips pavement well.

What could be improved?

There is very little I dislike about the Altra Escalante, and I’m nitpicking here, but a few tweaks could make it the perfect road shoe.

  • Adding some overlays to the upper. It’s hard for me to suggest adding more material to the upper because what I love about the upper is how good it feels against your foot and how it just conforms to all foot shapes. However, when trying to turn or pivot quickly your foot can slide laterally in the shoe due to the minimally constructed upper. Plan on going in a straight line in this shoe as often as possible.
  • The upper drying time. Again, this is a double-edged sword in terms of the upper. The engineered knit mesh feels great but when it gets fully saturated it can hold on to the water longer than an upper with more traditional mesh and overlays. Perhaps some laser cut outs would help here?

When to use it?

  • Any pace on the roads up to the marathon distance. I’ve done everything from recovery pace to a 5k-paced set of mile repeats in the Altra Escalante and it exceled each time.
  • Athleisure shoe. Once you see how comfortable the shoe is I suspect you’ll want to wear it as often as possible.

The Altra Escalante is a great do-everything road running or casual shoe.

Similar shoes to compare with:

Note: I have not worn the latest crop of Altra road shoes (Altra One V3, Altra Instinct / Intuition 4.0, or the Altra Torin 3.0) so I can’t compare it to those specific models. However, in terms of my go-to road shoes or shoes I have worn with enough in common the Altra Escalante compares very favorably. These include:

  • Saucony Freedom ISO: As the Freedom ISO is the first Saucony shoe to use a full Everun midsole the feeling is similar to the Altra Escalante’s Ego midsole. Both are plush yet responsive. However, the Freedom is not zero drop (if that matters to you), weighs decently more, and costs $30 more. Altra Escalante wins here for me.
  • Saucony Kinvara 7 or 8: I’ve long-loved the Kinvara. Well, at least the early versions and then the two most recent versions. The fit and midsole is quite different in the Kinvara compared to the Escalante. The Kinvara fits and rides like a tradition daily trainer. It’s also $20 less. Unless I’m doing a workout or a race that involves a lot of turns at speed I’m reaching for the Escalante first.
  • Hoka Hupana: Very similar ride to the Altra Escalante but with a closer fitting upper. Both shoes can serve double-duty as a do-everything road runner and casual shoe. The Hupana also costs $15 less. It’s also a 5mm drop compared to the Altra’s 0mm drop. Tough call as they are both great shoes but I’d reach for the Altra Escalante more often.

So, the $130 question – should you purchase the Altra Escalante?

In a word, YES! If your calves and achilles can handle zero drop, or you have time to transition to zero drop slowly, this could be your new favorite do-everything road shoe. Well done Altra, well done.

Questions, comments, or feedback on this shoe? Please share! And thanks for reading!

Purchasing Information

If you’re interested in purchasing this shoe, please first check availability at your local, independently owned running specialty store. They need your business and are a great resource for the community.

If that’s not an option, please consider using this Amazon affiliate link for the mens shoe and this affiliate link for the women’s. The return policy is great, and it’ll drop a few nickels into URP bucket if you decide to keep it. Thank You!


This review was written by URP Gear Editor Ben Zuehlsdof, but I’ve got to put in some additional feedback from my wife. She’s been wearing this show for about a month and has some pretty significant ankle/foot issues that include a massive bone growth under her ankle. She has a tough time finding shoes that fit around her “extra ankle” and the upper noeoprene-ish material in these Escalantes fit her perfectly.  She’s just as big a fan as Ben.  —Eric.

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