I’ve been running in Altra shoes for about a year and a half, and they have revolutionized my running. You can read my other Altra gear reviews to read about what makes Altra special and why I think they are the bomb!
The Escalante is one of the completely new shoes from Altra for 2017, the other being the King MT. Both are low-stack-height, high-performance speed monsters – Escalante for the road, King for the trail.
The Escalante’s stack height of 25mm is the same as the Instinct, but it is much lighter and built on the trimmer “performance” last rather than the relaxed “standard” last. At 232g, relative to 275g for the Paradigm and 284g for the Instinct (men’s shoes), the Escalante is the lightest Altra except for the super-minimalist Golden Spike cross-country shoe. It is almost certainly also the most comfortable Altra: the upper is a stretch-knit which is disconcertingly compliant (I kept feeling like I should check I actually still had shoes on!) while the sole, with the mid-sole made from the brand new, highly responsive Altra EGO compound, give a springy, very easy ride. Altra EGO is billed to be more “responsive” meaning better cushioning for the stack-height and better return of the absorbed energy; I haven’t seen numbers, but I can tell you it felt very bouncy while walking around, and was a smooth ride while running.
They are also the best-looking Altras ever. Altra has always embraced the visual trade-offs of the Foot Shaped Toe-box and other design features which make them great running shoes, but it often felt like the style choices were intended to ham it up – make them look even more like (insert preferred choice of: “clown shoe”, “duck foot”, “paddle toes”, etc); even the One would not have been described as “sleek”. While I know that there are no fashion-police at Mile 65, I would always have been cautious about wearing Altra to a first date or a business meeting (on the other hand, if my Paradigms contribute to getting a second date, I might have to start making wedding plans…) That has changed with the Escalante, at least in the grey colour – red and blue are quite bold, though Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs would have rocked them on Ocean Drive!
I have been wearing them to business and social engagements and doing pace sessions on the road – despite what some people think about British Columbia, it gets pretty warm here, and I have been very happy with the ventilation through the knit top.
I really like running without socks: in wet conditions it allows your feet to dry better, reducing trench-foot, and in the heat there is a little less insulation making for a more comfortable run – and both contributing to few blisters and other foot trauma. Sometimes, though, this exacts a toll; before my first run in my Escalantes, I had been hiking in my old Lone Peak 2.5s in muddy, dusty, intermittently wet, steep conditions… and my feet looked like non-runners expect feet to look after a 100 miler – raw, cut, bruised. However, it was really too hot, so I decided to risk foregoing the socks again. I was rewarded by discovering that the Escalante is even more comfortable than the other Altras.
What am I planning to use my Escalantes for? Firstly, they are exclusively for road running: the soles are lighter than the other road shoes, and the knit side walls would not handle any but the lightest of trail use… meaning well maintained, flat gravel. Beyond that, I am looking to run my pace training runs in them, keeping them fresh for marathons that I want to do well in. Beyond 42km, I will likely want a bit more cushion and structure… but I will likely consider them for Comrades 2018.
Oh – and I am likely going to get a second pair for important first dates!
DISCLOSURE: I am an 2017 Altra Ambassador, and so get a discount on Altra shoes.