Altra Escalante Review
The Altra Escalante is a wonderful shoe. It's one of the few shoes that using TPU foam rather than the traditional EVA foam. This TPU foam should last much longer than EVA foam, but it also can feel quite a lot bouncier. I was a little disappointed by the Saucony Freedom which seemed a little dead in its responsiveness, whereas the Escalante has a really nice spring to its feel. It's also quite close to being zero drop, and unusually is actually slightly negative drop, with the forefoot higher than the heel. The upper is a nice, stretchable material, though it's not terribly breathable. The toe box shape matches the human foot, but like many Altra shoes, I find there is not enough height in the toe box. The cushioning-to-weight ratio is right up there with the Hoka Clifton, a remarkable feat. This is the best cushioning to weight ratio I've seen in a TPU midsole shoe, in spite of the weight savings Saucony put into the upper on their Freedom shoe. The Escalante is one of those rare shoes that makes you want to go for a run, or to run further, even when you know you're too tired. Putting it on after wearing other shoes gives me a sense of comfort and excitement, and I regret that the need to test other shoes means I have to put them to one side for a while. I rated the Escalate as "best of the best" and is my highest rated all round running shoe. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)
- Adidas Energy Boost and Saucony Freedom and it's a relatively new technology. The idea is that TPU provides more spring than EVA foam and it lasts longer. The Escalante is better cushioned than the Boost, and quite a bit lighter. Like the Boost, it has the springy, bouncy feel that makes TPU cushioning so attractive. The level of cushioning is actually up there with the massively cushioned Hoka shoes, and it's virtually the same as the Hoka Odyssey. The Escalante provides this level of cushioning with a midsole that is much thinner (25mm compared with 45mm in the Odyssey), so you don't have the stilt effect that can create additional stress on the ankles. Other than being nicely springy, I didn't find the cushioning was strange or unusual, unlike the Freedom that was just slightly weird. The Escalante has a moderately thick insole, but it seems to be rather more resilient than some shoes I've tried.
- . Altra always claim issues a zero drop, but typically I find they're out by just a few millimeters. The Escalante is actually a slightly negative drop shoe, with the forefoot higher than the heel. I doubt if many runners will notice this, as it only about a millimeter. I found that overall, the Escalante felt very natural under foot, and the almost zero-drop is part of the success.
- . There's nothing about the Escalante to interfere with your running form. The midsole is slightly higher under the arch, but this shouldn't be enough to make contact, or create pressure that could irritate the plantar fascia. There is no medial post or other structures that would try to limit pronation.
- . The Escalante is quite flexible, and the forefoot is springy; I'm not sure if that really improves running economy, but it certainly doesn't hurt. The gaps in the rubber outsole allow the forefoot to bend evenly, rather than causing a crease in a specific area.
- . As you can see from the pictures above, the Escalante has harder rubber outsole under most of the sole of the shoe. This hard rubber actually protrudes a few millimeters, so I've seen no evidence of midsole abrasion at all. The shape of the sole does not create any stone traps.
- cut open the toe box. When looking from above, the shape of the shoe matches the human foot reasonably well, though like all Altra shoes it's a little exaggerated, and there is not quite enough room for the smallest toes. If you look at the shoe from the side, there is not quite enough headroom, but that wasn't too much of an issue with the Escalante. Overall, the shape was good enough that I didn't have to cut open the toe box, though issues with the upper did cause me to open the Escalante up (see below). . The shape of the Escalante means that there is relatively little reason to
- Altra Instinct 2 feel a bit like a skateboarding shoe. The main issue with the upper is that the toe box upper folds down during toe off and pressed on my toes. This was not a major problem, but I found it did make my toes ache slightly. After about 200 miles in the Escalante, I gave in and cut open the toe box. I was surprised how much difference it made; it's a bit like a slight headache that you don't really notice until it's gone. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
- . The Escalante has a traditional styled tongue that is sown in along one edge to keep it in place. I think this is probably one of the best approach is to tongue design. There is no padding in the tongue at all, but the material that used seems to spread the forces fairly well, so I don't think many runners will have an issue with the laces irritating the top of the foot.
- . The Escalante has flat laces that work reasonably well, but they're a little slick, and I had a few occasions where they came undone mid-run.
- . The Escalante has only a slightest hint of a heel counter, and unless you probe carefully you're unlikely to detect it. While I'd rather there was no heel counter at all, this is one of the more benign designs.
2 Update after 240 Miles
I've really enjoyed my first 240 miles in the Escalante. It's been a truly wonderful shoe to run in, and I've been struggling to move on to the other shoes I need to test. Not only has the Escalante proved to be remarkably well cushioned for its weight, the springiness of the TPU foam has made it feel remarkably responsive as well. I cut open the toe box at 150 miles which greatly improved the comfort for my toes, but I doubt if many runners will have to do that. I have had reports of the toe box upper causing other runners some issues, so I'm not alone in having issues. I've also had a report of one runner finding the tongue a little too thin so the laces irritate the top of their foot. Otherwise I've heard only good things from the running community. As you can see from the photo below, there is very little wear on the outsole, and the upper shows no signs of abrasion either. There is a tiny bit of midsole compression under the ball of the foot, but it's so minor it's hard to detect. There's a little bit more compression of the insole under the ball of the foot, but at the 200 mile mark it's not enough for me to consider Replacement Insoles. So far, the Escalante is living up to the longevity promise of the TPU foam, and is one of my favorite running shoes.
3 Update after 320 Miles
At 320 miles, the Escalante are showing their age. The good news is that the upper looks perfect, and there's almost no signs of wear on the outsole. I've highlighted a couple of minor wear patches, but they are very minor.
The bad news is that the insole is completely dead and the midsole is starting to compress. The Escalante has a relatively substantial insole that was about 5mm thick when it was new, but it's now collapsed under the ball of my foot so that it's only about 1mm thick post run. Like most foam, it will bounce back a little if you don't wear the shoes for a few days, but it collapses again quite quickly when you wear them again. I've used Replacement Insoles to offset this, and the Inov-8 6mm insole works reasonably well. It's not quite the same shape as the original, but it's pretty close. Even though it's a 6mm insole, it's also not as thick as the original. This is partly because the Inov-8 6mm insole is only 4.5mm thick in the forefoot, and partly because it's slightly corrugated, to the effective thickness is probably more like 3mm. The Sof Sole Athlete insole also works quite well, making the Escalante much softer (possibly too soft for some.) It also adds a couple of millimeters of drop and about 1 oz of weight.
Unfortunately, there's also some compression of the foam midsole, with a noticeable depression under the ball of my foot. The TPU foam has lasted longer than the traditional EVA foam, but it has its limits. I think that the replacement insoles can give the Escalante a little more life, but I suspect the end is in sight.
4 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes
For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.
|Full Review||Name||Rating|| Recommended
|Asics 33-DFA Review||33-DFA||Worth considering||$90||5.7||10.6||16.5||27||27||0||6.1||5|
|Saucony Type A6 Review||A6||Highly Recommended||$100||8.2||6.1||9.5||17||21||4||5.0||7|
|Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review||Adios||Worth considering||$140||4.7||8.6||13.4||17||27||11||4.0||6|
|Merrell Bare Access||Bare Access||Review Pending||$95||5.0||7.2||17.8||15||12||-2||3.6||7|
|Hoka Bondi 5 Review||Bondi||Recommended||$150||6.1||11.6||18.1||38||42||5||7.1||2|
|Hoka Clayton Review||Clayton||Best of the Best||$150||8.8||8.3||12.9||26||30||3||7.3||4|
|Hoka Clifton 3 Review||Clifton3||Best of the Best||$130||9.1||9.8||15.3||34||38||3||8.9||5|
|On Cloudracer Review||Cloudracer||Worth considering||$130||5.7||8.2||12.8||19||27||5||4.7||7|
|Hoka Conquest Review||Conquest||Worth considering||$170||5.0||11.9||18.5||28||34||5||6.0||2|
|Saucony Cortana 4 Review||Cortana||Worth considering||$150||4.4||9.9||18.7||22||28||5||4.3||4|
|Mizuno Wave Cruise Review||Cruise||Worth considering||$120||6.6||5.9||12.5||17||20||7||3.9||6|
|Newton Distance IV Review||Distance||Worth considering||$155||7.5||9.1||14.2||26||31||3||6.8||5|
|Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review||DS Racer||Worth considering||$110||8.2||7.0||10.9||21||26||6||5.8||5|
|Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review||Ekiden||Worth considering||$115||5.7||5.7||14.6||13||18||6||3.2||8|
|Saucony Endorphin 2 Review||Endorphin 2||Review Pending||$115||7.4||5.5||10.2||15||13||-1||4.1||8|
|Adidas Energy Boost Review||Energy||Worth considering||$160||7.2||10.0||15.6||20||30||7||7.2||5|
|Altra Escalante Review||Escalante||Best of the Best||$130||9.1||8.7||13.5||28||25||-1||7.9||6|
|Puma Faas 100 R Review||Faas 100||Highly Recommended||$90||8.4||6.1||9.4||15||20||1||5.1||8|
|Saucony Fastwitch Review||Fastwitch||Highly Recommended||$90||9.5||7.1||11.1||20||22||4||6.8||7|
|Topo Fli-Lyte Review||Fli-Lyte||Highly Recommended||$100||6.0||9.4||14.6||23||24||4||5.6||5|
|Nike Free 4.0 Review||Free||Recommended||$120||5.3||8.2||13.6||24||30||6||4.4||5|
|Saucony Freedom Review||Freedom||Recommended||$160||5.4||10.7||16.6||25||29||3||5.8||6|
|Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review||Gel Lyte||Not recommended||$90||8.0||7.3||11.4||17||24||4||5.8||9|
|Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review||GOmeb 3||Worth considering||$120||6.9||8.1||12.6||20||24||4||5.5||8|
|Skechers GORun 4 Review||GORun||Not recommended||$100||6.1||7.5||11.7||15||23||3||4.5||7|
|Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review||GRU||Worth considering||$90||7.5||10.0||15.6||28||34||8||7.5||4|
|Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review||GRU-R||Worth considering||$105||6.5||11.3||17.6||30||40||6||7.4||6|
|Asics GT 2000 Review||GT 2000||Not recommended||$120||4.8||11.2||17.4||28||35||5||5.4||2|
|New Balance Hanzo S||Hanzo||Review Pending||$110||7.6||6.9||10.7||21||19||2||5.2||5|
|Hoka Hupana Review||Hupana||Recommended||$115||6.1||8.9||13.9||31||36||7||5.4||4|
|Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review||Hyper Speed||Highly Recommended||$75||10.9||6.3||9.8||22||26||5||6.8||6|
|Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review||Instinct 3.5||Recommended||$115||4.9||9.3||15.2||24||23||0||4.5||5|
|Altra Instinct 4.0 Review||Instinct 4.0||Worth considering||$120||6.0||9.8||15.3||29||25||-1||5.9||5|
|Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review||Kainos||Worth considering||$130||10.0||6.9||10.7||17||27||9||6.8||6|
|Saucony Kinvara 8 Review||Kinvara 8||Review Pending||$110||9.3||8.6||13.4||26||31||3||8.0||5|
|Nike LunaRacer 4 Review||LunaRacer||Recommended||$90||9.9||7.0||10.9||22||30||7||6.9||5|
|Nike LunarSpider R5 Review||LunarSpider||Recommended||$125||6.9||6.7||10.4||17||21||3||4.6||6|
|Hoka Mafate Speed Review||Mafate||Best of the Best||$170||7.6||11.9||18.5||39||40||4||9.0||1|
|Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review||N0||Highly Recommended||$100||7.9||6.5||10.1||14||20||4||5.2||8|
|Saucony Nomad Review||Nomad||Review Pending||$110||4.3||10.5||17.2||25||27||2||4.5||4|
|Hoka Odyssey Review||Odyssey||Highly Recommended||$130||8.5||9.4||14.6||37||45||5||8.0||3|
|Altra Olympus Review||Olympus||Highly Recommended||$130||5.4||11.8||18.4||27||27||3||6.4||3|
|Altra One 2.5 Review||One||Highly Recommended||$100||8.5||7.1||11.1||22||25||2||6.0||7|
|Altra Paradigm Review||Paradigm||Highly Recommended||$130||6.4||9.9||15.4||25||25||1||6.4||2|
|Asics Piranha SP 5 Review||Piranha||Recommended||$100||10.1||4.2||6.5||11||15||3||4.2||9|
|Brooks PureFlow 5 Review||PureFlow||Worth considering||$110||6.0||9.7||15.1||26||29||5||5.8||8|
|Salming Race Review||Race||Worth considering||$130||6.9||6.5||10.1||16||19||4||4.5||6|
|New Balance RC1600 v2 Review||RC1600||Highly Recommended||$110||8.8||5.6||8.7||15||21||5||4.9||8|
|New Balance RC5000 Review||RC5000||Best of the Best||$125||12.2||3.4||5.3||13||17||3||4.2||8|
|New Balance RC5000v2 Review||RC5000v2||Best of the Best||$125||14.2||4.0||6.2||13||21||6||5.7||7|
|Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review||Ride||Worth considering||$85||5.9||8.5||13.2||18||28||6||5.0||8|
|Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review||RXT-220||Worth considering||$120||5.2||8.0||18.2||14||17||3||4.2||8|
|Topo ST-2 Review||ST-2||Highly Recommended||$90||8.2||7.3||11.4||20||18||0||6.0||7|
|Hoka Stinson Lite Review||Stinson||Highly Recommended||$160||7.3||11.6||18.1||35||40||6||8.5||0|
|Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review||Streak LT||Best of the Best||$80||8.8||5.4||8.4||16||21||4||4.8||5|
|Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review||Takumi Sen 3||Highly Recommended||$160||7.7||6.6||10.2||17||21||4||5.1||5|
|Altra Torin 2.0 Review||Torin||Worth considering||$125||5.8||9.6||14.9||28||25||-1||5.5||4|
|Hoka Tracer Review||Tracer||Recommended||$130||7.2||7.4||11.5||21||24||2||5.3||5|
|Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review||Trail Glove||Best of the Best||$100||2.9||6.9||24.7||11||11||0||2.0||8|
|Topo Tribute Review||Tribute||Recommended||$100||5.9||7.3||11.4||20||18||-1||4.3||6|
|Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review||Universe||Highly Recommended||$125||10.7||3.1||10.6||9||12||1||3.3||9|
|Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review||Vapor Glove||Highly Recommended||$85||2.1||6.1||27.6||6||5||0||1.3||10|
|New Balance Vazee Pace Review||Vazee Pace||Worth considering||$110||6.0||8.6||13.4||18||24||6||5.2||5|
|Asics TartherZeal 3 Review||Zeal||Worth considering||$140||10.9||6.3||9.8||17||27||9||6.8||6|
It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.