First Look: Altra Escalante

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I’ve been casting around for a road shoe for some time. Over the last year or so, I’ve tried the Altra Torin 2.0/2.5, New Balance Zante, Mizuno Wave Hitogami, and Altra One 2.5. While each has been serviceable, none has really hit the mark.

Enter the Altra Escalante. After a particularly disappointing experience with the One 2.5 (the ride was perfect but the heel cup rubbed my achilles raw), I bit the bullet and bought a full-priced, recently-released shoe.

Out of the box, the Escalante has a more conventional appearance than many Altras. The toe box shape isn’t as notable. The one distinctive feature is the knit upper. It took me a few glances to get my head around the fact that there are no seams or overlays. The look is pleasingly low-key.

Like most Altra shoes I’ve tried, the feel upon trying on the Escalante is instant comfort. They don’t have quite the “I’m going wear these as slippers” feel of the Torin 2.0, but I wasn’t in any hurry to get them off my feet. These shoes are soft! And while the knit upper is snug along the top of my toes, there’s plenty of give.

My first run the Escalante was a relaxed-pace jaunt through my neighborhood of about 4 miles with 300′ of gentle climbing. The plush cushion is quite notable. They ride somewhere between the fresh foam of the Zante and the Hoka Clifton. In fact, compared to the One 2.5, I thought they were a little too soft. I was able to readily pick up the pace without feeling like the pillowy midsole interfered. On the other hand,  During a few strides down to 6:00 pace near the end the Escalante responded somewhat sluggishly, even compared to the amply cushioned Torin. I’ll have to see how that plays out on faster workouts over the next few weeks. The knit upper was a bit of an odd sensation. My feet flexed against the sides and top of the shoe, particularly on downhills. That being stated, the flex was in the just enough range, always responding before things turned sloppy.

I decided to do my next run in my Altra Lone Peak 3.0. The perhaps overly soft ride of the Escalante made me appreciate the Abound midsole of the LP 3. The LP 3 will likely remain my go-to for longer runs, which means I’ll be sticking to gravel roads and trail rather than pounding asphalt if I decide to train for a marathon.

Overall, I’m reasonably happy with the Altra Escalante. While I can’t say I’ve fallen in love, they have their positive qualities in terms of comfort and novel ride. I’m hoping they’ll grow on me over the next few runs and will update as needed.

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