Altra Escalante 3 Review

The Altra Escalante started life in the middle of the barefoot running craze and was very popular because it offered a broad rounded toe box and Zero Drop with some cushioning. This week we’ve reviewed the latest Altra Escalante 3. A lot of runners using barefoot shoes found that they liked the more natural way these shoes let you run, but on long runs and over months of training they were getting sore feet. The cushioning in the Escalante stopped the sore feet and therefore became the go-to shoe for a lot of runners looking for a shoe that allowed your feet to function.

The trend in running shoes has moved away from barefoot-like shoes, where the shoes allow your foot to function inside the shoe, to more maximal shoes with rockers and propulsion plates. However, this hasn’t affected the popularity of the Escalante.

The Escalante 3 is the fifth version of the Escalante, as Altra go up in 0.5’s. In that time there have been a few changes but the essence of the shoe has remained. The Escalante 3 is still a Zero Drop shoe with a broad rounded toe box. The fit is very similar to the Escalante 2.5. There is a little bit more width and height in the toe box. The upper is still an engineered mesh, which has a lovely soft feel. This gives the Escalante it’s slipper type feel.

The stack height remains 24mm but the Ego midsole in the Escalante 3 feels a bit softer than in the Escalante 2.5. The base outsole is slightly wider in the heel and in the forefoot. The shoe is also slightly stiffer. The flaring of the outsole gives the shoes a more stable feel to the ride and for me moves them into the category of a training shoe rather than a racer/trainer, which is where I would categorise the Escalante 2.5. The Escalante 3 feels less barefoot/nimble so I enjoy the Escalante 3 for most of my road mileage. I’m using the Escalante Racer for sessions and faster running and the Escalante’s (through all the versions) as my everyday training shoe. The more trainer-like feel of the Escalante 3 isn’t an issue for me. If you are using the Escalante 2.5 for your faster runs then you might find that the Escalante 3 doesn’t feel quite as fast and responsive and maybe it’s time to experience the Racer.

This change to the feel of the Escalante is like the change in the Altra Superior 4.5 to Superior 5. The Altra Superior is in my opinion the trail version of the Escalante. The nimble, responsive feel of the older shoe has been tweaked to a more cushioned type of feel. Here is a link to our article on the Superior changes: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/altra-superior-5-vs-altra-superior-4-5/

The Escalante 3 eyelets are now wider apart and reinforced by plastic. There is also an extra hole at the back for those that butterfly lace their shoes to reduce any heel slippage. I found that this new lacing system gave a snugger fit over the top of the foot. The tongue and heel of the Escalante 3 also has more padding. The heel cup has no plastic in it so it takes the shape of your heel well.

The weight has increased slightly. The Escalante 3 weigh’s 263/219g for a men’s UK8/women’s UK5. The Escalante 2.5 was 241/196g. The increase in weight is mainly in the more padded, sturdy (and comfortable) upper.

Although the Altra Ego midsole that is used on the Escalante 3 gives a soft and bouncy feel the midsole certainly isn’t too soft. Your foot needs to ‘know’ that it has hit the ground in order to spread on impact and therefore function. If the midsole is too soft, then the foot doesn’t spread. The Escalante 3 strikes a good balance. They feel cushioned but still responsive enough for your feet to function naturally in the shoes.

I like the Escalante 3. They are easy to plod along in while doing the easy miles, as an experienced Zero Drop and more responsive running shoe user. They still feel light and my feet feel free to function. They are still responsive enough to pick the pace up if I want to or skip up the hills but the slight increase in stiffness and softness in comparison to the previous version makes them a better training shoe in my opinion.

All Altra shoes are Zero Drop. This means that they are the same height at the heel as they are in the forefoot. This is to encourage a more midfoot landing, which loads the foot better. The broad rounded toe box aka FootShape gives the foot the room to spread on impact, stabilising you. The foot then recoils and springs you into your next stride. If you aren’t used to shoes that allow your feet to function, then it’s a good idea to gradually increase the time you spend in the shoes, alternating with your current shoes. This way your feet and ankles will get used to the increased movement without getting overloaded.

In Summary I really enjoy regular miles in the new Altra Escalante 3 and for me it’s a light, everyday training shoe that allows you to run with good posture and provides that very important room for natural foot function.

Other Considerations
Hoka Rincon 3: The difference between the Hoka and Altra is that Altra shoes are designed to encourage your feet to work whereas Hoka shoes are designed to replace your feet. The Rincon 3 has a more pointed toe box and a very soft feel to the cushioning. The rocker in the shoes rolls the foot backwards to increase cadence. They are available in two widths. Here is a link to our review which will give you more information: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/hoka-rincon-3-review/

New Balance Tempo: These are 6mm from heel to forefoot with a soft feel to the cushioning but, still responsive and quick in feet. The toe box is narrow but the big toe line is straight to allow a good toe off: https://www.northernrunner.com/search/new-balance-tempo

Topo Fli-Lyte 4: These are the most similar in toe box shape to the Escalante. Topo’s have a similar concept in that they make shoes that allow your feet to function. The heel to forefoot drop of the Fli-Lyte 4 is 3mm. They have a firmer more responsive feel. Here is a link to our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/topo-athletic-fli-lyte-4-review/

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