Altra Escalante Racer Review | Zero Drop & FootShape Responsive Road Shoes

In the middle of a pandemic when there are very few races to take part in, it seems strange to be reviewing a racing shoe! However, the Altra Escalante Racer is for much more than just competition.

Like all Altra shoes, the Escalante Racer is Zero Drop. This means that there is no raised heel. They are designed to allow your foot to land more naturally on your midfoot. The shoes also have a broad and rounded toe box, which Altra trademarked as ‘FootShape’. This is to allow your feet the room to spread on impact and absorb shock to spring you into your next stride. The firmer, more responsive midsole in the Escalante range makes it easy to get into a quick cadence. This doesn’t mean that they are hard or totally lacking cushioning. They were originally designed for racing marathons, so there is a 22mm thick Altra ‘Ego’ midsole to give you a good amount of responsive cushion. The shoe is flexible, but still provides a stable enough, solid platform for you to push off from.

The upper of the Escalante Racer is knitted and seamless, with no stitching to rub parts of your foot after many miles. The upper is designed not to stretch on this road shoe designed for quicker sessions, to help hold you onto the midsole even when cornering at higher speeds. The fit is snugger around the heel and midfoot than many other Altra shoes too for this reason, but still has that nice roomy feel in the toe box. Once you get used to your toes spreading on impact and using this space as nature intended, other shoes start to feel pretty cramped!

The Escalante Racer remains Altra’s most responsive road running shoe. This shoe started its life as a limited-edition shoe made to celebrate a few of the major marathons. Demand was such that the Escalante Racer has become part of Altra’s inline range of shoes and is now available consistently. This is good news for those who like a more responsive shoe to train and race in.

In my opinion the feature that made the Altra Escalante Racer a popular shoe is its responsiveness and subsequent immediate ‘feedback’ you get to correct your running form and posture. If you run sloppily in these shoes, they will respond by making a slapping noise and feel hard. If you lift yourself up a bit and increase your cadence, you instantly feel lighter on your feet and can glide along nicely. Softer, more cushioned shoes (even Zero Drop ones) are more forgiving to imperfect form. The softer cushioning irons out the imperfections. Therefore it’s a good idea to use a softer, more cushioned shoe for your slow and plodding recovery runs and a firmer, more responsive shoe like the Racer for your faster running.

We’ve found a lot of runners prefer doing all of their running in a shoe as firm and responsive as the Altra Escalante Racer. It allows you to work on your running style even when you are running slow recovery runs. The downside of this is that your feet and lower legs do work harder than they would in a softer, more cushioned shoe. If you decide to start doing this then you would need to build up the distance and regularity of your runs gradually, allowing your body to recover in between runs.

As the Zero Drop and FootShape toe box encourage your feet and lower legs to work more than they may have before, it’s a good idea to gradually increase the time you spend in these shoes. This is easily done by warming up for your speedwork in other shoes and then just using the Altra Escalante Racers for the faster running. Then try warming down in your regular shoes. It’s common to get some soreness in your feet and lower legs to start with, as with any muscles that haven’t been worked as hard before. Once this subsides you can then start using the shoes for longer, steadier running too. This helps you get used to the feeling of cruising along with the same style and posture as you intend to use when you are racing.

The 2020 version of the Escalante Racer is the same fit and feel as the previous versions. Which is great as they are a popular shoe.

Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle

Other Considerations
Topo ST 3: Zero drop, broad rounded toe box. A looser fit than the Escalante. More flexible and a bit less cushioning:

New Balance Tempo: Here is our review:

Hoka Rincon: Maybe more of a racer trainer than a racer and softer feeling than the other in this list. However, they are very flexible and allow the foot to function in the shoes.

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