If you’re a running fan like me, Christopher McDougall’s 2009 blockbuster Born to Run has likely made its way onto your reading list.
Among the countless fascinating running stories it shares, one of the arguments that the book makes is that some running injuries may be exacerbated by ineffective running shoe technology.
Although the claim has not been fully supported by medical science and has been hotly debated in the running community since its release, it is a claim with which Altra running would likely agree.
With its focus on creating zero-drop, FootShape, “minimalist” running shoes, Altra is an industry leader in designing running shoes that optimize the body’s natural movements.
In today’s Altra Escalante 3 review, we will take a deep dive into the company’s latest iteration of its flagship everyday trainer, and see what sets it apart from its predecessors.
Altra Escalante 3 Overview
Founded on a philosophy of promoting natural movement, Altra running shoes are distinct for what they don’t have–a lot of fancy features and technology promising to cure all of your running problems.
And as arguably the company’s signature shoe and premier everyday trainer, the Escalante line embodies Altra running to the letter. Its zero drop midsole, FootShape toe box, and modest 24mm stack are all features that make the Escalante 3 decidedly “Altra.”
In this latest iteration of its signature line, runners have noted a bit more robust knit upper; a firmer, cradle-like EGO midsole; and a wider outsole that makes the shoe a tad heavier.
So what do runners love about the Escalante 3?
- The EGO midsole foam blends the lines between comfort and responsiveness
- Shorter laces create a less distracting running experience
- Wider outsole design increases feelings of stability
On the flip side, there are a few features of the latest model that have some runners longing for a throwback, including:
- The knit upper runs a bit warm for some runners’ liking
- The new outsole design has added a bit of weight to the shoe
For a more detailed breakdown on how the Escalante 3 stacks up, keep reading for a look at some of the most pertinent purchase criteria!
Runners have always felt like Altra shoes score high for durability, and the Escalante 3 is no exception.
It perfectly balances the lines between “just enough” and “not too much.” There is enough EGO foam in the midsole to provide sufficient cushioning as the miles add up, as well as strategically placed outsole rubber to keep the shoe from getting destroyed by sharp objects.
However, staying true to the minimalist nature of Altra products, there is not a lot of fancy technology that runs the risk of breaking down at an expedited rate.
Expect to get 400 or more miles out of the Escalante 3.
The Escalante 3 features a knit upper and built-in sock liner that gives the shoe a very snug, secure fit. This is an important aspect, since the spacious FootShape toe box can leave some runners feeling like their foot is a bit lost in a pair of Altras.
The one downside that some runners note is that the knit upper feels a bit oppressive. It may not leave the foot feeling as airy and fresh as some more lightly stitched engineered mesh products.
The Escalante 3 uses EGO foam in the midsole. While it is not the most robust EVA midsole foam on the market, it provides enough shock absorption for comfortable everyday runs.
The shoe also features extra padding around the tongue and heel area, making for a soft wearing experience.
The Escalante 3 is not a stability shoe. There are no GuideRails or any other built-in features that help prevent pronation.
With that said, the philosophy behind Altra shoes is that their minimalist design allows your body to activate and develop its own stability mechanisms. By designing shoes that allow the foot to move naturally, runners are (in theory) able to find their correct path of motion and develop the foot muscles that will help prevent injuries caused by pronation.
Most runners feel like the Escalante 3 runs true to size, with some even feeling like the shoe runs a bit large. This is more than just more space in the forefoot from the FootShape toe box–some runners actually feel like the Escalante 3 is a bit longer than most running shoes.
So when shopping the Escalante 3, it might be one of the rare cases where it is not recommended to size up half a size for a running shoe.
Depending on the outlet you shop, expect to find the Altra Escalante 3 between $120 and $140, putting it right in line with the going rate for a high-end everyday trainer.
Now that you know about the key purchase consideration points of the Escalante 3, let’s dive deeper into the engineering of the upper, midsole, and outsole.
Altra Escalante 3 Engineering
The Altra Escalante 3 running shoe features a knit upper that promotes security and comfort. While this makes the upper a bit on the bulky side and less stretchy than similar running shoes, it offers better support than other shoes in its class.
In the heel and midfoot area, the upper is lightly padded to add to the cozy sensation of the shoe. The laces are the perfect length and not as stretchy as earlier versions of the shoe, a point that many runners love after complaining of overly long laces in the previous models. Additionally, the extra lace hole, which was omitted from the Escalante 2.5, is back.
The tongue is also quite padded, contributing to the shoe’s secure feel. And don’t forget the FootShape toe box for which Altra shoes are known, giving ample space for the toes to splay during runs.
Despite the premier comfort and security features of the upper, the knit fabric of the Escalante 3 is not very breathable due to its dense stitching, which can be problematic in warm weather and during high intensity sessions.
At the end of the day, if you are looking for an upper that excels in comfort and support, the Escalante 3 is ideal. However, if lightweight breathability is your primary focus, then it will not be as strong an option as some other products.
The midsole of the Escalante 3 has been updated, although the changes may not be immediately noticeable. The stack height remains the same at 24mm, but the foot now rests deeper within the foam, creating a bit of a midsole cradle. Additionally, the midsole has a more rigid feel, which seems to promote energy return but requires a break-in period before reaching ideal comfort. It also employs proprietary InnerFlex midsole technology to promote flexibility and performance.
Many runners love this midsole for its balance between softness, responsiveness, and durability. The midsole is crafted with Altra’s innovative EGO midsole foam, engineered to provide a soft yet responsive ride. This EGO foam is highly durable, ensuring that the Escalante 3 can endure daily wear and tear while maintaining performance, making it a premier midsole for racking up a lot of miles. And like all Altra shoes, the zero-drop construction encourages a more natural running form, reducing stress on the joints and promoting better alignment.
Although the midsole of the Escalante 3 has many great features, there are a few things that some runners may not find ideal. The midsole may feel too rigid for some runners–especially those just coming from the Escalante 2.5. In addition, the break-in period can be uncomfortable for some. Finally, the Escalante 3 does not have the luxurious cushioning of some other Altra models, such as the Torin or Vanish Tempo, so it is not the most highly cushioned among the company’s midsoles.
The outsole of the Altra Escalante 3 has undergone a significant transformation compared to its predecessor. The most noticeable change is the new arrangement of rubber segments, which strongly resembles the outsole of the Altra Torin. According to Altra, this Footpod segmentation maps the bones and tendons of the foot, promoting a more natural running motion. Furthermore, the platform has become slightly wider, adding stability to the shoe.
Runners will appreciate several aspects of the outsole. First, the combination of durable rubber and Footpod technology provides excellent traction and grip on various surfaces, including wet and slippery roads. The outsole’s durability ensures that runners can enjoy the shoe for many miles. Additionally, the flex grooves allow the shoe to move and flex with the foot, resulting in a more natural and comfortable ride. Finally, the outsole is designed to absorb shock effectively, protecting the feet and joints from impact.
While the outsole of the Escalante 3 offers many advantages, there are a few points to keep in mind. The increased outsole rubber has resulted in a weight gain of close to an ounce compared to the previous model, making the shoe a middleweight rather than a lightweight shoe. Additionally, some runners may find the wider platform to be less responsive than the narrower platform of the Escalante 2.5.
Altra Escalante 3 vs Previous Versions
Don’t let the “3” fool you–this is actually the fifth iteration of the Escalante.
Despite maintaining the key features that make the Escalante the Escalante (lively EGO midsole, FootShape toe box), there are a couple of points that differentiate the Escalante 3 from previous models.
The upper is where most runners note the biggest shift from previous versions. The knit upper feels a bit more tightly stitched for enhanced snugness. Runners appreciate the shorter laces and an additional eyelet that was missing from the Escalante 2.5.
Runners also note that the EGO foam in the Escalante 3 feels a bit firmer than that of previous iterations, while the outsole crash pad is a bit wider, resulting in a slightly heavier shoe.
Alternative Altra Shoes to the Escalante 3
If you aren’t necessarily in the market for an everyday trainer but appreciate the design and philosophy of Altra shoes, here are some other Altra products that may better suit your needs.
Best for Long Distance Runs: Altra Torin 5
If you are a runner who likes to keep going for hours on end, the Altra Torin 5 is a great option. For maximum softness, the Torin 5 employs Altra’s plushest midsole foam, EGO MAX, resulting in a ride that many users describe as “pillowy.” The breathable mesh upper is complemented by a molded heel collar that enhances comfort and security, helping the Torin 5 feel soft and secure, mile after mile.
Best Stability: Altra Provision 6
The Altra Escalante 3 is a great running shoe for those looking for a lightweight, comfortable shoe that provides good cushioning. However, it is not a great stability shoe for runners with overpronation issues.
The Altra Provision 6 is a better stability shoe for runners with overpronation issues. It features a GuideRail design that gently corrects overpronation without interfering too much in your stride. The Provision 6 also has a two-pronged medial strap for an improved fit and a midsole made of Ego foam that delivers softness and good energy return.
Best for Fast Paced Runs: Altra Rivera 2
If you’re looking for a great shoe for up-tempo running, the Altra Rivera 2 is a great option. It is a moderately cushioned trainer that is designed for track days and tempo runs on the pavement. The Rivera 2 has a snug, supportive fit at midfoot, thanks to its slim FootShape and breathable mesh upper. The shoe also features EGO cushioning, which provides a responsive and energetic ride. The flexible midsole helps the shoe deliver a smooth ride that’s ideal for training at faster paces.
FAQ About the Altra Escalante 3
A sample of the most commonly asked questions regarding the Escalante 3.
Who Should Avoid the Escalante 3?
The Escalante 3 is not the ideal shoe for runners looking for a lot of “techy” features. If gaudy midsole stacks, large heel-to-toe drops, or the latest overpronation features are what you are looking for, the Escalante 3 is not the shoe for you.
Is the Escalante 3 Good For Heel Strikers?
The aim of Altra engineering is to create a minimalist experience that “inspires runners to move naturally.” This would insinuate that it is a better shoe for people with more of a sweeping, forefoot strike.
Is the Escalante 3 a Good Shoe for Runners With Injury Concerns?
We recently did an article on how zero-drop shoes can be a great option for runners dealing with symptoms of sesamoiditis.
However, the lack of heel-to-toe drop may cause the achilles tendon to elongate, causing achilles tendonitis flare-ups.
As always, if you have any serious injury concerns, it is best to consult with your physician for assistance in finding the best shoe for your condition.
Final Thoughts: Altra Escalante 3 Review
There you have it: the good, the bad, and the in-between of the Altra Escalante 3.
It has many of the same features that made the Escalante a staple everyday trainer on the shelf of minimalist running gurus. The zero-drop midsole and FootShape toe box allow the foot to act like a foot, while the EGO midsole foam and patterned outsole rubber keep the foot cushioned and protected from all types of surfaces.
If you have been looking to scale back the stack and find a shoe that promotes a more natural running experience, explore the Altra catalog and give the Escalante 3 a look today!