The Altra Escalante racer is the stripped down version of the popular Escalante road shoe. It uses a firmer EGO midsole material and a lightweight engineered knit mesh upper.
As the name states, this shoe is geared toward racing. It’s built on what Altra calls the PFS Performance last which is designed for a snug, high performance fit.
The Escalante racer models are marathon themed. There is a unique colorway for the Boston, New York City and Chicago marathons.
I received the Chicago themed shoe and I have to say it’s a very sharp looking shoe. It weighs in at 7.4 oz, features a wide toe box and 0 mm heel to toe drop.
Putting the shoe on for the first time I was immediately impressed by a few things. The weight, the fit, and the wider toe box.
This would be my first experience with zero drop shoes and the Altra brand so I was excited to give something different a try.
Altra Escalante Racer Sole Unit
The racer uses a firmer and thinner EGO midsole material than the traditional escalante. This gives the midsole a thin layer of firm and responsive cushioning.
There are flex grooves built into the midsole and outsole to allow your foot to flex naturally. I found the foam to be very responsive.
The shoe provides the minimum amount of cushion necessary to maintain comfort in a marathon based on my own personal preferences. The overall ride of the escalate racer is firm and responsive.
The foam provides great energy return. I am used to running in much softer cushioning than what this shoe provides but I found the weight and responsiveness of the midsole made it a pleasurable shoe to run in.
The outsole is made of a blown rubber material. It has held up well so far. One thing I noticed about the outsole is that the rubber can feel slippery at times. I noticed this the most while running on a cold rainy morning.
There are shoes I run in during this type of weather that I am fully confident in and don’t feel the need to be acutely aware of the potential for slipping. This was not one of them.
I found myself second guessing the grip of this rubber often on the particular run I am referring to because it did not feel secure.
It is worth noting that this run involved multiple downhill sections and that I did not experience this in flatter areas.
The roads near my house are either up or down most of the time. I do not foresee this being an issue on a flat surface.
I don’t want to turn this review into an article about zero drop but I do have some thoughts and perspective to offer as a first timer below:
It did not take me long to transition into this zero drop shoe. I have read elsewhere to be careful to transition slowly when first starting out in a zero drop.
My first 4 mile run was at a very relaxed pace and I felt no effects after the run on my calves or anywhere on my legs. A few more runs at a faster pace and I could feel the fatigue in different muscles than usual.
I imagine this is what people are talking about when they talk about the transition.
I think most people would know this but if you were looking for a fast racing shoe, you’d definitely want to break them in and get used to zero drop before using them in a race.
The most interesting thing I noticed about this type of shoe is that I could actually feel the way it was changing my form. What that change was I can’t say for sure but there was a definite change.
It was as if my usual running form was not efficient enough and I was needing to use different muscles to maintain forward momentum and that was inefficient.
I felt as if my body was naturally trying to find the most efficient way to correct it. I’m not a barefoot/natural/born-to-run fanatic that likes to run in vibram 5 fingers and sandals but I could actually feel this shoe changing my form a bit, which surprised me.
This was most noticeable when running downhill. I could not rely on the the thicker heel section of my shoes for cushioning. In the Altra’s I actually felt the need to slow down when going downhill at first.
I just was not leaning forward enough. I found it very interesting how much they force you to change your form.
After some experimenting I realized that If I leaned forward and increased turnover I could run downhill just as fast as i expected to. The shoes don’t let you get away with sloppy form, especially downhill.
Altra Escalante Racer Upper Info
The Escalante Racer’s upper provides a snug sock like fit through the heel and midfoot. It opens up extra wide in the toe area as is customary of Altra brand shoes.
The upper is made of a thin layer of engineered knit mesh with wider than usual openings to enhance breathability.
Breathability would have to be considered an understatement with this shoe. It is well above average when it comes to breathability.
The materials used in this upper are not much thicker than a thick sock so when I say “sock like” I truly do mean it. It feels snug in the heel and midfoot but is perfectly comfortable.
The snug heel and midfoot fit gives you the ability to lock your foot in place. Once you tie them, your foot isn’t going anywhere without untying and taking them off.
This is what runners expect in the upper of a racing shoe and it’s done very well in the Escalante racer. Overall the upper is as comfortable as an upper can get in my opinion. It includes only what you need and maintains comfort.
As previously stated, this is my first experience with Altra. That also means it’s my first experience with the highly praised wide toe box of an Altra upper.
I have to admit that I think I may have underestimated the comfort of having a large amount of room for your toes. The forefoot/toe area is completely unrestrictive.
I can see why some people might have trouble switching back to a traditional running shoe after running in a shoe like this. The snug sock like fit and wider toe box are an excellent combination.
Altra Escalante Racer Conclusions
Overall I think this is a solid 5 star racing shoe that fulfills its exact purpose. It’s got an incredibly comfortable upper and a fast responsive midsole.
I really think this shoe would work for anybody looking for a racing shoe. This is an easy choice as a marathon shoe if you are used to running in a shoe with a lower heel to toe drop.
Due to the duration I am usually running for during ultramarathon distances (yes I know, just run faster), I often end up running in more cushioned shoes than this.
Surprisingly I didn’t have any issues with this firm riding racer. The Escalante Racer is at the top of my list as a go-to racing shoe for the marathon distance and below.
We purchased a pair of Altra Escalante Racer from runningwarehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.