Altra Escalante 3 Review – A classic reimagined

Altra Escalante 3 ($150)

Introduction

Today, we have an absolute classic on tap for review: The Altra Escalante! As for the designation, you shouldn’t be confused by the “3”. This is already the fifth version of the model that has stolen its way into the hearts of many runners since its introduction in 2017.

The introduction of the Escalante was also the launch of the EGOTM midsole material, which boasted extra energy return and durability. Right from the start and with almost every new release this shoe has been the subject of much controversy. This probably stems from the fact that it has undergone extensive changes over the years.

I myself have not had any points of contact with the model since the Escalante 1, as the shoe did not meet my stability needs at the time. Since then, however, a lot has happened in this regard. A new upper material, as well as the geometry of the midsole and outsole of this year’s version promised a more stable ride and made me curious. So of course I had to grab myself a pair and put it through its paces!

Pros: 

EGOTM is as lively and resilient as ever

More stable running performance due to new midsole and outsole design

All-around comfortable feel

Cons:

The Escalante gains 20 grams in weight compared to the last version

Knit uppers aren’t the best for running in summer heat


Data

Weight: 

Official: Men’s 9.3 oz / 263 g (US 9) / Women’s 7.7 oz / 219 g (US 8)

Samples: Men’s 10.2 oz / 290 g  (US 11)
Stack Height: 24 mm heel / 24 mm forefoot (0 mm drop)

Available now at our partner:

Running Warehouse US HERE, EU HERE (140,on sale for 135.99), Australia HERE

First impression, Fit

No doubt about it: The Escalante 3 is an absolute eye-catcher! The monochrome, stylish design with the dotted laces as an accent I like very much and I can imagine that many runners will feel the same way. There are currently 4 colorways available at Running Warehouse EU and US.

The first time I tried them on, I noticed that the shoe runs large. And I don’t mean the comfortably wide toe box that comes with Altra’s standard fit, but the length of the shoe. The insole measures 29.5 cm in length, which is on the upper end of the scale for my usual size (US 11 / EU 45). There is also the vertical volume that shoes like the Rivera and Vanish Tempo lack. Overall, I wish I had chosen a half size smaller.

All that spare room has a positive effect: the feel of the Escalante 3 is very comfortable from the get-go. I don’t feel even the slightest bit of pressure anywhere, and the familiar EGOTM midsole hasn’t lost any of its comfortable characteristics either. Although I didn’t really run in the Escalante 1, I still used it as a walk-aorund shoe for a long time. I imagine our test subject today will make just as phenomenal a walking shoe. First, though, it’s a matter of putting the Escalante 3 through its running paces!

Upper

The knit material that distinguishes the Escalante from other Altra shoes has stayed with us in the fifth version. It is quite dense and not as elastic as its predecessors, providing better support than the early versions. In the heel and midfoot area, the upper is subtly reinforced and padded.

The laces, which are sometimes quite long on Altra, are the perfect length here and aren’t very stretchy. Also, the extra lace hole that was omitted from the Escalante 2.5 for some unknown reason is back! The tongue is much more padded and a bit stiffer than the thin one the Escalante had before. These changes help make the Escalante 3 feel much more secure.

Due to its density, the Escalante’s knit is unfortunately not very breathable, which is a problem in the heat of Germany’s southwest (up to 38 º C this year so far). If you need an upper that hugs the heel and midfoot tightly, the Escalante 3 is still not your shoe, although it offers much more support than its predecessors. All in all, we’re talking about an upper that excels in comfort but makes certain sacrifices in functionality.


Midsole

The midsole of the Escalante 3 has also changed, even if you might not suspect it at first glance. The stack height is still the same (24mm), but the foot now sits a little deeper in the foam than it did on the 2.5. In other words, the “sidewalls” of the sole are a bit higher. Also, the midsole is noticeably stiffer. It feels like this increases the energy return, but also means that you have to break in the Escalante 3. At least that was the case for me.

Even after 5 years, EGOTM has its firm place in the now modernized range of midsole materials from Altra which in my opinion is completely justified! For me, the EVA-TPU compound is the perfect combination of soft, bouncy and durable. It may not have the luxurious, lush cushioning feel of EGO Max or PRO, but the Escalante doesn’t really aspire to compete with the likes of the Torin or Vanish Tempo, so that’s alright.

Outsole

The platform is clearly wider. Measurements of platform vs Escalante 2.5: Forefoot 11.8 cm (+ 0.2), Midfoot 7.9 cm (+ 0,8), Heel 8.7 cm (+0.6) . 

When we look at the outsole of the Escalante 3, we notice that possibly the biggest change has taken place here. The new arrangement of rubber segments is strongly reminiscent of the outsole of the Torin. According to the manufacturer, the segmentation (FootpodTM) maps the bones and tendons of the foot, which should lead to a more natural running motion.

After running about 50 kilometers, I see no signs of premature wear. Therefore, I assume that the outsole will be one of the last parts of the shoe to give way. Since it’s incredibly dry in my area at the moment, I haven’t had a chance to test the Escalante in the rain. In any case, on dry asphalt, gravel and dirt roads, I never had the feeling of slipping at any time.

As can be seen in the pictures, the platform has become a bit wider, which is another stabilizing factor. If you’ve been paying close attention so far, you’ll notice that the Escalante 3 has significantly more rubber material overall. As the heaviest material in a shoe obviously, this will affect the weight of a shoe. Weighing about 20 grams more than its predecessor, I wouldn’t necessarily call our test object a lightweight anymore, but rather a middleweight.

Ride

No other shoe I own is as comfortable on foot as the Escalante 3. I love to wear it all day which I actually do to some extent. By the way, this is what I’d recommend to all runners who do not yet have experience with zero drop shoes: Run slowly and short distances and otherwise break them in by walking around in them. But I digress.

The ride of the Escalante 3 has changed a lot since 2017. Back then, the shoe had a certain wildness (not to say instability) that put me off at first. In the fifth version, there is not much of that “youthful recklessness” left. This year’s Escalante is certainly more stable than its predecessors. I attribute this primarily to the changes in the mid- and outsole.

What I can say for sure is that the extra rubber on the outsole has a positive effect on energy return. Curiously, the 20 gram weight increase doesn’t really bother me when running. If you like to feel the road, but don’t want to sacrifice cushioning entirely, you can’t really go wrong with the Escalante 3. All in all, the shoe feels like a luxury sedan that you would ride around casually, but surprises you with a lively character when you put your foot on the gas.

Summary and Recommendations

With the Escalante 3, I have already tested 3 Altra road shoes this year (The other two: Altra Rivera 2, Vanish Tempo, with Torin 6 underway) and I must say that the brand  knows very well how to give each shoe a unique character. While the Rivera 2 is a shoe that feels good at any pace, the Vanish Tempo really  omes into its own during moderate to fast sessions. The Escalante again feels different, but makes it hard for me to categorize it.

The reason for this is probably that it has the lowest stack height of the three (24mm), but at the same time has a push upper, which is contradictory. Earlier variants of the Escalante got by with less upper material and thus could have still passed for a “minimalist” daily trainer or tempo shoe, depending on individual preference. As someone who struggled with the Escalantes of the past, I view the current trend toward more stability and comfort positively. However, I can imagine that other runners might be bothered by this.

Personally, I can run longer distances in the Escalante 3 than in its predecessors and would wear it for distances up to half marathons. The shoe also does tempo stuff, but I still don’t think that it is particularly well suited for sprinting or tight turns. So it is not a shoe for the track. With its added stability, I can imagine that this reinterpreted classic would also do well in the gym. I already mentioned that it shines as a casual shoe.

Score: 8: 2/10

Ride (50 %): 8 Lively midsole, more stable (but stiffer) than previous iterations 

Fit (30 %): 8 – Very comfortable upper, improved lockdown, wide and long in the front

Value (15 %): 9 – Built for longevity

Style (5 %): 9 – Smooth, classic look

Comparisons

Altra Rivera 2 (RTR Review)

The Rivera 2 has a much lighter upper, tighter fit (more comfortable for me because it locks down better), 2 millimeters more stack height and weighs about 30 grams less. This makes it the clear winner for me in almost all categories, except for the durability of the outsole, where the Rivera could learn a thing or two from the Escalante 3. Both shoes tested in size EU 45.

Altra Torin 6 (RTR Review)

This year’s Torin and Escalante are in roughly the same weight class, although the Torin offers four millimeters more cushioning material and is also equipped with EGO MaxTM. As far as moderate, longer distances are concerned, the Torin clearly has the edge. For short, faster units, I would still rather reach for the Escalante. Both shoes tested in size EU 45.

Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 4 (RTR Review)

I believe the Escalante and the Fli-Lyte were originally created for the same purpose. Both are moderately cushioned shoes designed to encourage a natural range of motion and seem like a relic in the age of “Superfoams” and shoes with 40 millimeter stack heights. Today, this original premise is now much better implemented by the Fli-Lyte 4 simply because of its more functional upper and 55 grams less in weight. However, when it comes to outsole durability and midsole resistance, the Escalante leads. Both shoes tested in size EU 45.

Link to all RTR reviews: HERE