Monday, May 21, 2018

Gear Closet: Altra Escalante Running Shoes Review

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Altra running shoes. The company's "footshape" design and zero-drop approach fits my running style and comfort level perfectly. In fact, they've become my defect running shoe when I'm not testing something new. Recently, I've had more time for road running than trail running, which meant I was in need of something I could wear on the streets. Thankfully, Altra hooked me up with a new pair of their Escalante shoes, which have been fantastic for use during the spring conditions where I live.

Like all of the other shoes in Altra's line-up, the Escalante has been designed with the same principles  that have made the brand a favorite amongst serious runners – namely a fit that is meant to feel more natural on the foot. The result is a larger toe box that actually allows your digits to spread out as you run, providing better push-off for power and stability. These shoes also adhere to the zero-drop design, meaning that the heel and toe are on exactly the same distance from the ground. Most running shoes have some level of drop from heel to toe, which can actually throw off performance and alter the way they feel on your feet. Altra has given the Escalante a stack height fo 25 mm for those who are keeping track at home.

The Escalante is given a sleek, classic look thanks to its knit upper, which somehow manages to be both durable and breathable at the same time. Even though temperatures and humidity are on the rise where I'm at, these shoes still felt comfortable and not overly warm on my feet. They also show now signs of wear and tear even though I've put more than 100 miles (160 km) on them since starting my test run.

Altra lists the level of cushioning found on the Escalante as "moderate" and recommends you use them for shorter distances. To me, this means something less than a marathon or ultramarathon level. That said, I have made multiple runs in them of more than 10 miles (16 km) and they have performed well every time. I wouldn't hesitate to wear them in any kind of run leading up to and including a marathon. I found them to be incredibly comfortable, lightweight (8.2 oz/232 g), and protective for use on the road. I've also found that post-run, my legs recover nicely and don't feel overly tired too. That's a good sign that Altra's "Footpod" outsole technology and "Altra Ego" midsole are doing their job.

One of the things that I like best about the Escalante is that it performs well as a running shoe but also looks great if you want to just wear them around town too. They are comfortable enough for casual use but don't scream "running shoe" when you're out running errands, grabbing lunch with friends, or just taking the dog for a walk. As someone who goes through running shoes fairly quickly, I like that idea of transitioning these to a casual shoe that I can wear for other purposes rather than immediately shipping them off to be recycled. Generally I need to replace my shoes after about 300 miles (482 km) of running, but with these I feel like I can keep them around a bit longer in a different capacity.

The knit upper found on the Escalante is soft and comfortable against the foot, even without a sock on. Personally, I don't like to run without socks, but if you're someone who actually appreciates that style of running, you'll probably find these are good pair of shoes for you. The only downside is that when the knit material gets wet, it can take some time to dry out. It can also cause it to feel a bit different against the skin too.

Other than that minor nitpick however, it is very easy to recommend these running shoes for road runners. Comfortable, lightweight, and supportive, they are a joy to run in, and they happen to look good too. If you haven't already tried Altra footwear, this might be the gateway shoe to get you interested in giving them a try. And if you happen to already be a convert like me, you'll feel right at home with the Escalante on your foot.

Priced at $130, the Altra Escalante is very competitive with good, high-end running shoes. Sure, you can find plenty of options that are cheaper, but you get what you pay for, especially when it comes to athletic footwear. For serious runners, the Escalante is worth every penny, and then some.

Find out more at AltraRunning.com.

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