Altra Escalante Racer Review

I enjoy shoes that fly under the radar.  The Altra Escalante Racer is one of these shoes that oddly has not gotten the press it deserves.  I tried this shoe looking for a long distance workout/racing shoe after having success in the Altra Paradigm 4 (REVIEW).  I had enjoyed the EGO midsole, but was curious to see it in a faster shoe.  While simple in design, this shoe has blown me away, continuing to prove that simple is the way to go.


Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 7.4oz (men's size 9)
Stack Height:  17mm / 17mm (heel/forefoot)
Drop: 0mm
Classification: Marathon Racer


FIT/UPPER

The Altra Escalante Racer fits true to size length wise (if not a slight bit short).  Width wise they fit quite wide in the forefoot, but finally have fixed the baggy midfoot fit.  The Escalante Racer runs far snugger through the midfoot and heel compared to most Altra shoes.  While there is no heel counter, the laces pull very well on the knit mesh to create an almost custom fit.  The lock down during sagittal plane motion is very good in these shoes.  However, given the flexible upper, these would not be my first choice for activities that require tons of frontal or transverse plane (side to side or rotational) movement.  Going forward though, this upper will keep you comfortable for miles.  Hence why it makes such a good lightweight half/full marathon racer. 


RIDE/MIDSOLE

As an Altra shoe, the Escalante Racer is a zero drop shoe.  As a racing shoe, it sits much closer to the ground with only 17mm between your foot (not including the insole) and the pavement (or whatever surface you are running on).  This would normally make for a harsh ride, however the Escalante Racer features Altra's relatively new midsole material EGO.  Unlike Boost or some of the other new foams out there, EGO sits on the firmer end.  It is very responsive and responds well especially at high speed.  This is why it remains my favorite new midsole material by far.  The midsole in the Escalante Racer is full length EGO, so the ride is consistent throughout no matter where you land.  The EGO is surprisingly protective for how close the Escalante Racer sits to the ground.  So it feels fast but there is enough there to get you through long miles at uptempo paces.


The sole is both foot shaped and flexible.  There are no additional shanks or plates, just the EGO midsole as well foot specific flex groves.  The sole is flexible but responsive and does not have much toe spring.  So you will need to make sure you have good foot strength, ankle/great toe mobility and lower body stability to run your potential in these shoes.


STABILITY

Given the wider forefoot and close to the ground feel, the Altra Escalante Racer is a fairly stable shoe.  However, there are no additional stability features in this shoe.  There is no heel counter (which is great for those with sensitive calcani/heel bones),  no midfoot shank, plates, guide rails etc.  Unlike many new midsole foams though, the EGO midsole is not super soft.  It is responsive and protective, but not cushy.  So there is inherent stability, but no additional added forms.


SPEED

This is a shoe meant to go fast.  The low to the ground sole, lightweight and responsive EGO midsole all do best at higher speeds.  It isn't the lightest shoe out there, but there is just enough cushioning to take most individuals through longer distance racing.  5k to Half Marathon will be best for the average individual, although some who are used to zero drop and light shoes will be able to use these for the marathon.  Personally these would be my go to half and full marathon shoe.  However, despite my billing them as a great long distance racer, the EGO midsole responds very well to high speed.  During my introduction back to speed work, these were on my feet during my first sub 5 minute miles in some time.  So despite not being the lightest shoes out there racing shoe wise, they can still burn rubber.


DURABILITY

Due somewhat to the outsole rubber, the Altra Escalante Racer has been a very durable racing shoe.  The outsole has remained in good shape despite almost exclusive high intensity use.  The EGO midsole feels exactly the same after 80 miles than it felt during the first few steps.  There is some natural wear for me in the posterior lateral heel, but that is fairly normal.  As the Escalante Racer walks a line between a racer and lightweight trainer, you should expect a fairly high number of miles for a racing shoe out of it (at least 250-300 miles if not more.


THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

Finding the optimum level of cushioning for a marathon shoe is an interesting conundrum.  As athletes, we generally want the lightest possible shoe.  At the same time, we want as much protection as possible (relatively) to try to keep our legs fresh over long distances.  Many runners, who are usually more biased toward minimalist and barefoot running, will argue that one should have the lightest possible shoe in order to run fast.  As seen by a recent trend in increased cushioning in elite racing shoes, that may not be the case.  A study by Dr. Rodger Kram PhD back in 2012 demonstrated that running barefoot versus a lightweight cushioned shoe showed no metabolic advantage over each other (Franz et al., 2012).  In fact, other studies (also by Rodger Kram that I am having difficulty finding at the moment) have also demonstrated that while there is a 1% increase in VO2 max demands per 100g additional weight in the shoe, there is a cut off to where that is effective.

On the other side of the fence, we know that the more cushioned a shoe is, the great impact and joint loading a runner experiences as demonstrated by a recent study out of Oregon State (Pollard et al., 2018).  There is an optimal balance between cushioning and lightness in a racing shoe.  The Nike Vaporfly 4% and Adidas Adios series are great examples of this.  They are definitely not the lightest shoes out there (mid 6 oz to 8 oz) but they are the most frequently used marathon racing shoes.  Now that is also partly because those two companies sponsor the most runners, but also because they are still fast and cushioned.  The marathon is a game of efficiency.   There is only so long you can go running in a super lightweight and firm shoe.  A little cushioning provides a little extra protection, allowing for your muscles to work more on propulsion than shock absorption.  Hence Altra Escalante Racer is such a great marathon racer for those looking for a zero drop long distance shoe.  It is close enough to the ground to be fast, but the EGO midsole provides enough rebound and protection to keep you going over long miles.  So for those still arguing the cushioning vs lightness, find something that fits your fancy or something in the middle.  A mix of both will get you where you need to be DEPENDING on what your body likes (not someone else's). 


WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

This shoe is for those used to zero drop looking for a racing shoe for long distances.  Some may be able to use this as a slightly cushioned lightweight trainer, but most should use this as a racing shoe that can handle a variety of distances from 5k to marathon.  I hope Altra revamps their current racing shoe line and includes a ultra lightweight shoe with EGO instead of the Vanish (which I returned to them being bone crushing firm and having sub par durability).  For the moment, this is a great racer that will fill the racing needs of those looking for a long distance zero drop racer.

GRADING

Fit/Upper          8/10
Ride/Midsole    10/10
Stability            7/10
Speed                9/10
Durability          9/10

Total Score: 86% (DEFINITELY check this shoe out if you like zero drop)

Thanks for reading!

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Dr. Matthew Klein, PT DPT  OCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Kaiser Southern California LAMC Manual Therapy and Sport Fellow

***Disclaimer: These shoes were purchased for their full US retail price. This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 50-75 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently I have 85 miles on my pair. My views are based on my extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

References

1. Franz, J., Wierzbinski, C, Kram R. (2012). Metabolic cost of running barefoot versus shod: is
lighter better? Med Sci Sports Exerc; 44(8): 1519-1525. doi: 10.1249/MMS.0b013e3182514a88

2. Pollard, C., Ter Har, J., Hannigan, J., Norcross, M. (2018). Influence of Maximal Running Shoes
on Biomechanics Before and After a 5k Run. Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 6(6). DOI:
10.1177/232596118775720

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Comments

  1. Matt, thanks for the review. Have you tried the Hoka Clayton 2? I wonder how similar it is to the Escalante Racer?
    I tried the Paradigm 4.0 and found the midfoot too wide for my narrow feet. It sounds like these should be a better fit.
    Mike

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello! The Clayton 2 is a very different shoe. Much more narrow throughout as well as a large amount of cushioning compared to the Escalante Racer. The Escalante Racer is still an altra shoe with a very wide forefoot, but the midfoot is snugger (relative) and the laces can pull it much tighter.

      -Dr. Matt Klein PT DPT OCS

      Delete
  2. I apologise Matt - I meant to compare it to the Hoka Tracer 2. The Tracer has more stack height for sure as well but is perhaps more similar. Ever Altra shoe I have tried on so far has been too wide in the mid foot for my narrow feet.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Matt, between escalante Racer, tartherzeal6, and emperor 3, which is your pick for a 5 - 10k race? and one more is what is you go to 5k flat and 10k flat at the moment?

    ReplyDelete

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