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Altra Escalante 3: The Best One Yet?
By Contributor Andrea Myers and David Salas

The Altra Escalante is a popular zero drop, road-running daily trainer thanks to its anatomical toe box, soft and accommodating upper, and lightweight cushioning. The Escalante 2 and 2.5 quickly became my favorite daily trainers as I got back into running a few years ago, but as I increased my mileage, my feet wanted a little more cushion, upper stability, and protection than the shoes provided. With a firmer midsole and more structured upper, the Escalante 3 sounded like an update I would like. I bought a pair at my local running store and was excited to put them to the test.

Editor's Note: David Salas review added 10/19/23

Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 9oz, 255g (men's size 9), 8oz, 226g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 26mm/26mm
Drop: 0mm
Classification: Zero drop neutral daily trainer


Andrea: The Altra Escalante 3 is a zero drop, neutral daily trainer that has an anatomical toe box and a soft knit upper. It is a natural feeling shoe with enough stack height to protect the foot from the pavement, without limiting ground feel. There is plenty of room for toe splay in the Escalante 3, but Altra has refined the upper to reduce the sloppy feeling of previous versions. This is a great daily trainer option for runners who prefer a zero drop platform and need plenty of width in the forefoot.

The Altra Escalante is a minimalist road running shoe that has a very natural feel to it. The shoe uses a 0mm drop platform, meaning there is no difference in height between the heel and the forefoot. The shoe has moderately flexible design to it and a comfortable knit upper. For some this will be a walking shoe/running shoe double and for some it could even be a speed work shoe.   


Andrea: The Escalante 3 fits true to size in my usual women's 9.5. I have a full thumb's width from the front of the shoe to my big toe, and the anatomical toe box provides more than enough room for my forefoot without allowing side to side translation of my foot. The midfoot and heel are normal width and I did not have any pressure points from any part of the shoe. The knit upper has a little more structure than previous version thanks to subtle overlays that run on both sides of the shoe, the Altra logo on the lateral aspect of the shoe, and a tighter knit material over the dorsum of the forefoot. The knit material breathes fairly well, although the upper is on the thicker side. I didn't have any issues with my feet feeling hot, even when running in 80F temperatures. The partially gusseted tongue is made of the same material as the upper, giving it comfortable padding that is not too thick. The laces also run through a loop on the tongue, which helps to hold it securely in place. While I do not run sockless, it would definitely be doable in this shoe due to the soft knit material. There is a small, flexible heel counter at the lower half of the heel. Though the heel here is wider than many shoes, I had no issues with rubbing or slippage when running and I did not need to use a lace lock. The laces are flat, do not stretch, and have sufficient length to secure the foot without any irritation on the dorsum of the foot. Overall, the Escalante 3 is one of the most comfortable, well-fitting shoes I have tested.

The Escalante 3 fits true to size in my Men's 9.5. The shoe has a traditional Altra feel, using the wide toe box through the forefoot. The Escalante does feel a little more snug in the heel and and midfoot than other Altras I have run in. The volume is on the lower side, though the knit upper does have some stretch to it. The material of the upper is cozy and is definitely something that you can wear all day. It does have some stretch to it however. If you are running through a lot of turns or doing a lot of movements that require change of direction there is some give to the material. The low volume and tight lacing system does help with some of translation but it is there. The tongue is mild to moderately padded and sufficient for locking the shoe down. There is a very low height heel counter, though the large majority of the heel is padded foam in the material. The security is decent but you can notice a little bit of movement with some of the motions listed above. Generally speaking though the upper does fit well from both a length, width, and comfort standpoint. This is a shoe I have worn to the clinic many times.


Andrea: I really enjoy running in this shoe. It feels natural and the upper disappears on the foot due to the knit material and anatomical toe box. It is definitely a zero drop shoe, so those who are not accustomed to zero drop should proceed carefully. For runners who are already used to running in zero drop shoes, the Escalante 3 is a nice option. The 26mm stack strikes a nice balance between ground feel and protection. The firmer Altra EGO midsole provides protection and responsiveness that I found missing in previous versions of the Escalante. At easy paces, the Escalante 3 feels natural, lightly cushioned, and non-intrusive. Even after a long workout the day prior, my feet felt comfortable and protected from the pavement. While I would not use the Escalante 3 for intervals due to its weight, I could see this being a marathon pace shoe for some runners who like a more substantial marathon pace shoe. The Escalante Racer is a better option for anything faster due to its slightly lower stack, lower weight, and pared-down upper.

I am very impressed by the improvement in upper stability. There was no medial-lateral translation of my foot in the shoe, even when taking tight turns or running on grass. The outsole has almost full-coverage rubber and I had excellent traction, even on wet roads and grass. I have 40 miles on my pair and the outsole looks nearly new. I would expect greater than average durability out of these shoes.

The Altra Escalante is a low riding running shoe that has some cross over into daily wear as well. The shoe has a level 0mm drop platform with an ever so slight heel bevel and toe spring. For the most part this is a moderately flexible design that lets you do whatever you want with your mechanics. The shoe feels very similar to a traditional racing flat with a tad more cushion. The mechanics are very neutral throughout. From a "barefoot" mechanic standpoint, this is probably the closest option in the last year. Everything feels pretty natural throughout and there is a small bounce from the rigidity of the forefoot. The outsole traction is decent as well and you can take this on reasonably footed dirt and grass if you wanted to. The shoe has a light and nimble feel to it despite being 9.0 ounces. You definitely have to have some calf strength to be running in this shoe with a flat and low riding geometry. This is about as neutral as shoes come. Not a bad thing by any means, but something to keep in mind. 


Andrea: The Escalante 3 is a truly neutral shoe with no real stability features. That being said, the stability of the upper has greatly improved from previous versions, which did allow quite a bit of medial-lateral foot translation inside the shoe. There is also a small heel bevel and late forefoot rocker, but I was not particularly aware of either feature while running. The outsole and exposed midsole have multiple flex grooves, which may actually make the shoe less stable by allowing the shoe to flex with your natural mechanics.

For runners who do not already run in 0mm drop shoes, please check out Episode 62 of the DOR Podcast for guidance on how to transition safely to zero drop.

The Altra Escalante 3 is definitely a neutral shoe. The upper has some stretch to it and gives decent, though not great security. Even though the shoe is lower to the ground the foam and upper does still have some give to it. The overall design of the shoe is flexible. The sole flaring is done pretty well in the forefoot and heel which do help with some stability elements. There is a baby sidewall in the shoe, though I am not sure I feel it doing much. The shoe is definitely a true neutral shoe. 

THOUGHTS AS A DPT: Feeling Natural
By Andrea Myers

The Altra Escalante 3 is one of the most natural feeling shoes that I own. As I was writing this review, I started wondering if my definition of natural was the same as other runners. For me, a natural feeling shoe is one that has minimal features that guide or force motion in a particular direction. This means minimal rockers, toe spring, sole flare, or (gasp) posting. A natural shoe to me is one that protects my feet from whatever is on the ground (rocks, glass, sand, etc.), provides some cushioning to dampen the harshness of the pavement, and has an upper that does not constrict my foot. My preferred foot strike pattern is at the lateral midfoot, so a zero drop shoe will feel comfortable and "natural" to me, whereas most shoes with a drop >8mm feel like the heel gets in the way of my natural landing pattern. For runners with different biomechanics, their definition of a "natural" feeling shoe may also be different.

How do you define a natural feeling shoe? Send us a message at or comment on our social media pages!


Andrea: I think the Escalante 3 is the best version yet of the shoe. By improving the stability of the upper and making the midsole a little firmer, Altra has improved on what was already a great shoe. From my perspective, the only thing Altra could do to further improve it would be to refine the upper so it is a little thinner and lighter. Otherwise, I am really pleased with the update and look forward to putting many more miles on the shoe.

 My main recommendation for the Altra Escalante is to clean up the lockdown of the upper. The volume feels dialed in and the lacing system certainly locks the foot down, but the material has enough flex to it where some of the uses become difficult. With running harder there is a little too much flex to the material and I do get some heel translation. The material is very comfortable, so perhaps adding some light reinforcement throughout for it to hold its shape may help. 


Andrea: The Altra Escalante 3 is a zero drop, mildly cushioned, responsive daily trainer. Runners who appreciate an anatomical toebox will love the fit of the Escalante 3. Those interested in the Escalante 3 need to be acclimated to running on a zero drop platform and have sufficient range of motion and strength to handle the greater demands the shoe places on the calf, ankle, and foot. This is not a shoe for runners with stability needs, as the shoe has minimal stability features. The Escalante 3 is a great daily trainer for those who like the zero drop platform, want a shoe with some ground feel as well as underfoot protection, and do not want or need the motion guidance that rockers or plates provide.

The Escalante 3 is a road running shoe for someone that wants a close to the ground natural riding shoe. The shoe almost feels like an extension of bare feet, outside of some slight rigidity in the forefoot (though this is pretty flexible when loaded). The shoe works great as a light running shoe and walking/casual crossover. The shoe is nimble enough for some speedwork, though the upper security may limit uses with faster turns.


Fit: A+ (Best fitting Escalante yet due to refined toebox width and upper)
A (Natural ride, improved responsiveness from previous versions)
Stability: B (Neutral, zero drop shoe with minimal stability features; nice improvement in upper stability due to overlays)
DPT/Footwear Science: A+ (Altra Escalante 3 is the flagship for what a natural feeling shoe is for me)
Personal: A (Natural feeling shoe, excellent fit, great for easy runs)
Overall: (Best Escalante yet with refined upper and toe box width and more responsive midsole)


Fit: A- (Dimensions are good with heel, midfoot, and forefoot. Upper material is comfortable, though the material does have some stretch to it.)
Performance: B+/A-
 (You're definitely getting what you signed up for. Low riding neutral shoe. Decent responsiveness and good natural transitions. A little difficult to use with faster efforts or anything that requires change of direction.)
Stability: B (Definitely a neutral shoe but a good job here. Outside of some flex in the upper material and a sidewall that does not do much, the shoe is still decently stable for a neutral shoe.)
DPT/Footwear Science: A (A great job of implementing natural feeling shoe and minimalist footwear for running and beyond)
Personal: B (Solid fitting shoe with good comfort. Versatility does extend into casual wear. Running is smooth and fun, though my calves can get a little sore. Can't run too fast in them.)
Overall: B+/A- (A solid option for those that want that natural feeling shoe)


Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse

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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.

***Disclaimer: These shoes purchased at full price. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our 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.

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