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Altra Escalante Racer 2 Review
By Andrea Myers and Matthew Klein

The original Escalante Racer was my favorite performance trainer when I (Andrea) got back into running several years ago. I found the wide toe box, light weight, zero drop, and flexible forefoot to be perfect for faster intervals as I prepared for races from 5k to half marathon. It was a perfect performance companion to the Escalante 1.5, which was my favorite daily trainer at the time (before I discovered the wonders of the New Balance Beacon v3). I have been hoping that Altra would update the Escalante Racer 2 for a while, especially in light of their new Altra Ego Pro foam and updated road shoe line. Read on to see if version 2 lived up to my expectations...

Altra Escalante Racer 2
Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 8.8oz, 249g (men's size 9), 6.4oz, 181g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 22 mm / 22 mm
Drop: 0mm
Shoe Purpose: Zero drop performance trainer

Pros: Well designed, breathable mesh upper, stiffer platform makes this a rare low drop shoe that may work for those with hallux limitus
Cons: Stiff platform makes me feel like I am fighting the shoe at faster paces, large weight gain over v1 


The Altra Escalante Racer 2 is Altra's lowest stack shoe, designed for faster training and racing. Altra says the main update to the shoe is a new engineered mesh upper, keeping the 22mm stack height, Altra Ego midsole, Original FootShape toe box (Altra's widest), and zero drop the same as version 1. Strangely, according to Altra's website, the women's version has gained 0.7 oz over version 1 and the men's has gained 2.0 oz, with the men's version 2 weighing 8.8oz and women's 6.4oz. Version 2 has a much stiffer platform than v1, with a noticeable lack of forefoot flexibility that completely changed the ride of the shoe for me (Andrea), decreasing its performance at faster paces for me. The Altra Escalante 2 is a neutral, zero drop, stiff shoe that performs differently from its more flexible, lighter-weight predecessor.

: Altra Escalante, Topo Fli-Lyte 5
PAST MODEL: Altra Escalante Racer

(To learn how a shoe should fit, check out our full podcast on fit by Matt Klein.)

Matt: The Altra Escalante Racer 2 fits me true to size, if a tiny bit long in my normal men's US size 10. The overall fit is normal to slightly snug with the exception of the wide forefoot/toebox. The volume is lower except for the forefoot, which has a little wiggle room height wise thanks to the thin, slightly flexible upper. The toe box is wide and rounded with plenty of room for toe splay. The midfoot tapers quickly to a normal to slightly snug fit. The tongue is thin and non-gusseted. I had some mild sliding of the tongue, so securing the laces and not turning quickly is important. The heel features mild heel collar cushioning with a small, flexible heel counter. The heel did not bother me at all and those with sensitivities should be completely. The upper is a thin engineered mesh that has some stretch to it. I found the security fine when running in a straight line with the laces locked down. It was not secure with turning as my foot slid within despite locking down the upper. I would encourage socks as the inner aspect of the upper is a little scratchy. It is well-ventilated, so those with tougher feet than I may be able to handle sockless running. 

Typical Size: Men's US Size 10
Shoes that have fit Matt well: Saucony Guide 17, ASICS Kayano 30, Hoka Gaviota 5, Saucony Endorphin Elite, Nike Ultrafly
Shoes that have fit snug: Hoka Arahi 7, Saucony Kinvara 14
Shoes that have fit large: Salomon S/Lab Phantasm 2, Altra Timp 5

Andrea: The Altra Escalante Racer 2 fits true to size in my usual women's 9.5. I have a full thumb's width from the front of my big toe to the end of the shoe and the Original FootShape fit toe box is wide enough, but doesn't feel too wide for a performance shoe. I wish I had kept my pair of original Escalante Racers, but it seems to me that the upper of v2 has a little more structure than v1, which provides a comfortable and secure fit. There are sections of the mesh that have larger perforations (over the toes and the medial midfoot) and other sections that have a tighter mesh (dorsum of foot, all of the rearfoot, and lateral midfoot, which is also reinforced with a large Altra logo). I like the upper and think that Altra did a good job of providing structure without making the upper overly stiff. The midfoot and rearfoot are normal width and the shoe fit securely, without having to crank down the laces. The thin, non-gusseted tongue has large perforations and is held in place by a lace loop. The upper is quite breathable, which I have appreciated on some warmer runs. There is a small, semi-rigid heel counter that has a small amount of padding. I was quite pleased with the overall fit of the shoe and find the thin mesh upper to be well-suited to a performance trainer.

Andrea's Typical Size: Women's US Size 9.5
Shoes that have fit Andrea well: New Balance Beacon v3, Brooks Hyperion Max, Topo Cyclone 2, Nike Vaporfly 3, Altra Via Olympus 2
Shoes that have fit snug: Saucony Kinvara 14 (length and toe box width), Altra FWD Experience (length and width), Hoka Cielo Road (toe box width), Saucony Endorphin Speed and Pro 1-3 (length)
Shoes that have fit large: Adidas Boston 12 (length), Adidas Adios 8 (length)

Doctors of Running Checklist

Is This a Good Shoe for Walking: Yes
Is This a Good Shoe for Standing: Yes
Is the Forefoot Flexible: Only Mildly
How Flexible is the Shoe: Mildly
Is This a Good Heel Bevel: No
Recommended for Haglunds: Yes
Recommended for Sockless: No
Durability Expectation: Average


Matt: The Altra Escalante Racer 2 is a lighter performance trainer/lightweight lower/moderate stack height trainer. True to Altra, the sole is zero drop. This is noticeable and those interested in those shoe should have adequate ankle mobility and calf strength. The stack height is also noticeable lower. It is not a full minimal shoe, but is definitely lower stack height by today's standards. The midsole is on the stiffer side for such low riding shoe, but is slightly firmer as expected. The Altra Ego midsole has some resiliency and responsiveness when the pace picks up, but this is a more traditional shoe where your body is doing the work. The higher weight for a "racer" is noticeable. My size 10 weighs 8.8 oz, almost 1.5 oz heavier than the same size of my original pair of Escalante Racers. This makes this shoe feel more comfortable as a lower stack height training tool for shorter miles and for shorter workouts on road and the track. It is not a shoe I would use for longer distances as it is too firm and does not have any modern day racing shoe qualities.

Transition-wise, the heel features a small bevel that combined with the lower stack provides a normal landing. This transitions into a slightly stiff midfoot. This then goes into a stiffer forefoot. There is no plate in this shoe but I noticed the stiffer forefoot immediately. This was surprising to me due to the "inner flex grooves", but I think it was a little extra stiff also due to the slightly long fit for me. Regardless, the slightly stiffer ride did make this a better shoe for shorter and faster miles. However, the higher weight limited this shoe from really feel good/faster on speedy efforts. I found it best for moderate-to-uptempo paces and during fartlek-type efforts. The durability is fairly good and typical for a lightweight trainer. I have 20 miles on my pair with only minimal wear in the heel and slightly more accelerated wear at the forefoot. This shoe does fine on well groomed trails and road, but I would avoid technical terrain due to the lack of protection and major traction underfoot. 

Andrea: The Altra Escalante Racer 2, unfortunately, did not perform up to my expectations. While I loved the secure, breathable fit and the relatively light weight (although it is heavier than v1), I found the forefoot to be too stiff for such a low stack, zero drop shoe. I recall the original Escalante Racer having significant flexibility in the forefoot, which made it ideal for faster efforts. Due to the stiffness of the forefoot and minimal forefoot rocker, I found myself fighting the forefoot of version 2 and feeling like I had to rely on more plantarflexion for push off as opposed to 1st MTP extension. One of the main features of minimalist shoes (like the Escalante Racer) is to allow for "natural" movement of the ankle and foot during running and walking. The 1st MTP joint is supposed to extend (bend towards the shin) to contribute to normal push off. This feeling of fighting the shoe was more noticeable at faster paces. I have shifted gears this year to focus on shorter races (1 mile to 5k) and my workouts have included intervals as fast as 800m pace. The feeling of fighting the shoe was most noticeable at mile pace or faster. It felt like my push off was delayed by the stiffness of the sole. Anything 5k pace or slower felt a little better, but I would definitely not choose this shoe for future workouts due to the forefoot design.

The shoe feels like a zero drop, low stack shoe, but due to the higher longitudinal bending stiffness, it feels like less of a minimalist shoe than its predecessor. The Altra Ego midsole is very firm, but does offer more underfoot protection and less ground feel than the 22mm stack height would make one think due to its stiffness. Its zero drop makes it perfectly comfortable for midfoot landings, but the stiff platform and lack of heel bevel made me aware of the rearfoot of the shoe at slower paces. The shoe did not feel great at any pace, but I would say it felt most suited to 10k pace. I did not get to test it at threshold to marathon paces, but I would think that the stiffer platform would lend itself to these mid-range paces as opposed to mile pace. All of my runs in the shoe were on wet roads, and one workout was in a neighborhood with a lot of turns. I had no issues with traction thanks to the large amount of rubber coverage in the midfoot and forefoot. I have 25 miles on my pair and there is minimal wear on the outsole, including the portions of exposed midsole in the midfoot. I would expect average durability from the outsole.

(Learn more about stability in our full guide)

Matt: The Altra Escalante Racer 2 is a neutral shoe. There are no traditional methods of stability in this shoe. There is a slightly higher arch and small sidewalls in the midfoot. The platform is wider, particularly in the forefoot. The forefoot has inherent stability thanks to a stiffer area and wideness. The midfoot does not narrow too much and is consistent with the heel. Overall, this shoe is simple in this regard and will work best for those with neutral mechanics. 

The Altra Escalante Racer 2 is a neutral, zero drop shoe with minimal stability features. The most prominent non-traditional stability feature is the stiff platform, which is less common in such a low stack, zero drop shoe. This does reduce the work that the 1st MTP joint and its associated musculature needs to do at push off, but it achieves this by shifting work to the ankle joint by increasing plantarflexion (at least in my experience). The stiff forefoot may make this shoe work better for those with hallux limitus, but will transfer that stress elsewhere (likely the ankle or hip) during push off. Altra also did a nice job with the varying thickness mesh upper to achieve secure foot lockdown while still maintaining a thin and breathable upper. Otherwise, the Escalante Racer 2 is a neutral shoe that will require sufficient ankle mobility and calf strength due to its zero drop.

Thoughts as a DPT: Using the Minimalist Index to Compare Shoe Versions
By Andrea Myers

The Minimalist Index is a tool developed by researchers at Laval University to grade running shoes. 42 running shoe experts from 11 countries provided their input to build a consensus definition for minimalist footwear and developed the Minimalist Index. The criteria include shoe weight, flexibility, stack height, heel to toe drop, and the presence of stability or motion control technologies. I loved the original version of the Escalante Racer because it was light weight, zero drop, low stack, and had a flexible forefoot. All of these features made the shoe ideal for faster workouts for me. The Escalante Racer 2 is heavier and has a much stiffer forefoot, which significantly changed the ride of the shoe. The difference in Minimalist Index scores for the two shoes is a good way of quantifying the differences. The Escalante Racer 1 has a score of 76%, while the Escalante Racer 2 has a score of 60%. For comparison, the Escalante 3 has a score of 62%. While Altra probably did not intend for the Escalante Racer 2 to be less of a minimalist shoe as compared to the original, the stiffer platform may make it work better for those with hallux limitus as compared to the original version because it will require less 1st MTP extension at push off. I could also see the Escalante Racer 2 being a nice walking or standing shoe for those who prefer zero drop shoes but need a stiffer platform for comfort. 


Esculier, J. F., Dubois, B., Dionne, C. E., Leblond, J., & Roy, J. S. (2015). A consensus definition and rating scale for minimalist shoes. Journal of Foot and Ankle Research8, 1-9.


Matt: While I appreciate the simplicity of the Altra Escalante Racer 2, I do not feel it is an appropriate progression from the original and is too similar to the Escalante 4. The midsole foam is old and not in line with current racing shoes. Even lower stack racers are using super foams, so from a responsiveness standpoint, there are better options. The weight has dramatically increased, which holds this shoe back from being as nimble and fast as it could be. The higher stack Vanish Carbon 2 is much lighter, so if the Escalante Racer is to keep its "Racer" title, this shoe needs to actually to feel fast in 2024. My biggest suggestion is to upgrade the foam to Ego PRO foam while maintaining the durable outsole. Keeping the durability is important, as my Vanish Carbon 2s only made it 45 miles before the outsole came off. However, the weight of this shoe needs to come down, which switching midsole foams will help. This will also increase the responsiveness, two things that will help version three live up to its name. 

Andrea: The upper of the Altra Escalante Racer 2 is very well done, but the stiff platform and heavier weight make this update an overall negative one for me. I would highly recommend that Altra give the forefoot more flexibility to make this shoe perform better at faster paces, which the shoe is supposedly designed for. I am not sure where the extra weight came from with the stack height and foam type being the same, but 8.8 oz for a 22mm stack men's performance trainer is not acceptable in 2024, especially with the 36mm Vanish Carbon 2 being 8.1oz. I am not sure why there is such a large weight disparity between the men's and women's versions, but the increase in weight in my pair was noticeable as well. I would love to see the Escalante Racer 3 get a Altra Ego Pro midsole and be a true competitor to the Topo Cyclone 2.


Matt: The Altra Escalante Racer 2 is a zero drop, lower stack height performance trainer. Those who want a slightly firmer and slightly lower stack height Escalante 4 will enjoy the Racer 2. The sole will work best for those who have appropriate ankle mobility and calf strength to run in zero drop shoes. The upper is best for those with normal width feet wanting a wide toe box and a thin upper. The sole is on the stiffer side, so those wanting a snappy feeling shoe with the lower ride will enjoy this shoe most. Long-time fans of the original Escalante Racer may be disappointed with the large weight gain and loss of the nimbleness the original had. The Racer 2 seems to be a slightly edgier version of the Escalante 4, which may still something people are interested in. So those that want two pair of slightly different shoes may have a great option for training and uptempo days. There is little differentiating these models on paper, so hopefully Altra can rectify this for version 3. 

Andrea: The Altra Escalante Racer 2 is a low stack, zero drop shoe with a stiff platform and firm midsole. There are not a lot of shoes with these characteristics, as most shoes with a stack height in the low 20mm range or below tend to be quite flexible, both longitudinally and torsionally. Due to these unique characteristics, this shoe may be best for those with reduced 1st MTP mobility who prefer a zero drop, firm shoe. The firm and stiff sole may also make this a comfortable standing and walking shoe. Unfortunately, those who enjoyed the original Escalante Racer may be disappointed by v2's stiffness and increased weight.


Fit: B+ (Wide toe box with relatively secure fit front to back with flexible heel and thin upper. Less secure during turns)
B- (Stiffer, firmer ride that feels snappy at uptempo paces but does not feel nimble enough for truly faster efforts)
Stability: B [Neutral] (Forefoot stiffness and width add inherent stability but highly neutral shoe overall)
Value: B- (Stiffer, relatively heavy shoe for being a "racer" that isn't that responsive or versatile pace-wise)
Personal: C (Not a racing shoe for me at all. Would not even pick this for faster efforts but a decent lower stack training tool)
Overall Design: B- 

Fit: (classic Altra fit without being too roomy in toe box, well designed mesh upper provides structure while maintaining breathability)
C (Stiff platform and lack of forefoot rocker made me feel like I was fighting the shoe at faster paces. A rare shoe that made me feel like I was actually working harder because of the shoe design.)
Stability [neutral]: B- (well designed upper provides excellent lockdown and stiff platform makes the shoe less demanding of the 1st MTP joint as compared to similar zero drop shoes.)
Value: C ($140 for a stiff, heavy 22mm drop shoe that doesn't perform at intended paces is a lot to ask.)
Personal: C- (A big disappointment after how much I enjoyed v1.)
Overall Design: C+ 


Altra Escalante Racer 2
Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse

Shop Men | Shop Women

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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, Santa Barbara, Danbury and Stevens Point areas, we am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Altra Running for sending us pairs.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. 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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