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Altra Escalante 1.5 - Women's Review

The Escalante is a minimalist, lightweight shoe with less-than-stellar comfort.
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Price:  $130 List | $129.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, breathable
Cons:  Not as comfortable, not responsive
Manufacturer:   Altra Running
By Lauren DeLaunay ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 13, 2019
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#14 of 14
  • Landing Comfort - 25% 6
  • Upper Comfort - 25% 5
  • Responsiveness - 20% 5
  • Stability - 20% 5
  • Weight - 10% 9

Our Verdict

Altra may be less than ten years old, but their shoes have really shaken up the market. Their minimalist designs and wide toe boxes make for a signature look that is intriguing and friendly. These two features had some of our review staff raving about the barefoot-esque design of the new Escalante 1.5, while others thought the construction fell a little too flat. While we think this is a very comfortable minimalist shoe, our testing team eventually agreed that the average road runner would prefer a bit more cushioning and responsiveness.

New Version Available

Altra released the latest version of this shoe, the Escalante 2. See a comparison below.

August 2019

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Escalante 2 vs. 1.5

Altra introduced the Escalante 2. The update includes some fresh colors and a new knit with added perforations, designed to increase the breathability of this shoe. The main shape, design, and technologies of the shoe has remained the same. Compare the Escalante 2 (left) to the 1.5 (right).

Though we're linking to the updated shoe above, the review to follow tells our account of running in the 1.5 version.

Hands-On Review of the Escalante 1.5

After weeks of testing the Escalante 1.5, we appreciated many of its minimalist qualities, including its superbly light weight, but did not award it a top spot in this lineup.

Enjoying a warm fall morning in Yosemite with the Escalante 1.5.
Enjoying a warm fall morning in Yosemite with the Escalante 1.5.

Landing Comfort

Landing comfort accounts for a whopping 25% of each shoe's overall score, and we looked at a wide variety of characteristics. Cushioning, shock absorption, downhill comfort, and midsole drop were all evaluated in this metric, and we ultimately awarded the Escalante an average score for its decent performance.

We realize that not every runner is searching for maximum cushioning in their running shoes, so this score may not accurately reflect the design you are looking for. A higher number equates to a more comfortable landing, so an intensely cushioned shoe like the HOKA Bondi is going to receive a higher score than a more moderately cushioned model like the Escalante.

Despite being designed for pavement  we'll take the Escalante anywhere!
Despite being designed for pavement, we'll take the Escalante anywhere!

Additionally, with a nonexistent heel-toe drop (the difference in height between the heel and toe), the Escalante is a bit of a specialty product. The majority of shoes in this review have heels that rise anywhere from 4mm to 10mm above the toe. Traditionally constructed shoes are designed to reinforce landing on the ball of the foot, and there is varying research for whether this is helpful or harmful. The creators of Altra believe in a more minimalist design regardless of the amount of underfoot cushioning.

Overall, the landing support was on the comfortable side of minimal in the Escalante, but we docked points when comparing it to the more cushioned models and for its unique heel offset, which may not be the best fit for some buyers.


Since responsiveness is often in direct comparison to the amount of cushioning, it's going to be up to you to decide which of these two metrics is more important. Our Editors' Choice Award winner is one of the most balanced shoes we've tested; often, other shoes in this review often excel in one category or the other. The Escalante does an acceptable job at both but does not stand out from the crowd in either.

A close-up of the Escalante 1.5's minimal padding.
A close-up of the Escalante 1.5's minimal padding.

Compared to an extra bouncy shoe, the Escalante falls a bit flat. Standing alone, it performed decently, but when evaluated side-by-side to its competitors, it wasn't our favorite. Its performance in this category makes it a poor choice for speed workouts or sprints, but if the uniquely Altra features like its toe box and heel appeal to you, we don't think you'll be disappointed.

Upper Comfort

Our testers know that weight is typically a compromise for another important metric, and this is readily apparent with the Escalante. While tied for the lightest shoe in our review, this comes at a price for padding and long-distance comfort. The heel of the Escalante is equipped with ample padding, similar to any of the comfiest heels we tried on. We also loved the wide toe, a signature design feature of any Altra shoe. While this may not appeal to everyone, Altra claims that the wide toe box lets the toes spread out and enjoy a more natural running stride, which we tend to agree with. Even our lead tester's narrow feet appreciated some extra wiggle room.

Lacing up the Escalante's thin tongue.
Lacing up the Escalante's thin tongue.

On the other hand, the Escalante lost comfort points for the lack of padding in the tongue and sides. We didn't find this shoe uncomfortable, per se, but the ultra-thin tongue left something to be desired. The material on the inside of the shoe is softer than the Altra Duo though both are minimally padded. Compared to the wonderfully plush tongues of all three Brooks models we tested, you'll have to decide for yourself if a few ounces is worth a more minimal design. Not everyone is into a very padded shoe, however, and many runners found the Escalante's minimal tongue to be a refreshing change of pace.


It's hard to achieve bonus points with features like stability when trying to shave ounces, and the Escalante demonstrates this once again. With a little bit of reinforcement on the sides, this product left a lot of room for improvement when compared to ultra-secure models like the Brooks Adrenaline and HOKA Clifton.

Minimal lateral stability on the Escalante 1.5.
Minimal lateral stability on the Escalante 1.5.

The material lining the midfoot of the Escalante is thicker, but it is still very flexible when compared to other models with an outer printed overlay. We still find this product comfortable, compared with the Asics Gel-Cumulus that has a midfoot reinforcement that's stiff but awkward. Ultimately, this neutral-built shoe does little to secure the foot for optimal stride.


At only 7.1 ounces per shoe, the Escalante is a top scorer in this metric. While we don't necessarily think that weight should be taken as seriously as comfort, each buyer is different, and if shaving ounces is your thing, the Escalante might be in your best interest. The Reebok Floatride Ultra Knit tied the Escalante in this metric, but with very different designs, it's difficult to promote one over the other. The Floatride has a unique design with an unstructured sock-like upper with a "cage" to secure the foot, while the Escalante has a unique minimal design that may appeal to the avid trail runner or barefoot enthusiast.

Best Applications

Every runner is different, and Altra's lineup is best for the minimally-minded and weight-conscious. As one of the lightest shoes in this review, the Escalante's lighter cushioning and thin upper make for a solid yet featherlight ride. For shoppers looking for a wide toe box and zero heel offset, Altra's unique design may be just the ticket.

The Escalante 1.5 features Altra's signature wide toe box.
The Escalante 1.5 features Altra's signature wide toe box.


At $130, the Escalante falls just about in the middle of this review's price range. There are many more comfortable shoes available for slightly less; however, it's difficult to recommend this shoe unless Altra's unique characteristics are exactly what you're looking for. If so, the price is spot on.


While we failed to see the Escalante as a great all-around shoe we could recommend to nearly any runner, it did have its positives. The toe, heel offset, and extremely low weight make it a good choice for minimally-minded runners. We would not likely recommend this shoe to the average runner looking for a traditional design, however, which led us to hand out our awards to other competitors.

The Escalante exploring our favorite place: Yosemite National Park.
The Escalante exploring our favorite place: Yosemite National Park.

Lauren DeLaunay