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Altra Escalante 2 - Women's Review

These breathable and comfortable shoes will keep you on your toes with a 0 mm drop
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $130 List | $61.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, breathable, durable
Cons:  Less responsive, some users don't like the update
Manufacturer:   Altra Running
By Ally Meller ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 22, 2020
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Our Verdict

We aren't sure what these breathable kicks are laced with, but they've had us tripping for days! Kidding, but seriously. The upper mesh on the Altra Escalante 2 is breathable and lightweight, to the point that these runners are our Top Pick for Comfort. This iteration of the Escalante is less beloved than the 1.5 version, though. Diehard fans are dropping left and right, but new Altra runners have been roped into the zero drop club with the creation of this shoe. Anyone looking to try out the 0 mm drop game will find the transition to be seamless with the Escalante. From their maiden voyage to their deathbed, these shoes will show you how to engage your lower body muscles!

Our Analysis and Test Results

The toebox of the new and improved Escalante 2 is wide, and the midfoot is flexible and forgiving. Altra introduced the Altra EGO midsole and outsole in this expression, and the result is a flexible yet durable pair of runners. The half Altra EGO outsole works harmoniously with the FootPod technology that Altra is known for, and the Fit4Her and FootShape toe box increase comfort, structure, and fit.

Performance Comparison


These shoes provide pep without sacrificing comfort.
These shoes provide pep without sacrificing comfort.

Responsiveness


This iteration of the Escalante is of average responsiveness amid the sea of running shoes we tested. They didn't necessarily kick us into turbo mode, but they also didn't slow us down like many others we tested. For runners looking to finish their race with joints intact and muscles firing symmetrically, these shoes are a killer choice. We truly enjoyed every step we got to run in these shoes, despite their lack of responsive oomph.

Zero drop shoes, like this one, typically offer slightly less in the way of responsiveness because of their lack of differential. Instead of relying on the shoe shape to propel you into the next step, runners need to rely on their own muscles. Especially when legs are adjusting to running with a 0 mm drop, the musculature just doesn't give the same feedback, resulting in less energy return and responsiveness. This isn't a bad thing, just personal preference, but it means we couldn't score the Escalante 2 very high in this metric.

Despite the zero drop  we've got some hops in these decently responsive runners.
Despite the zero drop, we've got some hops in these decently responsive runners.

Landing Comfort


The Escalante earns a well-deserved higher score in this metric. The arch is supportive and squishy, which is really helpful in a zero drop shoe. Altra managed to marry strong and soft in the sole, and the FootShape toe box is an original design that allows the toes to splay while running. In our experience, zero-drop shoes take longer to adjust to, so the extra cushion helps make these kicks fast favorites.

The insole on this shoe is incredibly durable while also being soft, qualities that many competitors struggle to balance. These shoes also offer plenty of support, ample comfort, and one unique quirk: the Escalante 2 propels the runner into proper running form! The FootPod rubber offers excellent shock absorption, so each step hits the joints more softly than in other, less cushioned shoes. Your knees and hips will thank you for stomping around in such a well-padded runner — Altra truly thought of everything when designing this newest version.

The plush arch support absorbs impact stride after stride.
The plush arch support absorbs impact stride after stride.

Weight


The Escalante is fairly light for the amount of cushion they flaunt. Since zero drop shoes encourage proper form and muscular engagement, it is a blessing that these shoes weigh in on the lower end of the spectrum.

Once you start to feel muscles engaging that you didn't know you had, you'll truly feel the benefit of a lighter shoe. The fatigue speaks for itself. That said, we think that running in zero-drop shoes is awesome if your anatomy can support it, and this is a great shoe to consider if you can.

We felt light and fresh during beach runs in this ultimate shoe for comfort.
We felt light and fresh during beach runs in this ultimate shoe for comfort.

Durability


The lugs on these shoes came to play. They do not cross over onto trails well because the traction faces are quite smooth, but they hold up outstandingly well on the roads.

The insole on the Escalante is soft but resilient over the long term. Altra constructs some long-lasting shoes, which tends to make them worth their weight in gold.

The durability of these kicks makes them worth their price tag.
The durability of these kicks makes them worth their price tag.

Upper Comfort


The Escalante have excellent upper comfort. We often finish running and want to rip our shoes off our feet before even taking a sip of water. Sweaty feet swell, and this makes wearing tight shoes painful after long runs. But this shoe has a soft, lofty feeling in the upper midfoot that negates any discomfort even when the feet are tired and swollen.

We deducted a couple points here because of the tongue and lace situation. The engineered mesh is softer than others we are familiar with, but that is all the tongue is made of. We typically prefer a bit of tongue cushion in the construction of our marathon-worthy trainers. The tongue of the Escalante 2 is pretty flimsy, and while it IS soft, it doesn't stay comfortable when working up to double-digit mileage. It twists, turns, and disappoints with every loosened knot from laces that slip out easily. Sure, we can do double knots, but WHY? We do love these shoes, but we don't love stopping to adjust and retie the laces every other mile.

This gorgeous bluebird day calls for a run! The Escalante accommodates sweaty toes with their extra-large  "FootShape" toe box.
This gorgeous bluebird day calls for a run! The Escalante accommodates sweaty toes with their extra-large, "FootShape" toe box.

Breathability


The Escalante earns a solid and respectable score on the breathability scale. Altra restructured their mesh upper to be a bit more stable and breathable than the last version. We loved our hot day testing because these shoes prevented our feet from feeling like they were overheating, a true bonus in our book.

The newly constructed mesh on this shoe has extra perforations for added airflow. Despite the extra holes, the gaps remain tiny enough to keep the feet sand-free during beach runs, which is awesome, and all the more reason the Escalante won our Top Pick for Comfort. These kicks are extremely breezy when worn with either moisture-wicking technical or cotton socks.

The breathability of the Escalante makes most other runners feel like foot saunas.
The breathability of the Escalante makes most other runners feel like foot saunas.

Value


The Escalante 2 is an average price for the shoes we tested, and we are willing to cough up the cash for sure. On account of their durability and ability to neutralize the posture, these shoes are well worth the money. They encourage full muscular engagement and wee can't really put a price tag on physical health, so we are all in.

The Escalantes are worth their (sea)salt!
The Escalantes are worth their (sea)salt!

Conclusion


The Escalante 2 has befuddled loyal fans, it's true. From our perspective, though, they only left us wanting to run more miles! We think these shoes perform best on days when you're motivated by proper form and a solid finish. They don't rank as highly as others in terms of responsiveness, so they aren't necessarily PR runners unless you want them to be, but the soft landing of these zero droppers makes them great for distance days. We really feel as though running in these shoes sorted out our posture and imbalances, which has lead to healthier runs over the longterm. Anyone looking for a subtle yet supportive arch and extra toe space will find the shape of these kicks to be just right. We cannot get enough of the softly structured landing and the strength we feel while running in these, which is why we happily awarded them our Top Pick for Comfort. We aren't running in negative split territory in these, but the postural benefits they provide are unmatched. Runners looking for more toe space and muscular engagement will enjoy the feeling of these zero-drop shoes as much as we did.

This is the pair of shoes that we want to run in everyday.
This is the pair of shoes that we want to run in everyday.

Ally Meller