Altra Escalante 1.5 Review
Cons: Pricey, upper too loose, limited responsiveness
Our Analysis and Test Results
Hands-On Review of the Escalante 1.5
We took the updated Altra Escalante 1.5s out on miles and miles or training runs, spent hours researching its materials, claims, and complaints, and poked and prodded them to figure out where they excel and where they lag, assigning them scores across a handful of qualitative measures. To help our analysis, we put them up against some of the best running shoes on the market and gave our recommendations. Read on to see how they do across our measures and against other top offerings.
Not all shoes need to be incredibly responsive and these racing flats are for those that don't need it and won't miss it. They do just fine without the crazy snapback of models like the top scoring HOKA ONE ONE Elevon, but it wouldn't hurt to get a bit more back with each step. The Escalante 1.5s made a tradeoff here: responsiveness for comfort. The Altra Ego™ dual-nature midsole feels much closer to a gel bike saddle cover than a running shoe, but it's pretty comfortable and forgiving. On top of that, the 6mm Contour Footbed insole help cushion, but also saps responsiveness from the midsole.
If you're hard up for responsiveness, we suggest taking a look at a few other offerings. The Editor's Choice winning On Cloud X isn't quite a barefoot or zero drop model, but it only has 6 mm of heel-to-toe drop and gets a lot of kickback from its midsole.
The Escalantes are a bit of a mixed bag in this category. Their 25 mm of gel-like Altra EGO™ midsole certainly does a great job of cushioning the landing and it feels really good, but forefoot landers might feel like the shoe is slipping out from under them, as covered in the previous section on responsiveness. That's partially to do with the design of the upper, which lacks a reinforced toebox cover to keep the toes from sliding off the front of the shoe.PureFlow 7 won our Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat and only have 4 mm of heel-to-toe drop and kick tail in this measure. They're also better priced. On the other end of the drop spectrum are the Nike Pegasus 35, with 10 mm of drop and a more traditional design. Our Editors' Choice On Cloud X winner also does great here and only had 6 mm of drop.
This is one area where the Escalante 1.5s really blow the competition out of the water. A pair of men's 11 come in at 18.2 ounces, which is 10-20% lighter than most of the others. If you're in it for super light shoes, these should be on your list of shoes to consider. The Editors' Choice winning On Cloud X came in just a bit lighter, so be sure to give them a look too.
The blown rubber FootPod™ outsole and exposed Altra EGO™ padding may wear down within a season or two for hardcore runners, but more leisurely runners will see more seasons. Your goal as a runner is to wear shoes down faster; the company's goal should be to put out products that will last longer, though the business case might not support that.
There are also concerns that the thin mesh upper could tear or come loose at the toebox, because it lacks the reinforcement of other shoes. It shares this design weakness with most of the other lightweight speedsters, so it's fairly inherent to this style of shoe.
Comfort was an area where the 1.5s did well. Their stretchy knit upper did a good job of enveloping the foot for a natural feel, while the collar had enough padding to cushion the heel without chafing or being too cumbersome. They also did a good job on the heel cup. It supports and keeps the shoe in place through the stride, but doesn't dig or inhibit. As comfortable as they are, it's not all rosy.
The first noteworthy limitation here has already been discussed. It's that the foot slips a bit much and the toebox doesn't have the reinforcement to stop the toes from slipper over the front edge of the midsole. The second issue here is the tongue. Thin tongues can reduce the claustrophobia-inducing conditions of super padded, plush uppers, but they risk being too flimsy to comfortably spread across the foot for a good fit. That's the problem here. The tong folds at the edges and bunches up, making them a bit uncomfortable if you don't notice the fold or can't work it out.
We enjoyed running in the Escalantes and had no serious problems with comfort, even given the above issues, but if you need unquestionable comfort, there are other options out there. Plush models like the Brooks Glycerin 16 are typically much more comfortable, but they also tend to come with more control structures and might not feel as free. For a comparable design with more comfort, we suggest looking at the Brooks PureFlow 7.
These shoes have odd performance under this measure. On the one hand, their light, thin knit upper should improve breathability and ventilation, but it's middling at best. They ended up being a bit warm on hot days - more so than models with micromesh materials like the On Cloud X and PureFlow 7, yet they retained moisture, adding to that problem of slipping we've mentioned throughout the review. And despite that, they were also chilly on cool mornings. If you tend to run in the road or through mud or puddles, we suggest looking at something like the two we just mentioned.
They're definitely not for serious trail running or routes with quick twists and turns. They're best suited to pavement pounding on long, flat straights.
$130 might be a bit of a bold ask for Altra. These shoes were fun and had their high points, but for that cash, you might find more versatile shoes with better control.
These were among our favorite kicks based solely on their squishy feel. They're very comfortable right out of the box, but the FootShape™ toe box is pretty specific to certain foot shapes, so that comfort might not be as apparent for other runners. As for stability, there's limited support built into the shoe and the aforementioned squishiness is an inherently unstable characteristic, which isn't helped by loose upper and unfortified toe box that allows the outside toes to slip and slide across the squishy midsole. But in summation, they're light, comfortable, decent running shoes and will work well for runners that don't mind a little sliding around in the shoe.
— Ryan Baham