Altra introduces a number of design innovations on the Escalante, and many of them are a success in terms of comfort and performance. The upper is snug but comfortable, and the outsole is grippy and responsive, but the standout feature of this shoe is the remarkable Ego midsole material that effectively combines plush cushioning and strong energy return. The Escalante is recommended for fast training as well as road racing for any distance up to and including a marathon.
The Escalante is built on Altra’s PFS performance last, with the same FootShape toebox found on models like the Torin and the One. It feels slightly narrower through the midfoot than other Altra models and secures nicely through the midfoot. The women’s version uses a Fit4Her female-specific last that is even narrower through the forefoot. Sizing of the shoe runs slightly small, so “tweeners” should go a half size up. The uppers lock into the midfoot very well with a traditional midline lace system and interior overlays on both the medial and lateral sides.
Knit uppers are one of the most common emerging trends in upper design, and Altra’s debut attempt with the Escalante is impressive. The fully engineered knit uppers conform closely to the shape of your foot, but have good stretch property to move smoothly during activity. It is a dense sock-like fabric material that runs on the warm side on hot days, but is very comfortable in moderate or cold conditions.
The entire upper is one knitted piece with seamless construction, and light padding around the ankle collar keeps the rear foot comfortable.
Altra’s new Ego cushioning is designed to provide more bounce and energy return with less weight. Think of it as the equivalent of Adidas Boost or Saucony EVERUN compounds. Our testers loved the springy feel of the Escalante midsole, and responsiveness is among the best in this test category. The compound is advertised to maintain its performance more consistently in extreme temperatures, which we confirmed during some quick outings in temps warmer than 90ºF where push off and toe spring remained snappy. The extensive outsole rubber on the Escalante provides nice traction on asphalt, and very secure grip in wet conditions.
Initial feel of the Ego midsole is softness, and some testers even reported a sensation of sinking in the Escalante, but the compound retains its shape and energy return very consistently to provide a smooth comfortable ground feel. InnerFlex grooves help the motion roll from heel to toe, with forefoot flexibility that adds to comfort without sapping too much forward momentum.
Speed is easy to come by in the Escalante, with a secure fit, low weight, and very energetic midsole compound. Our testers found it ideal for fast training days as well as longer races up to and including the marathon distance.