Zero drop and maximal shoes may have seemed like two entirely different styles a few years back, but the success of Altra Running has been from bringing the two together.
The Escalante is a light weight road shoe with a natural foot shape and zero differential from the stack height at the front and the back of the foot. It allows for a natural running style, but unlike previous “barefoot” shoes there is still cushioning to protect the foot and provide a comfortable ride.
Taking these straight out of the box the knitted upper on these shoes gives a very comfortable fit, just like a pair of slippers. They do feel a little on the big size if you’re not used to the extra space in the toe box, especially if you’ve been marathon training in Adidas shoes like I have been. It was almost as if they were a size too big, but after a bit of wearing and running it started to feel much more of a natural fit.
As with any changes to your footwear it is important to not get carried away too soon. Even though I often wear 4mm drop trail and road shoes, the Adidas range are a steeper difference with 8-10mm in some of their Adizero Boost range. Yet done sensibly it can be very pleasant to transition to the zero drop shoes, but be wary of Achilles and calf issues and take your time changing.
Running them in
As mentioned above, these did feel a little too roomy when I first started and it was important to make sure the laces gave a good lock to keep the foot in place. Once used to how they felt then I took the shoes for a few spins on the treadmill (it was a bit snowy/icy to test outdoors in December in Chamonix) and the first couple of runs I could feel my calves the next day.
The running itself felt smooth, the shoes were light and very comfortable. I did feel like I was running a little differently, but I have used previous Altra shoes (The Lone Peak 2.5 trail shoes) and it wasn’t a complete shock to the system. Picking up the pace was not an issue and once comfortable it wasn’t any different to running in any road shoes for a session.
Whilst the Altra Escalante might not be as light as some of the racers I’ve used for marathon or shorter road racing they do weight in at just over 230g so comparable with similar competitors. The new Escalante 1.5 is a touch lighter and the Escalante Racer (which I’m looking forward to testing next) is under 200g (193g to be exact) so should feel like a proper fast shoe. Being able to have a great training shoe and then a lighter version of the same shoe for racing is a nice touch.
Lastly, but by no means least in this Instagram heavy world, the look. Initially the Altra range did look bulky and a bit strange (due to their natural foot shape style) and it was a little off putting. Whilst how it looks on social media isn’t important, it can be keen to feel and look fast when you’re trying to run fast. We all know the power of the mind in perceiving our effort, so if we feel fast, we run fast.
The new Altras, including the Vanish-R, Superior 4.0 and these Escalantes do look a little difference but they look good. Putting a pair on I can imagine myself running fast in them, particularly the Superior 4.0 trail shoes which may get a review later on.
It worth noting that these shoes were provided by Altra for review, but I have since purchased a pair of Vanish-R and Superior 4.0s from my own money.
The Pros and Cons
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, zero drop shoes that look nice.
Cons: Feel very roomy to start and worth trying on to get a good fit. Time to transition to zero drop is important.
Robbie is sponsored by Odlo, Profeet Sports Lab and Precision Hydration. If you want to follow his training chasing rather varied goals across the world you can also see it here on Strava or the highs and lows on Twitter and Instagram.