Time for a another gear review. In the interests of full disclosure, I am NOT an ambassador or otherwise connected with the Altra Brand, but I DO like their shoes. Today’s review will feature the Altra Escalante road shoe. I decided to check out the Altra Brand after my first 100 mile race. I wore Hokas for my training and for the race and I love the padding which protects my feet after miles of pounding on the roads. On the down side, even when I sized up, the toe box of the Hokas was too narrow, and my feet swelled so bad that I was tempted to cut the toe box out of the shoe by mile 75. I saw several runners on the course with this latest “fashion idea” but something galled me about destroying a $130 pair of shoes. Enter the Altra which has a very wide toe box design to allow plenty of room for your toes to wiggle and move.
Design – the shoes are light weight with a knit upper to allow for a sock like fit/feel. I love this because it makes the shoes very breathable so my feet don’t feel soaked after miles on the asphalt. Another staple of the Altra brand, beyond the wide toe box, is a zero drop. Zero drop shoes are shoes “that allow the foot to sit level to the ground without a slope from the heel to the forefoot (check out this Runner’s World article for more information on Zero drop pros/cons).” For me, the zero drop prompts me to run more “fore footed” and helps me focus on feedback from my feet to promote better form. The shoes are also very light, coming in at 8.2 oz for the men and 6.5 oz for the women.
Ride – the wide toe box and zero drop give the illusion of a more barefoot running experience. I wear these shoes and feel fast and “zippy”. It feels like I’m fast at toe off and can pick up speed quickly. There is a caution that comes with the shoe design, if you are not used to zero drop or more minimalist style shoes, ease into these kicks. I have run in more minimalist shoes in the past with no problem but I know folks who have complained that with a more forefoot strike, as promoted by these shoes, they can get achy calves and Achilles. So if you can’t resist this new shoe technology, at least take it slow. I have had stiff calves the next morning after longer runs with these shoes. I’ve worn my Escalantes for both half-marathon and marathon distances with no problems.
Overall 5 out of 5 stars. I love this shoe. My husband got a pair and I saw how much fun he had on weeknight runs, so naturally I had shoe envy and had to get a pair for myself. Pros, smooth ride, light weight, makes you want to fly on a run. These shoes also feel great for scaling hills! I think I get more from this shoe than what was intended by the designers. I can take these on long road runs and not feel the fatigue and get both tempo runs and longer slower runs from the same shoe. No hesitation in wearing these for races (e.g. The Dragonfly Jackal Marathon). Cons – The shoe runs a bit big because of the roomy toe box – I normally wear a 9.5 which is VERY roomy in these shoes but not so much that I trip. I could however have done a 9. Make sure to get fit correctly. The price is also a bit less sexy with shoes retailing at $130. I have already put about a 100 miles on my shoes and they still feel/look new so we will see how well the wear for the price. Lastly, I wear these for 5K to Marathon distance but would not use them for track work. For me, the wider toe box doesn’t let me dig in in the same way as a racing flat or spike for track work, sprints, or repeats.