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Altra Escalante 3 Review (2022): Is This Zero Drop Shoe for You?

Altra Escalante 3 (orange men's shoes)

Published on: 08/29/2022

The Altra Escalante 3 is a versatile and dependable zero drop shoe that offers a responsive and comfortable ride.

The Consensus

8.8Overall Score

One of the most popular and all-around zero drop shoes. Still convincing, albeit with a few drawbacks.

Don’t have time to read the full review? Here’s what you need to know.

Striving for versatility, especially in running shoes, can be risky. Achieve your goal, and you have a shoe that performs at a high level for all runners. Come up short, and you end up with a shoe that isn’t right for any specific group.

The Altra Escalante has been a successful shoe in the Altra lineup dating back to 2017. The Escalante’s main group of fans are natural runners looking for an all-purpose shoe. The updated Altra Escalante 3 is still zero-drop and a wide toe box but with the notable changes of an updated upper and added support.

These updates will appeal to a broader range of consumers, but did they alienate the Escalante super fans in the process? The results are somewhat mixed. On the downside, the toe box is not as wide, and extra cushioning in the midsole makes the shoe heavier and more narrow.

On the upside, reviewers still found the shoe to be light, comfortable, responsive, secure, and durable. The positives outweigh the negatives unless you have especially wide feet. This shoe is best for those who enjoy walking and short runs in a comfortable shoe with a natural feel.

Please read our full review of the Altra Escalante 3 for more information.

Comfort
9
Responsiveness
8.5
Foot lockdown and protection
8.5
Stability
9
Durability
9
Value
8.5
Design
8.5

PROS

  • Ample toe box – room for toe splay
  • Versatile ride with natural stability
  • Durable
  • Secure and breathable foothold
  • Simple but attractive design
  • Good feedback and ground feel
  • Quality grip on road and light trails
  • Moderately priced

CONS

  • Heavier than previous versions
  • Not ideal for exceptionally wide feet

Altra Escalante 3 Complete Review Analysis

Introduction

Altra Escalante 3 reviews

Altra’s bread and butter is making zero-drop running shoes that encourage natural running movement. They achieve this through many technologies they developed themselves and employ as needed based on the type of shoe. They are not minimalist shoes per se because even though the heel-to-toe drop is zero, they have plenty of cushion.

Compared to other shoes in the Altra line, the Escalante 3 arguably digs the deepest into the technology bag. That’s because the Escalante is the most versatile member of the family. This shoe offers a natural shape and adequate cushion while aiming to be everything from casual wear to frequent use for daily running.

Cushioning

Altra Escalante 3 cushioning foam

The Altra Escalante 3 features Altra EGO midsole cushioning — the updated model has more foam. Altra EGO was designed to be soft and plush while still dynamic, and it delivers exactly that with this new Escalante. The other technologies employed by Altra are Innerflex, Footshape design, and Balanced Cushioning.

Innerflex is a grid of grooves that add flexibility. FootShape and Balanced Cushioning combine to give the foot a natural platform with enough room to be comfortable. FootShape specifically addresses the contrasts between men’s and women’s feet.

It’s all well and good to have fancy names for everything, but how do these technologies cushion the foot? They team up to do a great job. The cushioning is soft and light while still keeping a balance. Other models of zero-drop shoes can easily fall into the “feels weird” category, but that is not the case at all with the Altra Escalante 3. They feel natural and balanced.

Altra Escalante 3 EGO midsole cushioning

The stack height is 26mm with a 0mm heel-to-toe drop. 26mm is a moderate height, but reviewers felt the feel was more like a higher, supremely cushioned stack even though their feet were closer to the ground.

The additional cushioning adds some weight to these shoes (men’s shoes: 9.3 oz (263g), women’s shoes: 7.7 oz (219g)). While the Escalante 3 should still be considered a light shoe, reviewers were slightly disappointed by the added heft.

Foot lockdown

Altra Escalante 3 engineered mesh upper

A complaint of previous models of the Altra Escalante was that there was poor ventilation and questionable lockdown. Thankfully those issues have been addressed with the upper of the Altra Escalante 3. The updated upper is lightweight, comfortable, and breathable.

The upper uses a knit mesh material that runners loved. Multiple testers called the shoe’s feel “sock-like” but in the most positive way. It is form-fitting and secure without feeling restrictive.

Altra Escalante 3 knit mesh material

The added cushioning in the mid-foot also had some effect on the lockdown. The sidewalls were strengthened with a solid material which added to security but also makes for a firmer midsole and less space for a wide foot. The heel and heel counter has a simple design with no reported issues.

Speaking of design, the Altra Escalante 3 is an attractive running shoe. It has a sleek, uncomplicated look and standard colors like blue, white, black, teal, and orange, except the Women’s “Fierce” model — flower and cheetah print! As a bonus, these shoes are vegan.

The Altra Escalante 3 fits true to size if you like a snug fit, but some reviewers recommend going half size up from your regular size.

Grip and durability

Altra Escalante 3 rubber outsole

The outsole of the Escalante 3 utilizes adequate rubber coverage and the FootPod outsole technology. This means the rubber on the bottom of the shoe mimics your foot shape to further encourage natural movements. The testers agree that the rubber and the shape performed well, giving runners a flexible and responsive ride.

Altra Escalante 3 running shoe support

The rubber grip also passed all tests the reviewers put the running shoes through, including keeping them upright on the street, the track, and on damp roads. These are by no means heavy-duty trail shoes, but they also maintain their grip on light trails and uneven terrain.

Altra Escalante 3 rubber outsole with traction pattern

In addition to the performance-based analysis, the Altra Escalante 3 also impressed with its durability. This shoe was constructed solidly in the outsole and in the upper. There should be no concerns about premature wear and tear; one runner estimated a shoe life of at least 300 miles.

The ride

Altra Escalante 2022 running shoes

By definition, zero drop and minimal shoes should deliver a responsive ride. If you weren’t concerned about the feedback from the ground, you would look to a shoe with an extreme cushion and a higher drop. The Escalante 3 absolutely delivers a responsive and smooth ride.

The Escalante 3 has a nice snap to go along with the natural ride. The feedback is just what runners were looking for in terms of running form and tempo. These shoes should be broken in. They are on the firm side right out of the box, but once some miles accumulate, the ride becomes softer.

Altra Escalante 3.0 top view of the shoe

The appropriate usage of the Escalante 3 depends on the user’s experience level with zero drop. A beginner will want to stick to walking and running short distances as it can take some time to become accustomed to equal heel height and forefoot height. An experienced zero drop runner can be confident using this running shoe for anything from walking to distance daily running.

The only real complaint mentioned by one reviewer was that the shoe felt “sloppy” when they turned on the jets. They estimated that this was due to the extra weight from the added cushion.

Conclusion

Escalante 3 Altra: good shoe for easy transitions through the gait cycle phases

If Altra’s mission with the Escalante 3 was to make small improvements on previous versions while attempting to appeal to a broader audience, they succeeded. These shoes are extremely versatile, secure, reliable, and deliver a comfortable ride. Walking, running, and training are all activities where the Escalante 3 will thrive. While this version is a bit heavier than others, it is still light enough to enjoy the ride.

These may not be ideal if you have exceptionally wide feet or are looking for maximum speed. Altra does have a robust collection of shoes with different specialties — the Altra Vanish Carbon, for example, is an exciting zero-drop speedster. Otherwise, the multifaceted Escalante 3 does a lot for a modest price (Retail $139).

Facts

Altra Escalante side view

Technical Specs

TerrainRoad
Pronation typeNeutral
Drop0 mm
Heel height26 mm
Forefoot height26 mm
Weight (men)263 g/9.3 oz
Weight (women)219 g/7.7 oz
Features
Athletes
Release year2022
PriceCheck prices

Cushioning

SoftnessBalanced
ResponsivenessMedium

Technologies

OutsoleFootPod, InnerFlex
MidsoleAltra EGO
UpperSock-like Engineered Knit, FootShape

Use

SpeedModerate
DistanceShort, 5K, Mid, 10K, Half marathon
WorkoutDaily running

Reference: Altra Running's official site

Comparisons – Altra Escalante 3 vs.:

Altra Escalante 3 road running shoes with good support for flat feet

Escalante 3 vs. Escalante 2.5

The Escalante 2.5 and the Escalante 3 have a lot in common but a couple of important distinctions. It should be noted that both models are held in high regard for their plush ride and versatility.

Version 2.5 has a better alignment for runners with a wider forefoot, but issues with the upper include poor ventilation and insufficient structure. This 3.0 version has a much-improved knit in terms of breathability and secure lockdown. However, the refined shape of the midsole and toe box is not as accommodating for those with wide feet.

If you have wider feet, you may want to stick with the 2.5, but the Escalante 3 is a solid choice on all other fronts.

Jeff Knese

Jeff Knese

Jeff is a freelance writer, runner, hiker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. He has completed two half marathons and has recently been making annual trips to Colorado to summit new 14,000-foot peaks. Jeff is a big believer in consistency which keeps him running year-round even in the cold winters in the city of Chicago, Illinois.

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