Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review

If you’re a forefoot runner who mostly runs on the roads and prefers a much softer, cushy ride, you’ll love the Altra Escalante which is one of the more cushier, without any clunkiness, forefoot running shoes, that’s built for running like a beast for 10 km to the marathon on any type of road condition.

I must underscore however that because of the thicker underfoot padding, the Escalante is a perfect fit for the runners whose running shoe arsenal typically includes the Nike Free, Saucony Kinvara 7, or the Brooks Connect 3 ~In my view, the Altra Escalante is a more superior variant of those shoes!

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
There are so many functional positives of the Altra Escalante that makes them verifiably a high performance road running shoe conducive for forefoot running.

One of the more appealing aspects of the Altra Escalante is the underfoot materials were conceived to provide a barefoot sensory-feel which is one reason the Escalante’s have received high-marks not just from myself, but from other minimalist/barefoot running wear-testers.

It’s the natural, barefoot-mimicking underfoot feel of the Escalante’s that can help you maintain a forefoot strike that’s more on target when you run which can help narrow your odds of injury AND take your performance to the next level. Not to mention, the Escalante’s zero-drop construction is a structural asset that helps you enforce a more well-positioned forefoot strike during running which in turn, can help minimize impact and compressive loads on the knee.

Ultimately, when it comes to a well-cushioned running shoe that can still help you use your forefoot strike more effectively, the Altra Escalante is definitely a 360 win!

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
I highly recommend the Altra Escalantes for putting in long miles on the roads, for doing tempo and interval runs on the roads as well as road racing distances ranging from 10 km to the marathon.

I’d also like to highlight that the Altra Escalante was awarded Editors Choice from Runner’s World Magazine and according to many other wear-testers, the Escalante’s work awesomely for long distance road running AND may aid in injury prevention because thanks to the essential features of the shoe, which includes a completely leveled sole (0-drop), a sufficiently wide toe-box and a barefoot-replicating underfoot feel, may help get your forefoot strike and leg swing mechanics more in order, which may drive safer, more functional running performance. This is how the Altra Escalante can be part of your forefoot running progress!

More on What the Escalante is Good for

In my view, the Altra Escalante not only performs best at long distance road running, but also performs admirably well when running on light, soft, flat, easy trails.

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
Based on my preference, the Altra Escalantes are definitely not made for extreme trails, but they are still great for light, soft, more leveled trails.

I must also underscore that even though the Escalante’s outsole is zero-drop, the outsole is 25-mm thick which could make running on technical, uneven terrain risky business.

To be honest, the only major drawback of the Escalante is the underfoot stack height which could threaten landing stability and impair agility when running on extreme technical trails. With that said, I don’t classify the Escalante as a fully competent, heavy-duty trail running shoe and you might not PR or excel at your next extreme trail race in them. Like I said, the Escalante is the perfect beast for running long distances (10 km to the marathon and even farther!) on smooth roads and harsh, rocky, beat-up old roads as well.

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
The road is where the Escalante’s totally delivers in being a productive shoe that offers a responsive, comfortable ride from start to finish!

Overall Structure of the Escalates

Another fortune of the Escalante is the shoes aren’t physically oppressive in structure on the feet which is a huge asset in helping prepare your feet more fully as being a good primer for those wanting to ease into minimalist barefoot-inspired footwear or even barefoot running.

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
I love that the Escalante’s have no strength-robbing, rigid structures, such as arch support, medial posts or heel counters. Therefore, intrinsic muscle and soft tissue engagement activation in the feet aren’t offline in the Escalante’s like they so typically are in most traditional stability running shoes.

In all, foot engagement is not restricted in the Escalante’s which can be a big source of positive change for improved foot functional strength. In this capacity, you will do better in running, injury prevention-wise and performance-wise, if your feet are stronger because they become more tolerant of longer, harder, faster miles!


If you look at shape of the Escalantes toe-box, you’ll notice its wider than most traditional running shoes and that it almost perfectly lines the contours of the foot’s natural anatomy which is another way gains in foot functional strength can be made because the toes aren’t squished together or overlapping, rather, there’s plenty of room in the front for the toes to naturally relax, flex, bend, extent and splay out during running and walking which not only strengthens the toes, but helps you lock in better dynamic balance control.

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
A lighter, more functional version of the traditional running shoe, the Escalantes have a roomy, flexible toe-box that engages your toes to splay for stronger footstep stability.

In the final equation, the Escalante’s give a pleasing, comfortable foot-hugging fit while permitting the feet to functionally engage at a high level. This is going to help get your feet get in better shape than if they were to remain crammed in most stiff, rigid conventional running shoes.

As I just mentioned, the Escalantes roomy toe-box affords more spatial ability for the toes to splay and extend which is part of the controls for more secured landing stability during running.

As compared to other running shoes in the Escalante’s class, if you enjoy the Nike Free or the Saucony Kinvara 7, you will undoubtedly LOVE and much prefer the Escalante’s because the toe-box is more roomy, more adaptable fit-wise and hugs to your foot more like a sock than both the Frees and Kinvara 7s.

As for the materials, the Escalantes have a knitted, stretchy, adaptable upper with more mesh placed around the forefoot for added, lasting comfort. The mesh/knitted combo enables the upper to comfortably conform to your foot supremely well, providing nothing but a natural, light feel that’s very enjoyable, especially for the long haul, and when sockless!

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
Despite its feather-light feel, the Escalantes upper is reliably durable credit going to the material density, which is pretty thick especially at the lacing column, but does not compromise the weight of the shoe, nor will it cause your feet to cook in the heat.

In warmer weather, the upper provides plenty of air flow, keeping your feet cool. The upper also performs well in rainy, hot, humid temperatures because it doesn’t get bogged down when wet or from the moisture.

As for winter running, the upper is fully winterized! These shoes have kept my feet, especially my toes, VERY warm (when paired with thin socks) in extreme cold (-27C and in snow!). I’m also impressed that when wet, it doesn’t add any chill to my feet.

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review

Bottom line, I’m incredibly pleased with how the upper handles cold, wet, even muddy conditions which is why the Escalates are my go-to winter running shoe! Couldn’t be more fantastic! Not to mention, the upper’s material dries quickly.

Above all, the Escalantes upper really does a nice job at being versatile for running in all types of weather conditions! You’ll feel nothing but soft n’ smooth comfort, even if you wear the Escalante’s without socks because the inside lining feels seamless; nothing rubs abrasively against your skin. Myself, along with many wear-testers have ran plenty of hard miles sockless in the Escalantes, even in the rain, and did not get one blister! I’m extraordinarily happy about that!

The Overall Feel

Again, you can confidently and comfortably go sockless in the Escalantes when running long distances in dry or rainy conditions. The shoes also come with a removable insole, which I removed as soon as I got the shoes because to me, the outsole itself provides enough cushioning (more than my liking). I felt the insole was too excessive, foamy and squishy for me. My forefoot strike control and landing stability just feels more stable, more secured without the insole, but that’s my preference.

Essentially, the underfoot of the Altra Escalante not only gives a fast-feel, but a natural-feel too, that may make it possible for you to improve your running mechanics at every level. How so? My assessment of the underfoot-feel as well as in gathering wear-tester testimonials described the underfoot materials as actually feeling like you’re walking and running barefoot on grass which is a sensory sensation that can help you run with a barefoot running style (forefoot strike running). This is what I mean when say the Escalante feels ‘natural’ on your foot. They make you feel like you’re barefoot!

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
The material elements of the underfoot in the Escalantes are formulated to replicate the feel of being barefoot which may help you produce a more effective forefoot strike that’s more easily sustained during running.

With that in mind, if you don’t want to use barefoot running or barefoot-like running shoes, such as the Vibram Five Fingers, to improve your running form, the dose of the barefoot sensations you get from the Escalantes may make it easy for you to iron out mechanical wrinkles and may help bring together positive changes you want to see in your running form.

Midsole Construction

The Altra Ego midsole is slightly stiff, yet bouncy and helps attenuate shock but more important is that it allows your foot to flex where it needs to.

The midsole also contains grid-like flex grooves optimized for better energy return at faster running speeds and it may also help facilitate a higher cadence and better forefoot strike precision which collectively can be the driver behind low-impact, economical running.

Ultimately, the midsole is nicely cushioned but not overdone and provides good energy rebound which can have an out-sized influence on performance!


The Escalante’s rubber FootPod outsole is zero-dropped with a 25-mm stack height but you still feel lower to the ground in the Escalante’s than in most traditional running shoes.

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
The Escalante outsole materials helps you maintain good dexterity, drives a faster toe-off and is impressively responsive, helping bolster a more smooth, faster transition throughout the cycles of running gait, all of which are handy for dropping a faster turnover.
Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
Even though the Escalantes stack height is much higher than most minimalist shoes, the outsole wont impair your forefoot strike when you run and is overall still incredibly road-worthy. These shoes are really for those who enjoy generous amounts of cushioning and rock protection.

One downside of the Escalantes sole is that it lacks aggressive tread and clutchy lugs. For this reason, especially because of the stack height, I’m unsure that the Escalantes would be a sufficient trail running companion, especially for extreme trails. The outsole thickness may prevent you from being fully agile and may create a destabilized landing surface on uneven, rugged trails ~where you need to feel your footing the most. This is why I feel the Escalante works the greatest for road running.

As for winter running, as I mentioned earlier, the Altra Escalantes are my go-to winter running shoe because the treadless sole can be totally winterized with DueNorth Everyday wearable spikes.

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
Unfortunately, the Altra Escalante offers little tread for running in icy, snowy conditions, but the shoes can made completely winterized with the DueNorth ice spikes which bring the shoes up to par to perform beyond admirably in blizzard, slick conditions.

Slap these spikes on and the Escalantes transform into the ultimate blizzard beast that can help you dominate any snow-covered path!

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
With the DueNorth wearable spikes on your Escalantes, you’ll get reliable traction without compromising ground-feel, comfort or the weight of the shoe!

Overall, the Escalantes outsole is more conducive for the roads and is durable enough to handle high mileage on the any road condition as well. Not to mention, it offers full protection on rocky, debris-littered roads, too!

Altra Escalante Forefoot Running Shoes Review
I’ve had my Escalantes for more than a year. I run 18-21 km a day in them and the outsole is just starting to show very minor signs of wear. The outsole has definitely withstood anything the Canadian winters has thrown at it too, which is why I highly rank the Escalantes for delivering beyond exceptional in the durability department!

Final Thoughts…

If you don’t want to use barefoot running or purely barefoot-inspired running shoes, such as the Vibram Five Fingers, to clean up your running mechanics, the barefoot sensations you get from the underfoot feel in the Escalantes can definitely help repair and reboot your stride. Not to mention, the Escalantes overall design was conceived to help you navigate away from a hard-hitting, heavy heel strike landing to a more organized, lightened forefoot strike which may not only help advance your running performance, but may improve your injury prevention efforts.

Other features I love the most about the Escalante is the wide, flexible toe-box and lack of external support which increases muscle activity more fully thoughout the foot which is the basis for developing stronger feet as well as improved balance control. This is why the Escalantes won’t strip away foot strength, like most conventional running shoes do, and is why the Escalantes are gaining more popularity in the minimalist running community.

Above all, the Altra Escalantes work perfectly for forefoot runners who enjoy running with a softly padded underfoot. In my view, the Escalante’s are a more minimalistic variant of the traditional running shoe and can still help you become more adept to avoid heel strike during running, just like you would in most minimalist running shoes, and that’s what really matters. Everything benefits when your feet are strong and when you run in a way that’s more functional and that’s one of the many pleasant prospects the Escalantes consistently offers. I’m confident they will do great things for you too!

I also did a YouTube review on the Altra Escalantes here, showing the shoe in action!

If you’re interested in getting your paws on a pair of the Altra Escalante forefoot running shoes, you can do so at the following:

Road Runner Sports –

Back Country –

Zappos –

Amazon –

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you’ll LOVE my reviews on other minimalist shoes for forefoot running, here! You’ll also love the content over at my YouTube channel, here, where I speak more on forefoot strike vs heel strike running as well as the health and performance benefits of barefoot running.

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Bretta Riches

"I believe the forefoot strike is the engine of endurance running..."

BSc Neurobiology; MSc Biomechanics candidate, ultra minimalist runner & founder of RunForefoot. I was a heel striker, always injured. I was inspired by the great Tirunesh Dibaba to try forefoot running. Now, I'm injury free. This is why I launched Run Forefoot, to advocate the health & performance benefits of forefoot running and to raise awareness on the dangers of heel striking, because the world needs to know.
Bretta Riches

P.S. Don't forget to check out the Run Forefoot Facebook Page, it's a terrific place to ask questions about forefoot running, barefoot running and injury. I'm always happy to help!