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Altra Escalante 2.5 running shoes reviewed

Get a close look at the new Altra Escalante 2.5 trainers. See how the 2.5 iteration measures up.
Altra Escalante Running Shoes Hero Image

Ever since I got serious about running six years ago, I’ve been training consistently in the Altra Escalante. Let’s see how high the new Altra Escalante 2.5 running shoes can fly.

I have a love-hate relationship with these trainers. While I do the majority of my running in these shoes, I’ve yet to run an official half marathon in them. In fact, I discovered these fantastic shoes in 2016, taking them along on my travels, but when it came time to run my first half, I opted for the Hoka One One Arahi 2.

I can’t remember exactly why. Maybe it was because of the ample cushion the Arahi offered versus what the Escalantes gave. For distances under ten miles, the Escalantes are a great option. But I’ve been having foot pain running longer distances in them. And while I’ve decided not to use them for my next half marathon, I still think they’re a good option for training.

What I love about Altra Escalante 2.5 running shoes

Training in the Escalante's first iteration
Training in the Altra Escalante’s first iteration trainers tethered to the crazy bitch.

Let’s start with what I love about these shoes. Compared to other top-tier brands, Altra Running is a brand new sneaker company. Altra’s ten years in business are tantamount to the teething stage. The company was founded by a pair of college cross country runners, which I love.

The Escalantes are a phenomenal option for neutral-gait runners with issues like plantar fasciitis. Overpronators should look to the Altra Paradigm or their Provisions line. 

The entire Altra Running shoe line is designed to emulate the natural form of the human foot. They have wide, balloon-shaped toe boxes that taper slightly toward the heel. Altra calls this their signature FootShape™ design, and it’s what led me to purchase my first pair. 

My feet are cute but problematic. I started experiencing foot pain twenty years ago. My pain was located right at the curve of my heel where it meets my arch. At first it was only my right foot. Then after a short time, I felt the same pain in my left foot. This put a damper on any kind of physical activity I attempted. 

I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, given two shots of cortisone, and sent to physical therapy. The pain went away temporarily. When it came back twice after that initial diagnosis, I researched other, more natural ways to manage the discomfort.

One way to manage my foot pain, I found, was to walk barefooted. Wearing traditional shoes, especially shoes with a pointy tip and high heels, pushes the toes together, forcing them into a triangle shape. If you’ve ever seen an older person’s feet, you might have noticed the form their toes take. The reason for this is that many traditional shoes are tapered at the tip. After years of wearing traditional shoes and high heels for eight hours a day or more, the phalanges are eventually forced away from their naturally wide-splayed position to form a painful triangle, squeezing the toes together. This causes a number of issues including bunions, calluses, plantar fasciitis, and metatarsal pain.

Because I worked in a corporate office for many years, I had no choice but to wear shoes eight hours a day at work. I did my best to wear shoes that had a wider or rounded toe box that would  let my toes naturally splay.

Foot pain is the worst kind of pain, and for a runner, it’s also disappointing. I looked for a running shoe that was lightweight, with moderate cushioning, and a wide toe box. Many running shoes on the market were made with a narrow tip, which worsened my foot pain, especially after long runs. I ditched my pre-chronic foot pain go-to brand, Asics, and explored other shoe brands with a wider-than-traditional toe box. As a result of my search, I was able to discover shoes that would ease my discomfort. When I found Altra Running, the Escalante seemed like a good fit. 

The Escalantes are soft, flexible, well cushioned, and lightweight. They’re also easy to pack for traveling because their upper is made of fabric mesh, they can be shoved in any corner of your luggage without ruining their shape.  A bonus: since they’re so light, they won’t add any extra kilos to your baggage weight limit. 

I ordered my first pair of Escalantes directly from the Altra Running website; the company was so new that my local running shoe store didn’t carry them. Immediately after putting them on, I was off running. Mile after mile, my feet just felt relieved. I kept running in them, eventually donating my leading-brand runners.

The new Altra Escalante 2.5 running shoes don’t disappoint. They seem to have a more cushioned sole than the previous version, and they also have a noticeably thicker outer sole. As with the earlier iterations of these, I can lace them up and take them on a long run, trusting that they won’t need a few runs to break in. It’s magical.

Escalante’s downside

With previous versions, though, I noticed that while they were taking quite a beating, the outer soles would literally disintegrate after running less than 200 hundred miles. If you’ve ever trained for any kind of long distance race, you know that week after week, the miles pile on. In one month alone, I was running anywhere between 75 and 150 miles. My Escalantes weren’t lasting me nearly as long as I had hoped, especially for the elevated price tag. But they were the only shoes that made my feet happy.

I purchased another pair to help spread the wear and tear equally between the two. Then another pair. By 2017 I was up to five pairs of Escalantes, certainly more than any other brand I had owned, including Asics. I tried another model to see if they’d last longer, but they didn’t feel quite right.

Eventually, I turned to another newcomer brand with a wide toe box, which my local running shoe store had on sale. They were comfortable, lightweight, with ample, bouncy cushion and a phenomenally thick outer sole. Those were the Hoka One One Arahi 2. I liked them so much that I finished my training and raced in them.

Sadly, Hoka isn’t at all as consistent as Altra. When it was time to donate my Arahis, the next pair didn’t measure up to their predecessors. I recently gave them another try, but I couldn’t go farther than four miles before developing a blister on the ball just under my big toe.  

Apparently, Altra Running listened to their consumers’ complaints about the short lifespan of their outer soles and added a slightly thicker one to the Escalante 2.5. Unfortunately for Altra, and my aging feet, this is not be enough to help me pad over the finish line of my next half marathon. I can barely get through an eight-mile long run without foot pain.

Aside from the wear and tear that is common to the Escalantes, the 2.5 version is missing the extra shoelace hole at the end. This is the “locking” shoelace hole that is present on most running shoes. When used properly, they keep the heel from moving around at the back of the shoe, preventing those awful heel blisters.

Since learning what that extra shoelace hole was for, I’ve felt tangible improvement in my running. Now, it takes no time to break in my sneakers.

Because I’m a stickler for brand loyalty, I’m on my way to my local running supply store to try out the Altra Paradigm 6. These shoes have plush cushioning and thicker outer soles and are specifically for overpronators, which apparently, now includes me. I’ll keep you posted on my findings.

Altra’s commitment to a healthy environment

VF Corporation, a conglomerate which owns 13 outdoor and sports apparel brands owns Altra Running. My favorites JanSport, Kipling, Vans, and The North Face are among them. On CDP’s website (the not-for-profit company that provides environmental reporting of public companies) VF Corporation gets a score of B for climate change in 2021. They earned a D in 2011; an improvement in the right direction.

Their environmental record is proof of their strong commitment toward improving the health of the planet. They state their intentions directly on their website, under ‘Responsibility.’ There, you can learn about the corporation’s sustainability strategy. They’re increasingly prioritizing sustainable materials in their products along with sustainable packaging in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. The conglomerate is also committed to inclusion and diversity in the workplace, which is another reason to love the brands they carry.

We should all still do our part to protect the environment, rather than relying on corporations to do all the hard work. I donate my running shoes when I’m done with them. That way, they’ll have one more owner before they eventually go to a landfill. Be sure to check out my reviews on other running shoes and apparel. Stay tuned as I test and review the Altra Paradigm.

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