Conclusion: 9/10
Altra offer shoes with:

  1. A wide toebox
  2. Zero drop

If you struggle to achieve toe spread in most shoes and enjoy any degree of minimalistic running then the Altra Escalante need to be on your ‘Must try’ list.

p.s. They are true to size.

Benchmarking:

Check my farewell post to my New Balance Minimus MR00 running shoes. This will provide you with a comparative benchmark to help you understand how my running needs and shoe expectations integrate with yours. 

Shoe Search:

I would recommend you develop an understanding of the shoe marketplace so you have a broad range of data from which to draw comparison. These sites and channels helped me no end:

    You can only really develop the necessary comparative benchmarking once you try on some of the shoes you’ve read reviews for. It’s also a good idea to try some of the most popular shoes so that you have a wider comparison base.

    I can highly recommend Sweat Shop running specialist stores. They carry many of the latest Running shoes in a good range of sizes. Their prices are competitive and the staff I’ve met were helpful once I’d clearly explained my needs and expectations. 

    Shoes I’ve tried and didn’t buy:

      Why didn’t I buy them?

      Simple, they were all too tight in the toe box. The Sacony Freedom ISO were the most comfortable all-rounder in terms of cushioning and flexibility – I would have bought them if the toe box had been accomdating enough. The Adidas Ultra boost had the best upper, a beautiful knit that allowed my foot to expand – but fundamentally still not wide enough as my little toe would spill over the side. The Sacony Kinvara where too tight in the toe box and inflexible. The New Balance Vazee and the Brooks PureFlow were far too inflexible to even consider.

      Score 5/10 (it’s hard to find these shoes in a shop in the UK. Plus online there was only one seller with these in stock)

      What next?

      After another 4 weeks without finding any shoes I stumbled across a review for the Altra Escalante from The Ginger Runner. I cross checked this against fellrnr. As the altra escalante was not available in any stores within a 2 hour radius I bit the bullet and ordered online, something I would never normally do with shoes. I’m so glad I did though. 

      Altra Escalante – Sizing/Fit:

      Measure your foot first. Stand on a piece of paper. Draw around it. Get out a ruler.

      Find: 

      1. The longest diagonal length
      2. The greatest horizontal width

      If you don’t measure the longest diagonal length you could end up being almost 1/2 out. Don’t just measure vertically from your big toe to your heel. 

      The Altra Escalante fit true to my measurements. This can’t be said for many shoes – take care to read as many opinions as possible regarding sizing of shoes. Many are regularly at least 1/2 a size out. 

      Put simply these shoes fit my foot shape exactly. I have almost a perfect thumb width gap at the toe. Most importantly my toes can spread out fully. I have a very wide toe spread and these are the only shoes that can accommodate it whilst still fitting my midfoot and heel.

      Score 9/10 (true to size and the ONLY shoe I’ve worn with enough toebox width) 

      Altra Escalante – Comfort/Cushioning:

      I’m not accustomed to any cushioning at all, so these feel like pure luxury bounciness. They very much feel like the Sacony Freedom ISO and the Adidas Ultraboost in terms of cushioning. I very quickly got used to this underfoot headonism.

      Soft comfortable upper with secure lacing

      The upper and lacing work very well together to provide a comfortable yet relaxed secure fit. The knitted upper is sturdier than the Adidas Ultraboost but more felixble and forgiving than many other uppers. I very rarely used to tie my shoes tightly in fact I used to be able to slip my shoes on and off without ever undoing the laces and very often I would run with my laces loose and untied. I am now finally wearing shoes that are my correct size, so I find I have to tighten the laces significantly more than I’m used to to maintain the midfoot and heel securely in the shoe. The upside to this is that my toes really can spread out and attempt to grip on to the ground with every step. The sole is felixble enough for a shoe with sure cushioning so my feet can still enjoy the gymnastics of coping with twisty light trail runs. 
      For those who like to go sockless these shoes are perfect, the inside is smooth, soft and comfortable and I find that without socks I get a much better sensation of the ground, of the shoe and of my foot movement​. That said I have run seven and a half kilometres with socks and while the fit was still fine it simply didn’t suit my need for connectivity to foot-shoe-ground.

      Sockless comfort and increased ground and foot sensation

      Score 9/10 (I don’t need socks, they are my socks!)

      Altra Escalante – When to use:

      Altra appears to have made excellent all-round shoes which work fantastically on tarmac, light twisty trails with mud and loose rock and obviously on a treadmill. The outer sole has an awesome foot shaped design which leaves distinctive impressions in the dirt. 

      Distinctive foot shaped outer sole works well on muddy trails

      I have also worn these shoes as a casual shoe, walking the dog and shopping. They have proved enormously comfortable and in fact it makes me wish that Altra made smart shoes that weren’t just for running. 

      Score 8/10 (tough rocky trails won’t work in this shoe but we are good for most other conditions) 

      Final Verdict:

      If you need a wider toe box, want foot shaped shoes which are as comfortable as socks, have a zero drop and a degree of minimalism to satisfy your connection between foot-shoe-ground then I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better option. 

      p.s. If you do find an alternative let me know, otherwise I’ll be wearing these religiously for the next 3 years.

      p.p.s I bought these with my own money.

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