Finding the right running shoe can be overwhelming; the amount of choices out there is dizzying combined with conflicting philosophies about pronation, supination, heel striking, and other buzzwords thrown around at your local running store.
Fortunately, almost all of it is simply marketing designed to get you to buy the latest model or shoe insert.
This is where minimalist running comes into play.
It is a practice that has gained a lot of traction in the past decade, and is based on the simple and intuitive idea that humans are meant to run naturally.
We're on board with it.
Standard running shoes are overly cushioned, prompting you to run incorrectly and promoting un-natural practices such as heel striking and high impact landing.
If you try to run barefoot, you will notice that your form is drastically different than when running in shoes.
Your stride shortens, you land lightly on your mid-foot, and your body remains angled slightly forward, the opposite of lengthy heel striking which batters your knees and ankles.
For more on minimalist running, and how standard running shoes actually cause injuries, check out Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. It's an eye-opening book (and a great story) that explains why everything you've heard about running is wrong.
With all of that introduction out of the way, we present you will the Altra Escalante.
It is essentially the entry-level minimalist running shoe (i.e. it is not the full blown Vibram five finger toe shoes) for the individual looking to make the transition away from motion correction, ridiculous levels of padding, and shoes that fundamentally alter the way humans were designed to run.
So what distinguishes these from a standard running shoe?
The sole of the shoe is zero drop, meaning it is flat. A typical running shoe has a significant drop, with much more padding in the heel.
The zero-drop sole promotes mid-foot running as opposed to heel striking, which is a much more natural way to run.
With the zero-drop sole, your entire foot is the same distance from the ground, promoting low impact landing. The same way you would run barefoot.
The Escalante has a wide toe-box which allows your toes to splay naturally. A standard running shoe jams your toes together, which is highly unnatural, and does not allow you to fully employ the musculature of your foot.
It has all the benefits of a minimalist running shoe, while still providing just enough cushion to give you a margin for error as your running form evolves.
In terms of feel, both on roads or trails, the Escalante gives you much more feedback than your standard running shoe.
The closest comparison would be to driving a sports car after driving your mom's minivan. It's that big of a difference. Seriously.
The Escalante feels fast, planted, and responsive, which makes sense as your entire foot is engaged and you can feel the ground as you push off it.
Why do we like these for Marine Officers?
1) For the candidate heading to OCS, making the transition to more minimalist shoes and learning proper running form can make a significant impact in reducing injuries. It is no secret that there is a ton of running at OCS, so you might as well learn to run properly. Five finger toe shoes are not allowed at OCS, and are not suited for the entry level minimalist runner. The Escalante works great on trails and for the cross training done at OCS.
2) Marines run in boots. Running in boots is about the farthest thing from minimalist running, but there is no getting around it.
Training in a minimalist shoe like the Escalante builds strength in your feet and ankles while correcting your running form. When you do have to run in boots, your lower legs will be stronger, and your form will be better.
Interested in more fitness gear reviews? Check out our TRX Review, our Nike MetCon Review, and our Whey Protein Review.