Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes
Check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article to learn about our current favorite trail running shoes!
Scarpa Spin Ultra Review
These are the golden days of the neutral, ‘all-arounder’ trail shoe, and I’m particularly enjoying the Scarpa Spin Ultra ($149). This is the most cushioned option in their Spin line, and it is by far my most favorite. It feels light on the foot at 7.8 ounces (women’s 7.5) and 9.3 ounces (men’s 8.5), yet the protection offered by the 25mm stack height courtesy of the thinner Vibram Litebase outsole and the dual-density layers of midsole EVA allows it to provide a really well-protected, responsive ride. The Spin Ultra has a 6mm drop that, to me, feels like an 8mm-plus drop because my hamstrings and Achilles are staying perfectly happy even while wearing them multiple days in a row on all types of terrain. So for those of you on the fence about trying ‘lower-drop’ trail running shoes, these are pretty magical even for me and my 10mm-preferring body. I plan to wear these shoes for an upcoming 12-hour, 5.5-mile loop race at a ski resort in a few weeks, and I’m confident they’ll get me through.
Scarpa Spin Ultra Upper
The upper is constructed of a uniform mesh through the forefoot and midfoot backed by a smooth polyester lining which does an excellent job of keeping debris out. This lining is part of Scarpa’s Sock-Fit System which enhances the shoe’s comfort and fit. The mesh is overlaid by micro-nubuck criss-cross patterns which integrate with reinforced lace loops thus facilitating a snug midfoot wrap once the no-slip laces are tied. The micro-nubuck extends into the reinforced TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) toecap in the front—excellent at warding off attacking rocks, roots, errant dog paws, and cacti—and provides the outer cover for the well-structured but still accommodating heel cup in the back of the shoe. The padded Achilles notch and ankle-bone cutouts are perfectly contoured which kept these parts happy for me even on off-camber rocky sections. The tongue is just perfect in its amount of padding and length. It’s not too thick, not too long or short, and it’s gusseted through the midfoot which keeps it in place. It has a lace garage which runs the full width of the tongue, but I never felt the need to use it. The upper of the Spin Ultra strikes the perfect balance between the need for quick drainage and temperature control with the need for a snug and supportive fit given the type of varied and technical terrain the shoe excels on. My Birkenstock-shaped foot (wider forefoot/narrower heel) finds the fit roomy yet secure.
Scarpa Spin Ultra Midsole
The midsole employed is similar to the Spin RS model in that there are two densities of EVA layered on top of each other. Where it’s much improved from the Spin RS, in my opinion, is the enhanced level of cushioning. It’s still firm enough to transfer energy well from foot strike to push-off, but you’re well protected whether you’re running a shorter daily run or racing 50 miles. To the touch, it seems the higher-density EVA is closest to the foot while the softer EVA is nearest the outsole. I couldn’t find exact technical specs on the website supporting this, so this is my interpretation based on the feel of my shoes. I have about 250 miles in them at this point, and I continue to be impressed with how responsive they feel at different points in my runs. Wonky rocks, ‘doll heads,’ and sharp-angled fins? No problem with this shoe’s ample protection. Hard-packed dirt trails winding downhill and in need of some moisture? Cruise on down and focus on turnover because the cushioning allows it. Steep uphill with a mixture of rock, grass tufts, and trail? Enough stiffness to keep the feet ticking away at the vertical. Ending a run with a half-mile of pavement? The Spin Ultra has that covered, too, as it can roll like a road shoe whisking you speedily back to your car.
Scarpa Spin Ultra Outsole
The outsole of the Spin Ultra is constructed of varying angles of moderately aggressive, rectangular lugs familiar to the Spin line. The new Vibram Velox Litebase Max/Megagrip compound is used in this shoe which allows for a reduction of 40 to 50% in thickness and 25 to 30% in weight of the outsole, per Vibram’s website. This thinner outsole is no less durable and still has fantastic purchase on all surfaces except maybe significantly muddy or snowy trails. At 250 miles, there’s the slightest bit of wear showing in the heel lugs which is perfectly acceptable to me as I’m a solid heel striker, and I’ve been using the shoes extensively throughout Colorado’s Front Range trails where rocks abound. If anything, I feel that this Litebase technology gives the shoe a more agile feel than some other shoes with the more traditional Vibram Megagrip while not sacrificing an ounce of protection.
Scarpa Spin Ultra Overall Impressions
I’m thoroughly impressed with the Scarpa Spin Ultra. It’s truly a quiver-of-one-type shoe for me, and I’d happily take this down and up (and down and up) in the Grand Canyon in Arizona, on a tour of Hardrock 100 country in Colorado, or out my door on the rolling, smooth singletrack of the edge-of-suburbia trails where I commune with the coyotes. I love the way the shoe tackles the steep rubble and uneven slopes of the mid- and high country. I love how they protect me from slickrock and pounded-out desert trails. And I love how they roll over hilly dirt roads and easy ribbons of dirt. There’s really nothing I’d change about the Spin Ultra, and I’ll definitely stock up on another pair or two before something does change. Well done, Scarpa, on hitting the sweet spots for traction and outsole durability, midsole cushioning and responsiveness, and an accommodating yet snug-fitting, quick-draining upper. This is a shoe for the long and short adventures on your calendar.
Read up on more new trail shoes for spring-summer 2019.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Have you run in the Scarpa Spin Ultra? What are your overall thoughts about the shoe?
- Have you run in any of the other shoes in the Scarpa Spin line? If so, how would you compare the Ultra with the other models?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a shoe brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]