Even though Scott says the Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC ($160) trail running shoes are best for running long distances on human-made or groomed trails, we’ve found them to be much more capable. I’ve run in these shoes on all kinds of trail terrain: smooth, rocky, technical, and steep. Snow and mud are the only places where I’ve had to temper my go-fast enthusiasm to prevent slide outs from lost traction. The Kinabalu Ultra RC has an 8mm drop via a stack height of 21mm at the front and 29mm in the heel. The brand says the shoes weigh 9.5 ounces (270 grams).
While working at an outdoor trade show in Germany several years ago, I first learned about Scott shoes from a European colleague who lauded their capability on technical terrain. My interest in the brand has continued to the present day, so I was very excited to finally try a pair. The Kinabalu Ultra RC trail running shoes have far exceeded my expectations.
See our Best New Trail Shoes of Fall-Winter 2020 for more recent trail running shoe releases.
Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC Upper
The upper on the Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC is one of the shoe’s two standout features. It’s lock-tight, letting you bomb downhill while feeling secure and predictable. It’s the least-boasted-about feature in Scott’s marketing of this shoe, but the upper is streamlined almost to a fault. If the tongue length was any shorter, for example, you’d have a hard time getting the top laces to cover it and not tighten uncomfortably against the top of your foot itself.
The upper’s composition is mesh and polyurethane. The mesh sides have not blown out yet after 100 miles, but they are showing wear. These do not seem as durable as other shoes in the trail market, and I suspect the upper’s mesh on my test pair will tear eventually. This is a shame because the rest of the shoe is still performing very well and has a lot of life remaining.
Though I’ve only tested the shoes in cold conditions, the breathability is excellent. I am confident that into the spring and summer, I’ll also be running in these shoes.
Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC Midsole
The second standout feature on the Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC is the rocker-shaped midsole. Scott calls this technology eRIDE and the shoe has more rocker than many others I’ve tested in the last year. This is why I found myself wanting to run in them for more than half of my runs each week. The rocker gives you an extra bit of propulsion with each step, which I personally find very rewarding for my heel-oriented running gait. It puts more speed and kick behind me on flat to rolling trails.
I haven’t noticed the shoes becoming lifeless over my testing duration which means, even at my 180-pound body weight, the midsole foam is still doing its job and returning the energy I put into them. According to Scott, the company’s Kinetic Foam midsole reportedly returns 14% more energy than standard EVA foam. It’s noticeable. I reached for these shoes for workout days and put up a new best time on an eight-mile loop that starts with 3,000 feet of gain in the first four miles.
Like any good ultramarathon-oriented shoe, the midsole has a very effective rock plate located in the forefoot only, and it even has a toe guard. It’s been a long time since I’ve run in a shoe with a rock plate and I was pleased to notice how much less of a beating I took on the trails.
Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC Outsole
The Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC outsole has another unique design compared to many of the shoes I’ve tested recently in that there is an entirely lug-free section in the middle. Where most shoes feature an all-over lug pattern, the lack of lugs here is again intended to maximize performance on groomed trails. The lug pattern is called Hybrid Traction with conical cleats which are meant to deliver what Scott calls “straight-line power transfer.”
Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC Overall Impressions
So, was my European colleague correct that Scott is formidable with its shoes? Absolutely. Between the super-stable upper and the eRIDE midsole, I would put the Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC trail running shoes high above many more well known and loved shoe brands. Should racing return with gusto in 2021, I will certainly use these but, almost more importantly, I’ll continue to use these shoes daily when I want to go both far and fast.
Call for Comments
- Are you running in the Scott Kinabalu Ultra RC shoes? What do you think of them overall?
- How does the outsole perform for you on different kinds of terrain?
- What’s your opinion of the midsole rocker and foam?
- How is the upper for you in terms of both its fit and durability?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]