First Look: SCARPA Spin Ultra Trail Running Shoes

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Maybe it’s not so much of a “first look,” as this shoe has technically been on the market since the spring – but SCARPA (officially written in all caps) is a relatively new trail shoe brand to us, and we suspect it might be for many of our readers also.

The Italian company founded in the Dolomites has historically been known for its climbing shoes, but recently – and perhaps not coincidentally – with the establishment of its North American headquarters in Boulder, CO, they have entered the trail running shoe market. The Spin Ultra is designed for moderate- to ultra-distance running, with more cushioning than previous SCARPA models, but without a significant tradeoff in weight.Lasting of the Spin Ultra has a medium volume in the heel and midfoot, with a tapered toe that curves a little too sharply for our liking. We had some blistering at the tops of our outside toes using our standard size, and will probably size up by one-half next time to avoid this issue. Sock fit construction of the midfoot has light elasticity that hugs your foot and prevents puckering through the midfoot area. The uppers are designed with rough terrain in mind, with extensive TPU overlays providing durability and a molded toe cap for protection from knocks. While the overlays provide great resilience for scree scrambling or bush-whacking, we found the Spin Ultra to run somewhat warm, with ventilation and drying capacity that are decent but not excellent.

From the bottom of the foot down, the Spin Ultra has a lot of compelling design elements that create a smooth, comfortable and stable ride. The moderately thick, dual-density EVA midsole provides a soft landing, and a thin TPU insert in the midsole adds some torsional stability and functions as a rock plate to disperse sharp impacts. The 6mm drop is a real sweet spot between allowing natural midfoot striking on level ground, but providing solid heel protection when descending steep terrain. We experienced a pleasant combination of soft earth impact with good energy transfer to the front of the foot, which was consistent over distances of 15-20 miles.

One of the best innovations in outsole technology this year is Vibram’s Megagrip Litebase material, which provides the same grip and protection as the standard Megagrip compound, but with a base that is 60% thinner. This shaves a significant amount of weight from the shoe without sacrificing traction, and the 4mm lugs are strategically positioned and angled based on the amount of force each specific section of the sole receives. Traction was equally solid in wet and dry conditions, and the widely-spaced lugs shed mud quickly.

 Features and Specs:

  • Weight (oz): 9.3 men’s / 7.8 women’s
  • Stack heights: 24mm heel / 18mm toe
  • Heel-toe drop: 6mm
  • Uppers: Micro nubuck and mesh, with welded PU overlay
  • Molded TPU toe cap
  • Midfoot sock fit construction
  • Midsole: Dual-density EVA with TPU insert
  • Outsole: Vibram Megagrip Litebase rubber with 4mm lugs
  • MSRP: $150

The SCARPA Spin Ultra is available at www.scarpa.com.

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About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, California native, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 25 years of experience in endurance sports. He was a collegiate rower at UCLA, then dabbled in marathons and Ironman-distance triathlons before falling in love with ultras in the early 2000s. His favorite locations to run include Marin County, CA, and the Sierra Nevada mountains, and he loves exploring America's National Parks. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.

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