As the sport of trail running continues to grow in popularity, more shoe manufacturers are producing models engineered specifically for long-distance performance. Enter Scott, a company founded on innovation with a history of developing new gear technology in winter sports, bicycling and motorsport, and more recently, trail running. For the creation of the Ultra Carbon RC, Scott partnered with professional trail runner Cody Lind to create a shoe designed to compete at Western States. We’ve tested the shoe on over 200 miles of varied terrain, ranging from steep and technical trails to long sections of road, with distances of 8–30 miles. The shoe is well built, offering a fast and efficient ride, with plenty of protection from the trail and robust durability. But is this shoe right for everyone? The answer depends on what you are looking for.
The uppers of the Ultra Carbon RC consist of engineered mesh with thermoplastic polyurethanes (TPU), which combine to make a breathable yet durable shoe. The ankle collar is fairly stiff with a TPU overlay and hard heel counter at the base. Inside the collar, strategically placed sectional cushioning provides a balance of comfort and heel lockdown. Utilizing the rear eyelet and ‘runner’s knot’ lacing (Google it), we experienced no heel slippage issues during testing. A minimalist tongue rests just above the top lace line for a sleek fit, but feels both comfortable and durable, with light cushioning that provides protection against the pressure of the laces across the instep. Bilateral midfoot attachments on the tongue insert into the midsole to prevent it from sliding down either direction and provide some additional foot lockdown.
The remainder of the midfoot and forefoot uppers consist of a breathable and durable engineered mesh that keeps the foot cool while providing protection. Along the base of the upper, where mesh meets midsole, there is a thin thermoplastic polyurethane strip that adds durability and protection extending into a flexible yet protective toe guard at the front of the shoe. The width of the Ultra Carbon RC is neutral but with a slightly tapered feel. From heel through midfoot, the neutral last borders on narrow, providing a secure fit without feeling cramped or tight. Continuing into the forefoot, the shoe’s neutral last opens up a bit, flirting with some extra width which adds comfort without sacrificing the performance by feeling oversized or sloppy.
The true strength of the Ultra Carbon RC is found in its midsole. This is where SCOTT’s innovation in pushing gear technology is on display. The midsole is made of Kinetic Light Foam, Scott’s proprietary technology aimed at providing high rebound in a lightweight and durable compound. A Carbitex GearFlex carbon plate integrated into the midsole offers dynamic performance benefits specifically designed for trail running, by increasing ride stiffness at faster paces while retaining flexibility as your speed decreases. The result is a fast and efficient running shoe that retains flexibility and lateral agility when you’re slowing down to navigate technical terrain but can quickly regain its snap when the trail smooths out. To achieve this flexibility, Scott integrated medial splits at the forefoot and rearfoot of their carbon plate, which decouples the forefoot-heel rigidity of a traditional carbon plate and preserves the foot’s dynamic ground response. Lastly, Scott has incorporated their Evolved Rocker2 (ER2) geometry to enhance forward propulsion with ground contact and maintain efficacy over long miles. Underfoot, the feel is more firm responsiveness than plush softness. While there is plenty of cushion to keep you going and protected over the distance, the shoe was built for energy efficiency and speed over soft comfort.
The outsole is made from Scott’s Ultra Traction rubber and designed with fast-rolling trails in mind. It covers the entire bottom surface aside from a small midfoot cutout, and in our miles of testing, we had no complaints about lack of traction. The firm yet sticky rubber includes multidirectional lugs, which are relatively small in terms of depth and have been placed in such a fashion that the Ultra Carbon RC is capable of moving smoothly across a variety of terrain. We even took the Ultra Carbon RC on a fast 15-mile road tempo run, and despite its trail performance focus, found it to be a snappy, efficient and smooth ride. With over 200 miles of mixed surface use, the rubber on this shoe is holding up beautifully.
So, is the Scott Ultra Carbon RC worth trying if you’re a curious trail runner? The simple answer is yes. The more nuanced answer would have to do with the cost: $230—which is pretty pricey. But it’s not out of line with other carbon-plated speed shoes on the market. One advantage of the Ultra Carbon RC is that the build seems somewhat bombproof. With easily over 200 miles on our test pair, they still feel great underfoot and barely show wear. In relation to other carbon race shoes, the robust build of the Ultra Carbon RC places it on the heavy side, but over the course of a 100-mile run, many of us will take the added protection, durability, traction and responsive ride, even at the expense of a little extra weight. Another distinction for this shoe is that unlike other carbon performance models saved specifically for race days, the Ultra Carbon RC would also perform well as a workhorse daily trainer.
The Scott Ultra Carbon RC shoe is available at scott-sports.com.
Features and Specs:
- Weight: 300g (10.58 oz)
- Men’s and women’s sizes
- Stack height: 25mm/20mm
- Heel-toe drop: 5mm
- Upper: Engineered Mesh/Thermoplastic Polyurethanes
- Midsole: Dual Density Kinetic Light Foam with Carbitex GearFlex carbon plate
- Outsole: Ethylene Vinyl Acetate/Rubber with multi-directional lugs
- MSRP: $230