Scarpa Spin Ultra Review
Scarpa is a brand that has very recently come back to Northern Runner after we saw some positive developments in their running shoes and this week it’s the Scarpa Spin Ultra review. If you are going to be running for a long time you need a shoe that will give you a bit of protection. A shoe that stops your feet from getting sore and your joints from getting stiff. A lot of people think that the answer is a lot of cushioning and ‘the softer the better’. The trouble with cushioning and especially soft cushioning is it takes away any feel for the ground. Your feet ‘don’t know’ they have hit the floor and don’t function to stabilise or cushion you naturally. Soft cushioning also slows you down. Like running in deep mud or soft sand, it feel inefficient and you aren’t getting any propulsion.
The Scarpa Spin Ultra trail running shoe has taken a slightly different approach to a lot of the shoes on the market. Don’t get me wrong, they are well cushioned shoes. The midsole is 24mm thick in the heel and 18mm in the forefoot (6mm drop). However, the midsole isn’t super soft. It feels just cushioned enough and because it isn’t too soft it still feels good when you have been running for a few hours. A lot of shoes with softer bouncy midsoles get softer and therefore give you less propulsion when you have been running in them for a few hours. This is particularly noticeable on hot days. In my experience the feel to the Spin Ultra changes very little even after a good distance.
The ‘rocker’ sole is curved at the toe to give a rocking effect like Scott and Hoka shoes. I didn’t notice the rocker while running on flat trails or uphill. However, I suspect the smooth feel to the ride is because the curve of the shoe is helping to keep my cadence going! When you really notice the rocker is on the descents. I found that the shoe urged me to go quicker. Not in a kamikaze manner, but in a smooth controlled way.
The midsole is made of a medium density moulded EVA with a TPU forefoot insert. This insert helps the midsole keep its curve and gives added propulsion.
The upper is mesh with TPU overlays to give some structure and pull the upper in around the foot. The toe cap is a thicker TPU, which offers good toe protection should you hit any rocks or roots. The tongue is made from a very soft Lycra and stitched into the base of the shoe to give a sock-like fit. The padding between the laces and your foot is very soft and cushiony without being too thick. The construction of the tongue gives a very comfortable feel to the shoes and prevents any debris from the trail getting in around the tongue. The tongue also has a hidden Lycra pocket at the top so you can tie your laces and pop them in the pocket, which stops them getting untied by the undergrowth or covered in mud.
The heel cup gives a good solid fit and pulls around the heel nicely. There is a bit of padding but it’s not too excessive, so the shoes don’t feel hot or boot-like. There also isn’t a risk of the padding absorbing water at a stream crossing.
The outsole is made from Vibram Lite Base. This is the same rubber as Vibram Megagrip but the base rubber is a little thinner. This makes the shoes more flexible and gives you more feel for the trail so you can be nimbler in the shoes.
The last and therefore the fit is different to the Scarpa Ribelle trail running shoe. The Ribelle is designed for quicker running on more uneven ground, so the fit is snugger. The Spin Ultra is designed for longer distances and is therefore a slightly broader fit with more volume in the upper so when your feet expand in the shoes there is the room.
The Scarpa Spin Ultra is designed for firmer trails and feels lovely and smooth when cruising along. However, the lugs do offer good grip on more broken trails. The TPU insert combined with the medium density EVA did make the shoes throw you around a bit on particularly broken trails. Scarpa have addressed this with the latest version of the Spin Ultra that we have in stock at Northern Runner. They have made the midsole slightly softer so that it will flex to absorb the rocks and roots on the ground easier. This has improved the ride on this more broken ground. This hasn’t turned the Spin Ultra into the Ribelle Run, it has just made the Spin Ultra able to cope with a bigger variety of trail terrain.
The Scarpa Spin Ultra feels comfortable, solid, and secure on your feet. You feel like you could venture out and run 50 miles in the shoes and be totally protected. I don’t often get this feeling from shoes that are as light as these (290 grams UK8). I have put this down to the fit that the Lycra tongue gives the shoes and the firm feel to the midsole.
As Scarpa have been short of stock due to Covid closing a lot of factories, I have had a pair of Spin Ultra’s to run in since August last year. That means I have been able to do more than my usual minimum 200 mile before writing this review. It also means that I have been able to use them on a variety of terrain over the winter in variety of conditions.
Although the Spin Ultra is a shoe designed for running longer distances on trails I have used them on a big mix of terrain running mainly from my front door. On tarmac the outsole makes a bit of clip clop sound and the shoes don’t feel as smooth as they do on the trails. Most of my runs include a few miles of tarmac to get to the trails. Vibram Lite Base is quite a soft rubber, so I was expecting to see some wear but there really isn’t much. The lugs are quite large, even at the toe, so none of the studs have shown any excessive wear. The midsole has also maintained its integrity. I have a longer big toe, which puts a bit of pressure on the inside of the midsole as a toe off so over time the midsoles can compresses on the inside. The Spin Ultra’s have shown no signs of twisting or the midsole compressing.
If I was looking for minor issues I’d say on really steep climbs I felt like I was fighting the shoe a bit, as the TPU insert that maintains the curve of the midsole didn’t bend to the ground. However, this isn’t really the terrain that these shoes are designed for. Shoes that are flexible enough to bend to those steep climbs aren’t as smooth on the firmer tracks and trails as the Scarpa Spin Ultra.
The lug depth is about 4mm and they are well-spaced to reduce the chance of mud clogging in the outsole. They give good grip on all but the deepest of mud and Vibram Lite base rubber gripped well on wet rocks and tarmac.
They are at home on dry mixed trails. I found myself reaching for these on my harder packed bridleways or single tracks down-by-the-river days. Days where I was avoiding open fells or steep trods over grass fields, where the stiffness of the shoes isn’t an advantage. These runs are usually my easier runs when my legs are tired from faster running earlier in the week. The curve of the shoe makes it easy to run with a good posture and trot along. This was also noticeable at the end of long runs when I am tired, and the tendency is to slouch. The curve, stiffness and firmer feel to the shoes keeps my posture more upright and my cadence ticking along.
In summary the Scarpa Spin Ultra is a great shoe for firmer tracks and trails. Versatile enough to use on the tarmac whilst heading to your trail and will cope with some more broken trails. Ideal for those runners who don’t want to feel like they are running on marsh mallows.
La Sportiva Jackal: Similar concept. Not quite as light or as smooth on the firmer trails but, a bit more flexible on the rougher ground. Here is our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/la-sportiva-jackal-review-2/
Topo Ultraventure 2: Broader more rounded toe box. Softer cushioning but still not soggy. Here is our review:
Scott Kinabalu 2: Similar firm cushioning and rocker.
Icebug Outrun: Broad rounded toe box makes these a wider shoe. The cushioning is softer but still not soggy. Here is our review: https://www.northernrunner.com/blog/icebug-outrun-rb9x-review/
Altra Mont Blanc: Although these are a race shoe that won’t be as durable, they are designed for the same sort of distance. A broad rounded toe box, zero drop and no rocker gives the Altra Mont Blanc a more natural ride. Here is our review:
Brooks Cascadia 16: These are a similar versatile trail shoe. The cushioning is a lot softer. They are designed to absorb the lumps and bumps of the trail rather than be nimble. Here is our review: