Scarpa Spark GTX
Great scrambling/approach shoes. Perfect for mud runs.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample provided by Scarpa for testing and review)
Great scrambling/approach shoes. Perfect for mud runs.
- Super agressive traction
- Good footbed support
- Laces stay tight
- I'm not sure I need Gore-tex shoes
- Left marks on my feet
The trail is rocky, and now that the Sun is rising I can finally see it. The red sky and the purple sage remind me of a something from a Zane Grey book. As I run all I can hear is the wind in my ears, my own breathing and the gravel crunching under my shoes. My daughter is running about thirty yards ahead, not showing any signs of tiring. I wish I had started these runs about ten years ago.
For the last few weeks our trail runs have become more of an effort for me to keep up than to lead. Each mile reminds me that I am moving further from my prime years and she is moving into hers. My little girl is growing up. These morning trail runs have been getting increasingly longer each week, challenging my legs, cardio and endurance but not my feet.
My feet used to feel like they had been tenderized under a mallet after a run like this, but now I am able to keep up (mostly) without the discomfort I once felt. I hardly notice the 10.4 oz these shoes weigh and the 6mm drop feels natural.
The sole plate does a good job softening the rocks underfoot yet still allows me to have a feel for the ground. The extra grip of these shoes takes some getting used to but the aggressive tread really shines when I use them as approach shoes for climbing. They grip the granite like glue and stick pretty well on basalt as well.
All of the recycled materials used to make these shoes would make a Buddhist monk happy. It's nice having shoes that make a smaller impact on the planet than other choices.
After three months the shoes are still going strong but I worry that the laces will cut the loops of material that they pass through but the critical points that see the most stress have eyelets. The laces stay tight a little better than the average round laces and I usually don’t have to retie them on a run. The reflective material is still holding up and gives some good visibility at night.
The Scarpa Spark GTX differs from the original Spark shoe by incorporating a Gore-Tex liner to keep feet dry when trail runs turn muddy. I know that this reduces breathability but Scarpa has also continued the Spark without the WPB liner for those who don’t want it. The liner adds a negligible amount of weight.
On the few days near my house when it rains I like having the WPB membrane; wet feet have a hard time staying warm. During the mud run I ran, it just kept the water inside for longer but, surprisingly, they dried out just as fast as my daughter's non-wpb shoes that she wore in the race.
Hopefully you like grey and orange, these only seem to come in one color for men’s sizes.
My experience with European shoes, such as my biking and climbing shoes, always makes me expect a narrow foot box. I was pleasantly surprised when I slipped into the Scarpa Spark GTX. These shoes give my flippers just the right combination of width and support without the euro-squeeze I was afraid of. I wear a size 9.5 in just about everything, sometimes a 9 and the 9.5 Scarpas fit me perfectly.
Recently I have found out that I have a foot issue which causes my two middle toes to go tingly or numb after lots of biking, climbing or running (basically anything fun). It is really a downer, but the good news is that I have not yet felt these symptoms in the Scarpa Spark GTX. Not a cure but it keeps me running. My custom molded orthotics are on order.
If you look you’ll notice the red marks these shoes leave on my feet after a run. I didn’t notice any discomfort but evidently something on the shoes rubs there. (Yes, I know, I have a long 2nd toe, so does the Statue of Liberty and the Venus De Milo)
The only material failure happened when I dropped my Leatherman, blade out, point first, on the toe. The point sliced right through the material and glanced off my toenail, cutting my toe slightly. It’s not the shoe’s fault, they aren’t steel toe. The toe is healing nicely. That’s never happened to me before, I promise!
I have logged a little under 80 trail running miles on these so far. That may not seem a lot to a seasoned runner but those miles are all spent on rocky, uneven single track and the shoes take a 220 pound smashing with each stride I take. Athletic shoes don’t usually last me more than 9-12 months of use.
In the Mud Run pictured above, I only cinched the laces down once for the run and never had to give them a second thought. I think this is where they excelled the most. We ran through water, mud, sand and over and under several obstacles. They shed the mud and allowed me to traverse some slick logs as if they were dry. I appreciated that a lot.
Do these shoes make the hills smaller? Do they make up for the mornings when I sleep in and don’t run? No, but they do provide better support than my other, thicker shoes, they grip the Earth like Velcro, take all the abuse I can dish out and I have yet to experience any tingly toes. I might be slowly falling further behind my daughter on our morning trail runs but I’m still running. I am giving the Spark GTX a thumbs up.
Update 8/2014: I wore these to Camp Muir and they were fantastic. The heel is rotting out and the soles are bald, time to retire them, but I am having a hard time parting with them.
Update 03/03/15: I finally retired them :(