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Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Review

For rocky alpine approaches and moderate snow travel, this model is a lightweight mountain boot disguised as a hiking boot
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
Photo: Scarpa
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $269 List | Check Price at REI
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Pros:  Best choice for rock and snow travel, durable, breathes well
Cons:  Wider fit, not the best lace locking system, price
Manufacturer:   Scarpa
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 21, 2021
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 17
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Stability - 20% 9
  • Traction - 15% 10
  • Weight - 15% 5
  • Water Resistance - 15% 8
  • Durability - 10% 7

Our Verdict

The Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX excels in mountain terrain where excellent traction and stability are essential to keep you safe and secure. Less than an actual mountain boot, this mid-weight hiking boot will handle trail miles with ease, whether on day hikes or extended distance backpacking trips. The Sierra High Route. The Haute Route. The Bailey Range Traverse. Mount Whitney's Mountaineer's Route. These iconic and popular treks involve lots of on-trail travel and off-trail boulder hopping, scree slogging, snow walking, and rock scrambling. These types of terrain are where the Zodiac Plus shines brighter than any other boot in our review. If you need the stability and traction of a mountain boot, with the weight of a mid-weight hiking shoe, then this model is for you.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Best choice for rock and snow travel, durable, breathes wellTop-level hiking boot performance, excels in all metricsAmazing comfort, stable, great tractionIncredibly lightweight, comfortableGood value, extra toe protection, solid traction, out-of-the-box comfort
Cons Wider fit, not the best lace locking system, priceExpensive, not as great for hot and dry climatesNot as capable in off-trail terrain, rockered sole feels unnatural at firstLess durable than heavier models, thin soleBelow average stability, not very durable, lacks good breathability
Bottom Line For rocky alpine approaches and moderate snow travel, this model is a lightweight mountain boot disguised as a hiking bootThe gold standard of what a great hiking boot should be, and we heartily recommend it for those seeking the best possible performance on and off the trailFeels like you are wearing pillows on your feet. With cushy soles and hi-cut protection, they are a great choice for those who value comfort on the trailThis mid-top hiking boot is ridiculously lightweight, though it offers excellent stability and traction for fast and light objectivesA solid hiker that features great comfort and toe protection in an inexpensive package
Rating Categories Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Salomon Quest 4 Gor... Hoka One One Kaha G... Salomon X Ultra Mid... Keen Targhee II Mid
Comfort (25%)
7.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Stability (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Traction (15%)
10.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Weight (15%)
5.0
4.0
6.0
9.0
7.0
Water Resistance (15%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Durability (10%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
Specs Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX Salomon Quest 4 Gor... Hoka One One Kaha G... Salomon X Ultra Mid... Keen Targhee II Mid
Weight per Pair (Size 11) 2.65 lbs 2.90 lbs 2.45 lbs 1.85 lbs 2.37 lbs
Boot Type Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot Midweight Hiker/Backpacking Boot Lightweight Hiker/Day Hiker
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular and Wide
Waterproof Lining Gore-Tex Gore-Tex Gore-Tex Gore-Tex KEEN.Dry waterproof breathable membrane
Upper 1.8mm Suede Perwanger Leather, nylon Leather PU coated leather Waterproof nubuck leather
Last Board/Shank BZ last 4D Chassis None Molded shank Torsion stability ESS shank
Midsole PU + 3D EVA-MP EnergyCell EVA SensiFit Dual density compression molded EVA
Sole Vibram Drumlin / Mont Contagrip Vibram MegaGrip Contagrip Non-marking rubber outsole

Our Analysis and Test Results

We took the Zodiac Plus GTX out on some serious adventures, hiking and climbing in such iconic mountain ranges as the Sierra Nevada and the North Cascades. This is a boot that is developed for precise footwork in mountain terrain, where stability and traction are paramount. We give it our hearty recommendation for scrambling across boulders and talus due to its outmatched performance in 3rd and 4th terrain travel.

Performance Comparison


When hiking through 2nd-4th class terrain, the Zodiac kept...
When hiking through 2nd-4th class terrain, the Zodiac kept impressing us with its mountain-travel performance.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Comfort


The Zodiac Plus GTX is a purpose-driven boot that is built around the needs of serious hikers and mountain climbers. It has a rockered sole and hikes reasonably well on trails, though it does not perform to the same standards as some of the luxuriously cushioned boots we feature in this review. Comfortable enough, the Zodiac places a higher value on stability and traction, and we are fine with that trade-off in this niche model.


We docked this model a few points, coming in behind incredibly comfortable models like our Editors Choice Award Winner, or the Top Pick for Comfort. This lower score was a result of its stiffness in general hiking terrain, leaving our feet rather sore at the end of a long day on the trail. We feel that you pay a reasonable price to get the performance where it counts.

Approaching the climbs at Washington Pass, the Zodiac is at home.
Approaching the climbs at Washington Pass, the Zodiac is at home.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

The Zodiac Plus GTX has a trim, performance fit that likely will fit those with slightly wider feet better, especially if you are looking to fit on the snugger side, which is what we would recommend for a boot of this type. The ankle collar is built with soft foamy material that hugs the ankle tightly without biting in. The outer is made from 1.8mm thick suede Perwanger leather, which is more supple than the full-grain leather outer used on the models that most closely resemble classic backpacking boots, but it was difficult to draw the material tightly around the forefoot for those with narrower feet or those preferring a thinner sock system.

Stability


The Zodiac is a top performer when it comes to stability, and we award it high scores in this important metric.


This boot has a narrow width, which fit our medium volume feet quite well, and when laced up felt snug and secure, leaving little room for rolling ankles. This snug fit gives more control of the boot's edges, which improves their climbing prowess when all you get for a grip is the toe edge. The soft suede leather conforms to the foot, making these reasonably comfortable to walk in, though the stiff midsole and shank keep these from having a smooth and natural gait. Rather, these traits aid in their abilities to tackle uneven slopes.

The perfect terrain for the Scarpa Zodiac to shine in.
The perfect terrain for the Scarpa Zodiac to shine in.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

This model has the highest torsional stability for its weight, a quality often only found in heavier mountaineering boots. Thus, the torsional stability is a result of using a polyurethane and 3D EVA midsole that provides a similar amount of stiffness as a shank design but without the weight. The only place we found the Zodiac Plus to falter was in extended travel through terrain requiring smearing, as the stiff sole felt clunky for slabby moves. For this type of terrain, we favored a boot that offered a bit more rocker shape to the sole as this will allow for more forefoot flex.

Traction


This boot is one of the best performers in the traction metric, and it expresses a strong preference towards being in steep mountain climbing situations. That doesn't make it less useful when taken out on less serious or demanding hikes, however. Even on the local trails, we find this boot to be exceptional in holding a secure grip in all conditions.


The Scarpa Zodiac Plus has more versatile usefulness in a variety of conditions that require high traction capabilities, so whether you need to get good footing in loose or dry conditions, mud, snow or high-angle rock you can be sure that you won't slip.

This mid-weight boot combines stability and above average traction.
This mid-weight boot combines stability and above average traction.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

This model features a Vibram Drumlin sole, a rubber compound that is firmer and thus will be better at biting into soft surfaces and also will be more resistant to wear over the long term. Scarpa does make boots with a softer rubber compound, which would be more useful if you plan on smearing and doing higher-level rock or mountain climbing with your boots, though most users will find the Drumlin to be a perfect balance of traction and durability.

Weight


Weighing in at 2.66 pounds in size 11 US, the Scarpa Zodiac is not the lightest in this review, as our favorite lightweight model comes in at nearly a pound less per pair, though we are comparing apples to oranges in pitting these two types of boots against each other. The Zodiac is a lot more boot, capable of holding its own in much more diverse terrain than lightweight models, and will last for far longer thanks to the heavier-duty materials used. This is a great example of how the score reflects the weight alone, but not necessarily how the weight translates into overall utility.


En route to climb the ridge on Thor Peak in the Scarpa Zodiac boots.
En route to climb the ridge on Thor Peak in the Scarpa Zodiac boots.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Water Resistance


On this boot, Scarpa has used a 1.8mm thick suede Perwanger full leather outer, along with a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort footwear lining.


Right out of the box, the boots shed water like a duck while walking through fast-moving snowmelt streams. The Gore-Tex lining performed effectively and allowed our feet to breathe well despite wearing medium thickness socks in above-average temperatures.

The high flood height and one piece suede leather outer kept the...
The high flood height and one piece suede leather outer kept the water from getting inside the boot.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Users will note that without aftermarket treatment, however, that the suede leather will begin to wear and will wick water, rendering the Gore-Tex liner less useful.

Durability


The Zodiac Plus GTX is made with suede leather. With proper treatment, this award winner should last for years of use.


Lots of exposure to rough granite rock, getting jammed into cracks, and kicking steps into firm dirt will reduce longevity; but, like most tools, when used correctly, they will last a long time. High-quality Italian craftsmanship is evident in this boot, and we experienced no abnormal wear, lace breakage, or sole/rand delamination.

The one issue with durability is the soft suede. Jam these boots...
The one issue with durability is the soft suede. Jam these boots into enough cracks and you might see wear along the sides like this.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Value


The Zodiac Plus GTX is expensive. We feel that it is worth it to pay this premium price for the high performance and durability you will get in return. Costing a small mountain themselves, you will get long-term durability and high performance in terrain where you don't want to settle for anything less.

Conclusion


This is a perfect boot for someone who is doing a lot of hiking with heavy backpacks, or who plans on getting into rough and rocky terrain. Whether spending time off-trail or bagging peaks, the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX is a solid companion for your mountain adventures. From the Sierra High Route to the High Divide Trail, this burly mountain boot gives the best stability and traction for climbing up and away from the beaten path.

This is a really comfortable boot for walking with moderate loads on...
This is a really comfortable boot for walking with moderate loads on trails as well as on scrambles.
Photo: Ryan Huetter

Ryan Huetter