The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Scarpa Spin Review

A light and sensitive shoe for tackling the gnarliest terrain as fast as possible.
Scarpa Spin
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Price:  $135 List | $134.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Very light, sensitive trail feel, stable, comes with two choices for insole
Cons:  Little foot protection, aggressive lugs are not the grippiest
Manufacturer:   Scarpa
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 3, 2018
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 17
  • Foot protection - 30% 5
  • Traction - 20% 6
  • Stability - 15% 9
  • Comfort - 15% 8
  • Weight - 10% 9
  • Sensitivity - 10% 9

The Skinny

The Scarpa Spin is a very light shoe that combines aggressive lugs for optimal traction with a sensitive ride. With a low 4mm heel-toe drop it is stable and precise and is ideally suited to steep and technical terrain. As a light, sensitive shoe it understandably does not offer the same level of underfoot protection that maximally cushioned shoes do, so it better suits faster, shorter distance running efforts, and makes for a great racing shoe. If speed in the alpine environment is what you are looking for, the Spin is one of the first shoes you should check out.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Spin is the second lightest shoe in this review, but also comes with a few exciting features. We enjoyed having the lace garage on the top of the tongue for tucking away our laces, so they don't easily come un-tied. Likewise, we appreciate the fact that this shoe comes with two different insoles that can be swapped out as desired. One insole is very thin and lacks much cushioning, while the other pair offers more arch support and also takes up more volume. Swapping the insoles out gives the shoe a slightly different feel overall allowing you to tailor the amount of cushioning as well as the fit to your personal preferences. This is a feature that we wish all running shoes came with!

Performance Comparison


The Scarpa Spin are a great lightweight shoe that allows for a sensitive ride and an accelerated stride.
The Scarpa Spin are a great lightweight shoe that allows for a sensitive ride and an accelerated stride.

Foot Protection


Underfoot, the Spin uses two layers of different density EVA foam as cushioning and protection from rocks. However, large cut out areas in the outsole and through the midsole foam mean that the landing surface is not uniform, and depending on what part of your foot lands on a sharp object like a rock, you may feel nothing at all or feel like you are being stabbed right in the arch of the foot. We often find that underfoot protection and sensitivity are polar opposites when it comes to assessing the feeling of a shoe, and in the case of the Spin, sensitivity seems to be greatly favored over underfoot protection. The upper is made of breathable mesh with thin welded overlays that do an effective job of covering all the areas of highest wear.

Unfortunately, the toe bumper is only lightly padded and doesn't offer a significant amount of protection from accidentally kicking a rock. Overall this shoe is not the most protective but intentionally emphasizes other things. We awarded 5 out of 10 points.

On smoother rocks like these water polished ones we felt the Spin gave us more than enough underfoot protection  but at other times on sharp and broken up rocky terrain they felt a bit under whelming.
On smoother rocks like these water polished ones we felt the Spin gave us more than enough underfoot protection, but at other times on sharp and broken up rocky terrain they felt a bit under whelming.

Traction


The outsole of this shoe is made with Vibram rubber, and features offset arrow shaped lugs that are roughly 4 mm deep. It also has many gaps where the rubber and midsole are cut out, revealing the exposed high-density foam insert underneath. Despite the seemingly aggressive lugs, we found that this shoe did not grip as well on steep loose dirt, or on dry rock, as we would have expected. We surmise this is because the lugs are not cut square to the ground, but are rather rounded off on some sides, angling gently back to where they join with the outsole so that there isn't as much of a sharp edge that can dig into softer terrain. It grips roughly as well as the New Balance Fresh Foam Gobi Trail v2.

The Vibram Megagrip outsole on the Spin has well spaced  deep lugs that do a pretty decent job of gripping most surfaces  but also a lot of cut out zones  especially in the forefoot  where you can see the orange and black patterned rockplate. These cutouts allow random sharp rocks to really zing the bottom of the foot depending on how you land  diminishing the underfoot protection.
The Vibram Megagrip outsole on the Spin has well spaced, deep lugs that do a pretty decent job of gripping most surfaces, but also a lot of cut out zones, especially in the forefoot, where you can see the orange and black patterned rockplate. These cutouts allow random sharp rocks to really zing the bottom of the foot depending on how you land, diminishing the underfoot protection.

Stability


Despite the narrow landing platform, this shoe is exceedingly stable across all types of terrain. In our dedicated side-hilling testing, we noticed that this shoe feels low to the ground with little difference in the heights of the heel and toes (4mm). The shoe does an excellent job of gripping and holding the foot securely in place with an interior sock-like fit.

We noticed very little to no propensity for this shoe to roll to the side, and no discomfort around the ankle bones from the shoe catching our feet on steep side-hills. Our feet pretty much never slipped forward, either. We rated this shoe near the top of the pile, giving it 9 points for this metric, the same as our Editors' Choice award-winning Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4.

Despite fitting rather narrow  we were surprised at how stable the Spin felt while running  and never dealt with any tendencies to roll an ankle in these shoes.
Despite fitting rather narrow, we were surprised at how stable the Spin felt while running, and never dealt with any tendencies to roll an ankle in these shoes.

Comfort


This is a very comfortable shoe, although folks with wide feet may be discouraged to hear that the fit is particularly narrow throughout, especially in the forefoot and the arch. The sock-like interior sleeve does a great job holding the foot firmly in place with no discomfort, and we love the choice of footbed inserts that allows one to choose whichever one leads to a more comfortable fit.

Showing the lace garage on the top of the tongue. While we like these features that keep the laces out of the way and prevent them from untying on the trail  we would have liked this one to be a bit bigger  and live a bit above the highest lace crossing  as it was hard to get this garage to work right.
Showing the lace garage on the top of the tongue. While we like these features that keep the laces out of the way and prevent them from untying on the trail, we would have liked this one to be a bit bigger, and live a bit above the highest lace crossing, as it was hard to get this garage to work right.

We enjoyed wearing the Spin with the thicker insole in place better as it gave us more cushioning underfoot and slightly more arch support as well. In the water bucket test, we discovered that the Spin was slightly above average when it came to absorbing water, meaning that it absorbed less water weight than most. However, it was one of the poorer choices at drying out quickly. All told we think this is a comfortable, if quite snug and narrow, shoe.

An awesome feature of the Spin is that it comes with two choices for interior footbeds  the thinner one that is closer comes already in the shoe  but you also get the fatter  more supportive one if you like it better  which we did.
An awesome feature of the Spin is that it comes with two choices for interior footbeds, the thinner one that is closer comes already in the shoe, but you also get the fatter, more supportive one if you like it better, which we did.

Weight


Weighing in at a mere 19 ounces for a pair of men's size 11, these were the second lightest shoes we tested, behind only the Hoka Evo Jawz. Lightness is one of the main reasons that people will be interested in purchasing this shoe, making it a particularly fitting selection for uphill oriented running where every ounce counts.

At 19 ounces per pair  these are the second lightest shoes in this review  an attribute that really enables one to push the speed with them on.
At 19 ounces per pair, these are the second lightest shoes in this review, an attribute that really enables one to push the speed with them on.

Sensitivity


As we mentioned when discussing the underfoot protection, this shoe has a pretty decent amount of dual density EVA foam in some places. In others, the lighter, thicker foam has been cut out, leaving large voids in the outsole where the pointy end of a rock can really cut through the protection. Overall this shoe is far more sensitive than it is protective, and it is also extremely flexible.

Held in the hands, one can very easily bend it and twist it from side to side. Prospective purchasers should be desirous of a nimble, flexible, and very sensitive ride or they will likely feel disappointed. Comparing it to others that we tested, it is most similar to the thin and flexible Topo Athletic Runventure 2.

The Spin are very flexible and super sensitive  ideal qualities for uphill climbing on off-trail terrain such as rocks and roots.
The Spin are very flexible and super sensitive, ideal qualities for uphill climbing on off-trail terrain such as rocks and roots.

Best Applications


The Spin strikes us as a borderline specialty shoe with short, steep, and technical terrain serving as its bread and butter. Think SkyRunning, vertical kilometer races, or a race shoe up to half marathon distance. Of course, this isn't to say that some people won't enjoy running in it as an everyday shoe, but it likely won't live up to that level of abuse for long. If you want the perfect shoe for your best effort at the Pike's Peak Ascent, this is the one.

The Scarpa Spin are a very light shoe that are ideal for running fast  whether that means on smooth and flowy trails like this one at Silver Falls State Park  OR  or steep and rugged mountain terrain.
The Scarpa Spin are a very light shoe that are ideal for running fast, whether that means on smooth and flowy trails like this one at Silver Falls State Park, OR, or steep and rugged mountain terrain.

Value


Retail price for this shoe is $130, making it one of the more expensive ones on the shelf. While we think this is an excellent shoe for the right person and purpose, we think that the majority of runners will find better value from an everyday, rugged trail shoe that has a wider range of use and can handle more miles.

Running can take you to some amazing places  like beautiful water falls! Happy to have seen this one while wearing the Spin shoes.
Running can take you to some amazing places, like beautiful water falls! Happy to have seen this one while wearing the Spin shoes.

Conclusion


The Scarpa Spin is a very light and form-fitting shoe that is ideal for running your fastest on race day, especially if the hills are steep. It is quite comfortable and gives one the choice of two different footbed insoles to customize the fit, but in general is on the narrower side of the spectrum. It makes for a great, high performing addition to any runner's quiver, but wouldn't be our top recommendation for a one-shoe-does-it-all shopper.


Andy Wellman