Scarpa Spin Ultra Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Very protective, stable, comfortable straight out of the box, good traction, wider fit
Cons: A bit heavy, expensive, not very sensitive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Spin Ultra forms the long distance end of Scarpa's Spin line, which also includes the lightweight Spin and the Spin RS, which adds cushioning and protection to the Spin, but stops short of offering nearly as much as the Spin Ultra. This shoe is designed specifically for long-distance training and ultra racing, and also makes a great everyday trainer that will withstand lots of miles due to its burly upgrades. We particularly like the out of the box comfort, and greatly appreciate the firm cushioning underfoot that not only protects the bottoms of our feet but provides a very stable landing and take-off platform.
As a solid scorer in most metrics, it finishes with a relatively high overall score in our comparative testing, and makes an excellent wide fit alternative to some of the other top scorers in our review, such as shoes made by Salomon or La Sportiva.
The midsole of this shoe is made up of dual-density EVA foam that does an awesome job of protecting the foot from impacts from rocks and other trail obstacles. It is firm underfoot, and also somewhat cushioned, but does not at all have the same springy, squishy feel that many Hokas do. Ultra distance runners need protection for the bottoms of their feet, especially in the longer distances, and this shoe provides just that. This level of dense foam protection also makes it an ideal choice if you live and run in overly rocky terrain consistently.
The upper is also well protected, featuring a hard plastic toe bumper that will successfully take a bullet, err, rock before they smash directly into your toes. Likewise, the lightweight mesh is covered by protective overlays in the right places, especially the high wear areas at the crease points of the forefoot and toes, where the initial blowout most frequently happens.
The outsole of this shoe features Vibram Megagrip rubber, which we have found to be among the most consistently sticky rubbers that shoe companies use. It is also among the most durable, and we found that these shoes had excellent grip on dry rock. It has many large, rectangular-shaped lugs that are sharp and roughly 5mm deep, and are well spaced apart.
This pattern does a good job of hitting all of the needs, from deep lugs for grip on soft surfaces like snow, to large gaps so that mud sheds off without becoming overly caked on.
In our comparative testing, we noticed that this lug pattern is one of the more aggressive, but not quite as gnarly as the lugs found on Salomon shoes. We also found that it performs very good, although perhaps not the absolute best, when gripping dry rock and on steep, loose dirt. We have to admit that we especially like how hard the rubber compound is, thus providing awesome long term durability.
This shoe presents a very firm and rigid platform considering it's made without an internal rock plate, and this firmness contributes to the overall stability, giving a solid pad to press off from. The wider platform in the forefoot also contributes to the stability by allowing the foot to splay out as needed when landing.
Scarpa does not disclose the stack height, but safe to say there is a fair bit of material underneath the foot. At the same time, the 6mm of heel-toe drop is not as significant as the 8mm found on the S/Lab Ultra 2, but is also not as slim as the myriad of 4mm or even 0mm options, raising and dissociating the heel from the ground a bit. Our only complaint would be that our heel was ever so slightly loose-fitting, but that is a subjective account that may not be a problem for all people.
These are some very comfortable shoes. When considering the fit, it is worthwhile to know that they are only sold in European sizes, and we ordered a pair of 45 ½, which is slightly larger than a US 11. While we think they fit true to size when considering length and width, the fact that they are perhaps slightly larger than our average pair of trail runners might explain why we don't feel they lock down on the foot quite as snuggly as we might expect. Once again, however, a slightly looser fit can be ideal for ultra running as the feet swell after long distances.
The upper of this shoe is nicely cushioned with padding, especially around the ankle opening and over the heel. The tongue is also gently cushioned, which helps to pad against the laces as they criss-cross the top of the foot. While they may not be shockingly plush, these are among the more comfortable trail runners in this year's review.
Our pair of shoes weighed 23.9 ounces on our independent scale, making them one of the heaviest pairs we tested.
This weight is not incredibly heavy by the standards of trail runners of a few years ago, but by today's standards they are not one of the lightweight, fast turnover machines. These shoes are all about foot protection and comfort, and for better or worse, a bit of extra weight must be accepted for those attributes.
Likewise, these are among the least sensitive shoes that we tested. We put them on par with the very thickly cushioned Hokas in terms of the dissociative effect that they induce. Once again, this is a direct trade-off for the copious amounts of underfoot protection they offer, and in this case, one has to accept that there is a distinct lack of trail feel while wearing these shoes.
This lack did not bother us much, as long as we understood the trade-off we had made, and we certainly didn't miss the sensitivity when tromping over lava fields in the Oregon Cascades. However, when running shorter distances on friendlier trails, we generally prefer a bit more sensitivity and trail feel in our shoes.
These are a fairly expensive shoe, definitely on the steep side for a trail running shoe. However, we are surprised to notice that many new shoe releases are now dipping their toes in these high dollar waters. This is a durable, long-lasting shoe that can withstand those miles, easing the sting of the price tag a bit. We also think they are among the best available, so while we wish they were more affordable, we still consider them a good value.
The Scarpa Spin Ultra is one of the best trail running shoes for those who have wider feet. Most trail runners appreciate ample amounts of underfoot protection, as well as a shoe that will last through an entire training cycle before biting the dust. The Spin Ultra does both and fits more comfortably for people who don't have overly narrow feet. If you are looking for the perfect shoe for your next ultra race, or just want a high-mileage trainer that is comfortable, this is one to check out.
— Andy Wellman