Gear Review: Scarpa Spark

I have been working on this one for some time, but didn’t feel like I could release it until I got a really solid long run of 20+ miles in, which I did this morning.  Some of you may have read the review that I did of the SCARPA Tru last fall (found here), which was not only my first review of a Scarpa shoe, but also my first experience with them.  Since writing the review, I have continued to have success with the Tru, including during my first 100 mile completion and, most recently, a podium finish at the Grand Canyon 50K.  This has made me want to take a closer look at the brand, so I reached out to Scarpa to see if I could take a look at another one of their shoes, the Spark.  They were happy to oblige…let’s take a closer look.

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal affiliation with Scarpa, however, they did provide me with a demo pair for my review.

Product Description

From the SCARPA website:
“Somehow the Spark feels weightless on your feet, but offers substantial support and protection, too. We use a slightly shallower lug profile and less drop (6mm) to give the Spark a minimalist feel underfoot. Same grippy HDR rubber as the Ignite. A high-tensile fabric, protective layer in the forefoot armors your feet’s most vulnerable area. The Spark delivers a slightly more nimble feel, but even so–we’ve had some of our athletes complete ultras in them. If you prefer a more minimal, less-structured shoe, then the Spark might be the perfect solution to your run. ”

Out of the box, you can definitely tell that these are related of the Tru.  They share the same outsole lug pattern and have a similar feel underfoot.  The main difference aside from a bit more cushioning is in the upper, which definitely has a heavier/sturdier look to it.  Despite that, the shoe only have ad added weight of 0.7 oz compared to the Tru.

2145904-p-MULTIVIEW

Specs

  • Weight: 9.2 oz
  • Drop: 5mm
  • Fit: Normal/True to Size

Fit

The Spark fits very similarly to the Tru, which is to say, it is not too snug and not too loose on the foot.  It holds the heel fairly well in most scenarios and fits the foot well from back to front.  It does feel a bit softer in the upper than the Tru, especially in the heel where there is a bit more padding.  A couple observations on the fit…it does seem to slip a bit on steep downhills.  However, unlike the Tru, it has an upper lace eyelet that allows you to tie a heel lock that helps to alleviate this a bit.  I also noticed that after running on side-sloped trails for a longer period, I got a little sore on the ball of my foot (although had no blisters).  This, of course, is a problem I have had with most shoes and may not be completely avoidable.

In Action

As I mentioned, the outsole is identical to that found on the Tru, so my experience was basically the same.  The shoe performs well on varied terrain.  No blisters or hot spots and no slipping around.  One thing I will note here about this outsole that I didn’t cover in my Tru review is how well it sheds mud.  I wore the Tru through some severely muddy conditions at the Grand Canyon 50K (after my initial review) and had ZERO issues.  I mention it here because, as I said, the outsole is the same and therefore I would expect it to perform similarly..  Lastly, the shoe has a very stable platform, which is of high importance with me as I have a tendency to roll my ankles from time to time.  I try to test all of the shoes I review on technical terrain for this reason (sometimes to my own peril) and I didn’t have a single incident with the Spark.  Here are details and Strava links for a few of my main runs with the Spark.

Test Run #1 – 7.0 Mile technical trail, damp/wet trail conditions (Strava Link)

Test Run #2 – 11.25 Mile rolling terrain trail, dry trail conditions (Strava Link)

My Final Thoughts

Pros

  • The upper is definitely more sturdy than the Tru.  If you are looking at Scarpa and don’t know which one to get, I would recommend this one if you are looking for a slightly heavier trainer or you have a history with wearing out uppers quickly.  This one will last longer.
  • The outer works well on just about every surface, giving you the confidence to run to your fullest without worrying too much about losing your footing.
  • The one thing that this has that this shoe has that the Tru doesn’t is an upper lace eyelet, which is a big deal for me.  I like having the ability to tie the laces further up my foot or tying in a heel lock if needed.
  • Solid, yet flexible platform.  I had no issues with ankle stability at any point in this shoe.

Cons

  • I know this is personal preference, but they feel a bit too soft and bulky for my taste.  Even though they aren’t technically that much heavier than the Tru…they feel like it.  I prefer a lighter feel.
  • Still seems too have a problem with slipping forward into the toe box on steeper declines.

Recommendation

Score: 4.3 of 5 (Recommend)

While I like the addition of the upper eyelet as I have already mentioned, I definitely like the lighter feel of the Tru, so I am going to give it a slighter lower score in comparison.  I think there are ways in which they could offer a sturdier upper without having a bulky feel to it, and I hope that they do that in future iterations.  Still, this is a solid shoe from Scarpa and worth trying if you are feeling on branching out.

One additional note as I am posting this the weekend after the Outdoor Retailer Summer 2015 show.  I got a chance to see the new trail shoe line from Scarpa.  Now I have been impressed with what I have seen so far from them overall, but the new line looks AWESOME.  They are due out next Spring and I am not sure what this means for the current line (they couldn’t say), but I would guess they may move away from it.  That being said, would I hesitate to buy another pair of these?  Nope.  They are a good shoe and worth getting some use out of while waiting to see what else Scarpa brings to market.

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Shoe Review: SCARPA Tru

Those of you that ski, climb, and hike will be very familiar with SCARPA for their ski boots and climbing footwear, but they also have a nice collection of hiking and trail running footwear.  SCARPA calls Italy its home, with origins dating back to the late 1930’s.  While their trail shoes seem to be very popular in Europe, I have not seen them too much in the U.S.  As such, I was really curious to give them a try and share my findings .

DISCLAIMER: I have no formal affiliation with Scarpa, however, they did provide me with a demo pair for my review.

Product Description

From the SCARPA website:
“Desert marathoners, ultra-minimalists, and the weight-obsessed rejoice…this is our lightest runner to date (241g, 8.5 oz). We created the upper from a monofilament (think fishing line) mesh, which is strong and extraordinarily breathable. It won’t absorb water, either. We applied no-sew, welding technology to the upper reinforcement, saving weight. The state-of-the-art upper relies on the Spark’s sole and midsole, giving a 6mm drop, and using a fabric protection plate. Cool and light, but with plenty of cushioning, the Tru is our go-to model come summer.”

As I took them out of the box and tried them on, I immediately started comparing them to the La Sportiva Helios, particularly with the upper.  This shouldn’t be surprising since they are both Italian companies inspired by similar terrain.  The upper mesh is breathable and durable, yet light in weight.  They use a thin vinyl coated lace which feels a bit flimsy, but is seemingly more durable.  The tongue of the shoe is thicker than the ultra-thin trend that we are currently seeing with many shoes in the market, but still thin enough to minimize gaps where debris could enter the shoe.

Scarpa Tru Top 2     Scarpa Tru Top 1

The bottom doesn’t draw the same comparison to the Helios as the upper, but it certainly holds its own.  They use triangle shaped lugs with a clover pattern on most of the shoe, with v-shaped lugs on the heel.  Overall, this provides a pretty aggressive grip with deep enough lugs to handle slicker terrain.

Scarpa Tru Bottom

Specs

  • Weight: 8.5 oz
  • Drop: Heel: 26mm / Toe: 21mm / Drop: 5mm
  • Fit: Normal

Fit

I am going to make one more comparison to the La Sportiva Helios here.  One of the biggest complaints that I hear about La Sportiva is that they have too narrow of a fit.  This is not the case with the SCARPA Tru.  It has a slightly wider fit, which gives the perfect amount of room to avoid too much pressure on your foot, especially for longer runs where you might experience some swelling.

In Action

Overall, I was really impressed with the performance of this shoe on varying terrain.  The comfort and ride was awesome and is by far my favorite trait of this shoe.  On my longer runs, I didn’t have so much as a hint of a hot spot, and my feet still felt fresh.  The grip was great, even on steeper terrain.  This left me with an increased level of confidence in my footing that allowed me to pick up the pace a bit on the downhills.  I did experience some slippage into the front of the shoe on steep downhills and a little bit of heel lift on the steep uphills, which could cause issues for some.  Here are details and Strava links for a few of my main runs with the Tru.

Test Run #1 – 5.0 Mile semi-technical trail, damp/wet trail conditions (Strava Link)

Test Run #2 – 14.25 Mile rolling terrain trail, dry trail conditions (Strava Link)

Test Run #3 – 5.5 Mile road trail hybrid, dry conditions (Strava Link)

My Final Thoughts

Pros

  • These shoes are super comfortable without having a squishy feeling to them.
  • Despite the fact that they were comfortable, they still were firm and responsive enough to feel like I wasn’t losing too much energy.
  • They are light enough that I can use them as a racing shoe and durable enough to use as an everyday trainer.  Even after about 75 miles, despite being dirty, they look new with no visible damage or wear.

Cons

  • One thing I noticed right away is that the Tru does not have an upper lace eyelet.  I generally like to tie a heel lock when lacing my shoes, especially when running steeper terrain.  I am not able to do that with these and therefore had to resort to tying them extra tight to minimize foot slippage.

Recommendation

Score: 4.5 of 5 ( Highly Recommend)

The only negative mark on this shoe is the slipping that I experienced on steeper terrain.  I have experienced similar problems with other shoes that I quickly remedied with a heel-lock lace tie.  Unfortunately, with the lack of a second eyelet at the top of the shoe, this isn’t possible with the Tru.  Other than that, this shoe would be near perfect.  I am really impressed with my first SCARPA experience and will definitely look into some of their other models.  I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone on flat or rolling trail terrain.  If you run on steeper mountain trails and don’t normally have issues with slippage, I would also say that they are worth a shot.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!