Scarpa Neutron ReviewJune 10, 2016
- High level of protection
- Durable outsole
- Large heel inhibits handling on technical terrain
The Scarpa Neutron is a rugged, durable shoe capable of racking up big mileage on tough terrain. Be mindful of a somewhat unusual fit however.
The Scarpa Neutron is a mid-weight shoe that doesn’t really jump out in any way—good or bad—but still has a fair number of things going for it. First and foremost of these is its performance on loose surfaces. The outsole lugs are fairly large but also have enough spacing to avoid collecting mud. This combined with the somewhat higher heel-to-toe drop really help the runner maintain speed when the trail gets sloppy. The Neutron also has a fair deal of protection, and can handle tough trail conditions with ease. Lastly, the Vibram outsole is bomb-proof and can definitely handle a lot of miles.
The major drawback with the Neutron is the fit and lacing system. The overall shape of the shoe is definitely unusual, with the forefoot a bit too narrow and the heel cup a bit too large. This combined with the thin laces make the fit the most challenging aspect of the Neutron. The other notable caveat is that the heel is somewhat overbuilt, which negatively impacts handling on technical terrain.
The Neutron will work well as a mileage workhorse shoe for a wide range of runners – provided the fit is appropriate – and terrain, with the exception of faster speeds on highly technical trails. And although it may come across as uninspiring, its ability to get the job done without a lot of fanfare makes it quite suitable for longer distances.
The Neutron is a very comfortable shoe from top to bottom. The upper material is padded and mitigates lace pressure well, despite not being made of the most flexible material. The midsole material strikes a good balance between firm and mushy. The outsole lugs also add some additional cushioning on hard surfaces without causing discomfort on the bottom of the foot.
The turnover of the Neutron is decent due to the higher heel-to-toe drop and the balance of the shoe. Things do get a little clunky and awkward on harder surfaces like rock or packed-dirt, but the shoe felt quite natural at higher speeds on softer trails. The ability of the Neutron to maintain good turnover on mud and snow is arguably its most impressive quality.
Security of Fit
The Neutron features unusually thin and firm laces which are a bit hard to tighten up without a lot of adjustment. The main issue here though is the odd shape of the shoe. In particular, the toebox is a bit on the narrow side, while the heel is somewhat high volume. Figuring out how to adjust the laces to balance these opposing characteristics can take a lot of experimenting, and may not even be possible for some runners. This is definitely something to be mindful of when trying the shoe on.
The large heel of the Neutron makes for somewhat clunky handling when moving fast over technical terrain. Although the narrow forefoot facilitates precision foot placement, there is simply too much heel to overcome. This is primarily an issue when pushing the pace hard; the agility is more than adequate at speeds typical of a long run or ultramarathon.
The responsiveness is fairly typical for a shoe in the 9-10oz weight class and doesn’t jump out as being particularly good or bad. The shoe definitely lacks the pop of a more energetic midsole, but also doesn’t feel inefficient in any way.
Protection is one of the strong points of the Neutron. The Vibram outsole provides excellent push through protection from rocks. Up top, the upper has enough padding to absorb minor with all sorts of trail hazards, and even did a reasonable job during a close encounter with a cactus. About the only deficiency here is the smallish toe bumper. Something a bit larger would be helpful when running off-piste or through larger rocks.
To conduct our lightweight trail running shoe test, test director Jacob Waltz recruited multiple testers to use these shoes over a solid period of testing. All of the shoes were put through 50-100 miles of rigorous testing on technical single track, paved dirt roads, and some mixed pavement.