Scarpa Proton Review
- Durable Vibram outsole
- Flexible forefoot
- Reflective heel elements
- Abrasive forefoot stitches
- Stiff heel
- Widely-spaced lugs
- Low-quality laces
The new Scarpa Proton is a neutral 10mm-drop trail shoe that performs adequately, but lacks features, designs or technology that would make it stand out in an increasingly crowded, competitive trail running market. The Vibram outsole is durable and the dual-density EVA midsole provides a comfortable ride, while the mesh/TPU-overlay uppers and reinforced heel wrap hold the foot securely.
Scarpa, the Italian footwear company best known for their performance-oriented backpacking and ski boots, rolled out a brand-new revamp of their trail running line in 2016. With 10mm of heel-to-toe drop and a full-coverage Vibram outsole, the Proton is their burliest. It joins the lightweight, 8mm-drop Neutron and the 6mm-drop, minimalist Atom. The Proton is also produced in a water-resistant Gore-Tex version called the Proton GTX. Overall, the Proton is a versatile, all-around off-road shoe that’s light enough for trail running but sturdy enough for hiking. Compared to other models in this round of testing, however, our wear-testers had trouble pointing to specific designs, features, or technologies that made the Proton stand out. Overall, our wear-testers found the Proton an adequate performer in many ways, but used the word “unremarkable” to describe their general impression.
The Proton’s upper is made of dual-layer mesh with welded TPU midfoot overlays, a heat-bonded rubber toe bumper, and a reinforced heel cup. Our wear-testers noticed a mismatch between the extremely flexible forefoot and heavy, stiff rear quarter, which almost felt like they belonged on two different shoes. At the rear of the toebox, the Proton has a line of vertical stitching to hold the reinforced toe mesh and one of our wear-testers reported it causing painful abrasions on the inside and outside of both feet.
At 12.2oz for men’s size 9, the Proton is the second heaviest shoe in this round of testing (lighter than only the Lone Peak 3.0 Neoshell Mid). That’s relatively light compared to low-cut hiking shoes, but heavy for a performance-oriented trail runner. The Proton doesn’t feel clunky or awkward on the trail, but it also doesn’t have the easy rolling stride of some more nimble off-road shoes.
Security of Fit
The Proton has a medium-width forefoot that’s neither restrictive nor sloppy, but the midfoot has a substantial amount of volume and our wear-testers had trouble feeling locked in. The TPU overlays and internal welded skeleton provide some structure, but can’t overcome the feeling of too much volume. The Proton is also shipped with thin, low-quality laces that don’t secure the shoe tightly and come untied.
The Proton’s Vibram Megagrip outsole is durable and the rubber is sticky on wet and slick rock. The square lugs are relatively shallow and widely-spaced, which helps the Proton feel agile on smooth trails. On technical rocky terrain or roots, however, the outsoles don’t grab as quickly or confidently as trail shoes with more aggressive lugs do. Deeper lugs, more lugs, and a greater variety of shapes and heights would improve the Proton’s agility and better distinguish it from the Neutron and Atom in Scarpa’s off-road line.
The dual-density EVA foam midsole and segmented ergonomic insole are among the Proton’s strengths. The midsole is firm and supportive with a thin layer of very soft foam directly below the footbed. Additionally, the removable insole has a firm rear section to provide responsive support paired with a softer front section for comfort under the toes and metatarsal heads.
The Proton distinguishes itself from the more stripped-down Neutron and minimalist Atom by offering serious protection from the trail. The full-coverage Vibram outsole is paired with a flexible full-length rock plate, although wear-testers noted that the trade-off is some loss of ground feel. On the uppers, the Proton has a well-integrated rubber toe bumper, reinforced mesh toebox to keep out dust, a gusseted tongue to further prevent intrusion into the uppers, and a sturdy heel cup.
Jason is a trail runner and ultra-marathoner who lives with his wife and children in the frozen tundra of northeastern Wisconsin.