Runners who can handle the firm ride of the Scarpa Spin will find it to be a protective and remarkably well handling shoe suitable for a wide range of surfaces.
On paper, the Scarpa Spin has a lot going for it: sub-9oz weight, 4mm drop, a general purpose outsole, and an upper sturdy enough to provide some protection without detracting from comfort and breathability. And in many regards, the shoe delivers on these design promises. The handling in particular is downright superb, with a level of precision rarely found in anything other than XC flats. The balance between traction, protection, and weight also is very good with no obvious trade-offs.
The glaring issue with the Spin is the extremely firm ride. This is the result of both a stiff midsole foam and outsole material that is also quite hard and non-deformable. In addition to the impact on comfort, the shoe is so stiff that responsiveness is affected due to the inability of the shoe to store and return energy. Heavier runners might be able to engage the shoe a bit more than most, but otherwise the overall feel of the shoe is likely to alienate a lot of potential customers. The shoe did not, unfortunately, seem to become any more flexible even after a substantial break-in period.
The Scarpa Spin will appeal to runners who want a lightweight, protective shoe and can handle the stiff ride. The Spin also makes a decent specialty shoe for soft surfaces like mud, sand, and snow. Runners who need a cushioned platform will likely struggle with the Spin, however.
Comfort Comfort is the area in which most runners will find the Spin to be a struggle. Although the shoe feels comfortable when laced up due to the soft upper material and footbed, the midsole presents such a firm ride that running on anything other than very soft surfaces quickly becomes problematic. On firm surfaces at faster speeds the overall feel of the shoe can become distractingly harsh.
Speed Although the light weight and 4mm drop of the Spin are conducive to decent turnover, the overall stiffness creates a sense of fighting with the shoe at higher speeds. Furthermore the outsole lugs, while moderate in size, are so hard they almost feel like cleats.
Security of Fit Security of fit is generally adequate. The upper only has five lacing holes but this did not present any issues with lock down. Despite the stiffness of the midsole the actual footbed itself is soft enough to conform to the foot from underneath and help keep everything in place.
Agility Agility is clearly the strong point of the Spin and is arguably about as good as it gets for shoes in this weight class. The overall footprint of the shoe is fairly low profile, which makes precise foot placement very natural. The torsional rigidity of the midsole further enhances confidence on technical terrain by making the shoe very predictable in how it interacts with the ground.
Responsiveness The overall stiffness of the shoe might lead one to think that the Spin is a responsive shoe, but in actuality there is so little flex to the midsole that energy storage and return is minimal.
Protection The Spin is a very protective shoe given its sub-9oz weight. Although the toe bumper is a bit on the small side, the rugged outsole provides excellent push through protection. And where the outsole is cut out to reduce weight, a rock plate is there as back up. The upper also has a fair amount of overlay material to help with impact protection up top.
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HOW WE TESTED
Out testing spans the course of several months. Our testers spend a few weeks running at least 50 miles (typically much more) in each shoe. They live all over the country so each shoe can be put through our testing protocol in a variety of terrains and conditions. Each tester is encouraged—to the best of their ability—to test the shoes in as many different terrain environments as possible: in the mountains, on dirt roads, buffed single track, technical terrain, etc. In addition to varying terrain, our testers have to test each shoe at different efforts including a long run, easy running and fast running. As mentioned above we test for six different criteria: comfort, speed, security of fit, agility, responsiveness and protection.
A competitive road cyclist in his younger years and lifelong outdoor enthusiast, Jacob discovered his love for long distance trail running as an adult. He lives in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Santa Fe. Follow him at Google+.