Recently, I embarked on a side quest to find shoes that are better able to deal with the extremely muddy and slippy trails we get here in the UK during the wetter months. I’ll share my findings and initial impressions of what I ended up going with – the Scarpa Spin ST shoes.
Background – what led me to find the Scarpa Spin ST
I recently raced a 50km ultra marathon called the OTT Ultra, which was based in the South of Wales, and took on many technical and muddy trails as we approached, and came off of Pen y Fan.
I didn’t have a great shoe to pick for this race. It was early November, and we had a very wet and rainy day to run through too. With no stand out shoe to choose, I went with my ‘safe’ choice, the Hoka Speedgoat 5. I knew it wasn’t going to be great, but it seemed like the best choice at the time.
They didn’t do well. The Speedgoats turned into “Slipgoats” on this route. It was just too wet and muddy. I hit the deck hard through a section of woodland that was ankle deep water for a few hundred meters, and almost fell on three other occassions due to loss of traction.
Despite the slippage, I still managed a reasonable 9th place overall, but decided then and there that I would start looking for a better shoe option.
Finding the Scarpa Spin ST
I was deliberating between one or two different Inov-8 models when a friend mentioned he had been looking at the Scarpa Spin ST. (Thanks Wilf!)
Reading up on the shoes, I found it actually ticked off a number of features I wanted.
- Serious lugs that were well spaced apart (so as not to hold onto too much gunk)
- Easy lacing system that wouldn’t get undone or pulled out by brambles
- Offset / drop that was close to what I am used to
I bought a pair and didn’t have to wait long to try them out.
First impressions of the Scarpa Spin ST shoes
The Preseli Hills nearby are the perfect testing ground for this kind of shoe. A fell runner’s dream, they provide plenty of elevation change and lots of grassy, muddy, boggy, wet and saturated terrain to run on.
First thoughts on the shoes – they look a bit odd, as they have an extended ‘collar’ that rises above the ankle. I had read about this before, and wasn’t too concerned as others have mentioned you don’t even feel it. They were right. It’s very soft and flexible, and their main purpose is to keep debris from the trail out.
The lacing system is excellent. There are small plastic clips that flex and then snap shut to ‘tie’ the laces quickly. Almost like those bendy ‘snappy’ hair clips that hold long hair in place. The laces can then tuck away into a little pocket in the tongue.
The Scarpa Spin ST has a 4mm heel to toe drop.
I took the Scarpa Spin ST shoes out for a 5 mile run in the Preseli Hills. There was a bit of gravel and stone trail initially, but soon I was onto the boggy bits, which were absolutely saturated. The trails here consist of grass tussocks, mud, dips, holes, and have plenty of camber and submerged in water sections.
The shoes had plenty of traction with their intimidating 7mm lugs and Vibram outsole. In fact, I would say they’re now my best option for traction in this sort of terrain (of which there is plenty of here in the UK!) Even running at a fast pace down some of the descents they held up very nicely. One downhill section on a muddy hill has about 10 degrees of camber down to the right and never fails to slip me up. The Scarpa Spin ST held me steady on this, which was pleasantly surprising.
They weren’t perfect in the traction department when it came to extremely muddy down hill sections, but then I don’t believe there is a single shoe out there that would have performed as well.
Drainage and Debris
Drainage was not great in my opinion. At the end of my run I could feel a bit of water squelching around inside the shoes. The soft collar seems to hold in a bit more water than I would have liked. Not a problem if you’re running on very wet trail anyway, as sometimes there is no escaping water when you’re running through the bogs!
The collar did however do really well to keep grass, pebbles and mud out of my shoes. I usually empty a good amount of debris out when I get home from a run, but there was hardly anything in these shoes when I finished up for the day.
Fit and feel
The Scarpa Spin ST shoes fit quite snug around my feet. The felt like they flexed well as I ran across uneven terrain, which was great. If you have wide feet (by the toes), then watch out. These are quite narrow up front. I have been trying to avoid narrow fronted shoes, but my reasoning to try these, was that I don’t expect to use them for anything longer than 50km / 30 mile distances.
Weight-wise, they’re quite light. I felt surprisingly nimble wearing these, but of course they’re going to pick up weight from water and mud running in the sort of terrain they’re made for. They weigh 520g per pair of size 42.
In terms of how they feel on the ground, they have insoles which provide a bit of cushioning, but they midsole is definitely not the ‘cushy’ type like the Speedgoats are. Not a problem for me on distances up to 50, and maybe even 80km though. There are also plenty of benefits to not having too much cushion, so I don’t consider this a negative at all.
Another ‘Spin’ on the muddy coast path
With plenty of rain that week, I had another go a couple of days later on the muddy Pembrokeshire coast path. My wife accompanied me in her Altra trail shoes (I don’t recall the exact model) but she had a really difficult time slipping and sliding around while I breezed through the mud in my pair of Scarpa Spin ST.
The coast path has a much harder packed trail, but can still get very muddy and slippery in parts, especially where run-off and water comes down off of the neighbouring farmland.
I found these shoes were excellent along the coast too. There is a section of very muddy woodland past the town of Broad Haven which I was keen to have a go on. Lots of hills covered in mud, with some very narrow cut in trail going down again in the mud.
These are great shoes for the UK’s muddiest trails and fells. They’re narrow at the front, but I find that perfectly reasonable for anything up to around 5 or 6 hours. If you need unrivalled traction, then they’re a great choice just for that one reason alone.
I’ll be testing them out further in the coming wet and muddy Winter months and will update this post with any new findings.
Bonus points for:
- Vegan friendly shoes (no animal products used during or for the manufacturing process)
- Gusseted tongue design also helps to keep debris out