I am a day hiker and a backpacker who likes to hike in trail runners most of the year. They’re soooo much more comfortable than hiking boots, they dry much faster when they get wet, and wearing them lets me feel the trail beneath my feet. I’m also a long time Scarpa customer – I own a pair of Scarpa Omega mountaineering boots that I wear most of the winter, which is about 6 months long in northern New England.
Available without a Gore-tex Lining
I had no idea that Scarpa had started making trail runners until fairly recently and when I learned that they had a version of the Scarpa Spark Trail Runner available without a Gore-tex liner, I decided to try a pair out.
Why not a Gore-tex lined shoe? They’re self-defeating. Gore-tex lined shoes trap all of the sweat that your feet perspire during the day inside your shoes instead of venting it so your feet and socks stay dry. You can produce 8 ounces of sweat a day through your feet and if it has no place to go, you’ll quickly wet out your socks and risk blisters. This is a big issue for me because my feet sweat a lot and why I insist on wearing trail runners without Gore-tex liners.
After 3 weeks of hiking in the Sparks, I can say that breathability of these shoes is superb. They’re made of a porous mesh that vents all foot perspiration and dry very quickly after water crossings. When the weather is warm, I don’t go out of my way to cross a stream or even try to keep my feet dry, but usually charge right though at a safe crossing point. Having shoes that drain easily and dry quickly saves me a lot of time because I don’t need to change into another pair of shoes. It also helps me eliminates the need to carry camp shoes because my shoes are usually dry by the time I stop for the day.
Super Lightweight and Stable
Wow! Walking in the Scarpa Spark shoes is like walking on air. They are remarkably comfortable and at 19.8 ounces a pair (size 10.5) they are about 25% lighter weight than the other trail runners I’ve been using the past couple of years. Trail protection is very good with a hi-tensile fabric strike plate, toe kick, and wraparound synthetic leather shielding on the sides of the shoe and perimeter of the EVA cushioned sole.
Although they’re billed as “minimalist shoe”, they have a more traditional running shoe feel to them with a heel/toe drop that is on the more minimal side at 6 mm vs the standard 10-12 mm drop on traditional running shoes. The stability of the shoes is also excellent. I’ve done a lot of hiking in them and never experienced any lateral roll – which leads to twisted ankles – despite walking on rough, root-choked trails at a very fast pace.
I normally wear a size 10 trail runner but wear a size 10.5 (US Mens) in the Scarpa Spark. Although they feel a bit more roomy than my regular shoes, particularly in the toe box, they are the right size for me, so I guess they run a 1/2 to a 1/4 size small. The lacing system on the Sparks is very flexible making it easy to get a custom fit if you know a few shoe and boot lacing techniques. There’s also a protective gusset connecting the tongue to the sides of the shoe to prevent dirt and grit from entering the foot bed, a hiking boot-style feature I really like and haven’t seen on other shoes.
If there’s one part of the Spark that I wish was a bit more burley, it would be the sole, which has fairly shallow lugs. They perform great on wet granite and provide plenty of grip on dry trail and mix terrain, but I’d be concerned about using them in really muddy conditions. I don’t encounter these that often in the United States, so it might be an unwarranted concern given all the other positives that the Scarpa Spark has going for it.
I’m very impressed with the Scarpa Spark shoe and think it’s great for hiking or backpacking when you want a very comfortable and breathable shoe that you can wear all day. I’ve never once felt that dreaded ankle roll that you can get with trail shoes in rough terrain and I really enjoy the amount of trail-feel that comes through the Spark’s minimalist design. I’m a little surprised at how much I like the Sparks and foresee a great summer wearing them on backcountry backpacking trips.
- Upper: Recycled synthetic leather and polyester mesh
- Lining: Recycled polyester
- Plate: Hi-Tensile Fabric Plate
- Midsole: Molded EVA
- Outsole: Speed Lite
- Last: TR2
- Sizes: 39 – 47, 48 (half sizes)
- Weight: 260g; 9.2oz (1/2 pair size 42)
- Color: Black/Green Apple, Ocean/Lime
Disclaimer: Scarpa provided the author with a sample pair of Spark shoes for this review.
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