It’s time to start digging out the trusty Gore-Tex trail runners. If you don’t have a pair, might I suggest you take a look at the Scarpa Spark GTX? This shoe has proven itself to be durable and comfortable performer in a wide variety of conditions including, you guessed it, pouring rain.
Scarpa Spark GTX Features:
- Upper: Recycled synthetic leather and polyester mesh
- Lining: Gore-Tex® – Extended Comfort
- Plate: H-EVA Plate
- Midsole: Compression molded EVA – 14/8 = 6mm drop
- Outsole: Speed Lite HDR
- Last: TR2
- Weight (stated): 295 g – 10.4 oz. ea (42)
- Weight (as tested): 336 g – 11.84 oz. ea (44.5)
- MSRP: $149
Spark GTX Hits the Trails
Last year I got a chance to review the impressive Scarpa Spark and I called them Scarpa’s best trail running shoes to date. As an encore, Scarpa has added a Gore-Tex liner and launched the Spark GTX just in time for unpredictable conditions.
The low-profile midsole and 6mm heel-to-toe drop puts your feet in an excellent, natural-feeling position. This amount of drop should suit most runners without feeling like you’ve stepped into a pair of minimalist shoes. Speaking of minimalist, this shoe is far from the sort, but average trail runners will rejoice as these are some of the best in the new breed of usable, lightweight, comfortable and supportive trail runners. I’d put these toe-to-toe with the likes of the Pearl Izumi EM N1 Trail and Vasque Pendulum as the new standard of trail running shoes that utilize lessons learned from the minimalist movement.
Stability with the Spark GTX is superb. Little rocks and roots that may turn ankles in other shoes will not phase these. Traction has been excellent in everything but loose, dry rocks as the low profile treads struggle to get traction. Admittedly, only shoes with oversized lugs will excel in those conditions, so it’s not much of a surprise. With the low-profile treads, you get smooth running and a nice stride. While I typically prefer a rockered sole for an effortless stride, these soles flow from step-to-step with ease.
Lacing is straightforward and the eyelets allow for pinpoint adjustability. The gussetted tongue provides extra scree protection and the uppers cradle my normal-shaped feet really well. The uppers are a little thick and overstated, but this comes in handy when the inevitable rock kick happens. You know… the left foot gets it rolling and the right foot punts it. When that happens, your forefoot is protected — believe me. That thickness doesn’t inhibit flex or movement on the trail and required minimal break-in time.
The Spark GTX has proven to be quite the all-weather performer as I’ve pushed it to its upper-end limits. I’ve purposely run in these shoes in much higher temperatures than I would ever do with a Gore-Tex shoe and they have performed better than any pair of Gore-Tex shoes I’ve worn previously — great for those who wear these in warmer, wet weather. For dry, warm weather I’d peg these at about 80 degrees before they cause problematic overheating. The requisite submersion (30 seconds in a stream) test resulted in no water penetration, however the uppers soak up more water than I’d expect. When wet, you’ll notice the extra water weight.
When adding a Gore-Tex liner to a shoe, it does tend to stiffen things up a bit and with the Spark GTX, that’s actually a good thing. While the standard Spark may feel slightly overcushioned, the GTX version feels a little bit more responsive and racy. I actually prefer the feel of the GTX version better and look forward to continuing to wear these throughout the winter.
- Instantly comfortable
- Traction works well in a variety of conditions
- Low profile, but enough cushioning for long-distance training
- GTX liners breathed better than any tested previously (didn’t overheat in 80-degree temps)
- Solid toe protection against rocks/scree
- Smooth stride
- Gore-Tex does its job (passed creek submersion tests)
- Low profile traction meets its match when things get mushy and sticky
- Uppers keep you dry, but get waterlogged and heavy when wet
The Bottom Line
It’s easy to like the Spark GTX. They are quiet performers with lots of great features. I like the trail feel and versatility of these shoes for a wide variety of weather and trail conditions.
Buy Now: Available at Backcountry.com