Over the past few years I’ve lamented the lack of a good mid-weight trail shoe, I classify mid-weight as 9-10 ounces. It’s always been shoes 8.0 oz. or less don’t have enough protection and comfort or go big with tank like 12+ oz. shoes and plod your way down the trail. But now that I’ve discovered the SCARPA Spark those dark days are behind me, the sun is shining on my trails and the song birds are singing a happier tune.
You’ve never heard of SCARPA? Well join the club. One of the most common questions I get from fellow runners now when they look at my shoes is “Duuude, WTF are you wearing?”. I love it because it gives me an excuse to tell everyone how much I like the SCARPA Spark. Just to give you a little background SCARPA is a family owned company with headquarters and manufacturing facilities in the same regions of northern Italy where it got its start in 1938. In 2005 SCARPA opened its North American headquarters in Boulder, CO. This office assists with product development for the U.S. and Canada and oversees sales and marketing in North America. So rest assured when you purchase your SCARPA shoes you’re dealing with a company with a rich tradition and for those living in North America, a local presence.
Technical Mumbo Jumbo
A review isn’t complete unless I tell you about all the obligatory technical details that most of us don’t understand but repeat to our friends anyway. So here goes:
- Compression molded EVA midsole
- Hi-Tensile fabric forefoot strike plate
- 6mm midsole drop
- Planet Friendly®! (Upper: 29% recycled mesh, 40% recycled synthetic leather. Lining: 50% recycled polyester. Laces and webbing: 100% recycled Ecosensor polyester, Outsole: 25% recycled rubber, Midsole: EcoPure EVA additive to promote degradation in landfill conditions)
- Speed Lite outsole
- Weight: 9.2 oz. (260g)
I abhor technical facts like that, when I read them in a review it reminds me of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. So let’s get to the lowdown. I’ve been wearing the SCARPA Spark since the third week of November (about 8 weeks), as I’ve mentioned in previous reviews I am not one of those people who laces up a new pair of shoes, goes for one or two short runs then writes a review.
Through the last 8 weeks of training and racing I’ve become a big fan of the SCARPA Spark. On one trail run of 25 miles I wore an old standby pair of 12+ ounce shoes for the first 20 miles, quickly stopping at my car I switched into the SCARPA Spark for the last 5 miles. I couldn’t believe the difference in weight and feel, it was as though I was just starting out on a new run with fresh legs…is this what it’s like to wear “good” lighter weight shoes the entire run, I’d soon find out. As I put more and more miles on the SCARPA Spark I paid attention to every detail I could, from the excellent protection on our local Arizona rocky trails to the awesome grip when rock hopping on slick boulders and running on loosely packed granite trails.I liked the Spark more and more each time I wore them. In the past I’ve suffered from Achilles pain, I’ve discovered what causes the pain for me is not low drop shoes but shoes that have a spongy soft cushioned midsole. The SCARPA Spark has a well balanced not too soft, not too firm midsole that makes for a comfortable ride over long trails. And when the miles start to add up the SCARPA Spark is roomy enough to allow for my feet to swell and not create tight spots and hot spots that create blisters.
When I started wearing the SCARPA Spark the 2012 version was still the most recent model. I don’t know if there are going to be any changes in the Spark for 2013 but I’m looking into it and I’ll tell you if there is I’ll be the first in line to get my hands on them and try them out.
After running Javelina Jundred in late October my plan was to only run shorter races until late Spring 2013 and use the SCARPA Spark as my short distance race shoe. That plan is still somewhat in place today as far as race distance is concerned, but I like the SCARPA Spark so well I not only wear it for shorter distance races but I’ve decided to use it as my every day training and long distance trail shoe as well. As my training starts to ramps up for the Mesquite Canyon 50K in March, a R2R2R crossing at the Grand Canyon in May and the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run in July I’m looking forward to wearing the SCARPA Spark through it all.
If you’re looking for a great low to mid drop shoe and lighter in weight than most of the common “built like a tank” protective trail shoes available today I would highly recommend visiting your local specialty running store and trying on a pair of the SCARPA Spark.