I don’t like gimmicks and I veer towards the side of cynicism when it comes to grand claims from any running gear, so when the opportunity arose to try a trail shoe with a carbon plate, I inwardly scoffed, assuming this was not even going to be something that I would notice. After only four wears however, I am happy to admit that I was very, very wrong.
Scarpa is a brand that I have started paying attention to in the last year or so as more and more of their athletes make names for themselves in the UK trail and ultra scene. Having bought a pair of Spin Ultras last summer and been impressed by them, I was keen to see what else they had to offer.
This brand’s foundation is in the Dolomites, Italy and they have a long history of moving in the mountains, so taking that knowledge into trail running seemed a natural path. With the father of Skyrunning, Marco De Gasperi, also on board, Scarpa look to be making waves as they launch more exciting and innovative shoes.
The Golden Gate Kima (named for the infamous rock hard Italian Skyrace) has really surprised me. Carbon plate technology obviously brings advantages in road racing but how does it perform on the trails?
Performance on the trails
I first wore these on a few easy miles the day before a 10 mile fell race and was pleasantly surprised by the comfort as they looked pretty narrow. Straight out of the box, they genuinely fit me like the proverbial glove and that precision fit really came into its own. Scarpa use European sizing so I went for a 39 or 5 and ¾ in UK terms.
Normally, I run in a 6 so was concerned but if anything, this felt even better! Lined up next to some size 6 shoes, they are identical though so if you can’t try them on, I would not be worried about the quarter size difference. After that first run, I decided to use them on race day.
The race was a mixture of hard packed trails with long climbs and descents, and some heather bashing. The only mud to speak of was nice and sticky, so I didn’t have wet slop to contend with.
I am not someone that is super confident on many descents but the first thing that I noticed was how much easier it was to let go in these shoes. I felt great! There was no slamming sensation as I ran hard down hill and my feet didn’t move around at all inside the shoe. I felt safer than I have running hard for a long time. On the moors and in that sticky mud, the grip was good.
At no point did I lose the ground or feel unstable. The biggest revelation was the distinct lack of soreness afterwards though. I normally get sore toes after running hard as they have gone into the front of the shoe or I have slapped my feet down so hard, and despite some pretty long descents, my quads felt fine afterwards. This is where the carbon plate really stands out and what will make this my shoe of choice for any races with hills!
After this, I decided to save them as my race shoe and the next two events were a little different. A 7 mile bogfest of a race with some sloppy mud meant that the shoes didn’t have the chance to do what they do best, and I found myself wishing for more aggressive grip. I was only able to get the most from them on the odd sections that were firmer and less technical. Plus, the pretty white colour getting all grimy made me a bit sad!
The second race was much longer at 15 miles and with lots of relentless up and down, again with wetter ground than usual. The start though, was great: a long uphill that consisted of very firm trail and they came into their own again. I felt like I was being propelled upwards where often with an uphill start, my legs are leaden. The comfort was great once again, with my feet staying firmly locked in place despite the courses best efforts to tear the shoes off me and I had no soreness in my feet at all, a rarity for me. I can only attribute this to the carbon plate and to the sock fit of the shoes.
Overall, this is an exciting shoe. It gives great feedback; fits amazingly well; makes you feel like you have springs in your feet and gives you the confidence to run hard. Scarpa call it a fell shoe, but wet English fells in winter don’t particularly suit it!
I would not hesitate to use these on a drier course though and intend on taking them to the Yorkshire Three Peaks with me, that is how confident I am that they can take me even further. They are an all-out racer for sure and not something you would do your daily miles in, but if you are after that extra edge in your faster trail races, this is the shoe to try.