Trail running is one of the more exciting running pursuits out there: getting back to nature, in the wild, and setting a challenging course for yourself to maximize a run is a high-energy activity that requires a high-performance trainer. Scarpa, the family-owned Italian shoe company that has been specializing in alpine footware for decades, has been producing some of the best trail running shoes on the market for a long time, and with the Scarpa Spark, they may have even made one of their best so far.
This extremely comfortable, lightweight trail runner boasts that it’s a “mountain minimalist trail-running shoe,” but besides its shaved-down drop (6mm) there’s nothing minimalist about its construction. With a well-constructed breathable mesh upper, supportive overlays, and a sturdy Speedlite outsole that boasts of 2.5mm lugs, the Spark is a trail runner that means business. With a tenacious grip that provides secure footing on soil and rock, this light hiking shoe is made for the mountains and tough terrain of the trail while also remaining nimble and comfortable, transitioning between light walking to a breakout run in a cinch.
Made of high-tensile synthetic material (and for the eco-minded, this shoe is also made of mostly recycled materials), the Spark features a solid fabric strike plate, toe kick, and protective synthetic leather to shield the sides of the shoe. Inside, its EVA cushioned sole and extra forefoot layer provides a long-lasting comfortable ride while the 6mm drop finds a fine balance between minimalist and normal drop, providing excellent stability that prevents any lateral roll, even on rough, uneven surfaces. If you’re in the market for a lightweight but fierce trail runner, the Scarpa Spark might just be your new favorite pair.
Spark’s outsole is made of the company’s proprietary Speedlite rubber outsole design that’s durable and built to last. Boasting 2.5mm lugs, which may be slightly shallower than some trail runners are used to, nevertheless they provide a great amount of traction that performs on wet granite and lots of grip on dry trails and mixed terrains.
The Spark’s midsole is made of compressed EVA that’s both durable and springy. EVA has been a go-to midsole material for many running and trail shoes, and for good reason. It provides a comfortable ride while also keeping the overall weight of the shoe down. An additional extra layer of padding on the forefoot is also included for extra protection and comfort.
The upper of the Scarpa Spark is made of a breathable synthetic mesh that allows for excellent ventilation while running rough trails. Besides this, the Spark’s upper features a wide toe box that provides a great amount of comfort, and although the upper is snug to fit when wrapped around the foot, the wearer never feels as if their feet are being constricted. In addition, synthetic leather overlays provide the upper with structure and protect the foot.
The upper’s lacing system is slightly different from many American-made shoes, instead hewing closer to a boot lace
system, which offers runners a number of holes so they can configure their own custom fit. A protective gusset connecting the tongue to the sides of the Scarpa Spark’s upper also helps in keeping dirt and grit from entering the shoe.
Unlike many of Scarpa’s other lines, the Spark does not have a Gore-tex lining, which many runners will appreciate since that lining usually prevents adequate ventilation and traps in sweat. Instead, the Spark’s upper remains open and breathable.
Trail runners tend to vary wildly in weight. While lightweight trail runners offer a more flexible ride, they often lose overall protection. Meanwhile, heavier trail runners tend to weigh down the runner after a while. The Scarpa Spark seems to have found a balance between these two problematic trade-offs by making a light enough trail runner
without losing overall protection. Weighing in at 9.8 ounces/278 ounces, the Spark is light enough for runners used to a more minimal trainer while still offering excellent overall protection.
The Spark’s upper is made of a highly breathable upper mesh that provides excellent ventilation for long-term of the Scarpa Spark is made of a breathable synthetic mesh
that allows for excellent ventilation while running rough trails. However, this seems to come at a price, as the Scarpa Spark has received complaints that its loose upper lacks structural integrity and is prone to deteriorating.
The Spark’s compressed EVA midsole provides springy, lightweight cushioning that’s durable and long-lasting. This midsole is firm but supporting and soft without being too plush. For additional comfort, the forefoot has a thin high tensile fabric plate, which is protective but also flexible.
The Scarpa Spark is a trail runner that looks more like a sturdy lightweight trainer. With dashes of green neon that would seem more at home on a Reebok
or similarly colorful brand of running shoe, complete with the trademark Scarpa company name printed on the side, but the bright green highlights, blue mesh of the upper, and gray overlays also imbue the Spark with a little more serious aesthetic. But form meets function in the Spark: its overlays give the shoe a great amount of structure while the green highlights also provide for better visibility. It may be a slightly more colorful and less subdued trail runner than some runners are used to, but its dash of flash also belies its Italian origin. After all, what’s the use of having a solid all-around trainer if it doesn’t have a little flair?
The Speedlite rubber outsole is both durable and built to last, and its hardy lugs will keep their traction without losing its grip for a long time. Unfortunately, while the synth mesh that comprises its upper is breathable, there have been some complaints that the upper also tends to deteriorate after a while. However, this most likely varies from runner to runner.
With a protective thin high tensile fabric plate in the forefoot and a thick rubber outsole, the runner’s foot is well protected from the rocks and uneven surfaces on the trail. With synthetic leather overlays that provide both structure and protection, the Scarpa Spark will keep runners from injury while out on the trail.
From the lug-heavy outsole that provides a great grip on the earth to its thin EVA midsole that allows for excellent responsiveness while on the road to its low-cut profile, the Spark is a highly responsive trail runner, which is needed when running on uneven and rocky surfaces in nature. Meanwhile, its 6mm drop also provides a great amount of stability, so runners who don’t want to go zero drop
but still want more stability in their trainer will find the Spark a great improvement over many other higher-drop shoes.
While some may find the Spark’s thin EVA midsole as a bit of a disappointment, its neutral arch support will appeal to the neutral runner. However, its thick Speedlite rubber outsole provides a fair amount of support and the overlays on the upper provides structure. This is not specifically a support
shoe, but the lower 6mm drop does give a good amount of stability.
Made for the trail, the Spark is great for active, adventurous runners who are looking to go out and engage in nature. With 2.5mm lugs that grip the earth and tenaciously tackle rocky terrain, the Scarpa Spark is an all-around ready-to-go trail runner that are made to take to the natural, uneven, and overall unpredictable running surfaces found in nature.
Trail runners can be rather pricey, but the Scarpa Spark manages to stay in a relatively reasonable range. With a breathable upper, lug-heavy outsole, and comfortable midsole, the Scarpa Spark is a sporty, low-cut trail
runner that trail runners will find well worth the price.
With its outsole evenly covered in 2.5mm lugs, the Spark is a trail runner with plenty of traction. Although it has less traction than a running gaiter
or spiked shoes, runners will appreciate its tenacious grip as they run over dirt, grass, rocks, and all of the uneven, unexpected terrain that the great outdoors presents.
The Spark’s upper is made of a synthetic mesh that’s highly breathable and flexible. Besides this, although there are overlays that keep the overall structure together, the upper is still flexible and fits the shape of the foot. With a wide toe box that lets the toes sit naturally, the Spark is a firm but overall flexible trail runner.
One of the benefits of the Spark is that it’s not a zero drop shoe but still offers a great amount of stability due to its 6mm drop. This is a fair compromise between the regular drop of a shoe (usually between 6 and 10mm) and the more extreme zero-drop shoe, which allows for maximum stability. So for runners looking for a little more stability but don’t want to take the zero drop plunge, the Spark offers enhanced stability.
While the Scarpa Spark promotes itself as a minimalist shoe, this is a bit of a misnomer: besides having decidedly more weight and complex construction than a minimalist
shoe, is it also not a zero-drop shoe. Instead, it boasts of a 6mm drop, which strikes a nice balance between a regular shoe drop and a zero-drop shoe, providing the runner with more stability.
- Tenacious treads that offer a great amount of grip and traction
- Thin but comfortable EVA midsole with extra cushioning in the forefoot
- Extra space in the toe box
- Breathable upper made of synthetic mesh
- 6mm drop provides great stability
The Scarpa Spark calls itself a minimalist trail runner but it certainly doesn’t look or function like one. It’s a mixture of minimal and traditional. With a 6mm drop that provides a boost in stability and a trail runner that works great on regular running surfaces and the uneven terrain of the outdoors, the Spark is versatile and ready to run right out of the box.
With extra space in the toe box and a midsole cushion that’s thin but reliable, runners seeking a trail running shoe without going full trail gaiter will appreciate the Spark’s low profile, high breathability, and overall tenacity on a run. Part of this is its mesh upper that’s secured by synthetic leather overlays, which protects the foot and provides structure without blocking any potential ventilation. The other significant boost to be found is in its outsole, which is dotted with 2.5mm lugs--just enough to provide excellent grip without sacrificing the natural responsiveness or feel of a running shoe.
The eco-minded will also appreciate that it’s made of up to 40% recycled materials. Besides this, the low profile of the trail runner also helps runners unfamiliar with trail runners transition to this new footware. With great traction, a breathable upper, and solid construction, the Scarpa Spark is for both experienced and new trail runners alike. It may be slightly pricier than other comparable shoes, but runners will feel the difference in their ride.