When Run Oregon editor, Matt Rasmussen asked if I would be interested in testing and reviewing a new release from Scarpa, I couldn’t jump at the opportunity quick enough. Having just come off a heavy summer trail running season, I was in the market to find that perfect winter trail running shoe.
During the summer months, which included running the Mt. Hood 50 miler and Waldo 100k, I alternated between the Pearl Izumi N2 and the Hoka One One Challenger ATR. I came to appreciate both of these models for their respective reasons, but I knew as the autumn rains came I needed a shoe that offered better traction while maintaining the responsiveness, foot protection, and cushion that I, as a “Clydesdale” runner, loved in both pairs of my summer go-tos. I was also curious to see how the Scarpa would affect a small, lingering injury in my right achilles that I chalked up to having previously ran in narrow footbed/high drop shoes.
Known for their long line of high-tech mountaineering and skiing footwear, Scarpa advertises the Neutron as a “daily driver” Alpine Running shoe with “the heart of a Ferrari.” The shoe features a 6mm drop and a lugged Vibram outsole that wraps up over the toe to add an extra layer of protection, and includes an H-EVA “plate” in the insole to guard against rocky, uneven terrain. The upper is a flexible blend of polyester mesh and synthetic leather fabric, and the color scheme adds an aesthetically pleasing bit of spice to one’s kit.
The first time I slipped my foot into the Neutrons was at the Oregon Coast 50k. I decided to use that day to hike around the trails at Cape Perpetua and break in my new shoes while crewing for some friends. My immediate impressions, and concerns, were that the Neutron felt significantly narrower than any shoe I had ever worn, particularly in the toebox; and I questioned the validity of the drop being 6mm. The shoes felt like I had stepped into a pair of mid-level heels, and was walking around bearing weight on my toes. The shoe felt extremely stiff, but I could feel it loosening up and fitting my foot better as the day went on, making me slightly more optimistic that I possibly had found a shoe that would work for me.
My first run in the Scarpa Neutrons was an eight mile jaunt up to Council Crest from my house. The trails in Marquam Nature Park vary from spread crushed gravel, to smooth packed clay dirt, to bullhead rocks and roots. With the recent rains that had started to saturate the Portland metro area, I was eager to see how the Neutrons responded on some of the quicker descents, runnable flats, and how they provided overall foot support on the steeper climbs leading up to Council Crest.
The Neutrons felt extremely responsive as I hit the dirt, and the initial feeling of being in a pair of high heels was barely noticeable, if at all. Each stride up the climbs felt grippy and stable on the wet clay, and I was surprised with how quick the turn over on the flats felt without any intentional rocker design being added to the shoe.
That nagging, burn in my achilles tendon did start to flare up as I climbed up some of the steeper portions of the Marquam Nature Trail, but it wasn’t as severe as it had been in the past. I made a mental note to change my laces down one eyelet for my next run, hoping to provide a little more mobility in my ankle and alleviate that burn.
Where the Neutron really made a big impression was the descent down from Council Crest. As a heavier runner with a knack for living somewhat recklessly, I love to go full-throttle down any trail. Over the roots, rocks, and wet trails covered in leaf litter, the Neutron felt like it shifted into autopilot and was giddily traversing familiar territory. Each foot strike was secure, protected, and swift.
I did notice a significant difference in cushioning, however, depending on which part of my foot struck first; the heel felt firm, yet soft, like it would be able to sustain the repetitive pounding of my 200lbs. The forefoot, however, left more to be desired. I figured that for a shoe that is so stiff and lugged, that somewhere there’s gotta be some give, and the forefoot was where the compromise was made in design. At the same time, it was nice to be able to have that extra sense of responsiveness with my forefoot for those quick toe plants to avoid a root or rock.
Overall, I was quite impressed that I could go out for an eight miler so early in the lifespan of a shoe, and still have a good time. My initial impressions and technical specs:
- The lugs on these shoes are tough, and love to eat wet dirt. The sloppier, the better.
- The rock plate sufficiently protects one’s foot, and is flexible enough to barely notice.
- My foot felt well-cradled and secured by the upper layers, and sat comfortably in the footbed.
- The top eyelet may be too high to lace the shoe comfortably for some runners.
- 275g; 9.7oz.
- $129 https://www.scarpa.com/neutron
- 6mm drop
I plan on continuing to run in the Neutron for the upcoming Silver Falls 50k, and providing more details on this new release from Scarpa soon.