Hiking/Trail Running Shoes
Scarpa Proton GTX
$169, 1 lb. 7 oz. (men’s Euro 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 39-47, 48, women’s 37-41
Everyone wants ultralight footwear for all manner of outdoor adventures these days, from light hiking and ultra-hikes to trail running and ultralight backpacking. Bonus if you can scramble a peak in them. I feel the same way. But that kind of hybrid shoe can be a challenging find. I put some trail miles on Scarpa’s new Proton GTX, a low-cut, waterproof-breathable trail runner that crosses over to hiking, and found it packs a heap of performance and versatility into one of the lightest pieces of outdoor footwear you’ll find.
The Proton GTX (there’s also a non-waterproof version, the Proton, for $129) provides all the forefoot flex you’d want in a trail runner, with excellent stability and lateral support, thanks to a dual-density compression-molded EVA midsole with a high-density EVA trail plate, and a molded, external heel counter that’s rock solid around your heel but cushioned underneath.
Those features, plus the heel to forefoot drop of 21mm to 11mm for better cushioning, means these shoes behave like an ATV for running or hiking rugged trails—really not what you’d assume in a shoe that’s under a pound-and-a-half per pair. I pounded out numerous fall and winter trail runs of up to 10 miles—hiking at times in steeper, rockier terrain—from the Foothills above my Boise home to the rocky, rooted trails of New England, in dry, wet, muddy conditions and on snow, and these shoes have a very stable platform for all of those situations.
I deliberately stood and splashed around in shallow water to test the Gore-Tex membrane, and my socks never got damp. I also put a low gaiter on over the shoes and ran on snow, in temperatures just below and above freezing, without my socks getting wet. The Airmesh uppers really enhance the breathability—I’d find my socks almost dry after long runs when I worked up a good sweat. Granted, I didn’t test the shoes on really hot days, but for drier, hotter conditions, I’d go with a non-waterproof shoe for even better ventilation, anyway.
A welded TPU external frame protects the uppers on rocky trails, while the Vibram Genesis outsole has widely spaced, relatively deep, 4mm lugs that bite into loose dirt and mud, but aren’t really designed for sticking to steep slabs, and did slip occasionally when descending on wet, slick rock and roots.
Final analysis: I’d recommend the Scarpa Proton GTX for rugged trail running in wet, cool conditions, dayhiking or ultra-hiking with a light daypack, and for hikers who are accustomed to wearing lightweight low-cuts for ultralight backpacking.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase the men’s or women’s Scarpa Proton GTX shoes at moosejaw.com.
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See also my “Pro Tips For Buying the Right Boots.”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my Gear Reviews at The Big Outside.
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