I was quite excited to receive a test pair of the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac to trial. The Scott Kinabalu HS remains a solid workhorse in my trail shoe arsenal and despite having a slew of other strong contenders in my closet, it is still my shoe of choice for many of my long trail races. They’ve seen action at the Carkeek 12hour, Gorge Waterfalls 100k, and most recently the Kinabalu HS came out to play and proved their worth for me at the Bridle Trails 50k. Let’s just say that I was quite keen to give its more toothy looking sister a whirl on some mucky trails.
I’ve also not had the opportunity to test out a trail shoe that has a sole quite as reminiscent of a JCB before, so I was incredibly curious as to how they would perform and whether the super gnarly nubs would be a comfort, or a worrying presence underfoot.
The Supertrac is an aggressive looking shoe, the fit is more sturdy and plush than my trusty Kinabalu HS. It’s more akin to the beefed up, but heavier, upper update that the Kinabalu 3.0 was given. It feels like a solid shoe. Feet feel well protected and while many manufacturers have departed completely towards employing overlay veneers, the toe bumper and supporting structure of the Supertrac are still reassuringly stitched to the mesh upper. While the pursuit of miles will tell how durable this shoe really is, they certainly appear to be well reinforced. I was a little reticent about how there seems to be more volume around the midfoot than I’m used to from my older version Kinabalu HS, but it wraps nicely and the foot feels secure, if not a little more armoured.
Such a simple pleasure, but I’m so glad the lace locker is still a staple for Scott shoes. I love this basic little elastic addition in which to securely stable the laces, and it’s just such an easy joy to see the laces tied up and neatly stowed away so simply and without fear of unraveling.
The heel is well cushioned and cups the foot into place snugly and without any slippage. The cut of the ankle makes it feel a little high, but also well protected. I actually went into this test run with my heels already horribly chewed up by a bad decision to wear knee high leather boots with the wrong socks the day before. The socks were too short, and the boots abrasive. The resulting sores made me reticent to run at all, however the Supertracs were surprising comfortable on raw skin and I was able to run for my prescribed two hours without further damage or pain.
I decided to go find some mud at Cougar Mountain to really see what these shoes are capable of. It has been quite wet lately and I got caught out in some showers while running too. The trail was a great combination of slick, sloppy, thick muck with some good mud puddles to wade through. It took a couple of deep breaths on my part to feel okay with diving in and getting these nice spanking new trainers messy, but it wasn’t long before I was gleefully beelining for and squelching through all the worst mud and grotty looking puddles I could find. I was taking any footy technical trail and sharp bends over well worn clear paths in an effort to throughly see what these shoes could deliver.
I was impressed with their performance. They really are aggressive and sticky. The hefty chevron lugs are well spaced and spread far enough to bite, then shed muck with ease and not just attract and case feet in heavy mud.
Dashing across slick wooden bridges and wire mesh covered gang walks…check!
Hurdling over fallen trees and wet roots…check!
Ill advised awkward one footed landings and take offs over afore mentioned fallen tree obstacles and slippery rocks…check!
On training runs, and some races, I run with my hyper athletic, ne’er do well dog tied by a leash to my waist and so am perhaps more in need to be picky about making sure I have appropriate traction. Even when being enthusiastically dragged down slippery trail by said hound who’s spotted an escaping squirrel and is intent on dragging me into the nearest, very rough, solid and quite abrasive tree truck in an attempt to make its acquaintance, I was able to maintain my footing and escape a barky demise.
The snug fit to the shoe felt nimble and I was confident trip trap dancing over roots, but on the downside the tip of my big toe did suffer from not having a wider toe box. I want to love these shoes for long runs, but the narrower fit does give me concern for ultra distances. However, conversely, a wider toe box can often make me feel less nimble on technical trail, allow the shoe to catch unwanted obstacles and can feel less secure. So bit of a pay off there. I’m hoping these just might be one of those shoes that requires a little more break in to feel comfortable in that respect.
The dog and I had a good romp to Shy Bear Pass and then headed up Whitaker Wilderness Peak Trail intent on running the Gombu Wilderness Cliffs Trail. The ascent up to Wilderness Peak went well with the Supertracs happily biting their way up the elevation but I was mostly interested in seeing how the shoes would fare on the way down the series of steep switchbacks that comes next. I usually find these insanely difficult with the dog. A bunch of tight cornering and having to run downhill with quads really screaming as the brakes are fully on to prevent the dog from getting carried away and dragging me down on my face does not make for a comfortable run. This is where I found the Supertracs really seemed to prove their worth. I can’t say I flew down that trail any faster than usual, but I was surprisingly able to relax more and trust my footing in the Supertrac. It was definitely less of a white knuckle ride and more of a controlled descent.
The 8mm drop is a welcome smidge lower than the original Kinabalu and the shoe also boasts the Scott “Eride” technology which is supposed to utilise a rocker effect to promote a “stable midstance” and stride efficiency, though I can’t say I really noticed that too much on trail. I suspect that may be more noticeable on smoother trail when you’re not concentrating quite so much on staying upright.
Despite being aggressive in looks, the outsole is also surprising soft and that combined with Scott’s “Areo+ Foam” provided a much more cushioned ride across the whole of the foot than I expected from this shoe, yet it still allowed for enough satisfying ground feel to keep me confident.
Dog and shoes were relegated to the car’s cargo hold for the homeward journey and had to be hosed down as soon as we got home. The Supertracs handled that much better than the dog.
Tested: Scott Kinabalu Supertrac (2016 update) M9 blue/yellow
While the women’s shoe has a female specific insole to account for generally narrower heel width and smaller forefoot version I opted for the men’s version purely out of silly aesthetics as I have enough purple in my life at the moment, and these will look quite dashing with my Team7Hills team singlet!