Carbon Plates Go Big Mountain. Fast Ups, Agile, Dependable, Forgiving!


Midsole

Sam: Scarpa took extreme care in designing its Presa sole (diagram below) to deliver a platform which combines plenty of leg friendly cushion, low slung stability, flexible carbon plate propulsion and protection. At a full stack height of 22 mm heel / 17 mm forefoot the Kima is for sure not a max cushion ride yet it delivers on its promises for me.

The midsole is dual density with the black layer softer and bouncier and the top layer firmer and denser. The lower layer almost feels like a supercritical foam in its bounce and spring, taking some of the edge off what is above although Scarpa tells us it is an EVA/rubber blend but maybe with some gas processing as they do call it out as a “gas foam” as well. 

There is plenty of lively if firmer cushion here for me and of the three Antelope Island 25K I have raced, my 2022 race in the Kima had me finishing with none of the usual last miles cramps and the next day ready to run unlike any of my other efforts there. 

I found the cushion and stability just about ideal with noted vibration dampening yet never isolated from trail feel. This is for sure not the very firm heel ride of say the Peregrine 12 or the mushier ride of a Speedgoat. This said the midsole construction is not ideal for pavement and neither is the firm thick heel rubber. Door to trail is doable but not something I would prioritize as a strength here.

The embedded carbon plate as the others say provides a distinct sense of propulsion and particularly so on climbs while remaining quite stable and compliant to terrain on downhills. The shoe and its plate is somewhat flexible with a long snappy flex that is consistent from midfoot to final toe off area where it is slightly more flexible yet, just what one needs for agile climbing. There is a distinct drop in feel to toe off particularly felt on uphills with a noticeable spring. 

In I think an extremely clever move, Kima actually has less vertical sidewalls at  the medial midfoot shown above than lateral shown below. 

What you’ll say that’s the opposite of the usual where most trail shoes go for medial stability… Much as the very original Vaporfly had a distinct front pronation to get you forward to the plate and toe off, Scarpa does some of the same here and deliberately and this I think is why this relatively stiff flexing shoe is so easy to climb and rolls so smoothly on the flatter yet due to its lower stack and firmer foam is always stable.

John: The midsole offers anything but a harsh ride. It does a wonderful job dampening shock and vibration on technical terrain, and providing noticeable rebound. I didn’t really imagine the Golden Gate Kima RT to function well as a fast and efficient trail running shoe, but looks are certainly deceiving. 

Scarpa sandwiches a 3D carbon plate in the dual-density foam and strategically placed in the heel and ball of the forefoot; Scarpa’s research indicated these placements yield the best possible elastic response. When ascending steep technical slopes, I could feel the snap and rebound that seemingly propelled my foot forward. I didn’t have similar observations on flat or downhill, but still felt like the midsole effectively offered a stable and predictable feel.  

Jeremy: The midsole leans on the firmer side of the spectrum, but by no means it’s a harsh or firm ride per se. On tame trails, the Kima works far better than its mountain shoe looks might indicate. The dense midsole offers a noticeable yet natural rebound, perfectly guided by the carbon-plate which is not overly stiff: you still have this “natural feel with a boost” coming from the midsole/plate combination, and does not have an overly directed ride (something I disliked in the Endorphin Trail or Trabuco Max for instance). Despite its weight, it’s more than capable in those conditions.

But the Kima really shines and reveals itself in the mountains. 

I received KIma RT before heading to the Alps, and was able to test them there where they’re meant to be used: on steep ascents, descents, rock hopping, snow, dry, wet ground…I did not expect to find such an agile and efficient shoe in the Kima. The slight flex at the forefoot is immediately followed by the responsive midsole material rebound and the carbon plate reaction, everything acting as a propelling me uphill. It’s really noticeable on long uphills where the legs seem to fatigue much less.

On downhills, some might find the ride a bit too firm, especially if you’re more into a Hoka-like cushioning and bomb down all heels ahead. The Kima requires a more subtle approach as I think it can become a bit jarring going all-out.

The inherently stable ride is also confidence-inspiring, be it on technical trails as well as on longer flatter runs.

For sure, I think the biomechanical studies that Scarpa’s done when building the Kima, in order to “reduce fatigue” are more than just a marketing claim: despite my lack of recent training in the Alpine environment, and some good tempo chunks thrown in, I never felt broken at the end of the run. Even on back-to-back runs.

Another good point, after more than 100 miles in the shoes, the midsole still feels brand new, and does not show any early signs of bottoming up.

Jeff V:  John and Jeremy describe the midsole well and Jeremy especially wrote all that I was about to say, so will not repeat his observations.  I will reiterate that I was most impressed with the Kima on steep, varied terrain, with varied conditions, where traction, protection, security and stability were paramount.  Uphill performance with a clear boost from the carbon plate is appreciated, however the weight of the shoe inhibits this somewhat.  As John and Jeremy have mentioned, the midsole, while on the firm side, is not harsh or abusive and cushions adequately for runs up to several hours.

Adam:  I agree with Jeff, Jeremy, and especially John on technical terrain performance.  The carbon plate is especially noticeable climbing and provides propulsion when speeding up and lengthening my stride, but the shoe is still precise and allows for a distinct ground feel.  This is still a trail shoe I’d be comfortable leaping from rock to rock in, and is the first shoe with a carbon plate I can say that about.  The shoe runs lighter than its weight, and while not incredibly soft, is extremely smooth at reducing the harshness and vibration from impacts.  I wouldn’t wear this for a less technical trail 5km or 10km (over something like the S/Lab Pulsar), but at longer distances, the predictable smoothness and stability of this platform truly start to shine.  

Outsole

Sam: The full coverage Presa outsole is a dual density rubber with Scarpa’s Supergum up front for high grip and wet and dry conditions adaptability and their firmer Water Lock compound at the heel for durability under stress of braking and wet conditions. The lugs are 4mm multi directional arrow shapes. I like that the lugs also have decent flat contact areas to assist with smoother ground feel and flow.

I have run the Kima on snow, dry and wet trails and some road. It has performed magnificently on trail terrain. I wore the Kima for a 25K trail race on Antelope Island in Utah with just about every trail conditions in the mix. Long stretches of new snow, dry smooth trail, a few rocky flatter sections and some mud (with no big clogging). I was confident everywhere and the outsole also never got in the way on smoother cruising sections. Relatively firm (outsole and midsole) and with the full coverage it is not the ideal outsole for pavement but it can go there too if need be. 

John: The Presa® outsole lug pattern and extremely sticky rubber was impressive on every surface I have run on: technical rocky trails, snow and ice, slush and mud, smooth cruisy trails, and off trail grass. The lugs are well placed and I never found myself needing to stay focused on my footsteps in and over technical terrain.

Jeff V:  The Presa outsole provides excellent grip on a wide variety of surfaces, which I have confirmed on snow, ice, mud, loose off trail, wet rock, dry rock, technical trails, steep gravel and everything in between.  I have yet to discover any limitations and thus far have found durability to be excellent. 

Jeremy: The in-house Presa compound and all-purpose lugs pattern results in one the best outsoles I’ve ever run. It’s grippy on rocks, dry or wet, roots, snow, even icy, and can live in slight mud without clogging. On smooth trails and even roads, it stays more than OK and doesn’t make the ride too harsh.

Moreover, the durability seems to be top-notch as I can’t see a single trace of wear from my 100 miles and this despite some aggressive alpine terrain in the mix.

Adam:  This outsole has been fantastic so far, it doesn’t have as many lugs under the mid foot which is helpful because the weight is reduced and traction is left where necessary.  The lugs are spaced out enough that I wasn’t able to clog them with snow and mud, but they’re still deep enough to bite into slippery roots, rocks, and sand.  

Ride

John: The Golden Gate Kima RT has a stable and comfortable ride. On the ascent, the Golden Gate Kima RT is a nimble and agile shoe, and did really well at navigating through technical obstacles. On the descent, the low center of gravity, secure fit, broader platform, and solid traction keeps my foot from wobbling laterally while also keeping ankle rolls at bay. 

Jeremy: Stable and predictive, the ride of the Kima is much more comfortable than the look of the shoe indicates – a constant remark with the Kima!

The plate makes for a dynamic ride, and doubled with the midsole density, it offers a nice blend of cushioning and firmness. Note that the ride is not firm per se, it just leans on the firm side of the spectrum.

Despite the plate, the ride feels very natural even on roads and not overly direct, and the minimal rocker profile of the shoe is a good indication that Kima’s conceptors didn’t just rely on this but more on a natural roll of the foot.

But where the shoe shines is on trails, where it runs so much lighter than its weight. A fatigue reduction is marketed for this shoe and I must admit that on long runs my legs felt fresh despite some good tempo chunks dropped in.

The flexible plate is not as propulsive as a road-plated shoe, and this is for the best as it’s not something you’d want on the trails. Here, the ride stays predictable, slightly propulsive on the flats, and very effective on uphills. The “rigid flex” of the shoe plays a big role for this, as you put more pressure on the midsole when going uphill, the plate flexes more and gives back more energy. 

Add the tremendous grip of the shoe and the astonishing agility for a weighty shoe and you end up going uphill way faster than expected. I’m glad I was able to go to the Alps during my testing, and the Kima really shone there, in their “natural habitat”.

On long downhills, either technical or easy ones, they proved to be secure, stable, and sure-footed, which is the result of the grip, the firm, wide platform and the effective upper.

The foot hold was perfect in these conditions and I never got any ankle rolling despite my lack of training in technical terrain recently.

Jeff V: John and Jeremy sum up the ride well.  I find it to be on the firm side, with a smooth transition and an energetic feel at toe off and most appreciate the propulsion of the plate on steep, technical climbs.  While I appreciate the lower, more predictable stable ride, I do occasionally find myself having to exercise a bit of finesse when moving fast through really rocky terrain.

Sam: Designed for the Trofeo Kima highly technical 52K sky race with lots of climbing, the ride is here is stable, on the firmer side (but not harsh), and with notable propulsion on climbs from the plate with the plate and midsole geometry letting me flow forward and then spring up on all grades. 

Descents are stable but due to the quite torsionally rigid plate, while flexible longitudinally , on occasion they can be a touch tippy on roots and pointy rocks. Despite firmness and low stack the ride, is actually quite forgiving with the platform very vibration and shock absorbing despite the relatively low stack. For the first time in 3 attempts I had no leg cramps and no soreness the next day after my 25K trail race although by the final miles I did notice the shoe’s weight.  

In conclusion the ride (and fit) should be ideal for the trail conditions it was designed for: longer sub big ultra distance runs and races on technical terrain for faster runners. For the rest of us the ride is a solid all around trail training and racing ride for moderate to more technical terrain with better choices including from Scarpa for door to trail and longer races on less technical terrain. 

Adam:  The Kima manages to be both approachable in its stability and cushion while remaining incredibly efficient and performant.  The climbs feel fantastic thanks to the fierce forefoot grip and gentle rocker from the somewhat flexible plate.  

Unlike a lot of other plated shoes, it doesn’t feel like you have to be turning over at high speed to benefit from it, but it will reward you the more energy you put into it.  I would strongly consider this for long trail races and big days in the mountains thanks to the cushion, efficiency, and dependable stability and comfort.

Testing the Kima on Muddy Trails

Conclusions and Recommendations

John: The Golden Gate Kima RT is a shoe that can take trail runners on the path less traveled, quickly and comfortably. It is a secure fitting shoe with all of the right amounts of cushion, traction, and protection for varied terrain. Although at first glance your imagination might think the shoe looks clunky and designed for hiking, it performs much better when you put it on and take it to the trails in real life! I could see this shoe working well for fast mountain attempts, fast packing, and trail to scramble adventures. 

John’s Score: 9.5 / 10

Ride: 9.5 (stable and smooth ride that gives runners confidence and enjoyment)

Fit: 9.5

Value: 9 (despite having decent versatility, I think the shoe is expensive )

Style: 10 (definitely will double as a casual shoe) 

Traction: 10 (high performing)

Rock Protection: 9.5 (decent toe protection, ample cushioning, and outsole provide great protection)

Jeremy: The Scarpa Kima is much more than its looks. Under its hiking/scrambling shoe appearance, it offers a comfortable, secure, dynamic ride that excels in many situations, even the easiest ones. Of course, it shines on technical terrain where the stability, foot hold and traction allows for a sure-footed run without second thoughts. It’s agile, much more than it looks, and offers protection for many hours.

On flatter terrain, it also proved to be really nice and effective when just cruising at speed, where all the tech put into the midsole and the plate come into play. They may come in on the firmer side of the spectrum, but are not firm per se, and are not harsh. The midsole material doesn’t have much rebound, compared to the Asics Trabuco Max or even the Salomon Pulsar, but that’s a tradeoff for the predictability on technical terrain.

One slight drawback I can think of is the forefoot shape that is strange, both spacious but pointy, and may can cause issues with some foot shapes. All in all it’s a shoe that really caught me off guard, for the best.

Jeremy’s Score: 9.2 / 10

Ride: 9 (stable, natural, no matter the terrain)

Fit: 8.5 (might be tricky for some, but overall secure)

Value: 9 (Expensive, but durable, versatile)

Style: 8.5 (not really my cup of tea…and some strange color bleeding) 

Traction: 10 (eats anything, and the outsole looks new after 160kms including lots of rocks…)

Rock Protection: 9.5 (would not want more)

Jeff V:  The Scarpa Golden Gate Kima RT is a legit all mountain running shoe that holds up on the roughest terrain and the most difficult conditions.  They have amazing foothold, protection, security, traction and durability, combined with the carbon plate for added propulsion and added protection.  While they are a touch on the heavy side, I find that they run a little lighter than their weight implies and while not particularly fast, they offer a tantalizing formula for speed and efficiency over technical terrain.  While the toe box is a bit on the awkwardly shaped side, I find it to be adequate for a few hours of mountain running, but would not recommend them for longer distances or faster less technical running.

Jeff’s Score: 9.0 / 10

Ride: 9 (firm, but appropriate for intended terrain)

Fit: 8 (secure, but toe box is unusually tapered)

Value: 9 (durable and competent on technical terrain)

Style: 9 (subjective, but the approach shoe grew on me) 

Traction: 10 (excellent traction everywhere)

Rock Protection: 10 (I have never felt a zinger no matter the terrain)

Sam: Loaded with a highly effective carbon plate, secure and comfortable upper and an appropriately stable and carbon plated, responsive and well enough cushioned midsole the Kima RT is a versatile, fun, energetic and reliable choice for more technical trail running, sloppy conditions, big vertical and especially uphill. 

Despite its quite firm ride and low stack, it is surprisingly leg friendly during runs and after. and while I don’t fully understand the bio mechanics, the plate as Scapa claims for sure does seem to: “heighten the plantar arch’s elastic response, reducing physical effort when running” , especially climbing.  

It is also an excellent cruiser on smoother terrain helped along by the smooth flow and impulse of the plate but it is not the best door to trail option, pavement not being its strong suit and that’s OK. 

At 10.4 oz / 298g it is reasonable in weight for all its substance. I wish it was lighter but to get there Scarpa likely would have to lighten the upper and its durability and reduce the excellent all mountain terrain outsole’s profile. I think a variant with a Vibram LiteBase type outsole, slightly softer foam and a lighter upper with weight under 10 oz would extend the excellent platform’s versatility to other types of training and racing on the more moderate terrain side of things.

All in all the Kima RT and its technologies deliver as promised with an energetic stable carbon plated ride that shines on uphills and handles everywhere else with agility and a leg friendly if firmer ride.

Sam’s Score: 9.19 /10

Ride: 9  (for its intended technical trails purpose delivers. I wish for a slightly softer ride and lighter weight 

Fit: 9.1 ( again for intended purpose superb comfort and security when sized up a half size)

Value: 8.6 (durability should be excellent and carbon is pricey but I wish for a touch more smoother terrain ride softness versatility which would help value considerably

Style: 9 (no flash, all business and that is fine)

Traction: 10 (grips everywhere/everything but a bit too firm on firm and road at the heel

Rock Protection: 9.5 (so far nothing penetrates with ground feel is not lost but plate is a bit tippy on pointy obstacles 

Adam:  The Kima is a fantastic trail shoe that takes modern foam and plate technology and successfully reimagines it for dashing through the mountains.  While I’d love an even lighter and faster version, the dependability and versatility of this design had me grabbing it every time I wanted to go for a somewhat technical trail run.  I would strongly consider this for long trail races and big days in the mountains thanks to the cushion, efficiency, and dependable stability and comfort.

Adam’s Score9.35/10

Ride: 9.5 (Very much an ultra-style somewhat firm trail shoe, but with propulsion and protection of a carbon plate)

Fit: 9 (had to size up by ½ and slightly long, but no blisters or slipping)

Value: 9 (I’d compare this shoe to the S/Lab Ultra 3, and $10 more for a carbon plate is not a bad deal)

Style: 8 (Not a bad looking shoe, but I wish it had more of the lovely bright blue and less grey) 

Traction: 10 (Excellent)

Rock Protection: 10 (Can still feel the ground, but provides excellent rock protection, best of both)

12 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Scarpa Golden Gate ATR (RTR Review)

Sam: About 0.2 oz heavier and much higher stacked, the ATR is slotted as a more “door to trail” Golden Gate yet has almost as aggressive traction as Kima and about as secure if lighter upper. Unlike the Kima it is a rigid rocker shoe and is not as agile. Its midsole, while more cushioned in stack is on the firm side. Big mountains stay with Kima, more mellow trails some door to trail and up to moderately technical and longer distances Golden Gate but for me, for those purposes, I would go Spin Infinity. 

Scarpa Spin Infinity (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Infinity feels quicker, more lively and more suitable for longer distances with more cushion and a more accommodating toe box.

Sam:The Infinity is  a 4mm drop flex based shoe with considerably more stack height and forgiving cushion weighing ½ oz more and its weight not really noticed. I don’t find it quicker or more lively than our carbon plated Kima or to have significantly more accommodating toe box but for sure it is more suitable for longer distances and overall is a more versatile choice and $50 less . 

Saucony Peregrine 12  (RTR Review)

Sam: Similar technical focus with great outsoles the Peregrine 12 is almost a full ounce lighter, has a more comfortable if not quite as ruggedized upper and instead of a carbon plate has a flexible woven rock plate. It’s single density PWRRUN midsole is firmer at the heel than the Kima’s. The Peregrine 12 likely will out run the Kima on shorter technical runs but as things get longer the substance and superior cushion plus carbon propulsion of the Kima will win out for me despite the weight difference. 

John: I find the Peregrine 12 to be more protective and firmer compared to the Kima RT.  Moreover, the Peregrine’s traction profile is more aggressive while the Kima still performs really well on most terrain. The outsole of the Kima is very sticky and excels at navigating through rock features. If I’m planning a long adventure peak bagging day, the energy return, cushion, and overall stability of the Kima makes it a top choice; for most other trail running, the Peregrine 12 is a perfect option.

Salomon Sense Pro 4 (RTR Review)

John: I feel like I say this everytime, but it is always worth reiterating: The Sense Pro 4 is one of my all-time favorites. The Sense Pro 4s are sock-like and form fitting in the upper, while the Kima RTs have more cushion and better energy  provide more play and more midsole cushion. If I am going fast and short in more technical terrain, I’ll go with the Sense Pro 4s, but I will put the Peregrines on for anything else.

Saucony Endorphin Trail (RTR Review)

Sam: The Endorphin Trail is a rigid rocker based shoe with a state of the art PWRRUN PB midsole wrapped in a stabilizing net. Targeted at similar terrain, the Endorphin is less agile but more protective and considerably more cushioned. On a long slow run or hike on technical terrain the Endorphin Trail, for moving faster with not quite the deep protection Kima.

Adam:  I actually really enjoy the Endorphin Trail.  I find it much more cushioned, and an excellent hiking shoe relative to the Kima, but it doesn’t have the stability to hold up to aggressive mountain running.  For easy trail runs on less technical terrain or hiking, I’d pick the Endorphin Trail.  For racing, mountain running, and mixed terrain, I’d pick the Kima.  

Speedland SL:PDX (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Both have carbon plates, but the plate in the Speedland has more lateral flex and is more compliant on technical terrain.  The Speedland also has greater versatility, softer cushioning, is lighter and more responsive and has the best upper out there with dual Boa.  I do think the Kima has better traction and outsole durability.

Hoka Speedgoat 5 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Speedgoat is lighter, faster, has comparable grip, a more accommodating upper while being very secure and is quite stable for the stack height.  Also is much better suited for longer distances with softer, more cushioned midsole.  That said, the Kima is a bit more nimble and agile in technical terrain, with slightly better grip.

Sam: Concur with Jeff here.

Hoka Tecton X (RTR Review)

Sam: A direct duel of carbon plated trail shoes here. The Tecton, coming May weighs 1.5 oz / 42g less on a broader higher stacked platform. Its midsole is a springy supercritical foam. Its outsole is less aggressive but none the less effective Vibram LiteBase. It’s dual plates are less flexible and less ground conforming but snappier on flatter terrain while Kim’s more flexible plate and geometry shines best on uphills Tecton X’s upper is lighterbut almost as equally secure but not quite.  Clear choice Tecton X for fast smoother trails and it is superb on roads, and for really any distance, while Kima the choice for wet conditions steeper and more technical trails.

Nike Terra Kiger (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Kiger is much softer, better cushioned, more flexible, with a normal fitting upper that borders on spacious, making the Kiger more appropriate for longer distances.  The Kima however is firmer, more secure and protective and has superior grip.

Jeremy: The Kiger now clearly leans towards long distance comfort with a hugging upper and a respectable amount of cushioning underfoot. The React foam is very springy and it makes the shoe perfect for long moderate terrain trail runs. The Kima as Jeff perfectly described is much more suited to mountain running with its far more secure upper, incomparable grip, and the sole firmness makes it very precise and effective on technical terrain. Thelma plate tech and dual midsole material combination are still also very effective for more tamed trails. I think that even for 4h trails I’d lean on the Kima, no matter the terrain. 

Puma Voyage Nitro (RTR Review)

Jeremy: the Puma voyage is much softer underfoot as well as springier due to the Nitro foam core. The fit is nowhere as secure as the Kima’s, but it’s not the point of the Voyage. It’s clearly aiming at everyday, all-day comfort trail shoe that can handle a variety of conditions due to the low profile lugs and it’s great PumaGrip compound. It can also double as a hiking shoe as it’s upper is so comfortable. The Kima is a functional, effective technical trail running shoe.

Adam:  The Puma is softer underfoot, and is a better hiker.  The Kima is more technically inclined, much faster, and has more of a propulsive rocker forward from the plate and sole geometry.  

Scott Supertrac Ultra RC (RTR Reviewd)

Jeff V:  The Supertrac is much lighter, more agile, more flexible, equally, if not more secure and with a more “normal” fit.  While the Supertrac does not have a carbon plate, it is reasonably protective for shorter runs.  The Kima however has better overall protection and might be a better pick for slower, above treeline adventures.  The Kima outsole also has slightly better grip and durability.

Jeremy: As much as a like the Supertrac, I think that except for short trail runs(<2h)  or faster ones where one would  favor agility, weight or flexibility, I’d take the Kima everyday. More comfortable, as secure an upper, even better grip especially on wet rocks or roots – the Scott will be better in muddy conditions with the Kima’s carbon plate tech making it more effective on long climbs, and less demanding on the legs. 

VJ Ultra (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Ultra is way lighter, faster, more nimble, better cushioned, softer, more flexible with a secure, but normal fit.  The Kima is much more firm, protective and durable, and is better on slower outings above treeline, where the Ultra makes a very fast race shoe.

Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3 (RTR Review)

Adam:  I find this shoe quite similar to a plated S/Lab Ultra 3.  Cushion feel and outsole grip are similar. The S/Lab Ultra 3 is slightly better on super technical terrain because of the flexibility of sole to conform to rocks and roots, but the propulsion on any slightly less technical terrain and in climbing is much better in the Kima due to the plate, foam, and geometry.