Thursday, June 20, 2013

SCOTT T2 Kinabalu review

I’ve been wanting the Scott T2 Kinabalus since I heard about them. The only reason I heard about them in the first place is because Sage Canaday has been both dominating the ultra scene and doing a phenomenal job of marketing for his sponsors, one of them being SCOTT Sports.
I tried the minimal footwear thing and it didn’t work for me. I like more cushioning. The problem is that most traditional shoes are quite heavy which is a trade off I’m not fond of. So when I heard about SCOTT’s “Ultimate lightweight trail machine” I was intrigued. Weighing in at 9.5oz for a mens size 9 with a traditional 11mm heel to toe differential and an MSRP of $120: the SCOTT T2 Kinabalu.

The first thing I notice when I slip these shoes on is the amount of padding lining the upper. SCOTT did a fantastic job of providing out of the box comfort. The mesh upper is soft, flexible and padded very well from heel to tongue to toebox, providing a plush, pillowy feel as soon as you slip your foot inside. 
There is ample room in the toebox, but not so much that bombing switchbacks causes internal slippage. Runners who prefer an excessively wide toe box may not be satisfied with the Kinabalu's width, but I feel it's the perfect balance for a performance trail shoe.
The mesh upper is complimented by synthetic overlays that are very lightweight, flexible and unrestrictive while still providing support. There is also a lightweight toe bumper that runs around the front of the shoe and slightly up over the big toe. I haven’t had the pleasure of smashing my toes in these shoes yet, but I’d assume that if I did the toe bumper wouldn’t add a whole lot of protection, being that it is so thin, it would probably soften the blow at the very least.
The laces are very long, but SCOTT included a “lace bungy” to tuck them under so they stay out of your way. It’s not fancy, but it’s quick, easy and functional.

Ah the midsole! I love the ride in these bad boys. It’s a neutral shoe with plenty of cushion. SCOTT’s claim to fame, in regards to the midsole, are Aero Foam and eRide technologies. Aero Foam provides a plush and forgiving yet responsive ride. It is SCOTT’s alternative to traditional EVA foam. They claim that Aero Foam is “25% lighter [than traditional EVA], performs 50% better in high weight-relative peak cushioning efficiency and has 5% less permanent foam deformation (compression set)”.
It’s the perfect blend of cushioning and responsiveness that leaves me thinking about these shoes long after the run is over. The last time I felt a comparable midsole that I was this excited about was Nike’s Lunarglide 2 (up until now, the most comfortable shoe I’ve ever run in).
SCOTT also does something interesting and innovative with the their midsoles called eRide . eRide  is SCOTT’s unique rocker shape design of the midsole which encourages a midfoot strike and provides a more fluid and efficient transition from foot strike to toe off. It achieves this smooth transition by “converting impact energy into forward motion by propelling the athlete onto the forefoot as quickly as possible”. SCOTT claims that eRide provides  the following benefits:  “1. Healthy Body Position 2. [ Energy Efficiency ] 3. Natural Midfoot Strike 4. Lower Profile Heel 5. Smoother Ride 6. Minimal and Lighter weight”.
At first the rocker shape wasn't that noticeable to me, but as I clicked off the miles it became apparent that the design really was encouraging a midfoot strike, which made the 11mm drop feel more like 4-6mm drop. The eRide technology is also noticeable during fast descents; as soon as my heels hit the trail they immediately transition to toe off in one quick, fluid motion. I have to say, it feels pretty awesome.
The Kinabalu also features a lightweight composite “push through plate” to protect you from the occasional misstep onto a jagged rock. There aren’t a whole lot of jagged rocks where I’ve been running, but I found a few and jumped on them without getting a rock bruise. Suffice it to say the rock plate works.
There are also  4 drainage ports: 2 in the heel  and 2 in the toebox. They do a good job of doing what a hole in a shoe should do: they let water out. The drainage ports are another simple and functional feature that I think more companies should incorporate into their designs.

The outsole is comprised of multi directional rubber lugs. SCOTT calls it “Aero Foam Wet Traction Rubber”. The thing I like about the outsole is that the grip performs exceptionally well on off road terrain in various environments, but also strikes a nice balance on the road. The tread is more aggressive than a hybrid shoe, but it still manages to respond very well and ride smoothly on long stretches of pavement. That seems to be a balance other trail specific shoes have trouble achieving.

I would consider this shoe a mid volume shoe with a standard toebox.  My foot is medium volume, medium width or “normal” (whatever that is) and they fit me well. However, it's worth noting that until I got the lacing dialed in just right,  I was sliding around in these shoes quite a bit, particularly during descents. I also had some slippage in the heel on the flats. I tried a half size smaller, but even with the thinnest socks they were too small and would have caused some problems.
That being said, I feel they fit “true to size” (especially after breaking them in and lacing them up to your liking). The upper wraps the midfoot securely and the toebox leaves just enough room for a little swelling and toe splay, but not so much that it compromises performance on technical trails.
After a few runs you’ll notice these shoes sort of “set” and mold to your foot, becoming even more comfortable, which is a nice surprise considering how great they already feel right out of the box.

My biggest problem is that I love the ride in these so much that I fear the other 4 pairs of shoes in my current rotation are just going to sit on my shoe rack collecting dust. In fact, I love my Kinabalus so much that I could see them being the only pair of shoes I use for everything.
So, if you’re looking for a solid pair of light weight trail runners with a stable platform and a good amount of cushioning that can be used for both training and racing on various surfaces and distances ranging from 10K’s to Ultras, then look no further.

* SCOTT recently released an updated version of the T2 Kinabalu. You can find my review here.

 The Pug Approves

Somewhere between 320 and 350 miles, the upper on my initial pair of Kinabalus looked like they were about to blow out; they were tearing on both shoes. Here is a picture of the worn upper as well as the shoe cut in half (one of my guilty pleasures). You can see that the Aero foam is very resilient and still looks very much "alive". According to SCOTT, the fall update will address some of the durability issues of the upper.

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What are your thoughts on the SCOTT T2 Kinabalu?

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