I was introduced to Italian mountaineering equipment company SCARPA when I bought my first rock climbing boots in 1992, and I haven’t looked back since.
My first SCARPAs were the teal green over-the-ankle Brio model with electric purple laces. I climbed the hell out of those boots from Seneca Rocks to the New River Gorge to the Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest. I had them re-soled once and finally retired them a few years ago after the rubber soles completely delaminated from the uppers. When I was preparing to climb the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak in the winter of 1994, I needed some hefty mountaineering boots that could accept crampons and keep my feet frostbite-free, so I bought a pair of SCARPA Invernos. They saw me safely to the icy 14,259-foot summit and back down. I used these same boots the following year on a winter attempt on the Grand Teton. The rocker collars on my Invernos boots blew out this year. I was pretty bummed because SCARPA’s repair center can’t replace them and the boots themselves are still serviceable. When my wife and I were getting ready to climb the Grand Teton in the summer of 2015, I needed a new pair of approach shoes, so I purchased a pair of SCARPA Crux — which were so amazing I bought a second pair after I returned from the trip in case SCARPA discontinued them.
Based on my past experiences with SCARPA’s climbing shoes and mountaineering boots, I was excited to try out their current range of lightweight hiking boots, so I contacted the company to see what new products they had available for 2021. My current project is section-hiking the Appalachian Trail, so I’m always on the lookout for light, supportive footwear. The trend among most Appalachian Trail through-hikers today is to ditch heavy, leather hiking boots in favor of trail runners. This makes a lot of sense: Most of the terrain on the trail is dirt and rock and does not require more technical shoes like mountain climbing does, and there are enough places to resupply that carrying a heavy pack for days isn’t a requirement.
The company recommended I try the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX Boot for my next jaunt into the wilderness. It’s new for 2021 and is essentially a beefed-up trail runner that sits somewhere between traditional trail running shoes and mid-weight hiking boots. I usually prefer low tops over high tops for spring, summer, and fall backpacking, but also wanted to try something new. Here’s what I learned and why the Rush Mid GTX might be your next boot of choice.
The Rush Mid GTX arrived in an attractively decorated cardboard box with green and sepia topographic maps with SCARPA’s motto — nessun luogo e lontano, or ‘no place is too far’ — emblazoned on the box. SCARPA isn’t as well-known in the United States as they are in Europe, but they’ve been making excellent climbing, hiking, and mountaineering shoes and boots in the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains since 1938. SCARPA, which stands for Societa Calzaturiera Asolana Riunita Pedemontana Anomia (Associated Shoe Manufacturing Company of the Asolo Mountain Area), was founded by Luigi Parisotto as a project to assemble the best shoemakers in the Asolo region to produce the best climbing footwear available. Their products have stood on the tops of Mount Everest, K2, and other 8,000-meter peaks and have also supported expeditions to Antarctica.
The first thing I noticed about the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX was how light they were for a hiking boot. I also noticed the Rush Mid GTX had ample padding around the ankle collar and tongue. The upper is made from vegan-friendly welded polyurethane and synthetic mesh and has extra reinforcement around the heels and toe box. The Rush Mid GTX is fabricated with a Gore-Tex Extended Comfort lining which is both waterproof and breathable. The folks at SCARPA built the Rush Mid GTX with a dual-density EVA midsole that is cushier in the heel for shock absorption and firmer under the ball of the foot for support and protection. Both the heel and toe are joined by an integrated TPU heel frame to provide stability and torsion control. The toe box is bullet-shaped like most running shoes and the sole has a rocker design to provide an efficient transition from heel strike to toe push off. The sole is made from Superga rubber and features a Free-dome IKS pattern to absorb impact and increase traction. I also noticed that the Rush Mid GTX, being a trail runner/lightweight hiking boot and not a mountaineering boot, lacks a rubber rand and climbing zone under the big toe. We’ll see how this plays out during testing.
How we tested the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX hiking boots
In early July, I headed to Northern Michigan for a week of vacation with my extended family, so I took the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX hiking boots along for my hikes along and over the rolling, sandy Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and through the beautiful coniferous forest of the Boardman River basin. This product was tested over several days on steep sand dunes, along a rocky shoreline, and on trails through a forest; it was not evaluated on rock or in mud.
Fit, comfort, and support. Upon putting on and lacing up the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX, I noticed that they ran a bit small. I typically wear a size 47 Euro or size 13 US men’s shoe, and while my toes didn’t touch the ends of the toe box, they did feel a bit crowded. I checked other reviews on the internet and a few other reviewers also felt the boots ran one size small. I recommend ordering your normal size and one size up and returning the pair that doesn’t fit best. Otherwise, the boot felt pretty comfortable once laced up.
SCARPA prides itself on its sock fit design, and the company nailed the ergonomics on the Rush Mid GTX. The sock fit incorporates stretch fabric into the tongue of the boot and provides wrapping and support to enhance the fit. The ankle cuffs on the boot do an adequate job of keeping out debris but do not provide as much support as a midweight hiking boot. The Rush Mid GTX offers five standard eyelets from the toe to the top of the foot and two lacing hooks above the ankle allowing for sufficient adjustment. I appreciated the cushioning of the EVA midsole on steep hill descents and the reinforcement on the toe box when my feet struck rocks and tree roots. I also loved the TPU frame which provides torsion control throughout the sole. I could feel it kicking in when my feet landed on loose rocks. The heels of the boot are also slightly flared outward to add additional stability and prevent ankle rolls.
Weight. The Rush Mid GTX hiking boots are fairly light for their size. I wear a Euro size 47 (US size 13) and the pair weighed 1,104 grams (2.43 pounds). SCARPA’s specifications state their Euro size 42 boot (US size 9) weighs 760 grams (1.67 pounds).
Traction. The Rush Mid GTX uses SCARPA’s newly developed proprietary Interactive Kinetic System (IKS), an interactive impact absorption and traction system. Within the sole are seven zones that interact with the pressure points exerted by the human foot from heel strike to toe push off. SCARPA states this technology allows the shoe to absorb impact and increase traction at the same time. I could feel the responsiveness of the sole most while climbing and descending the trail through the forest along the Boardman River basin. The shoe provided adequate traction on the loose sand of the Sleeping Bear Dunes as well.
Water resistance. To test the water resistance of the boot, I stood in ankle-deep water in Lake Michigan for about 15 minutes while walking the shoreline. The Gore-Tex Extended Comfort lining kept my feet dry. It’s important to note that the boots will flood if water comes over the fifth eyelet, which is about five inches above the ground. While standing in the surf, I intentionally pushed sand over the toe of the boot with my other foot and attempted to grind it into the fabric. With each wave, the debris washed cleanly away. This is important because Gore-Tex needs to be clean to be breathable. On the return trip to the car, the wet boots accumulated dry sand, but this too fell away as the water on the exterior of the boot evaporated.
Versatility. While the Rush Mid GTX is essentially a high top version of SCARPA’s Rush GTX trail running shoe, I used it for multiple day hikes and it performed well. While it is an ideal boot for trail running and day hikes, I could also see using it for lighter load backpacking trips. It wouldn’t be my first choice for carrying a heavy pack for multiple days over rough terrain, as I prefer a boot with more ankle support. And I wouldn’t use it for traveling on terrain that required vertical climbing on rock for extended periods as it doesn’t have a climbing zone built into the sole under the first metatarsal and the soles are too flexible to provide adequate edging.
Durability.I haven’t owned the boots long enough to have formed an educated opinion on durability. I noticed no unusual wear or breakage during my evaluation.
Value. At $179.00, the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX lives at a comparable price point to the Altra Lone Peak All-Weather Mid and the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX hiking boots. I’ve worn SCARPA shoes and boots for 30 years and can vouch for their quality across multiple product lines.
What we like about the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX hiking boots
There’s a lot to like about the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX. They are lightweight and comfortable out of the box, and the dual density midsole provides great cushioning and support. The TPU heel frame also provides excellent torsion control. The sole of the boot is rigid where it needs to be and flexible from the ball of the foot through the toe. The Rush Mid GTX sole rocker design provides responsiveness and efficiency from heel strike to toe push off. The Gore-Tex Extended Comfort lining is both waterproof and breathable and kept my feet dry while walking the Lake Michigan shoreline in ankle deep water. Additionally, I liked the flat laces that kept my knots secure all day.
What we don’t like about the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX hiking boots
The Rush Mid GTX boots I received didn’t run true to size. I felt they were about one size smaller than marked. When I pulled out the inserts and compared them to a size 47 SCARPA Zodiac Plus GTX boot, they were about a quarter inch smaller. I also wish that SCARPA had gusseted the tongue of the boot to the top of the ankle instead of stopping at the fifth eyelet. This would extend the boot’s flood height from five to six inches. I also wish the toe box of the boot was a bit roomier. (I’m used to trail running in Altra Lone Peak 4.5s which have a lot more toe space.)
If you are a trail runner, day hiker, or fastpacker who is looking for a comfortable, light, and fast boot, you should take a serious look at the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX. SCARPA has an excellent and well-earned reputation for high-quality performance footwear. I’ve used their products for 30 years and they’ve always exceeded my needs and expectations.
FAQs about the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX hiking boots
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much do the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX hiking boots cost?
A. The SCARPA Rush Mid GTX hiking boots MSRP at $179.
Q. Are the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX hiking boots trail runners or lightweight hiking boots?
A. To tell you the truth, they’re both. The Rush Mid GTX hiking boots are a hightop version of SCARPA’s Rush trail running shoe. The Rush Mid GTXs are basically trail runners on steroids — beefier than your standard trail runner.
Q. How environmentally friendly are the SCARPA Rush Mid GTX hiking boots?
A. The Rush Mid GTX is made from 29 percent recycled mesh, 40 percent recycled synthetic leather, 100 percent PC recycled lining, 70 percent recycled strobel, 100 percent Ecosensor recycled polyester lace and webbing, and 25 percent recycled rubber outsole.
Q. What’s fastpacking?
A. Fastpacking is the combination of distance trail running and lightweight backpacking.
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Joe Plenzler is a Marine Corps veteran who served from 1995 to 2015. He is a backcountry expert, long-distance backpacker, rock climber, kayaker, cyclist, wannabe mountaineer, and the world’s OK-est guitar player. He supports his outdoor addiction by working as a human communication consultant, teaching at the College of Southern Maryland, and helping start-up companies with their public relations and marketing efforts.
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