By Outdoor Prolink content creator and resident dirtbag Sara Aranda. Sara likes to climb, trail run, travel, adventure, test gear and write all about it. She currently lives in Yosemite.
I always like to see how flexible running shoes are right out of the box. Comparing these two Scarpa trail running shoes, the Neutron is much stiffer than the Atom, but they each serve their own purpose. Aesthetically, I really like the look and color scheme of both shoes.
In regard to fit, they are a hair longer than true size in length and are a hair wider than other shoes I’ve used. Their laces are thinner than most others as well (and I’ve found tightening them the way you want isn’t as quick). A neat feature is the ‘lace pocket,’ a small mesh stash area on the tongue that you can tuck your laces into (or your house key)!
They both have a Vibram outsole, which offers great tread. The Neutron seems to be an in-between choice for those who don’t want a bulkier shoe, like the Scarpa Proton, but also don’t want a minimalist, ultralight like the Atom. I actually like to use the Neutron for normal hiking, in addition to running, especially on hilly and rocky approaches to a climb, where I need more support while carrying a heavy pack. I prefer the Atom when doing speedier trail runs along varied terrain. I can definitely see the Atom being a great racing shoe.
Tread: The Neutron has an aggressive tread and excellent grip that passed on wet rock. The Atom has a less aggressive tread, with more spread out lugs, but still has excellent grip that passed on wet rock.
Breathability: Both are quick-drying and breathable; toe bump also acts as a neat splash guard.
Durability: Durability seems average on both shoes.
Comfort: Both are very comfortable with room for foot-swelling.
The Atom was designed more for athletes who strike midfoot or forefoot (toe), which I appreciate. They are lightweight, very reactive, and highly sensitive to the terrain which can be a drawback if you find yourself on gravel or on sharp rocks. The Neutron was designed for those who strike with their heel or midfoot. A great perk is that for how lightweight the shoe is, the design doesn’t sacrifice cushion or comfort.
The drop is still relatively minimal (6mm), compared to a conventional 10mm, which helps keep your speed and forward progression, but allows for comfort when the terrain is rough and technical. Both the Neutron and the Atom have water-resistant microfibers so they will perform well even during the winter. They are designed to offer flexibility in the toe box but more rigidity at the heel to provide ‘maximum precision and sensibility on the terrain,’ as they state on their website.
So far my experiences with both shoes have been very pleasant, and they are really amazing on uphill climbs. They do not, however, transfer comfort to asphalt or concrete, so save these shoes for the trail! In conclusion, I would definitely recommend either shoe, depending on your focus and the kind of terrain you will be running.