Designed to bridge the gap between road and trail running, the Golden Gate ATR seems a bit of a new direction for Scarpa, whose other running shoes err further towards the off-road environment. With a deep, super-cushioned Hoka-like sole (for want of a better comparison), and a minimal drop, this is a shoe with a very specific feel and remit. If you like this style of flatter-footed, extra-cushioned running footwear then you may find it great on tarmac and hard-packed tracks; but out on the hills I suspect you'd soon find its limits on more technical ground.
Who and what are they for?
As someone who runs with more of a heel strike I favour shoes with a larger drop, and wasn't initially sure how I'd get on with the platform-like height and minimal 4mm drop of the Golden Gate ATR, which arguably favours more of a mid-to-forefoot strike. However once I got used to the unfamiliar feel I soon grew to like them. They've proved very good on the gravel forest tracks and stony/muddy footpaths where we live on the edge of the highlands, while for a recent trip to the built-up south they were similarly nice to wear running on pavements, urban parks, river towpaths, and for walking on dry, turfy downland. If your day-to-day running takes you a bit on the road and a bit off, then this shoe might be ideal. But the crossover from tarmac to trail only goes so far, and I wouldn't pick them for a proper hill day, or anywhere particularly rough and wet.
Note: Don't confuse the Golden Gate ATR with Scarpa's Golden Gate Kima RT, a more technically-oriented shoe that we'll also be reviewing in the coming weeks.
Light-ish and highly breathable, with a deep cushioned and springy sole well suited to hard surfaces, and a forgiving sock-like fit
Big stack height and small drop won't suit all runners, and overall it's better on easier ground than more technical terrain
At 700g for my pair of size 47 (Scarpa say 580g/pair size 42), this is a light-ish running shoe, albeit not a minimalist model. It's the huge sole that must make up most of the weight.
Both men's and women's/lower volume versions are available. With a medium-to wide fit all over, and a spacious and rounded front end, the Golden Gate ATR suits my broad-toed foot shape well. Scarpa say its 'Sock-Fit' upper will also adapt to other foot shapes, so even if you have a narrower foot it could be worth trying.
In place of the traditional thick floating tongue, the stretchy one-piece inner 'sock' and ankle cuff offers a nice close fit over the top of the foot, and provides just enough padding under the laces to prevent any pressure points. It's great not having a loose tongue, which I often find tend to slip to the side. The heel has a relaxed fit, without the level of padding or structure that I'm generally used to on trail shoes; but despite this I haven't noticed much heel lift. Overall the fit feels forgiving, and I've found these shoes very comfy.
The light mesh of the upper is exceptionally breathable, making this a good shoe for running in warmer weather. This stuff is so thin that it's practically transparent, though thanks to its ripstop structure it also seems durable. Around the foot-hugging inner sock/cuff, an outer 'cage' gives a bit of support and structure - but don't expect loads, this is a soft upper compared to many. The only protection for your foot from rocks or roots comes in the form of a small rubber cap at the toe, and a bit of film cover at the heel; since this is a shoe designed for less demanding terrain, that's probably all the support and protection you really need.
Its deep, chunky midsole is really the defining feature of the Golden Gate ATR. I feel tall wearing these shoes! On less even terrain the obvious disadvantage of this exaggerated stack height is the lack of sensitivity for the ground underfoot - reason enough not to choose this model for a route that takes in more technical sections. In terms of feel and responsiveness you might as well strap a couple of pillows to your feet. The upside is equally obvious of course, because thanks to that thick EVA midsole there's tons of cushioning to soak up the impact when you're running on tarmac and hard-packed tracks. According to Scarpa, the "i-Respond propulsion system enhances the thrust phase, amplifying energy input with greater energy return". I can't say whether that's hard science or just sciencey-sounding waffle, but these shoes do feel nice and bouncy on the asphalt.
At just 4mm, the drop - the difference in sole thickness from heel to toe - counts in my book as minimal. If you're used to more of a differential then the flatter feel of the Golden Gate ATR might be a bit odd, especially considering how deep the sole is throughout, and there's no doubt this will be a deal breaker for some. When I last used a shoe with a high stack height but little drop - Scarpa's Spin Infinity - I swiftly picked up niggles and pains, and had to give up. You can't just decide to change your biomechanics on a whim, so if you're a heel striker then by all means try a shoe with less drop, but do go easy. For this review I started at a cautious 2km, and increased my distance quite carefully. Now I'm more accustomed to the feel I've found I can be out for an hour or so, with no problems to report so far. For short local runs on the appropriate terrain they're great, but I've taken them about as far as I want to. Scarpa say they're designed for medium to long distances, and no doubt there'll be people for whom they're a definite winner in that regard.
Underfoot, while you don't get the aggressive bite of a full-on fell shoe, I've found there's more grip than I'd initially assumed. With some deep grooves, and a pattern of 4mm lugs, the Presa outsole really suits the road-to-trail remit of these shoes, offering decent traction on grassy and stony paths, and performing reasonably well when things get wet and muddy. I'd want to avoid steeper off-road ground though, as there's no heel breast for downhill braking, and the all-terrain tread with a big flat section in the midfoot will have limits for pure hill running.
Ethics and environment
Entirely synthetic, these shoes are billed as vegan friendly. 90% of Scarpa's manufacturing and materials supply takes place in Europe, under some of the world's better regulatory regimes; however this particular model is made in Vietnam.
An interesting product from Scarpa, the Golden Gate ATR may look and feel a bit like clown shoes, but in fact they do manage a successful crossover from tarmac to trail running. Though clearly not designed for more challenging hill terrain, this would be a good choice for anyone whose regular regime takes in a variety of ground, from asphalt, via gravel tracks, to moderate trail running. The cushioned sole is great if you're pounding the pavements, but the minimal drop will only really suit some people. Despite initial personal doubts about that 4mm drop I've grown to like these shoes. I'll certainly carry on using them, but I'll be saving them for shorter runs on easier ground.