When I first saw the Golden Gate Kima RT, a mountain running shoe with a carbon plate, my interest was piqued. You may have heard about how carbon plates have revolutionised the world of road running, but I was curious to see how this might work in an off-road environment. Could it make me more like Eliud Kipchoge? The end result wasn't quite what I'd expected, and took a little time to appreciate, but the promised fatigue-reducing benefits were definitely there. However, there's a catch - a fairly big one in this case - and that's the durability of the rest of the shoe. Whilst in the process of writing this review I've managed to destroy not just one, but two pairs, and for most buyers I suspect that failure will unfortunately outweigh any of the positives.
I really like the Kima RT, and if it weren't for the problems I'd continue to use them as my primary shoe
What's with the carbon plate?
In between layers of cushioning in the sole, Scarpa have sandwiched a 1mm carbon plate. Placed at the points that benefit from the most support - the heel and midfoot - this layer is supposed to heighten the elastic response in the arch of the foot, which in turn is said to reduce the physical effort of running. So...?
When I first put on the Kima RTs I was expecting something that artificially propelled me forwards at a pace previously unimagined. Maybe my expectations were a little unrealistic, as this didn't happen, but the difference became more noticeable the longer I ran. It was most noticeable throughout the 2022 Cheviot Goat, where I got to the end of the 55(ish) mile course with my feet feeling absolutely fresh, with none of the foot fatigue I often experience after long runs. However, there was another surprise at the end of the race, which was that I'd completely worn through the mesh on the inside of each shoe.
It's worth contextualising this use, and highlighting what these shoes are designed for, because I think that's important to ascertain before casting judgement.
The shoe itself is named after Trofeo Kima, which is pretty much the Skyrunning benchmark, a discipline renowned for its technical and rocky terrain. Scarpa themselves say that it's designed - and tested - for "the most technical trails, but also less demanding unpaved tracks". What's absent in this description is what we have a lot of here in the UK, which is miles and miles of bog, heather and tussock - and that's pretty much what I used to test them out on. What I would say though is that if a shoe's uppers (in particular) can't handle some heather then there's no way they're going to handle a whole load of sharp rocks.
What makes me most curious is how little this has been mentioned within other reviews published elsewhere, when it took me a comparatively short space of time to get through two pairs. The first pair lasted 150 miles, the second barely 50 - albeit on extremely rough terrain. If you were using these on well manicured trails I think there's the possibility you'd get away with it, but seeing how quickly they've worn for me makes me wonder if they'd scuff simply from general usage.
Perhaps the greatest irony and annoyance is that in spite of these problems I've really liked the Kima RT, and if durability wasn't an issue then I'd continue to use them as my primary shoe. They perform well both on and off trail, with a good amount of grip, a decent amount of tread, and a nice, grippy sole. The Presa sole is definitely at the sticky end of the spectrum, but not so much so that it wears out too quickly. It's great on rock, both dry and wet. On wet, vegetated terrain the shoe handles remarkably well and whilst it isn't a mud specialist (i.e. Mudclaw) it does alright. In many ways I'd say it's a superb all-rounder, capable of doing a bit of everything, although favouring longer distances simply through the support its carbon plate provides. There are a few caveats to this though, namely that some might find it a little too stiff. I'd wondered about whether it would feel 'tippy' as a result of the carbon plate, but didn't have an issue with this either. Perhaps this aspect will come down to personal preference.
The Kima RT has quite a broad fit across the forefoot, which gives the foot plenty of space to spread during long runs, but tapers towards the toe. As always, we recommend trying before you buy, because this will work for some people and not others. At the back end, it features a fairly narrow heel, which helps to keep your foot cemented in place.
When it comes to sizing I had to go up a 1/2 size to get the right length. Much like other Scarpa models, they aren't available in half sizes, so you've got to get lucky with sizing, because if you're not you'll be stuck somewhere in between the European sizes, which are 3/4 UK sizes - and hence make quite a difference.
The Kima RT features a 6mm drop, with a low stack height of 22mm heel and 17mm forefoot, which partly accounts for why it's so good on technical terrain, as you're really close to the ground (especially for a shoe that offers this level of support).
Another big letdown with this shoe is its footbed. Considering the shoe's price tag of £200 you'd expect high quality components throughout, but the footbed is as cheap as they come. Over the space of a single long run I found it had warped and moved within the bottom of the shoe, creating ridge lines which easily could have led to blisters. From this point on it was permanently out of shape, and hard to fit back inside the shoe, and whilst it eventually reached a point where it would stay in place it is still far from ideal. You might want to replace the generic flimsy insole with something a bit more sturdy and comfy.
Ultimately the issues I've had regarding durability of the Golden Gate Kima RT are too great to ignore, especially given the upper end price tag, and I couldn't recommend buying a pair in light of this, unless you're using them on extremely well-manicured trails. This is a shame, because they're actually a really good shoe to run in and one that I'd like to have used a lot more. Despite not being as dramatic as I'd at first dreamed, I found that the carbon insert does make a difference over long distances, albeit the gains are going to be relatively marginal. My hope is that Scarpa take this feedback on board, tweak the materials used throughout the uppers, include a high quality footbed, and come back with something that could be pretty unbeatable. It's certainly got the potential.