Gear

Do You Need Scarpa’s Most Technical Approach Shoe?

Scarpa's climber-focused Gecko approach shoe has been updated for 2021. Here's what we thought.


Specs

Weight

11.3oz.

I have a bit of a “shoe problem”—I’ll admit it. I have about 30 pairs of rock shoes, including various-sized iterations of favorite models. And approach shoes all over—some in our front-door shoe cubby, some by the garage, some stashed at my office, a few back-up pairs in a bin somewhere… Perhaps it’s because climbing footwear was so rudimentary when I got into the sport 30-plus years ago, but I can’t seem to part with a beloved pair of kicks. In fact, I still have my original Scarpa Gecko approach shoes from, like, four years ago. And minus some fraying around the ankle cuffs, they’re still going strong.

Scarpa retooled the Gecko, their most technical, climbing-focused approacher, for spring 2021, with an appealing cobalt-and-blue color scheme that scores big style points, plus about 2 ounces of weight savings per shoe to lighten the load. I’ve been testing them on long walks with my dog (pavement and gravel), wet, muddy, sloshy spring approaches on trails, talus, and slabs in the Flatirons, and on mellow warm-up bouldering at the cliffs. Like the original Gecko, they have a soft, intuitive, natural feel on technical terrain—you can dig into fairly small footholds (up to 5.10/5.11 jibs and crimps), the sticky rand/toecaps are stable in big cracks, and, with lots of forefoot flex, the Geckos smear extremely well. On the technical side, the new Geckos score the same high marks as their predecessors; they truly are top tier for scrambling and moderate rock. The full-foot lacing is great too—you can really ratchet down fit when needed.

I would classify the Geckos as light- to medium-weight approachers, meaning for epic alpine slogs and super-heavy packs, you’ll want a stiffer and/or higher shoe. That said, I’ve put in lots of miles on the Geckos, and the thick (1” toward the back of the shoe), springy EVA foam midsole has been kind on my aging knees, even on steep, rocky descents and long walks on pavement. They feel bouncier than the original Gecko, which is a welcome upgrade. Scarpa is also touting the hybrid construction of the midsole: a strobel last in the forefoot (in which the upper is attached to material that’s then glued to the midsole) to keep things light, with a stiffer board last in the hind foot for support and stability. Married with an interesting polyurethane heelcup, this construction has, for my money, imparted a more stable, substantial feel with each heel-strike—I have yet to lose my footing on scree or turn an ankle.

All approach shoes wear out, and some things to keep an eye on will be the heel cuff—it’s supple, making on-off super easy (I leave the shoes tied and just use my finger as a shoehorn), which is great while cragging. But in the past, approach shoes with soft cuffs have also tended to fray more quickly. The sole is also very thin—like rock-shoe-level thin—but Scarpa is claiming the SuperGum rubber is three times as durable as regular butyl rubber. We’ll see, but for now the cuffs are holding strong as is the treaded sole—no notable wear patterns or soft spots.

What it is

Technical, sticky-soled mid-height approach shoe with suede uppers, perforated tongue, EVA midsole, and SuperGum outsole

Pros

  • Anatomical, high-volume last is forgiving and adaptable to various foot shapes
  • At 11.3 ounces, each shoe is lighter—~2 ounces less—than the original version, making it fleet on the foot
  • Soft collar means very easy on-off (i.e., you can leave the laces tied if you wish)
  • Sole is reliably sticky and rands are good in cracks

Cons

  • One of the pros might also be a con—Scarpa tends to use softer ankle cuffs on their approach shoes, which can lead to fraying cuffs. That said, I have yet to notice any issues on the redesigned Gecko even after a month of nonstop use.
  • Sole is thin and could, in theory, wear down quickly, though Scarpa claims the SuperGum rubber is three times more durable than butyl rubber; again, after a month my soles are still intact, with full-relief tread

Other Considerations

For a climbing-focused approach shoe, the Gecko was surprisingly water-resistant. I trudged through a foot of wet snow in them and my feet only got a little damp, plus the shoes, being light and not overbuilt, were quick to dry in the sun. They are definitely not waterproof, but you do get some protection