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Most gear roundups cover new releases. When a company designs a new suite of shoes, they send pairs to us and our testers, and we climb in them, compare notes, write a review, and then, later, do a roundup of the latest and greatest releases of the year. The problem with this model, however, is that it focuses only on what’s new rather than the gear that, whether new or old, is currently available. So we thought we’d compile a list of our favorite sport shoes—the shoes that our editors and testers choose to climb in when we’re not testing new shoes.
Building the list was simple: I just slacked my coworkers. Here are our top 10 sport shoes (not ranked). We’ll be updating this list as we test more shoes and, who knows, acquire new co-workers with new different tastes.
—Steve Potter, Digital EditorSection divider
I. What to look for in sport climbing shoes
“Sport climbing” is a big tent term, one that can describe everything from Flatanger Cave’s gymnastic granite to Céüse’s crimpy vertical limestone—and everything in between. So when asking what shoes are best for “sport climbing,” you’ve really got to ask yourself several questions: (1) What sort of rock am I going to be climbing on? (2) What types of shoes typically feel best for me? And (3) What style of shoe will best compliment both my style of climbing and the specific rock I’ll mostly be climbing on?
Those are questions we can’t answer for you: Most climbers go through significant rounds of trial and error before they figure out what shoes work best for them and when. But here are some things we can advise you to consider when buying sport shoes:
Because sport climbs tend to be long, they also tend to require multiple techniques per pitch. A vertical, edge-intensive bottom might be followed by a roof full of pockets. A powerful bulge requiring heel-hooks and toe hooks might be followed by technical smear-fest. So when thinking about buying sport shoes, you should keep this versatility requirement in mind—and also consider building a quiver.
Building a quiver
A common tip for new climbing shoe buyers is this: The better a shoe is at one thing, the worse it is at something else. Case and point: one of my favorite shoes of all time is the La Sportiva Testarossa, a hyper-downturned, highly-asymmetrical lace-up, excellent for steep caves and slightly overhanging edge fests. Yet the same qualities I cherish about the shoe also make it the single worst toe hooking shoe I’ve ever used. Period. I’d rather toe hook in a board-lasted trad-dad shoe like the TC Pro (no diss here: TCs are awesome; I wear mine a lot).
This is why most experienced climbers gradually accrue a “quiver” of shoes, accumulating some combination of shoes that, together, can tackle most of the types of climbing that you do. I for instance tend to have a semi-comfortable “warm up shoe” that I wear on warmups and when doing moderate mileage. I have an edging shoe (previously the Miura; lately the Quantix SF). And I have a softer, more aggressive shoe for steeper and more bouldery routes (previously the Testarossa or Instinct, lately the Mago and Vegan Skwama).
“All-arounders” usually aren’t
It’s important to remember that what the industry calls “all-arounders” are generally either (a) made for beginners, and therefor prioritize comfort over function, or (b) much better at one thing (like, say, vertical edging) than they are at other things (like heel hooking or toeing in on steep walls). For instance I’ve heard both Scarpa’s Quantix SF and La Sportiva’s Vegan Skwama, both of which made our list, referred to all “all-arounders”; but I personally use them in very different circumstances. The stiffer Quantix are brilliant on edgy vertical terrain where I expect to be extending far off of my tiptoes; the softer Vegan Skwama is more amenable to steeper terrain, cave routes, boulder problems, and anything requiring intensive smears or toehooks (a great bane of the Quantix). Between the two shoes, I have a pretty good quiver.Section divider
II. Ten things you need to know about climbing shoes
1. Comfort is not king
Fitting your climbing shoes for comfort is like buying a car because you like the driver’s seat. I’m not saying that climbing shoes should be uncomfortable, per se, but I do believe that buying for comfort first isn’t wise. A few exceptions exist, however, where comfort should be top priority: for kids, because their feet are still developing and they just need to have fun; for absolute newbies who don’t need the distraction of less-than- comfortable shoes. If either of these situations sounds familiar, get the comfiest pair of kicks imaginable, let ’er rip, and stop reading. For the rest, keep on.
Having trouble finding a performance shoe that’s even tolerable? Check out “Eight Tips for Fitting Rock Shoes to Your Problematic Feet.”
2. Performance matters
If you’re sport climbing (which, if you’re reading this article, I’ll assume you are) you’ve got to think about what kind of performance you’re looking for. Do you want a rigidly aggressive shoe that’ll do well on the edgy routes in the Flatirons above Boulder while also allowing you to toe in on steeper routes in Clear Creek? Consider the Katana Lace or the Quantix SF. Are you looking for something softer that will perform equally well on Rifle’s blocky smears and steep caves? Maybe go with the Mago or the Instinct VSR.
3. Have two pairs of shoes (at least)
Most of our editors bring three pairs of shoes to the crag, and so does almost everyone who takes climbing seriously. (Two is the bare minimum.) As noted above, there’s no such thing as an all-arounder, really. Thinking one shoe can do it all is like trying to shoot your best round of golf with only a five iron. Also, shoes are expensive. You shouldn’t be warming up or doing end-of-day mileage in your sparkling new $200 send shoes.
4. Foot shapes are different
Some climbers say they only fit in La Sportiva shoes. Others only use Scarpa. Some people swear by Five Ten while others have traditionally found their heels too small.
When buying a pair of climbing shoes, try out loads of brands—in all different sizes. This probably means supporting your local gear store or gym, which generally have wider ranges of size and selection than their big box rivals. (It’s nearly impossible for me, a men’s size 9, to size down to my preferred Solution size, a Euro 38, in places like REI: they simply don’t stock shoes small enough). Whatever shoe you end up getting, there should be no extra space in the toe box, heel cup, or arch. You should also remember that most climbing shoes are going to stretch out—a lot. Many devoted climbers size their shoes almost intolerably tight at first and then break them in by wearing them around the house (or during Zoom meetings with our bosses), knowing that, with time, the shoes will be perfect.
5. Flat Shoes
The bottom of these shoes look flat and they’re generally sized so that your toes aren’t so severely crumpled as they are in downturned shoes. In general, flat shoes are excellent for slabs and vertical walls. Flat shoes can be soft or stiff. The stiffer they are, the better they’ll be on harder vertical or slab routes, such as when you need to stand on quarter-inch edges. Softer flatter shoes are good for crack climbing, since they torque well into cracks. They’re also popular with beginners who don’t need high performance, and kids, whose bones shouldn’t be crammed into tiny aggressive shoes. Generally speaking, flat shoes are not ideal for anything steep—but they can be the perfect shoes for less steep climbs.
6. Downturned shoes
Downturned shoes are designed for overhanging climbs. A downturned shoe arcs like a bird beak and is often (though not always) quite soft, which gives the climber more sensitivity in the toes. Unless you exclusively climb on slabby or vertical terrain, you want a pair of downturned shoes in your arsenal. There are subcategories:
Mildly downturned: A mildly downturned shoe is the closest thing to an all-arounder that you’ll ever see in the shoe world. A great example is La Sportiva’s classic Miura Velcro, which will get you up techy slabs and performs well on vertical terrain, yet can still toe into pockets and crimps on steeper walls. Similarly, far softer shoes like Tenaya’s Mastia combine softness and sensitivity with a mild downturn to excel on smears and volume climbs while not sacrificing high performance on steeper walls.
Extremely downturned: A rule of thumb: the more downturned a shoe, the more it is meant for overhanging climbing, the reason being it lets you grab and pull in with your toes (for a caveat, see “Asymmetrical shoes”). There’s nothing sadder than seeing someone on a steep route with a flat shoe. For steep bouldering or steep sport routes—anything with an angle over 35 degrees— extremely downturned shoes can be a serious asset.
Fitting for downturned shoes: These range from “Not so bad” to “Uuugh” to “OMG, take it off, take it off!” Again, they’ll stretch a bit, about a half size. And if you’re bouldering, you only need to wear them for one to five minutes at a time. Remember, if you size these shoes too big, it’s like hobbling a horse’s leg before the race. Very snug to painfully tight is the rule. During fitting, your toes should be crunched and angled downward; this allows you to pull on steeper terrain. The asymmetry in these aggressive shoes further allows your big toe to engage.
7. Stiff shoes
The term “stiffness” refers not to the shape of the shoe but the feel. Stiff shoes tend to have rigid midsoles: this mid-bed stiffness supports your foot, so you don’t have to have strong feet to get the best performance out of them. Stiffness helps you stand on smaller holds with more efficiency and makes it easier to generate power through your toes. Stiff shoes can be flat or downturned, and there’s a lot of variation. La Sportiva’s über-classic (and über-aggressive) Solution is a relatively stiff shoe, especially when compared to the sock-like shoes often worn by climbers on volume-heavy competition boulders. The downside of stiff shoes? It’s often harder to grab holds with your toes, which makes them less ideal on steeper climbs where you want to maneuver your toes to grab edges and pockets. They also tend to perform less well on smears, since the shoe is too stiff to conform itself around the features of the hold.
8. Asymmetrical shoes
The term asymmetrical here refers to the shape of the shoe, particularly its toe box. Imagine a twisted banana. The more the tip of the shoe bends away from the center line, the more asymmetrical the shoe. Flat shoes are typically more symmetrical, but never perfectly so. Most highly asymmetrical shoes are also highly downturned. The purpose of the asymmetry is to keep your toes in a crimp position, which helps with digging into holds on steep routes and, with some models, help keep you on small holds on vertical terrain with greater precision, thanks to your big toe doing a lot of the work.
9. Closure Systems
Newer climbers are often surprised to learn that closure systems—generally divided into three categories: laces, Velcro, and slippers—are more than just a preferred way of fastening a climbing shoe to the foot; they actually change the nature of that shoe’s performance.
Lace-up shoes. Lace-ups are less common and popular than they once were, but those of us who love them love them. Here’s why: a lace-up allows the wearer to customize the way the shoe flexes or doesn’t. It basically allows you to alter the fit of the shoe depending on the type of climb—minimizing the need to take multiple shoes to the crag. When tightening the laces down hard, the shoe gets stiffer. By tightening just the top laces, the shoe snugs up in the back, near the heel, but leaves the toes freer to flex in the front of the shoe—a combination especially desirable on steep cave problems where you might be heel hooking but also want to be able to curl your toes over an edge. Conversely, by leaving the whole shoe barely laced at all, you accomplish a slipper-like feeling. In this sense, a lace-up shoe is the most versatile of the three options. But it also has its drawbacks: lace-ups tend to perform far less adeptly on toehooks, since the laces exist in place of the sticky rubber. They also tend to be slightly bulkier than their Velcro and slip-on counterparts, since laces and grommets and tongues take space and weight. And they take a lot longer to put on and take off, which isn’t ideal for bouldering, since if you’re resting enough you’re probably putting your shoes on and taking them off ten times or more per hour.
Slippers. Pure slippers used to be all the rage. In the 90s and early 2000s, the Five Ten Moccasym and V10 were the aggressive shoes of choice by everyone from Fred Nicole to Chris Sharma to Paul Robinson. But in recent decades slippers have become less popular, with even the softest shoes generally having at least one Velcro closure system. Why? Because the big drawback with pure slippers is the obvious one: Heel Hook too aggressively and it’s pretty easy to pull your shoe off.
That said, the sensitive, sock-like feel that slippers originally brought to the market has only grown more popular as bouldering and gym climbing increase their market share. Shoes like Scarpa’s Furia S, La Sportiva’s Futura, Butora’s Acro, Ocun’s Nitro, and many others, all traffic in the same highly sensitive, foot-conforming feel. Performing like slippers, these shoes are designed to smear on gym volumes or toe hard into pockets or crimps on steep roofs—but they often do less well on slabbier and vertical terrain, where supported edging is the name of the game.
Velcro. Most of the shoes listed below have some sort of Velcro closure system. But there’s a pretty big difference between a slipper with a single high Velcro strap like the Solution Comp and a shoe like the Quantix SF, which has two straps across the bridge of the foot. The benefit of a robust Velcro system is simple: it’s more supportive and customizable. As with a lace-up, a multiple Velcro system allows the wearer to decide how much and where to crank down the tightness. The drawback? These straps tend to get in the way when you’re toehooking—which is why a more slipper-like shoe is often preferable when intense toehooks are required.
10. Shoes are expensive; treat them like it
Climbing shoes are not cheap, but there are things you can do to minimize the wear and tear and prologue their lives.
Keep them clean. Never walk around at the base of the crag in your shoes. And if they do get muddy or sandy, be sure to clean them off before climbing–something that protects both your shoes and the rock from the sandpapery influence of dirt.
Don’t use your project shoes for your warmups or gym sessions. Most climbers don’t train or warm up in their best shoes. If you go through the time to buy and break in a pair of expensive (and agonizing) shoes, why continue to break them down on climbs far below your limit?
Resole your shoes. Read: “Resole Your Expensive Rock Shoes Before It’s too Late“Section divider
III. Our favorites
There are a number of great shoes out there. But these eleven shoes (we just couldn’t narrow it down…) are—at the moment, anyway—our favorite.
Following a trend, one early tester noted that the Scarpa Drago is the “Ferrari LaFerrari of climbing shoes—it’s sleek and sexy, and it radiates performance. It’s a supershoe.” The Drago combines Scarpa’s best climbing-shoe features into one. It has an active rand like the Furia, which gives it precision and sensitivity, but it also has the slipper upper and heel cup of the Instinct VS, which gives a skintight fit and locked-in feel. Meanwhile the Drago has a life of its own when it comes to volume and suppleness. “It fits like a rubber sock.”
- It’s a performance model that’s comfortable.
- It’s aggressively downturned yet supple enough to smear on the smallest of smidges
- It’s super soft, yet can toe on tiny edges as well as, if not better than, stiff edging-specific shoes, due to the midsole
- It was designed as a specialized sport, bouldering and competition shoe, yet makes an excellent all-arounder
- Not great for crack climbing (ouch)
- On longer vertical routes, your feet will get more tired than they would with a stiffer shoe
Sizing: Also available in the LV (low-volume) for climbers with narrower feet; it features Scarpa’s new PAF heel, in which the heel rand is split to reduce pressure on the Achilles tendon.
Five Ten Hiangle
Downturned but not too downturned. Soft but not too soft. Stiff but not too stiff. It’s no wonder these shoes are worn by comp luminaries like Janja Garnbret and footwork wizards like Giuliano Cameroni. One tester called these “the Goldilocks of performance shoes” because of the balance between comfort and technical performance. “Wears like a slipper, performs like a Velcro,” said another tester of the single strap, which is placed high over the arch of the foot to lock everything in place. A slightly oversized toe box allowed testers’ toes to have room to curl up so they could wear them for long gym sessions and only take them off a few times. Meanwhile, thanks to the siping (gills) on the scum patch and split-sole design, helped also by the super-sticky Stealth C4 sole, the new Hiangle (it got an upgrade in 2020) flexes more than its predecessor for smearing—just the perfect amount.
Fit. Even though it will stretch slightly over time, the sizing is quite small. One tester even went up in size off his street shoe.
The Instinct VSR won our 2017 Editor’s Choice Award and has remained a go-to for several of Climbing’s writers and staff members. “Soft” and “sensitive” are the two words that echoed through our testers’ review notes on the new Instinct VSR. Built almost exactly the same as the outstanding Instinct VS—a favorite around here—shoe designers put Vibram Grip 2 rubber on the shoe, which is a softer and more supple compound. The other major change was making the upper fit even closer, so testers said, “I wore it like a sticky-rubber sock; my toes could actually feel even quarter-inch bumps.” A single Velcro strap dials in fit for the microsuede upper.
- The VSR stood out impressively for bouldering when techy heel and toe hooking were necessary. In an apples-to-apples comparison with the Instinct VS, testers found that they complemented each other well.
- Even though the Grip 2 rubber is very soft, it has impressive durability, showing no signs of damage after three months of use.
- Less adept at vertical edging than stiffer counterparts.
REVIEWER’S THOUGHTS: “One of the best shoes I’ve ever used that climbs everything well, with a perfect balance of softness and durability.”
Want the slipper version? We also loved the Instinct SR, which won our 2019 Editor’s choice award.
The Katana Lace, La Sportiva’s flagship technical/edging/high-end all-around shoe, has been redesigned for 2022. The shoes remain mildly downturned and mildly asymmetrical. The stiffer, “men’s” version has a full-length 4 mm XS Edge outsole, while the softer “women’s” version has a split sole and a 4 mm XS Grip 2 outsole.
- Incredible edging and micro-edging, with consistent stability and lateral and transversal support, even on tiny holds
- Pointy toe is excellent in seams, thin cracks/pods, dishes, and pockets
- Very precise
- Solid build and stiff 1.1 mm full-length LaspoFlex midsole point toward improved longevity and resole-ability
- Redesigned heel is form fitting and responsive in hooks and heel-toe cams // Burly laces have held up well to abrasion in cracks
- The shoe is stiff—expect reduced sensitivity, a long break-in, and middling smearing
- The long, pointy toe may not be for everyone, especially those who like “grabbing”—one tester felt like the shoe put him on his outside edge/pinky-toe side to an occasionally distracting degree
- Sizing seems to have changed slightly: Perhaps come down ~ half size for a precision fit, unless your intended use is multi-pitch/all-day trad
REVIEWER’S THOUGHTS: The new Katana Lace is an edging and micro-edging beast that is notably stiffer and pointier than its predecessor (it will especially suit climbers with long, narrow feet), and that is killer for pockets, pods, and thin cracks. Its construction feels beefed up, pointing to the shoe holding its precision and withstanding resoles longer than the old version. This is a high-end, niche shoe for thin face climbing, technical slabs with micro holds (not smeary slabs), cracks up to hands or fists, and all-day trad/multi-pitch. Even if you size big for comfort, the Katana Lace will still be stiff enough to offer traction on small face holds. This is not an ideal bouldering or gym shoe.
SCARPA’s updated Mago is a beast of the steeps that, like its same-name predecessors, is aggressive and asymmetrical and meant to be fitted small. But everything about the new Mago—its perforated microsuede upper; pliable top-of-toe rubber; bendy midsole; minimalist heel; and form-fitting outsole—maximizes flexibility without (overly) diminishing shoe support and edging performance.
- Putting the new Mago to work on everything from board-style granite boulders to limestone sport routes, our testers loved the shoe’s versatility: leave it loosely tied and it climbs like a comp slipper, power-smearing on volumes and dragoning into incut crimps; but lace it tight and the shoe stiffens up for techy vertical terrain.
- The Mago has a small piece of fiberglass under the big toe that allows it to edge admirably given its softness, and its “X-Tension” arch support helps the shoe maintain its downturned shape.
- Our testers yearned for stiffer soles when we got to harder vertical climbing, particularly when trusting all to a single thin edge—something that the earlier Mago models excelled at.
SIZING: The Mago runs way small—I graduated a full size from my Instinct Lace.
A favorite of Tenaya athletes like Drew Rauna, the Mastia is widely considered one of Tenaya’s best shoes. The Mastia is an interesting shoe, more high-volume than Tenaya’s other offerings, with a rounded—almost blunted—toe that’s been sculpted for edging. It’s also a soft shoe, which means that lighter climbers will likely feel greater control and support—one tester, a petite woman, raved, “The Mastia was excellent on overhung limestone—you can’t get much more precise than that,” after using it on the smooth dolomite of Wild Iris and appreciating how fluently the shoe stood on micro-spikes and flossed into pockets. On the other hand was our muscular male tester, who noted rolling on edges, though he had sized his shoes large. The Mastia also scored high marks for its sensitive heel and big toe-scumming patch, as well as for smearing—the same flex that can make edging strenuous also means sticky, glommy smear-work. As a performance all-arounder, the Mastia strikes a solid balance between comfort and power, making it a great choice for difficult multi-pitch, bouldering, and long, varied sport pitches.
- Excellent at smearing and toe-hooking thanks to friendly flex.
- Light, breathable summer shoe that was precise on overhanging limestone, with reliable edging power for lighter climbers that focused more on the second toe—an interesting fit.
- Sensitive heel.
- Large Velcro closure patch let testers tweak fit back and forth to be either toe-or heel-focused.
- Softer midsole/split-sole design had shoe deforming slightly and made standing on edges strenuous for our larger tester.
FIT: The Mastia is super soft and forgiving and some of our first testers wished they’d sized down more—two or more full sizes off their street shoe versus the usual 1.5 for Tenaya.
A versatile and moderately downturned all-arounder | High-angle toe box for powerful edging on both vertical and steep terrain | Asymmetric last | Double-velcro closure system | Synthetic upper | 3.5mm Vibram outsole | 1.4mm Flexan Dynamic midsole.
- The stiff toe box and supportive outsole makes for an excellent edging shoe
- Downturned toe excels on steep terrain
- Softer heel and midsole adds flexibility to the shoe, allowing for better smearing than many stiff yet aggressive counterparts
- Soft and highly sensitive heel
- Far more comfortable out of the box than most stiff shoes.
- Not much rubber for toe hooks
- Less adept on some board-like climbs and most volumes than softer and/or more downturned counterparts
- Beak-like high-angle toe shape would make toe jamming painful
- The soft heel performs well, but I’ve had some delamination on my right shoe.
REVIEWER’S THOUGHTS: They may not look as sexy (to me, anyway) as many of the other shoes launched this year, but the Quantix surprised me by becoming my go-to shoe for, well, everything.
Good news! The La Sportiva Skwama Vegan has all the features of the OG model but with none of the animal-sourced materials: the P3 rand system adds support and longevity to the downturned shape; the split sole construction softens the midsole while channeling weight into the big toe; the patterned swath of toe rubber performs well on toehooks and jams; and the justifiably popular S-Heel is at once sensitive and comfortable when side-heeling on sharp edges. Instead of leather, the Skwama Vegan uses a “SkinLike” insole, which is as comfortable as leather and conforms to the foot like leather but (surprise!) isn’t actually leather.
REVIEWER’S THOUGHTS: Though the Skwama is softer than the Solution line (both iterations), and therefore doesn’t edge quite as masterfully, it’s still a highly versatile shoe that performs well on everything from vertical basalt sport climbs to technical limestone cave boulders to marathon gym training sessions. I sized up a half size, which meant they were comfortable on day one. This worried me, since the leather version would have stretched out and been too large once broken in, but after two months of heavy use, my Skwama Vegan’s feel just as high precision as they did out of the box. In sum: A high-performance slipper-velcro hybrid that’s excellent for just about everything—and animal friendly to boot.
The winner of our 2020 Editor’s Choice award, the Solution Comp is, as the name suggests, a gym-focused retooling of the über-classic Solution that also just so happens to excel outside.
Softer and more sensitive than its relatively stiff predecessor (Beth Rodden, remember, wore Solutions when she sent Meltdown, an ultra-technical 5.14c edge-fest in Yosemite), the Solution Comp marries the toe sensitivity of today’s sock-like bouldering shoes while retaining the stiff, aggressive structure (a function of its P3 platform) for which the OG Solution is famous. The Comp has a larger toe-scumming patch and a narrower, more traditional heel—updates that pair perfectly with the OG shoe’s tried-and-true features, including the pointy, precise toe box, the downturned P3 platform for mega “bite” on steeps and micros, and the Fast Lacing System.
If you’re looking for a bouldering shoe that can do it all—from edging t0 smearing, heeling and toe-hooking, toeing in on steeps and balancing up granite faces—the Solution Comp might be your shoe. And if you want something a bit stiffer, try out the original Solution: it’s one of the best (and most versatile) climbing shoes EVER made.
The Testarossas have long had a cult following, so it was no surprise that our testers greeted the 2019 update with both excitement and trepidation—“Hey, don’t mess with perfection!” They need not have feared, because the new version makes a good thing even better, namely in the form of the more built-up heelcup with perforated, bright-red rubber. One tester compared both versions on an aggressive heel-hooking crux on his overhanging project: “On Big Poppa, the new heel made the crux much easier,” he raved. “Way more responsive, sensitive, and reliable.” They also toed down on the climb’s micro-divots and drop-knee nubbins like a bawse. To consider is that the retooled heel slightly changes fit, giving the shoes a narrower-feeling last but also driving greater power into the stiffened toebox to help the shoe “laser in” on small holds. In fact, the “ninja-ballerina shoe dipped in rubber” precision can be frightening, and you may feel unworthy of the Testarossas. Time to up your footwork game!
- Off-the-charts power and precision on edges, small pockets, divots, nubbins, and micro-holds on overhanging terrain.
- Long lacing system lets you customize fit.
- Heel is much improved, with a narrower, more ergo profile and greater sticking power.
- Very capable smearing given the stiff forefoot, as the sole “flattens” under pressure.
- Shoe is overbuilt and should hold multiple resoles.
- Laces low on forefoot interfere with toe scumming, and the scumming patch is small—not a gym-volume shoe.
- Relaxed longitudinal torque leads to foot fatigue on long, slab/vertical pitches.
FIT: Almost universally, testers recommended coming down a half size from your previous Testarossa fit—size for zero dead space in the heel, as if the shoes were “painted on.”
Scarpa’s stiffest, most supportive shoe, the Vapor Lace, is an edging machine. Its tensioned heel disperses pressure away from the Achilles; dual-density rubber toe patch provides precision, grip, and malleability in equal amounts; and a welded TPU construction ensures a consistent shape over the life of the shoe. It’s slightly downturned and asymmetric with a full-length sole, finished with 3.5 mm of Vibram’s stiff XS Edge rubber.
- Supportive on small foot holds
- Stiffness reduces foot fatigue on long multi-pitches
- Toe patch is protective for crack climbing and super sticky for toe hooks and heel-toe cams
- “PAF” heel system takes the pressure off of the Achilles while micro edging
- Feels light and airy, especially with the newly breathable tongue
- High-volume toe profile doesn’t slip into thin cracks well
- Its stiffness makes it difficult to toe in and “grab” marginal footholds on steep terrain
- Oddly long laces
REVIEWER’S THOUGHTS: If your vertical (or slightly off-vertical) project has micro edges, divots, foot jams, toe hooks—or any other element of vert-climbing trickery—the updated Vapor Lace is a worthy tool for the job. The shoe is as stiff as Scarpa makes them, but just a hair less than what we’ve found with other edging shoes currently available. A soft M50 rubber toe patch provides protection and a technical leg up for granite-weirdness, and the “PAF” heel takes the heel-biting edge off of rope-stretching pitches—or on day-stretching multi-pitches.