“It hurts so good”…Tom Petty must have been wearing these when he sang that line. Scarpa’s new Instinct VS brings forward all the best qualities of an aggressive, asymmetric, powerful shoe.
The Instinct VS (Retail: $169.00) excels in steep terrain. The stiff, down-turned sole and tight fit turn a human foot into a spring-loaded hook; when I’m toeing into little edges and setting up for a dyno I feel like I have talons sticking out of my legs.
Then, after missing the jug, taking a huge shrieking whipper and being lowered, spinning, to the ground, I feel like I’m undergoing Japanese foot-binding as I hobble back to my waiting sandals, which look really really nice right now…such is the price of performance-fit shoes, you can’t have you cake and eat it too.
For the past few years I’ve been wearing exclusively LaSportiva rock shoes because they’re the only make consistently narrow enough for my dainty low-volume feet. I was psyched to try out Scarpa’s new slipper, which can be considered a more down-turned progression of the popular Boostic. The Instinct VS is a true niche shoe; it would be a poor choice in a lot of climbing situations, but when you need precision and hooking power on steep terrain this shoe will deliver. I’m psyched to have these shoes in my “quiver”, ready to pull out for really hard efforts.
Highly down-turned: this is a really aggressive shoe, probably comparable to the LaSportiva Solution in its shape. Your toes are bent at the first knuckle and your foot is curled, which creates an awkward, pained gait while walking. But you don’t buy shoes like this to look good walking around in, you buy them to let you cling to insanely steep roofs like a spider monkey. With talons.
Fit: As said, I have a very narrow feet, so narrow that they swim in Five-Ten shoes and I’ve owned a few women’s pairs from LaSport over the years. I was pleased to find that the Instinct VS fits me quite well. The heel is flawless; there’s a little extra room in the toe box but I find that my toes are so compressed in “power-position” that the extra space doesn’t matter. Whenever I engage the front edge of the shoe, my toe is right over it.
Long break-in: wrapped in prodigious amounts of rubber and sporting a synthetic upper, these shoes don’t stretch much at all. I found that after three weeks of consistent gym use they are getting a little more comfortable.
Vibram XS Edge rubber: an excellent rubber found in many performance shoes, falls somewhere in the middle for softness vs. durability and leans towards edging over smearing performance.
Excellent heel fit: Scarpa really did it right; this shoe slips around my heel with a “pop” and there’s not a single patch of air in there. This allows for very aggressive heel-hooking demanded by many hard climbs.
Rubber on top of toe: A feature the average climber will probably never take advantage of, but for high-level bouldering and roof climbing, sometimes you need a toe scum to hold just a little bit more…
Velcro closure: This is realistically a slipper with a stretch-gusseted tongue and a small Velcro closure which secures it a bit. Easy on/off is critical for these shoes because they aren’t exactly comfortable.
Sizing: For comparison purposes, I wear size 40 in LaSportiva performance-fit shoes, and a size 42 in these.
Pros: Great for steep boulders and sport climbs; precise toe; aggressive down-turned fit; amazing heel
Cons: Some sensitivity sacrificed for rigid, talon-like performance; smearing hurts; expensive
Bottom line: These are a highly specific shoe, designed for climbers who are willing to shell out some dollars and endure some foot pain in order to execute steep, powerful moves that demand razor-precise footwork. If that’s the kind of performance you’re looking for, these shoes will shine. They also have perhaps the most secure heel of any shoe, ever. Their incredible hooking performance comes at some sacrifice of sensitivity; I’ve really enjoyed the Instinct VS for precise power on steep boulders and sport routes, but for routes closer to vertical with really subtle foot-holds, I’d still reach for my LaSportiva Testarossas.
Scarpa Instinct VS on backcountry.com