My first impression of Scarpa’s redesigned Vapor V was how comfortable they were out of the box. I sized mine tight for performance, yet these asymmetric, slightly down-turned shoes were flexible enough to walk in and remained comfortable for long sessions on my garage bouldering wall.
Reviewed by Drew Thayer, Senior Contributor
This shoe looks like any other Velcro slipper, but Scarpa has introduced subtle applications of novel technologies to make a shoe that is really versatile and climbs with amazing precision without being constrictive and uncomfortable.
Micro-edging power: This shoe really shines in its ability to deliver precise edging power to the big toe without relying on a thick, stiff last. Rather than rely on pure stiffness (like a Five Ten Anasazi lace-up, for example), the flexible and slightly down-turned Vapor straightens out when you stand on edge, and the tension held in the shoe’s structure supports the foot and drives your power into the toe. The result is a shoe that dances up dime-edges yet remains supple enough to smear. Vibram XS Edge rubber sticks to anything you step on.
Rand technology: Scarpa accomplishes this wizardry with their proprietary Bi-Tension rand. In contrast to the popular “slingshot” rand—a rubber structural “horseshoe” which loops from under the foot around the Achilles tendon and pulls the foot towards the toes—the Bi-tension rand is arranged in the reverse direction, looping under the toes and running up and back along the sides of the foot. Scarpa claims this system “actively pulls power from the toes, rather than pulling your toes painfully forward, giving immediate performance with less tension.” I can’t claim that this is an accurate physical description of what this rand actually does, but these shoes deliver a surprising amount of power without the toes feeling crammed into the toebox, so they perform as intended. Well done.
Sensitivity and support: These are usually a tradeoff. This shoe strikes a really nice balance: sensitive enough to feel small features, yet enough support to deliver power to the toes without exhausting the foot’s internal strength. This is accomplished by a very thin Flexan support underfoot bonded to the Bi-Tension rand. In contrast, La Sportiva’s P3 rand is stiffer and less flexible, so the Vapor is softer than shoes like the Miura or Katana, and more capable of sensitive smearing.
Comfort and fit: Velcro straps secure the shoe snugly, and make it quick to strap on during a session. The stretch-gusseted air-mesh tongue conforms to the foot for a tight comfy fit, and the low heel cup fits my foot well and doesn’t bother my Achilles tendon. The narrow toe box fits more like a slender Sportiva shoe, in contrast to the aggressively down-turned Scarpa Instinct VS, which has broader toe box. I wear a size 41.5, which fit similar to a 40 in Sportiva or a 9.5 street shoe for comparison.
Versatility: This is one of the few shoes which excels on thin edging and performs equally well on varied terrain too. And it’s not just for face climbing…this shoe climbs great in traditional areas like Eldorado Canyon, where edging, jamming, and smearing are all required. For pure crack climbing and sustained jamming I prefer a stiffer, flatter shoe (Katana laces are my weapon of choice), but this shoe can jam more comfortably than most down-turned performance sport slippers.
Bottom line: This is now my favorite all-around face climbing shoe, and it can venture into jamming terrain too. I took it for a week of limestone climbing in Potrero Chico, Mexico and wore it every day; it performed equally well on overhanging power-endurance routes and delicate sub-vertical smearing and edging problems. If you want one high-performance shoe that is well adapted to all styles face climbing and some crack climbing too, and doesn’t mash you toes, look no further.
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