Scarpa Vapor V climbing shoes
Comfortable medium-stiffness all-arounder shoes: a road trip “quiver of one”
I’ve been testing the Scarpa Vapor V climbing shoes $175 this summer and it’s become my go-to all-arounder. As a semi-soft shoe with an easy on/off velcro closure and a body that molds to the shape of my foot, it’s become the most comfortable shoe to wear on most terrain, although it doesn’t measure up to specific shoes for hard climbing in specific disciplines. But that’s the point of an all-arounder shoe.
Scarpa Vapor V climbing shoes review
Fit and comfort
Climbing shoe fit will obviously be largely determined by personal foot dimensions (I have narrow feet and can’t wear 5.10 shoes, but the Italian brands fit me well). I recently retired a pair of Vapor V’s I bought in 2014 and resoled 3 times, they were so comfortable.
They were my all-arounders, then my sport shoes, then my warmup shoes, then my gym shoes, until I finally wore through the rand … all that mileage is a testament to how comfortable they were.
The redesigned Vapor V is just as comfortable as its predecessor. It’s built of lined leather, so it doesn’t stretch much and I did not size them for stretch. That said, they do break in a bit and get softer and better at smearing.
This shoe is just mildly down-turned, but once you break it in it will perform on flat smears well. The perception of toe box width is very foot-specific. I find the toe box to be a little extra roomy on my skinny toes, but it doesn’t matter: I can still apply pressure on the power point of the toe every time. For what it’s worth my feet sweat a lot and these shoes breathe better than Katanas; they do not get as sweaty or hot.
There are stiffer shoes out there. On rock that demands thin, technical edging I feel more secure and get more standing power out of a stiffer shoe like the La Sportiva Katana. A stiffer shoe will also keep your foot from fatiguing for longer on day-long route days. That said, for a shoe that also smears well, the Vapor V edges pretty well. I found this shoe was perfectly adequate for stepping on limestone edges at Ten Sleep.
After a few weeks of consistent climbing this shoe smears really well. Despite the light down-turn you can dorsiflex the shoe easily, reaching those stem-width smears just fine. I find this shoe is soft enough to let me stand on nuanced slabby footholds and this is my go-to shoe for true slab climbing.
I don’t do a ton of steep climbing, but my friends that do usually prefer softer and more down-turned shoes like Scarpa Instinct VS and La Sportiva Solution. Where I have encountered steep walls and roofs wearing these they have gotten the job done, hence the all-arounder status. A subtle change from the older version is the lack of textured ribs on the heel. I don’t miss these, but some climbers who throw a lot of aggressive heel hooks like the older heel better.
I would have to size these larger to climb a ton of cracks in them, but for rock that requires only occasional foot jams (e.g. Eldorado Canyon, Red Rock NV) these shoes are a treat, transitioning from delicate face footholds to jams with ease. My prior experience with velcro shoes in sustained jamming (Indian Creek) is that the velcro will cut, but these would be a good choice for softer-edged granite crack climbing if the fit is right.
These are great, comfortable shoes. They feel really good on the techy limestone of Ten Sleep WY and nuanced footholds found in granite sport climbing and funky quartzite. I wear them in the gym all the time; they are comfortable and breathe well. They are not specialists at edging, or steep pockets, or enduro jamming, but they feel good on a wide variety of textures and angles. If I were going on a road trip with near-vertical sport, face-heavy trad, slab, and bouldering on the itinerary and could only bring one pair of shoes, I’d bring these.