Staff Review: The Scarpa Vapor V Climbing Shoe

By: Derek Humphrey – Manager of Trailblazer New Haven

Break-in Time: 3-4 sessions

Locations tested: Ten Sleep, WY (Big Horn Limestone) and Maple Canyon, UT (Conglomerate cobblestone)

I had made these grand plans with my girlfriend and our friend Meghan to road trip out West and do some climbing. We were definitely going to Ten Sleep, WY, but other than that, we had no other plans: simply load up the car, the dogs, ourselves and go.

Small problem: I had blown out both of the toes of my Scarpa Vapor S’s (the slipper) a few days before we were slated to leave and only had Scarpa Instincts that were way too small to not be painful on routes.

We had my size in stock at our shop in New Haven, and I had really enjoyed having the Vapor S’s, so I went with a pair of 42 Vapor V’s. The difference was considerable.  I wear a 44 street shoe in Scarpa and 43 in most other shoes. Sizing down one size was definitely the way to go for me. My feet are a little wide and the V’s fit that width perfectly. They were certainly tight so I wore them for a few 10-minute stints during our drive to Wyoming, but they still took about 3 days of climbing to break in comfortably enough not to have to take them off before being lowered or rapping off a route.

The opposing dual strap configuration took care of the problem that I had with the Vapor S, which was heel slippage, and the free-floating tongue made them easy to get on and off. My heel fit in perfectly and I never had it slip on heel hooks (not a ton of opportunity for heel hooking in Ten Sleep Canyon, but I did so anyway).

The Scarpa Bi-tension system does a phenomenal job of locking the heel and retaining the downturned shape of the shoe, giving consistent power on overhangs and working with the shoe’s asymmetrical shape to concentrate power in the toe. My toes were well knuckled to start with, but after the break-in period, the Lorica/suede upper had stretched enough to make it comfortable.

Anyone considering these shoes should expect ½-3/4 of a size in stretch.

Next subject: The rubber. Vibram XS Grip is the perfect balance of durability and performance. It is the stickiest of Vibram climbing rubbers and inspires the confidence needed to work your way up through the grades, whether it is bouldering, sport, or trad. Personally, I try not to burn out new shoes in the gym. The Vapor V’s do well in the gym, but I would rather put them to use where they belong: pushing your limits outside. The 4mm soles provide confidence on technical vert challenges or overhangs with great edging capability and the ability to toe into small pockets and grip smooth knobs and cobbles.

Overall, 5 out of 5 stars for the Vapor V:

A great fit even with a wider foot, excellent heel retention, and the right amount of stretch. They gave me confidence I needed on a trip where I started out of my element on foreign rock. Whether on pocketed limestone, smooth cobbles, or at home on CT traprock, they provided an excellent fit, great grip, jammed well, and confronted technical challenges with ease. Check them out and you will find your belief in Italian craftsmanship reaffirmed.

For more info check out our other Scarpa V review from staffer and climber, Nick Votto. 

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