UKC

Scarpa Gecko Approach Shoe Review

© Dan Bailey

The latest version of the Scarpa Gecko combines comfort and support with an amazing level of friction on both dry and wet rock. I am also informed by those with opinions more reliable than mine on these matters that they are "quite stylish, Dad".

The Gecko is chunky enough to give protection on rough terrain and well suited to crag approaches and scrambling. The lack of profile on the sole is beneficial for climbing friction performance but does reduce grip on wet grass, and this is the one real downside for British mountain crag approaches and scrambling in less than bone dry conditions. This outsole is on the thin side, but claimed to be more hardwearing than previous rubbers. A reasonable degree of water resistance means you can be fairly sure of staying dry on wet ground, although they aren't 100% waterproof. Build quality is as good as expected for Scarpa, with a tough suede upper.

Those looking for top easy climbing and scrambling performance, in a stylish and well-made approach shoe, will certainly find what they want in the new Scarpa Gecko. 

Weight

At 722g for my pair of size 42/UK8 these are very light, although not as light as Scarpa claim (320g x 2 = 640g for size 42). Most other approach shoes I've used come in at 800g to 900g a pair in comparison. Having said that, they don't feel like most lightweight shoes and have a degree of support and stiffness that you would normally associate with a much heavier shoe. The combination of this lightness and grip on rock makes them an ideal multi-pitch companion for approaches and descents on rugged terrain.

photo
Scarpa Gecko on rough terrain at Stanage
© Dominic Green

Fit

The shoes feel good straight out of the box, offering surprising support and comfort. The upper is softer and thinner than some other more robust approach shoes, which helps in wearing them in. A good deep lacing up to the toe allows for customising the foot width.

The Gecko comes in both a men's and a women's/lower volume version. They are medium width fit although perhaps slightly wider in the front end than some others. If you find the Scarpa Mescalito a little tight then these will probably be better. The heel cup is snug and soft with limited padding, but enough for comfort, and I find they tend to hold your foot solidly on steep descents.

The lacing, as mentioned, extends nicely towards the toe and this offers plenty of potential to cinch up tight to avoid rolling on rock edges. One curious and almost unforgivable problem with the Gecko is the length of the lace. For some reason, even on my average width feet, the laces feel too short to always get a decent knot. It seems a bit crazy to skimp on about 10cm of extra lace which is all it would take to make them long enough! At least the laces are made from substantial cord and the main top lace holes are proper metal eyelets.

Testing the walking comfort on Rogan's Seat above Swaledale  © Sam James-Louwerse
Testing the walking comfort on Rogan's Seat above Swaledale
© Sam James-Louwerse

Upper

The upper is predominantly suede with TPU protection on the toe and heel cup. Compared to many approach shoes, which can be built like armored cars for your feet, these are pretty light in terms of protection. This goes with the general lightweight nature of the shoe. The suede offers a decent level of water resistance and you can certainly splash around in puddles on paths, however they are not going to keep out full dousing in prolonged wet weather or bogs.

I find that the suede with limited lining and open mesh on the tongue has good breathability. In hot conditions, they can feel a bit close but there are options for more breathable and lighter shoes if that is a concern. Compared to more solid models with GTX lining, they rate higher on the sweaty comfort scale.

The tongue is attached with a short mesh webbing on its lower section but is essentially loose at the top. It has air holes for breathability  but it's worth noting that a full dousing in shallow water could flood in through the tongue and lace area.

The TPU toe and heel protection are as expected for a model of this lightness. The heel cup is on the thin side and that is the department that the 'armoured car' aspect expected with many approach shoes is most lacking. However, the aim with the Gecko is for lightness and performance over full-on protection, so this is adequate.

Scarpa Gecko on Derwent Moor  © Nick Brown
Scarpa Gecko on Derwent Moor
© Nick Brown

Sole

The main feature of interest in the Gecko is the sole, described by Scarpa as a PRESA sole with a medium-density compressed EVA midsole. The PRESA sole is a big thing for Scarpa, they sing about it in the literature a lot. Unfortunately, the actual science of what makes it special appears to have missed the marketing literature so we will just go with our own experience here.

In approach shoes, you spend more time walking than actually climbing, and the relatively low profile of the tread does make for less grip on grassy and muddy terrain. Few approach shoes have a heel brake, and these are no exception, so slippery grass descents could be an issue. That said, I didn't experience any noticeably increased slipperiness compared to other approach shoes with a higher profile tread, although overall we'd say a deeper tread would be better for longer walks on muddy terrain.

The only potential long-term issue is that the thinness of the sole layer (it's only 3mm thick) and lack of depth in the tread might mean they wear relatively quickly underfoot. That remains to be seen with my pair. After a summer of use they have certainly worn well so far, and the tread is still pronounced.

Checking their hot weather comfort in a very sunny Pembroke  © Dan Bailey
Checking their hot weather comfort in a very sunny Pembroke
© Dan Bailey

Performance on rock

I have to say that the initial impression is very good. The friction on rock is better than any other approach shoe I have, and the stiffness allows for good edging on more technical ground. There is a small 'climbing zone' on the front inner toe which is an attempt to emulate the friction you get in rock shoes. For me, this area could be a little bigger since it doesn't wrap round for full inside edging. That said, the performance on rock is simply stunning for an approach shoe.

Scarpa Gecko showing amazing friction at Crag Willas  © Andy Ovens
Scarpa Gecko showing amazing friction at Crag Willas
© Andy Ovens

Summary

While it doesn't have the ideal sole for wet grass - a definite drawback for approaching mountain crags or scrambling in the UK - the Gecko is a light and flexible approach shoe that performs amazingly well when you get on the rock. It is highly recommended for those looking for a comfortable shoe that works for cragging and scrambling, but one that's also fashionable enough for more urban use. It may not last forever, but then you're paying a decent mid-range price. My only gripes so far are the short laces, and - for anyone contemplating more rugged hill use - the shallow tread.

Scarpa say:

GECKO is the real Climbing Approach shoe where sensitivity, precision and grip are the most important features. The combination of a precise last, the extended lacing, a protective rubber rand and the sole with little pronounced lugs and climbing zone for an excellent sensitivity and grip, make GECKO the perfect connection between climbing and technical approach.

  • Sizes: 36-42 (women) 41-47 (men)
  • Weight: 722g/ pair size 42 (our weight)
  • Precise and comfortable last
  • Water repellent suede leather upper to ensure durability and comfort
  • Protective anti-abrasion rubber rand on the toe is over lasted on the EVA midsole, for greater precision and durability
  • TPU protection on the heel that also works as a rigid and containing shell
  • PRESA® sole has a medium-density compressed EVA midsole with a solid and compact look
  • Large climbing zone offers excellent sensitivity, grip and accurate precision

For more information scarpa.co.uk


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"quite stylish, Dad" - there is no greater compliment :-)


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