Combining solid mid-range performance with all-day comfort, the Quantic and Quantix SF both represent a bit of a triumph in terms of rock shoe design, says Toby Archer. But which is better on the grit, and which does he prefer for edgier limestone?
Last summer I was idly watching the UKC team's new gear videos when I came across Rob talking to Glyn from Scarpa UK about a new shoe - the Quantic.
Described as having more oomph than entry level shoes, but still being built for comfort, they're designed for the majority of the climbing public who know what they are doing but don't need the highest performance shoes. Further mentions of "for Severe to E3", Pembroke VSs and being designed for broad feet suggested that this could be exactly the shoe for a climber like me. My interest was sparked!
I haven't used Scarpa shoes much in the last few years. Back at the the turn of the Noughties I reviewed a pair of the long discontinued Scarpa Force, and fell in love. A two-strap, velcro closure, all-rounder of a shoe, they seem rather like the spiritual ancestor of the Quantic and Quantix SF. Over five years of very regular use, the Force were my partner on some big adventures, most memorably leading the three crux headwall pitches of Stetind's Sydpilaren in Arctic Norway. Whilst I haven't had the chance to use the Quantic or Quantix SF on anything so epic yet, I can well imagine them being my weapon of choice for similar adventures in future.
While superficially nearly identical to the Quantic, the Quantix SF actually have some quite different things going on under the hood
I received the Quantics in October of last year, and as soon as I started using them, I knew they were indeed a great fit for my broad feet. On hearing this, Glyn at Scarpa said it would make sense for me to do a side-by-side review of the then brand new Quantix SF as well.
The team at Scarpa are very excited about the Quantix SF which, while superficially looking nearly identical to the Quantic, actually have some quite different things going on 'under the hood'. I've been using both pairs on alternate routes since February. I've even done a few routes and problems with a Quantic on one foot and a Quantix on the other - an exercise that has been very helpful in revealing the differences between them.
Checking back in my logbook I can see I've logged over 120 climbs and problems since receiving the Quantics last autumn. Both pairs of shoes have been used on some easier boulder problems, but I'm not a great boulderer and generally more motivated to climb with a rope on, so the majority of the climbs done in the Quantic and Quantix are single pitch routes in the Peak, probably half and half gritstone trad up to about HVS and limestone sport up to 6b. Despite classic grit crags like Froggatt being easily visible up on the hill from some of the limestone quarries around Stoney Middleton, the two rock types couldn't be further apart in how they climb, and give a great test of the smearing versus the edging abilities of rock shoes.
Similarities between the Quantic and the Quantix SF
I'll begin with the things that are similar or the same, then go on to the design features and materials that set the shoes apart from each other.
Both models are slightly downturned and slightly asymmetric shoes closed by double velcro straps. They are both "vegan friendly" in that they are made of synthetic materials, rather than leather. I think the uppers are probably the same material: "multipanel micro-fibre" according to Scarpa: an artificial material that resembles suede, but only on the Quantix SF does the product page mention "dual ply Lorenzi microfibre" and an "Alcantara big toe panel". Looking into the shoes I can see the panel of microfibre on the base of the shoe rises up around the big toe in the Quantix SF, while not in the Quantic - so there must be some minor differences in the construction of the uppers between the models; but from use I can't say I've noticed any difference in fit or performance relating to this.
Both models use a highly elastic mesh under the velcro straps rather than a classic tongue. The mesh is so stretchy it causes no resistance at all getting your foot in and out of the shoes, but is low profile under the straps. For indoor or hot climate climbing, presumably the mesh will make the shoes slightly more breathable and comfy - not really necessary in the Peak District in January, but no disadvantage either.
When you pick up both models, you notice the shoes just feel light - synthetic rather than leather and the mesh rather than a padded tongue must contribute to that. My climbing is not at a point where 100g less weight in my shoes will make much difference but I guess every little helps. And if nothing else, kit getting lighter across the board is always appreciated when slogging up to a distant mountain cliff.
The fit is basically the same between the two models despite the slightly different soles and rands. Scarpa has a massive range of climbing shoes, and one of the interesting ways they distinguish between models is by fit.
It's nice to have shoes that I trust completely for climbing but don't want to pull off the instant I finish. They really do combine performance and all-day comfort
Both the Quantic and the Quantix are said to be "medium" in width. It is worth noting Scarpa rock shoes have long had a reputation of being wider fitting than say La Sportiva, so their medium may well be wider than some others. Having wider feet myself, a number of my favourite shoes over the decades have been Scarpa. Additionally both shoes have a "square" toe profile - designed for feet where the big toe is not particularly prominent compared to the others. Again, this describes my toe shape well, so it is perhaps no wonder I've got on with the Quantic and the Quantix. Both models also have a high volume, or depth, in the toe box and over the instep. If you think your toes are fat and often feel squashed from above in the toe box of other shoes, these models may well be worth a look.
Additionally, I have a toenail on my left big toe that grows approximately 45 degrees up from the normal horizontal, the result of an over-enthusiastic GP about 30 years ago deciding the way to solve my ingrown toenail problem was to remove the entire nail bed using a scalpel and pair of pliers (and a local anaesthetic I hasten to add). It didn't work quite as she had intended because the nail grew back, now upwards as well as along the toe. Even with regular cutting and filing I still find particularly with rock shoes I can get uncomfortable pressure from above on that toe. But thanks to the front-end volume in the Quantic and Quantix, this simply hasn't been a problem. I also have a high instep, but with the stretch mesh instead of a tongue and plentiful length to the velcro straps on both models, I have no issues getting my feet in and cranking up the velcro straps. Indeed, the straps could even be a bit too long if you didn't have wide feet or a high instep.
If my fat chunky feet sound nothing like yours, do not despair! Firstly you are clearly a dainty person, and secondly Scarpa make lower volume versions of both the Quantic and the Quantix SF. They give these models the suffix "WMN", and call them women's versions, but they come in gender non-cliched colours and would be worth considering for anyone who knows they have a lower volume foot.
Overall, both models are so comfortable for me that I can wear them uncomplainingly for long periods. I haven't had opportunity to use them on multipitch routes yet, but I definitely will. I used the Quantics on a longish Stoney VS recently, where you belay from a tree at the top then abseil from a fixed anchor around it. They were precise and reassuring on the climb that is not always perfectly protected, and as I hung from the tree bringing Sarah up, rearranged the ropes for abseiling, checked Sarah's ab set up and watched her descend, before abbing down myself, I realised I hadn't thought about my feet once. It's nice to have shoes that I trust completely for climbing but don't want to, at the very least, loosen off, if not pull off the heels completely the instant I finish.
On sizing, I've been using both models in size 42, which is my normal shoe size in trainers and approach shoes, and the size of various Scarpa walking and mountaineering boots I've had going back to the early 90s. That's a snug but not tight fit on me. For all-day wear, your size in trainers is probably a good starting point.
All told, the Quantic and the Quantix SF fit my feet really well. Indeed they are so comfy, I often wonder if I could have gone half a size down to eke out some more performance. But, I suspect, this is more to do with being used to having to squeeze my wide feet into too-narrow-for-me shoes to get a performance fit. With the Quantic and Quantix, I'm yet to find that "oh sh*t" moment where your feet start to move INSIDE your comfortable shoes and you feel the shoe begin to creep off the matchstick edge or unconvincing smear that you were trying to use. For my feet, they really do bring both performance and all-day comfort together.
The heel on both models is basically the same - it isn't full sticky rubber around the heel, the sole runs along under and up behind the heel to the achilles, while the rand wraps around to the achilles too. Scarpa have used, I believe, a printed rubber grid on the sides of the heel, below the rand but above the sole. This is meant to be more breathable than full rubber whilst giving some friction for heel hooks. Neither the Quantic nor the Quantix SF are likely to be the optimal models if you want heel hooking machines - although in Scarpa UK's product video for the Quantic, the heel doesn't seem to be slowing down Sam Whitaker from heel hooking his way up some heinous Water-Cum-Jolly test-pieces. For what it's worth, I sometimes find myself heel-hooking to counterbalance when clipping bolts on easier sport routes or pulling onto ledges on trad, and have had no problem with the heel designs when doing so. For most of us in the lower and mid-grades, the heel design works just fine while being comfortable too.
The stiffer Quantic is well designed for edging, while the softer Quantix SF is more secure on smears
Differences between the Quantic and Quantix SF
While both models are shod with 3.5mm soles of Vibram rubber this is where the similarities end. Firstly, they use different rubber: the Quantic uses XS Edge while the Quantix SF uses XS Grip 2. Unsurprisingly, XS Edge is designed to be slightly firmer, which should help the Quantic hold micro edges. Meanwhile the XS Grip 2 is focused primarily on friction so is slightly softer. The soles and rands on both pairs are wearing well and, noticeably, having had the Quantic (with XS Edge) for a number of months longer than the Quantix SF, its edges are still really sharp and feel great on little edges. I've used them a lot on quarried limestone where edging is the norm and they have been superb.
The second major difference is the construction of the rand and sole. The 'SF' of the Quantix SF stands for "Single Frame". Scarpa says "SF works like a hand, wrapping the foot from below and firmly holding it in position." The Quantic have a more traditional insole, rand and outer sole construction, and although the Quantic SF have a "¾ Flexan dynamic midsole", to me at least it is clear that the Quantic is the stiffer, more supportive shoe - well designed for edging, while the Quantix SF are a softer shoe, that is more secure on smears than the stiffer Quantic.
I've used both pairs on gritstone and limestone. Each works, but I prefer the Quantix SF on grit due to their softer nature, and the Quantic on limestone where, at least at my grades, edging predominates. I don't want to oversell the difference - I've climbed in shoes much stiffer than the Quantic (the Scarpa Techno X for example), and shoes noticeably softer than the Quantix SF. But during the testing period I have done a number of routes with a Quantic on one foot and a Quantix on the other, and then the different level of support is perceptible.
Despite these appreciable differences, I can think of only one time when I wondered if the Quantix SF might be better than the stiffer Quantic. I fell off a 6a+ when I put a Quantic on a high slanted small foothold and as I cranked up pushing hard onto it, my foot popped off. Now this was in Goddard's Quarry and, as will not surprise other aficionados of that crag, the foothold was a touch wobbly [sounds ace, I'm booking the train as we speak - Ed.] , but had I been wearing the softer and on-paper stickier Quantix SF I wonder if the foot might have held? But then likewise, toeing onto micro-edges on Harpur Hill off-vertical crimp-fests I've been happy with the support the Quantics offer over the Quantix SF.
If you boulder a lot, particularly on rock that tends towards friction like grit, then the Quantix SF would probably be the choice of the two. If you climb on edgy rock, such as slate, rhyolite, or much UK limestone, then consider the Quantic.
Price and value
The list price for Quantic is £120, while for the Quantix SF it is £140, although I have seen both models being sold at a discount.
At £140 the Quantix SF is towards the top of the price range for Scarpa rock shoes although the Mago, Booster, Chimera and Boostic all cost a bit more. At £120 the Quantic are more 'mid-range', with only the indoor oriented Veloce and various flat-lasted comfort/beginner shoes costing less.
Presumably the SF technology is what accounts for the higher cost of the Quantix SF. Is it worth the extra twenty quid? That's a hard one - I'm really impressed with both models, and had I only tested the Quantic I would have given that a glowing review as an all-rounder with an excellent balance of comfort and performance. Having used both, I think the Quantix SF maybe edges ahead of the Quantic for the moderate bouldering I do and as an all-rounder on grit routes, be that padding up smears, or jamming in cracks. They haven't held me back on limestone either, and will be the ones I reach for if I think maximum friction is central to doing a route. If that sounds your thing, then the Quantix SF is well worth a look, although at its price point it has lots of competition from other Scarpa models.
But I think the Quantic might also have found a perfect niche at an edgier and slightly more budget-friendly end of the range. This is without doubt a really good shoe, with more than enough performance for most of us weekend warriors.
With both models, Scarpa seem to have pulled off the trick of making shoes that work for me as well as anything else I've tried, while still being comfortable to wear basically all day. If you have broad and high volume feet, they are absolutely worth checking out. Making a shoe that ticks all those boxes is a bit of a triumph; making two, doubly so.
I would like to thank Outside in Hathersage who let me try on some Scarpa Quantics from their stock to get the right size. Outside is one of those Great British climbing shops with a real depth of expertise, so a great place to find rock shoes that are right for you.
is it worth mentioning that Scarpa classify the shoes as having different last shapes, even if you could not feel a noticeable difference yourself? The difference seems apparent in your top photo of the two models side by side where the Quantic SF looks more asymmetric in the toe.
Don't pay the photos too much attention - 1) I'm not a pro so was just balancing them on the floor best I could and 2) I had had the Quantic for a few months by then and climbed in them a fair amount, whilst the Quantix were pretty new. Actually you could feel the down turn in the toes of the Quantic more when they new, I suspect because they are a stiffer shoe. That feeling went away quite quickly though with use.
Do you mean how according to Scarpa UK's website the Quantic is square shaped at the toes https://www.scarpa.co.uk/climbing-shoes/quantic/ (scroll down to the "technical" bit) while the Quantix SF are given "classic"? https://www.scarpa.co.uk/climbing-shoes/quantix-sf/
I've actually asked Scarpa UK for clarification on this because on Scarpa's world wide site, both models are called "square". https://world.scarpa.com/product/23498625/quantix-sf-dynamic-support-bright-orange and https://world.scarpa.com/product/22749463/quantic-multi-discipline-shoe-dust-gray-mango Unfortunately when the review was published, we hadn't heard back but I suspect that Scarpa in Italy have it correct, and it was just a little mistake putting the info onto the UK website. When you put the shoes on they feel basically the same in shape and volume.
Thanks for your reply. That's interesting because the UK site does not give the same info for the quantic and SF models. Why do manufacturers not do this- or at least pick up on it when their website designers do it.
The Quantic has an FKS last but no picture of the sole shape- which the SF does have, but no last identifier.
Given how important fit is, I find it difficult to understand why they don't allow you to filter for most characteristics - split sole, asymmetry, stiffness, width etc etc. They certainly have all that data.
I noticed the "FKS" last, and see other Scarpa models have FV, FR, FZC, FZ and FS lasts (got bored clicking and looking at that point, there could be more) but don't see any explanations as to what those even mean! On that basis I'm going to ignore them. I don't see these last codes used on the Scarpa Worldwide site.
Does anyone else have any idea about what these last codes mean?