Scarpa Vapour S - Something Truly Special? Review

© UKC Gear

In my role at UKC I get to review a lot of climbing shoes. The vast majority are pretty good, with the general standard being higher than ever. Once every so often I'll get something that's bad, which is always an eye-opener, but sometimes it'll be something special that's a cut above the rest. The Vapour S is one such.

This shoe has been an absolute pleasure to climb ever since it first arrived. It's a capable and comfortable all-rounder which offers a superb balance between support and sensitivity. For me (which doesn't mean for everyone) it is close to being the perfect climbing shoe. This is something I also said about its more performance-oriented cousin the Instinct S, only the Vapour S is much more forgiving. In short: Scarpa have done it again.

In Use

Rob: When the Vapour S initially arrived we were mid way through filming our series of destination guides and I put them on, and barely took them off, whilst we were filming a circuit at Almscliff. My arms failed me that day, but my feet didn't. 

The Vapour S seems to provide a perfect balance between its ability to edge, with a solid platform through which to push (courtesy of both a full-length sole and midsole), and its ability to smear, without too much support that it acts as a detriment to sensitivity - or getting rubber to rock. This is quite a feat. To compare it to the Up Mocc which I reviewed recently, which felt pretty clunky out of the box and took time to wear in, the Vapour S is a step up in terms of both comfort and performance.

The other thing I've found interesting is how much I've liked this shoe compared to how unimpressed I was by the Vapour V. On paper, the Vapour V should be a better edging shoe, with significantly stiffer forefoot, more torsional support, and XS Edge 2 rubber, but I felt there was something lacking between the front and back end which meant I could never quite get what I wanted out of it. The Vapour S, despite being softer, and featuring XS Grip 2, is significantly more balanced and as a result feels like a better edging shoe, although on longer, more sustained pitches where you're going to be standing on small edges for a long time, I'd prefer something will a little more support.

Whilst I've used this shoe primarily for bouldering, that's simply because of when it arrived (and the fact much of the spring was cold). Due to its comfort, it's great for climbing easier problems and long circuits, where I've barely taken it off. However, because it punches above its weight I've also used it on projects too and the limiting factor has never been the shoe - it's always my arms and ability. When I went to Font for two weeks around Easter I took two pairs of shoes - the Vapour S and Instinct S. I used the Vapour S for around 95% of my time there, and never felt the need to 'upgrade' because it was giving me everything I needed.

This shoe has obvious relevance to trad climbing, with its flat last and low volume fit around the forefoot being particularly attractive to crack climbers. If you add into the mix its flexible, adaptable fit and the soft rubber toe patch it makes those toe/foot jams feel super solid. However, what will make it attractive to the majority of trad climbers is the simple fact that it's super comfortable (assuming of course that it fits you). This is a shoe that I could wear pitch after pitch after pitch, and it'd still feel great - which isn't something I could say for many climbing shoes.

Penny: I've used the Vapour S exclusively for bouldering and much like Rob, I haven't used much else since they arrived as I've liked them that much. It's a really comfortable shoe, and lovely to climb in as a result of this, but perhaps the reason I haven't taken them off - or used anything else - is the fact that they're not only comfortable, but they offer a good level of performance too. I've used them both indoors and outdoors, for training sessions, circuits and projects. There's often no need to take them off in between goes, because they've got such a natural fit. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first got them, but they've exceeded all expectations and I've really liked them.


Rob: The Men's Vapour S has a wide, low volume toe-box and a fairly classic toe profile which, whilst asymmetric, isn't too pointed - and hence it's extremely forgiving. The shoe itself is fairly flat and whilst Scarpa define it as 'slightly downturned' we'd say that downturn is very slight. Overall it's a lot less aggressive than the fit of the Instinct S and has much more of an all-day feel too it.

Penny: The Women's Vapour is actually pretty similar to the Men's, only slightly narrower, and with slightly less volume. Over time I've found that they give a bit, but because of the relaxed fit they don't seem to give a lot, as your foot shouldn't be bursting out of them (remember, they're designed to be comfortable when you're trying them on).


Rob: Were there to be a down side with slippers it's that there's no way to adjust them. If they fit, then great; but if they don't, then there's no way of remedying that. Or at least there wasn't, until now.

The so-called Nano Strap on the Vapour S is a fairly simple solution and whilst I am not personally taken by it, because the shoes fit me perfectly anyway, I can see how it would be a benefit to those who have a slightly more marginal fit, because it'd allow you to crank them up accordingly. This minimalist strap is subtle, but perhaps enough to give that little bit extra.

The other time I've used the Nano Strap has been when climbing problems which require pulling hard on your heels. The heel tension on the Vapour S is quite relaxed, which is a part of the reason why I find it so comfortable, and whilst it fits extremely well, it's not necessarily the strongest for heel hooking; however, this is now easily remedied by the Nano Strap, which allows you to fix it in place courtesy of one of two methods - 'fast mode' and 'strong mode'. There's a subtle difference between the two, but both do the same thing and help to keep the heel in place (strong mode, perhaps unsurprisingly, does this a bit more aggressively than fast mode).

Penny: I've used the Nano Strap more than Rob, although mostly out of habit, because the shoes fit me perfectly well without.

The other feature worth mentioning is the toe patch, which is nice and soft, constructed using Scarpa's super sticky M50 compound. This is a feature which definitely adds to its ability to perform well on tougher problems, as it allows you to gain that little bit extra purchase on toe-hooks or scums.


The Vapour S hails a new era of slippers, making the older school style that's been available until now look extremely dated. It's comfortable out of the box and punches way above it's weight performance-wise, given that it is - first and foremost - a shoe that's designed with comfortable climbing in mind. Everyone I know who's had this shoe on their foot has loved it. It's fun to climb in, too, whether you're on a circuit, a project, a single pitch crack or a multi-pitch route. If the Instinct S was a little too souped-up for you, and you'd prefer more comfort, then the Vapour S may well be the slipper you've been waiting for.

For more information

6 Jun, 2023

as an ocasional vapor-v-wearer this is a review i’ve been waiting for. interesting to see how we’re increasingly getting a lot of good use out of middle-grounds between the traditional solutions to things: more and more manufacturers use systems of zig-zagging straps that effectively bridge the gap between lace’s forefoot adaptability and velcro’s speed. the single-strap slipper has become practically ubiquitous and is a compromise between the slipper and the (2–3 strap) velcro shoe. you get the slipper’s instep real estate and the velcro’s more secure fit. the vapor s’ system seems again, an inbetween of the single strap slipper and the full slipper.

i’m somewhat surprised to read that both the instinct s and the vapor s fit your feet well, rob. while i believe the instinct s to be on the narrower end of the overall really wide instinct line, the vapor line is supposed to be among the narrowest of scarpa’s shoes. (as evidenced by them fitting my narrow, low-volume feet pretty well and the instincts all feeling like flippers i could use to swim ashore after a DWS mishap)

7 Jun, 2023

I'm also surprised but pleased to see width working well for both the S shoes!

7 Jun, 2023

Do we think that either the Vapour range (or maybe even the instinct range) are Scarpa's sort of midrange lines, as opposed to being top of the line performance models, now? I had thought that the Vapour and the Instincts were as high performance as it gets, but I was interested to see Scarpa (at least in the UK) have dumped the Quantic and Quantix after basically just a year. I've come to really love my Quantic and Quantix to the extent that when I saw that Rock and Run has seemingly bought up all the stock of them cheap and were selling them at half price I just bought myself a second pair of Quantics to use when the current ones fall apart - although I think I'm also going to send the first pair off for resoling before they are knackered anyway! But at least last year I thought they were basically selling the Q-shoes at the mid range and then Vapours/Instincts/Boost.../Dragos etc as the top of the range but for different disciplines. But perhaps the vapours or the instincts cover that mid range ground well enough without the Quantic/Quantix? It's confusing when brands make so many different models of shoe!

7 Jun, 2023

I splashed on a pair of these before any reviews were out and have been oddly eager to see others opinion on them!

The review chimes with my own thoughts - I wanted an all day Drago but slightly better performance on edges. Whilst the Vapour S’s edging isn’t quite on the same level as a proper stiff trad shoe, it is noticeably better than a Drago and it is noticeably more comfortable to wear for longer periods than a Drago.

I’m not totally sold on the strap system, I’m not convinced it’s durable enough if you’re constantly cranking it onto your heel. Although saying that, it’s not really a first choice shoe for hard heel hooks anyway. I think it’s going to be slipper ‘mode’ for me 90% of the time, nice to have the option for that 10% though - if I don’t lose the strap!

7 Jun, 2023

I think the Vapour range is designed as a mid range shoe, whilst the Instinct range is slightly more performance orientated. That being said the fit between the two, to me is quite distinct. Realistically, pick the range that fits your foot best and I don’t think the shoe will be the thing holding your performance back. :)

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