Scarpa Vapour Lace Up Rock Shoes

I think many climbers tend to stick to what they know when buying new rock-shoes, and I'm definitely no exception. Our spare room is piled high with holed Five-Tens that I can't bring myself to chuck, and I've always viewed other brands with suspicion. So it was with fresh eyes that I tested the Scarpa Vapours.

Stephen Horne on the Swan at the Roaches, E3 5c, 116 kb
Stephen Horne on the Swan at the Roaches, E3 5c
© Horne Collection

It was evident even from a cursory glance that the Vapours are well-designed and well-made, in a killer colour, if orange is your thing. Which, luckily for me, it is.

As with all shoes, the fit is going to differ from person to person, but I found these shoes to be reasonably wide fitting, and well designed, with no obvious pressure points and nothing too cramped. They have a slight down-turn to them, but far from finding that uncomfortable, I found this really inspired confidence when climbing.

The Vapours feature Scarpa's 'Slingshot Power system', connecting the rubber of the toes with the rubber on the heel, which gives the shoes a very aggressive and precise fitting heel. After a long period of time I did find them painful to wear. These are not multi-pitch, wear-on-the-belay shoes. I've been testing them on single pitch routes in the Peak District, and that tight fitting heel has been fine and very useful in that scenario. I would describe them as tight shoes, well fitting around the toes and heels, and not suited to long easy routes.

The lacing system is better than that of any other lace-up shoe I've tried. Scarpa have used a combination of the standard punched holes in the shoe outer system, and added sewn on loops for the laces to pass through. The loops make it much easier to loosen the laces when taking them off; something I've always hated about non-Velcros.

It's worth mentioning the padded tongue too. The plastic fibres give a slippery surface for the laces to glide over, so they don't have to fight against the friction of the faux-leather as they have on previous lace-ups I've tried, and the padding makes it more comfortable to tighten the shoes right up, giving the right amount of protection to the pronounced bones on the top of the foot.

"...when your foot is at 90° or more in relation to your lower-leg, there is a load of tension in the shoe pulling down your toes like claws... Thumbs up!"

The most important thing of course is the sole. It's definitely stiffer than that of the Velcro version of the same shoe, which has a different sole and is reviewed here by Alan James, but it's not that stiff. I've tested it on limestone crimpers and gritstone slopers, and I thought it was great on both. It's down to the heel I'd say. As painful as it makes the shoes, it means that when your foot is at 90° or more in relation to your lower-leg, there is a load of tension in the shoe, pulling down your toes like claws, meaning that the rubber can be a bit softer than otherwise. So when you point your foot upwards and stand on a sloper, you can still feel what's going on beneath you. Thumbs up!

The rubber is Scarpa's Vibram XSEDGE and I have found it to be very grippy on all rock types. I have been comfortable smearing on gritstone and also standing on small polished limestone footholds. It has worn fairly well, and I think gives a good balance of durability and 'stickability'!

Is it me or have rock shoes gone up in price recently? I think they have. So at £94.99 these are not the cheapest shoe on the market, but they are not the most expensive either. They are a top brand, top of the range performance shoe at a fairly standard price.

Scarpa Vapour

Scarpa Vapour Lace-up, 192 kb

  • Uppers: Suede and Lorica
  • Last: FR
  • Rubber: Vibram XS Edge
  • Weight: 215g (size 40 - 1/2 pair)
  • Sizes: 38 - 46 (with 1/2 sizes)

In Brief:

A well designed, well made shoe. Not for long multi pitch routes, unless you work in a larger size. Thumbs up from me.

PRICE: £94.99

MORE INFO: on the Scarpa website.

Stephen Horne climbing at The Castle, Pembroke, 126 kb
Stephen Horne climbing at The Castle, Pembroke

About Stephen Horne - Rockfax Assistant Editor

Stephen started climbing about ten years ago. Originally he stuck to bouldering because he 'enjoyed the technical nature of it'. He thought this sounded better than saying he was terrified of falling off. He was later bullied and cajoled into tying-on and climbing routes, and eventually got over his fear of heights and has now climbed extensively around the world. He enjoys all aspects of the sport, although his heart lies with trad climbing.

He spent ten years working in the climbing wall sector, first off manufacturing and installing climbing walls, then designing walls and the structures holding them up. He has recently returned to Britain to live in the Peak District after spending two years in Grenoble working for Entre-Prises Climbing Walls, and joined the Rockfax team as an Assistant Editor in February this year.

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