Scarpa Vapour V Review

The Vapour V was introduced to the Scarpa range back in 2010 and was an immediate success in the British market. Designed as an all-rounder, they balanced edging and smearing, comfort and technicality, with a moderately asymmetrical/down-turned last. However, central to the performance was the level of support, which came courtesy of the full length sole unit. Now it's 2019, and we're into the third incarnation of the Vapour V - but will it live up to the broad appeal of the original?

I think this shoe has a divided personality; it's good for trad/sport at the front, but with a softer bouldering-oriented feel from the mid-foot to the heel. This makes it both less sensitive than a fully soft shoe, and less supportive than a model with full-length stiffness. As such, I'm not really sure what it's best at.

The Vapour V is remarkably well suited towards overhanging terrain  © UKC Gear
The Vapour V is remarkably well suited towards overhanging terrain
© UKC Gear

Focus

Vapour V  © UKC Gear
The latest Vapour V is - like the original - designed to be something of an all-rounder, so whether it be trad, sport or bouldering, this shoe should be able to take you through a good range of performance. However, the third generation model definitely lacks the support of the original, which means that you've got to have a strong set of toes if you're expecting to be hanging around on long trad routes and/or multi-pitch sport climbs - even more so if they're on the slabby side of vertical.

On the flipside of this, they are probably the version best suited for bouldering, with a number of features such as the rubber toe patch and improved heel that will be a boon for those in search of a more technical shoe. That said, out the box it isn't overly sensitive, with a stiff forefoot, but we'll go into more detail on that in the section below.

Forefoot

The new Vapour V uses Scarpa's 'FR' last, which is the lowest volume in the range. When it comes to width it's realistically on the regular to narrow end of the spectrum. The sizing is - I am happy to say - in line with other Scarpa models, which is usually one (European) size down from your street shoe size.

Back to the forefoot, the first thing you notice out of the box is how stiff it is, which gives you confidence in the shoe's edging capability. In the short term this definitely made them a weaker smearer, but after a bit of use I found that they did bed in, although still felt on the stiff side.

Unlike its predecessors,the Vapour V features Vibram XS Edge (as opposed to Grip) rubber, which is at the firmer end of the spectrum, being better suited towards edging than smearing. That said, for those that are interested in a softer version the Women's/LV model does come with Vibram XS Grip as standard (more on that later).

photo
The Vapour V, once bedded in, smears surprisingly well

photo
Slabby terrain can get quite tiring due to the shoe's soft midsole

Midsole

The shoe features a full length Talyn midsole, with Scarpa's signature bi-tension rand system. Whilst this provides some degree of support it in no way replaces the support provided by the full length sole unit that was featured on the original. Whilst I understand making shoes for bouldering and indoor/comp climbing more sensitive, I get really confused when this same mentality is applied to trad and sport (especially British sport, which tends to me more vertical and edgy than steep and overhanging). However, given that this shoe is now increasingly more boulder orientated maybe we should stop thinking about it in reference to the original and instead as a shoe in its own right. But if that mentality is followed then I find it even more difficult, as it's very much a shoe of two halves - the front trad/sport and middle-back bouldering.

In terms of their sport/trad focus it was quite obvious from first use that you were going to have to push very hard through your feet if you wanted to use or rest on a given foothold. This was obvious even to my belayer who commented on how high my heels and the rest of my foot were raised in an effort to maintain pressure, which was - unsuprisingly - quite tiring! If you're off vertical and into overhanging terrain this is less of a problem, but that isn't exactly what I'd envisaged the Vapour V to be best at.

Uppers

The closure for the new Vapour V has changed, and you can see a lot of time and thought has been applied to make it a genuine improvement. Whilst the basis of fastening still comes from two velcro straps, changes to the tongue - and the addition an elastic strip - mean that it's easier than ever to get a good fit.

Around the toe there's a small patch of rubber, and whilst it's a modest amount, it makes a huge difference when toe hooking.

Vapour V

Vapour V

Vapour V

Fit

We've already mentioned the shoe's volume above, so I won't reference that again here. The other noteworthy feature when it comes to fit is the heel, which has changed a lot as part of the latest update. The new andf improved microfibre finish gives it a more luxurious feel, not to mention a reduction in slip (although, to be fair, slip wasn't a huge problem before). In addition to this the revised heel rand construction provides more usable rubber in the heel area, hence the reference to this being better suited towards bouldering than its predecessors.

Men's and Women's/LV Model

Whilst we've reviewed the men's version here, the features are much the same with the Women's, but it features a lower volume 'FRW' last and Vibram XS Grip rubber. With that in mind there's a distinct chance it'd suit anyone with a particularly narrow and/or low volume foot.

Vapour V  © Scarpa
Vapour V
© Scarpa

Vapour V WMN  © Scarpa
Vapour V WMN
© Scarpa

Overall

Whilst I really wanted to like the Vapour V, I have found it really hard coming to terms with the two halves. On their own they are both amazing, but combined they just seemed a little mismatched. The front half is spot on for trad/sport, being both stiff and supportive, but the soft midsole just means the power is lost, favouring a bouldering orientation. That said, if you've got a strong set of feet - or have a different set of criteria to us - there's a distinct chance you'll get on well with this incredibly well made shoe.

What Scarpa say:

The Vapour V is a performance rock shoe built around the FR last which is the lowest volume of all the range, with a slightly asymmetrical, slightly down turned shape and a medium to low angled toe box to strike a balance between confident smearing and refined toe power. The new microfibre upper and the new tongue marry perfectly with the redesigned Velcro straps for an instantly comfortable fit and secure heel hold. A full length Talyn midsole works with the bi-tension rand system to offer the optimum level of support. Vibram Edge rubber ensures precise edging.

Key Updates

  • New heel construction in microfibre reduces weight and dramatically enhances "next to skin" comfort in the Achilles area.
  • New heel rand construction provides a more stable and higher friction zone for enhanced performance on more loaded heel hooks.
  • Revised toe rand, provides improved comfort and toe hook protection.
  • Revised tongue construction is lighter, more breathable and retains its shape and positioning through the additional elastic in the closure.

Scarpa athlete and well-known climber Robbie Phillip's has written a series of informative guides on how to choose and get the most out of your climbing shoes. You can check them out here.

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logo£117.00. Men's & Women's Vapour V in stock incl half sizes. Expert fitting in store - online we can offer sizing advice.
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26 Apr

I'm really struggling with the climbing shoe market currently. It's being ruined by indoor bouldering, and a rush to super soft down turned models. The original Vapour V was an excellent all-rounder, the next generation a much less convincing proposition, being really uncomfortable on anything other than a short boulder problem.

Shops are now trying to sell me these and Five Ten Anazazis as their comfort models, this was a top end performance shoe 15 years ago, and still is to my mind on a lot of terrain. Where can we find good trad shoes nowadays?

How about a shoe for all-day comfort on VS to E3 routes? This shoe looks like it is repeating the mistake of being marketing led.

26 Apr

I like the Vapour V for sport climbing. They perform better at Malham for example than the Scarpa Instinct models (Lace/VS/VSR) which feel less supportive.

And I find XS Edge rubber is better then the Grip rubber on limestone generally, Grip tends to roll on small edges.

26 Apr

Haven't tried them yet, but I'll be checking out the Scarpa Maestro when I find a shop to try them on.

Out of interest is this with the current or previous version? I might have said the same for the previous version, but not so the current model. The Instinct VS is (at least for me) a whole lot better, and I did try them side by side in order to test this (albeit subjectively).

As with all these things, it's personal preference, so I'm not saying you're wrong - I'm just saying they didn't work for me.

A very good question indeed...

As per the comments above, it's a bit of a minefield as what works for one person won't necessarily work for another - it all comes down to fit and personal preference.

Personally I find the Maestro a bit on the soft/flat side, which is the same issue I have with the Anasazi (which I've always wanted to like, but never got on with). I've got pretty high arches, so tend to prefer something a little more downturned and have used a blend of La Sportiva Katana Lace, La Sportiva Otaki, Scarpa Instinct VS, Scarpa Instinct Lace, and Scarpa Boostic over the past few years. When it comes to edging the Boostic really does take some beating, but it's definitely at the higher volume end of the spectrum - particularly when compared to the Katana Lace - which also has a fantastic edging performance.

When it comes to comfort, just make sure you get something that fits the shape of your foot and I would hope that any of the above would work for you. Clearly other brands exist, those just happen to be some of the ones I've used/reviewed/liked.

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