UKC's Rob Greenwood and Alan James take a joint look at the new Scarpa Boostic, and reach quite different verdicts. Is it an improvement on the previous version? It depends who you ask.
Rob - The original Scarpa Boostic was, and still is, one of my favourite all time climbing shoes. I've had multiple pairs and would happily buy many more, because when you know something fits, and it works, you never want it to change. So the news of an update to this beloved shoe was a mixed blessing, because from previous experience change doesn't always mean that it's going to be better.
Whilst I sit in a certain camp regarding the original Boostic, there was another camp. This was a product that did tend to divide people. Whilst I found it hard to fault, many others found it too stiff, too insensitive and too hard to break in. With the updated Boostic it is clear that Scarpa have taken that feedback on board, which should - at least in theory - broaden it out to a wider audience; however, the result is that fans of the previous model might now not find quite what they're looking for.
One thing to clarify before continuing any further is that this review will be very much focused on how the Boostic performs in use, as opposed to going into microscopic levels of detail on design and construction, or looking much at how they're supposed to work on paper. If you want an in-depth analysis check out the interview we did with Scarpa designer Nathan Hoette.
We also have two original Boostic devotees in the team and were lucky enough to get two pairs to review, so Alan James will be adding his thoughts as well. Hopefully this will prove enlightening, since we have differing opinions.
The original Boostic was superb for performance sport and trad, where the priority is very much on having a stiff, supportive, shoe that's capable of standing on the smallest of edges. It excelled on hard (edgy) slabs, as well as vertical and overhanging walls with microscopic footholds, which - let's face it - describes a lot of routes in the UK (think Malham, Portland and LPT). It wasn't the lightest or even the most sophisticated, but what it did it did well - providing it worked for you.
Rob - In the new version of the Boostic the priorities have changed a little. Edging is still important (so much so that it's being branded as the 'Edging Machine'); however, the level of stiffness and support has been reduced in favour of sensitivity. This has made it far more suitable for bouldering, which the original was never really well disposed towards. It could, and I emphasise the 'could', be better for certain styles of trad and sport climbing where sensitivity is a benefit. Sensitivity has come in hand with making the shoe a little softer, which partly comes from a move from 4mm to 3.5mm of Vibram XS Edge rubber. Whilst that gives you a better sense of feel through the shoe, if all you can feel is your foot slipping because the shoe isn't supportive enough then I would ask whether that is a genuine benefit.
Whilst it's great that this sensitivity has made it better for bouldering, I feel like there's already lot of choice in the market as far as bouldering shoes are concerned. In contrast, I feel like there are fewer and fewer stiff/supportive shoes that are ideal for a lot of the trad and sport climbing in the British Isles. The trend is very much for softer and softer shoes, and the new Boostic reflects that fashion. Maybe it's just me, and the circles within which I operate, but it does seem that brands are telling us what we want rather than actually delivering what we're asking for.
Alan - There is no doubt that the new Boostic is a slightly softer shoe than the original and this is not just due to the thinner rubber. An fully worn-out pair of the old version, with little rubber left, is still stiffer than the new version. This isn't necessarily a bad thing for everyone though and the extra sensitivity might be a bonus for many people. Old Boostics weren't great on rounded gritstone edges or polished sloping limestone toe-pokes and new Boostics seem to work better on this sort of hold. That said, you don't get the sturdy support that the old shoes offered when on crisp tiny edges. The wider profile across the forefoot means that the crucial inside edge is slightly longer and angled more outwards than the original. This may give a little more inside edging potential although this is arguable when combined with the reduced sole stiffness.
Rob - The fit has changed from the original, being notably wider across the forefoot, but also being slightly lower volume within both the forefoot and the heel. This will be a problem for some, but not others, and it's just a case of being sure that they don't feel too wide for your feet (as that will undoubtedly affect their performance). It's worth noting that the Boostic is only avaialble up to a size 45, so big footed users are out of luck - and there's currently no women's/lower volume version.
Unlike the previous model the new version is made of entirely synthetic materials, so whilst there's a bit of give, they won't stretch much. As a result, the sizing is quite important. You don't want to buy them too small, because if you do they'll continue to be uncomfortable; however, you don't want to buy them too big either because to get the most out of their edging ability you'll want your big toe crimped up against the end of the shoe. Opinions appear to differ on how to size them. Scarpa designer Nathan Hoette suggests going a half size down from the old Boostics, but from my own experience I went a half size up. This still felt pretty tight, and trying them the same size was too much, so I can't begin to imagine what half a size down would feel like. Since the sizing experience is all over the place, I would urge potential buyers to try them and find out for themselves. For those that haven't worn the old Boostics before, I fit the same size as I wore in the Instinct, which is a whole European size down from my street shoe size.
One of the major drawbacks of the original is that it took time to wear in, which is one of the major benefits of the update, as it wears in almost immediately, offering - for those who it fits - out of the box performance, without needing several sessions of use.
Alan - In general I find the fit of the new Boostic to be pretty similar to the old in terms of volume. It is a little wider in the forefoot but that doesn't seem to have an effect for me - with the sizing caveats that Rob mentioned above. Rob and I had different experiences with sizing although we are in agreement that you certainly shouldn't go half a size down. As an aside, why would a manufacturer tell people to go half a size down anyway? They control the sizing label! I had the same size as my previous old version and they were initially very tight. However, they really did bed in quickly and after only two or three sessions were fitting like a glove. So my advice would be to start at your normal size and, if they feel tight but bearable, then you are probably about right. If it's totally toe-crunching then think about going half a size bigger.
Rob - In between the talk of whether or not the latest version of the Boostic is indeed an improvement, it has to be said that the overall build quality and design is - as with all Scarpa products - industry-leading. This is an exceptionally well-made and refined shoe, of that there is absolutely no doubt. Whilst I haven't worn mine enough to think about having a resole, the uppers are of such quality that I could see them lasting through several resoles and still having life left for a few more. Given their price - £150 - this is potentially quite a major consideration, as it's a whole lot cheaper to resole than it is to buy a brand new pair.
On the front, the toe patch has been updated and at the back the heel has been significantly refined, being a lot narrower, but also quite a bit more forgiving on the achilles due to a change in construction.
Alan - We are in full agreement about the excellent build quality and potential to accommodate a few resoles.
Rob - The updated Boostic is definitely a more refined product than the original, being lighter, stretching less and being much easier to wear in than its predecessor. That said, it is a very different shoe, offering much more sensitivity, but in turn not offering quite so much support. As a result it will suit some but not others. If you were a fan of the original, there's a chance you'll like it, but there's an equal chance you'll be a little disappointed. If you didn't like the original, or had never worn it, and are after something that is good on edges then they're definitely worth trying on. Fit, after all, is the most important factor of all when it comes to determining whether or not they work for you.
Alan - The new Boostic may be disappointing for top-end users looking for a one-to-one replacement for their beloved Boostic originals - I know there are a few of you out there! What Scarpa has created though with the new Boostic is an excellent more all-round trad, sport and bouldering shoe that is more generally suited to climbers looking to get great performance across a variety of rock types.
The new BOOSTIC is designed for technical face climbing where support for continuous micro edging is crucial. The asymmetrical and downturned shape with a medium-to-high angled toe box is combined with a curved piece of flexan for unrivaled edging performance.
- Sizes: 34-45 (men)
- Weight: 490g per pair 40
- Last: FZC
- Sole: 4mm Vibram XS Edge full-length sole with added arch support gives stability and top-level edging performance
- Upper: Multi-panel microfiber upper with Alcantara big toe panel for the best custom moulding fit. A high-stretch gusset allows easy entry and the twin strap closure system gives support
- Technologies: The DTS active randing system provides tension in two different strengths on either side of the foot. This torque helps drive power towards the big toe and further enhances the asymmetrical shape
- The PAF System is an innovative heel system that helps both spread the force of the heel tension and increase the fit of the heel
- For climbers who are looking for precision and support on small edges
- A perfect choice for technical multi-pitch face climbing