I have to admit, I have never really been a fan of Scarpa shoes. I’d had a chance to try a few when I was working at Climbing Magazine for their shoe reviews, and they always seemed a little clunky to me. I mean, why would I wear those when I had my trusty Sportiva’s instead? After test driving the Scarpa Instincts, however, I have to say they have made some serious progress, and now offer shoes that can compete with the best of them.
Apparently, the tide began to turn for Scarpa when they lured a top Sportiva desginer over to their side. I had heard some of their recent shoes, like the Feroce and Techno were good stuff, so I decided to see what the fuss was about. When I first took the Instincts out of the box and tried them on, I thought, damn these feel like some precision climbing machines! The fit was excellent, and I don’t know if I’ve ever put on a shoe that holds my toes like these do.
Looking at them, it’s obvious what they’d be good at, and they don’t disappoint when it comes to steep climbing. An aggressively downturned toe, and just the right amount of stiffness, mean you can stand on just about anything, while still maintaining good sensitivity. They also allow you to really pull with your feet like they are another pair of hands, helping to get as much weight off your arms as possible. They excel at vertical to less-than-vertical terrain with techy footwork, and I swear the Vibram XS Grip2 rubber will stick to just about anything. Speaking of which, like most really sticky rubbers, it seems to be wearing relatively quickly, or could just be my new found attention to using my feet better. Either way though, it’s good, and really sticky, and at 3.5mm offers what I consider to be the perfect balance between stiffness and sensitivity. For those who want even more sensitivity, the Instinct S is the slipper version with a thinner midsole.
As far as the fit is concerned, I sized mine for performance, which of course meant the obligatory break in period of wearing them around the house until they stretched and I could feel my toes again. And they do stretch, being an unlined shoe, so keep that in mind when purchasing a pair. I think a half size or so up from where I have them would make for a good and precise all around shoe. For those interested, I wear an 11.5 street shoe and got these in a 43.5.
So what do I think about Scarpa shoes now? Well, I dare say that for steep climbs I’ve caught myself reaching for the Instincts instead of my Muiras more than a few times now. (which is tantamount to heresy in this household!) Retail on these puppies is $139, and I’d say they are worth every penny.