Scarpa Chimera Review

I don’t climb much in Rifle these days, but there were a couple of years when I got really into it. It’s humbling at first, as you start out projecting the climbs all the locals regularly warm up on. Eventually you start to get things dialed and what was once a project becomes your own warm up. I love the climbing there, it’s athletic, interesting and steep on generally big holds. But it’s also kind of a weird place that some have likened to an outdoor gym, thanks to the nonexistent approach and the prevalence of permadraws. A big part of climbing for me is being in nature, and while Rifle is beautiful, the sound of the creek is often overpowered by the sound of beta spray coming from the base of the cliffs. These days I’ve been spending more time at the lonelier crags, the places that are harder to get to, with incredible vistas and climbing that’s plenty good for me, with few other people around.

That being said, I generally get to Rifle a couple times each year, because I really do like the climbing. And it’s fun to reclimb what were once my “warm ups” and see if I can still remember the beta on them. Last week was my annual trip to Rifle, and it was a perfect venue for the final test of the Scarpa Chimera shoes I’ve been using the last couple of months. The latest in a string of high end shoes from master cobbler Heinz Mariacher, the Chimera builds on the Drago but makes it a better tool for route climbing.


They feel similar to the La Sportiva Testarossa, but softer and with quite a bit more rubber on top for toe hooks. The toe is pronounced, making it ideal for climbing pockets and any steep climbing where you need precision foot pulling power. They are very soft, you can really feel everything you are pulling or pushing on with your toes. When I was climbing regularly in Rifle, the polish never really bothered me. Sure it was there, but you get used to it, like foot pain in Indian Creek or slimy slabs in Yosemite. When you haven’t been in a while, though, it can be a bit jarring. That being said, for my visit last week the Chimera’s were the perfect ticket, as the supple and soft shoe allowed me to stand on the mirror-like footholds with confidence, even when my brain wasn’t sure it was a good idea. This has also been my experience outside of Rifle, but the polish really hit home just how sticky these shoes feel.

Given how soft they are, they edge surprisingly well, thanks to the Toe Power Support (TPS) insert at the front of the shoe, a noticeable and important difference from the Drago. You should note, however, that if you plan on climbing a long, vertical pitch of micro edges in them, your toes will probably be screaming at the end of it. Thankfully the TPS doesn’t affect the smearing capabilities of the shoe, which make it one of the most sensitive shoes on the market. Like the Drago, the XS Grip2 rubber is thin (3.5mm), so they wont last as long as some other shoes, but both of these models are more of a pull-them-out-for-the-send kind of rig than your everyday workhorse. (Unless you don’t mind throwing down $210 every couple months, then knock yourself out.)


These seem to be on par with most of Scarpa’s high end shoes, in which I wear a 45. (The Instinct being the exception, as it seems to run larger than the rest of the line up.) For me, with a 12 street shoe, the 45s are what I would call precision tight. I wouldn’t want to climb a lot of vert terrain in them, but using them a couple times during the day when I want maximum sending power, the sizing is good, and being softer, they do stretch out a bit each time you use them. Long term, the synthetic material and all the rubber on the toes keeps them from stretching out significantly in that part of the shoe, so don’t expect a ton of give. It wasn’t unusual for them to feel too tight on the first pitch of the day, but then after a couple of climbs they would feel just right. If they came in a 45.5, I’d buy a pair of those, but sadly they do not. Also they are geared toward medium-width feet, as you can see in the photo with my narrow foot I have the laces cranked all the way tight, even though I wouldn’t want the length of the shoe to be any less.

Bottom Line

Scarpa just keeps the hits coming in the high end shoe department, and the Chimera is what we’ve come to expect from them. If you like the Drago but want something with more support for roped climbing, the Chimera might be exactly what you’ve been looking for: a high performance tool that is geared toward sending steep routes with small, smeary foot holds that you really need to be able to feel underfoot to stand on confidently. The only drawback is the steep price tag, but you get what you pay for, and considering what people spend money on to improve their climbing, an extra $30 or so for the best shoes seems like a no-brainer to me.

Retail: $210
Sole: 1/3 sole Vibram® XS Grip2 (3.5 mm)
Upper: Microsuede
Ideal use: Steep sport climbing
Sizes: 34 – 45

More info and specs on the Scarpa website.

Disclaimer: Wait! Before you go handing over your credit card number, ask yourself, do you really need to buy more new stuff? If so, this product is worth a look. In the spirit of full disclosure, it was provided to for the purpose of reviewing. Don’t worry, though, our integrity can’t be bought!

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