Gear Review: Scarpa Vapor V Climbing Shoe
Product Name: Vapor V Climbing Shoe
Product Brand: Scarpa
Sizes Available: 36-46
Test Period: The last year
Location: The Circuit, Portland Rock Gym, & Face Climbing Outdoors.
Best use: Sport climbing, Bouldering.
Value Rating: 7
Durability Rating: 8
Edging Rating: 9
Sensitivity Rating: 8
Overall Rating: 9
Full Review: Scarpa makes some the best climbing shoes available, with the Vapor leading the pack. The Vapor perfectly mixes an aggressive sole and rand with a flexible leather upper. This construction allows for great fit without sacrificing performance.
The method behind the magic is Scarpa’s bi-tension active randing. The rand is the rubber on the front and side of a climbing shoe that helps hold tension between the sides of the foot, the heel, and the toe. All climbing shoes employ a rand and sole which works to direct force through the foot to the leg without forcing the climbers to hold themselves up with their toes. In the case of the Vapors, the rand keeps the foot held snugly together without unnecessary sideways compression or pressure on the toe knuckles.
The upper of the Vapor V completes comfort/performance equation for these beauties. While the rand rises over the first toe a little, most of the toe box is covered with leather which breaks in to the unique shape of each climber’s foot. This makes for a much more comfortable fit if you can struggle through the break in period.
I love my Vapors, but it’s important to keep in mind that each brand fits differently and each climber’s feet are unique. I have a fairly low-volume foot with long small toes, and Scarpa tends to fit me like dream. If you find that many climbing shoes put more pressure on the outside of you toe box then they put on your big toe, the Vapors may fit great. If you find that even with your toes curled inside a shoe you’re still slipping side-to-side then a narrower brand may be a better solution.
The La Sportiva Muira is a comparable shoe with the same sole thickness, similar downturn and rand construction, and leather over the top of the toe box, but the Muira is a bit narrower. It also has an third velcro strap, giving it some additional adjust-ability in exchange for a smaller leather section over the toe box.
For the whole first week I climbed in the Vapors I was second-guessing my decision because they’re really uncomfortable during the break-in period. In a one-hour session at the Circuit, I probably took my Vapors off twelve times. After two weeks the leather stretched out, conforming to the shape of my foot and giving me roughly a half size more room. They still fit snug, but they’re much more forgiving on my curled knuckles.
I’ve never had better shoes for footwork. I can edge with a great deal of sensitivity and support, toe-in on little nubs, and heel-hook with confidence. I sized my Vapors V’s about 1 ½ sizes down from my street shoes, making them tight but manageable.
The Vapors were perfect for the bouldering gym, where exact footwork is necessary and uncomfortable shoes can be removed every few routes. However, since the Vapor’s upper stretches to the exact shape of the foot while the rand holds consistent tension, they grew to fit so well that I started wearing them on longer outdoor climbs as well.
I do own and use other shoes for specific uses. The Madrock Phoenix was my first climbing shoe and I still own them. Their comfort and sensitivity are great for beginners or smear-heavy slab routes. Scarpa’s Techno-X is an amazing trad shoe, while the 5.10 Guide is perfect for long, lower grade routes where support and comfort is most important.
Out of all the shoes on the market the Vapors have been my favorite for bouldering in the gym and sport climbing out on the rock. They provide the perfect balance: comfortable but snug enough to perform, firm underfoot but still sensitive, and downturned by not overly so. I highly recommend these shoes, especially for folks with a little wider toe box.