“Climbing shoes are supposed to hurt”
Fortunately, this doesn’t apply to the SCARPA Vapor V – A well-rounded shoe that is incredibly comfortable for long days of climbing, yet still maintains some feel on the rock so you can remain confident you have gripped that foot hold.
SCARPA have been making mountain and climbing shoes since 1938 and it shows with their bestselling Vapor V shoe.
The Vapor V has a moderate downturn (shoe curve) and slightly thinner rubber than a neutral shoe which enables better feel of the rock and a bit more power in the feet for climbing.
My usual climbing areas are some of the easier graded climbs (14-22) in the Blue Mountains or further West, near Tarana (NSW). Luckily this provides a bit of variation in rock types – sandstone in the Blue Mountains and granite at Tarana, which allowed some good grip comparisons during the testing.
Design, Comfort & Durability (Rating: 90%)
Comfort isn’t something I’d associated with a climbing shoe until I tested the SCARPA Vapor 5. Most of the recommendations I had heard or read just said to get a size or so smaller than your usual street shoe size. Unfortunately, this means with some types of shoes you end up with curled up toes, squished feet and an urge to get out of them as soon as possible.
This wasn’t the case with the SCARPA Vapor V. I almost liked wearing them compared to my Butora or Mad Rock shoes that I also use. I managed to test these shoes on around 30 pitches around the blue mountains and they helped me up some of my first lead climbs at higher grades.
The Vapor V has a synthetic upper, dual Velcro closure and a grippy Vibram XS Edge rubber sole. The shoe has a moderate downturn so you are a little less likely to end up with super sore feet going a size lower than your street shoe. I found them incredibly comfortable, but this did come at a cost.
Firstly, the comfort was fantastic for my foot. I could stand around in these shoes and not feel the need to rip them off instantly like some of my other more aggressive shoes. Although I’m not quite at a multi pitch trad level of climbing, these shoes would be comfortable to hang around on the rock all day with.
The drawback with this level of comfort is a slight loss of feel through the shoe. This won’t matter to some people, like me, who are bit more weekend warrior with climbing. With other more aggressive shoes you can get a better feel for the rock but in my experience, you want to get out of these shoes as quickly as possible.
The Vapor Vs have an almost flat toe box with something they call bi-tension randing which drives your heel back into the shoe rather than your forcing your toes forward, this is apparently what helps the comfort levels for these shoes even though they do have a slight downturn. The Vapor V has a Flexan mid sole which is a bit more flexible than you’d find on other shoes. This also aids in comfort but might not be for people who like to crush 45-degree walls. I’m not one of those.
The thinner rubber of a moderate shoe may mean it wears out quicker than a neutral shoe with thicker rubber, but the durability comes at the cost of feeling the rock. I’ve been using these shoes for a few months now and haven’t noticed a lot of wear despite the thinner rubber on the shoe. It appears to be hard-wearing while maintaining reasonable levels of grip.
Depending on your forefoot types (Greek, Egyptian or Roman) may determine the brand of shoe that will suit you better. Luckily for me, I have the Egyptian type which tends to mean SCARPA and La Sportiva shoes will fit my foot better than someone that has the Roman or Greek type. If you haven’t bought a climbing shoe before or can’t tell if it’s more art or science, try this climbing shoe calculator to give you a better idea.
The Vapor V has an easy to use Velcro closure which is fairly common to most climbing shoes, it is well padded around the foot. This provides comfort if you’re spending all day in the shoe or maybe you’re new to climbing and don’t need the pro level of foot squish to feel every nook and cranny in the wall. I liked using this shoe bouldering as well as outdoors as it had good heel fit for my foot which allowed nice heel hooks without the risk of the shoe slipping off.
This added comfort does come at a cost though, compared to my Butora shoes it was harder to tell if I had edged in or had grip on some of the smaller footholds I tried to use. Occasionally this led to a fall or slip but it wasn’t frequent enough to be a problem, possibly just me getting used to a different style of shoe.
They wore pretty well, in fact, through my use you can barely tell they are used yet and they’ve been scrapped up and down a fair length of rock around the Blue Mountains. As a comfortable shoe, it would probably be a good shoe for a beginner as the moderate downturn allows for some added power without the discomfort of a super aggressive shoe while maintaining some rock feel.
Functionality & Ease of Use (Rating: 90%)
The double grip at the back of the shoe made it quite easy to slip on and off when your feet were sweaty. I took the shoes off when I was belaying but again, I wasn’t as in as much of a rush as when I wear a more aggressive shoe.
Overall the Vapor V is an excellent comfortable rock climbing shoe. I felt confident in them leading up some new pitches I hadn’t done before. Leaving them on while belaying wasn’t an issue. I forgot I was wearing them for a while, unlike other shoes which you would want to take off straight away. An added bonus is they breathe really well so if you’re a sweaty footed person these would be a good pick for an all-around climbing shoe.
What I Like
- Comfort that maintains enough grip and other capabilities to be an excellent all-round shoe.
- Grip of the rubber.
What I Don’t Like
- Colour options
- Lack of feel.
Disclaimer: SCARPA provided a pair of Vapor V rock climbing shoes for review. The Wild Earth links above are affiliate links, meaning I make a small percentage of any sales (and you don’t pay a cent more).
Have you tried the SCARPA Vapor V rock climbing shoes? Got any questions or comments? Let us know by commenting below.