Are you in search of a new pair of climbing shoes? If so, come along with me while I tell you about Scarpa: the brand of choice for the Kendall Cliffs staff. Normally, you’ll find a vast array of climbing shoe brands among a group of climbers. One friend group could have five different brands of climbing shoes, whether it’s La Sportiva, Evolv, Scarpa, Butora, Black Diamond, and the list goes on. But, if you’ve been to Kendall Cliffs any time in the last six months, you’ll see one common denominator among the staff. This one thing is that our go-to climbing shoes are all from the same brand.
The thing about a tight-knit community like ours is that when one person gets something cool, they tell the others, and then the entire community goes into a gear-buying frenzy. This is what happened almost six months ago when Jake got his Scarpa Furia Airs. After realizing that they’re essentially a high-performance climbing slipper, I soon followed suit. A few friends bought them and began raving about the comfort and performance of these shoes. Now, these aren’t the appropriate shoes for just any climber. Luckily, Scarpa makes a shoe for every discipline of climbing. From steep and prolonged overhang jug-hauls, to facey and technical routes that require precise footwork, Scarpa has you covered. And our staff has a nice selection as well. We have the light and sensitive Furia Air, the rubber-caked Drago, the low volume LV Drago, the versatile Vapor V, the progression-friendly Arpia, and the supportive and beginner-friendly Origin.
Any person that has spent a few years climbing is going to have at least a few pairs of climbing shoes. Lots of climbers, myself included, have a few old pairs in the back of their closet, collecting dust and reminiscing on the old days when they saw the light of day. But when you start talking to the people who have made climbing a major part of their life, you’ll find they might have more than a few pairs of climbing shoes that they use on the regular.
Apart from my retired climbing shoes, I have three pairs of shoes and two that get regular use. These three pairs are all Scarpa and I got them each for different reasons. My Furia Airs are my comfort shoes currently and they’re what I use on overhangs and any route with slopey holds. With their highly downturned and highly asymmetric profile, they almost help grab onto holds when you’re on a steep overhang or a roof route. Also because they’re such a soft shoe, they will get more surface area on broader holds and they’ll keep you on the wall. When I am serious about a hard route, whether it’s overhung, facey, or on a roof, I’ll turn to my Dragos. Sized smaller than my other shoes, I rely on them for delivering maximum power from my foot to the rock. With rubber covering most of the front of the shoe, they are perfect for toe hooks, camming your foot into pockets in the rock, or even for more confidence on your bat-hang.
One of the main reasons that I like Scarpa shoes so much is they fit my feet well and they are on par with my street shoe size. I know that virtually any shoe that Scarpa makes in a 41.5 is going to fit my foot incredibly well. This makes the shoe shopping process so much less stressful because I don’t have to try on a shoe to know that it will fit me well. This is not something that I can say for other major brands. I wear significantly different sizes in other brands, usually in the realm of a full size bigger. This can make it especially difficult when you are moving from one brand to another, which is something that many people do in their climbing careers.
Knowing that your size will be the same shoe-to-shoe is a great thing that can make everything less scary when diving into a new pair of shoes. But, something you also want to be sure of is whether your shoes are going to hold up to the abuse they are soon going to be encountering. You’ll want to know that the straps won’t break, that the sole won’t delaminate, and that the cost is going to be worth it! Something important to me is that all of my Scarpa shoes have the same Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber on the soles, in the same thickness, and they can all be resoled. There are a few different rubbers used among Scarpa’s vast product line, but the XS Grip 2 is my personal favorite. This rubber is sticky but also durable so it will perform how you need it to, and last how long you want it to.
In the same realm, another thing that is attractive about Scarpa shoes is that they use Vibram rubber on their soles. What this tells me, is that they know what they want to focus on. They’re experts at making shoes, and they let Vibram be the experts at making rubber. When you get a company that focuses so much on doing so many things, I think all of those things can suffer. I would choose a Scarpa shoe with Vibram rubber over any other shoe with an in-house rubber. This is simply because Scarpa can allocate more money to reaching new levels of climbing shoe innovation when they only have to think about that and not their making of rubber, crash pads, or even chalk. This is evident when you look at their Furia Air, the lightest climbing shoe in the world. This feat is impressive in and of itself, and then you put them on and find they might be the most comfortable climbing shoe you’ve ever worn.
If this has made you curious in any way, give our Kendall Cliffs staff a holler the next time you come in. We will be glad to talk your ear off about our gear and why we like it. If you like it too, our friends at AO will be more than happy to help you try some on. But remember, the shoes don’t make the climber!