Weight Per Shoe (size 40): 258 g / 9.1 oz
Sizes: 36 – 46 (half sizes)
Size Tested: 46
Upper: Suede / Lorica®
Sole: Vibram® XS Edge; 4mm
My Foot: Size 13 street shoe, medium-volume (relative to its Sasquatch-like size, anyway), lower arch, neutral gait.
Time Tested: 15 Days
Test Locations: Clear Creek Canyon, Eldorado Canyon State Park, Turkey Rocks, Colorado; Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming
A quick glance around the climbing shoe world leaves the impression that sport climbing is increasingly becoming the province of Velcro shoes. At crags with steep faces, pockets, and edges, climbers have begun to eschew laces and embrace the easy-on, easy-off of Velcro.
This trend hasn’t gone unnoticed by shoe manufacturers—many tried-and-true laced shoes now have Velcro counterparts (Miura by Sportiva, Vapor by SCARPA, etc.), while even more aggressive shoes are offered only in Velcro (Futura and Solution by La Sportiva; Boostic and Feroce by SCARPA; Blackwing by Five Ten, etc.).
And recently, people have even begun to reach for Velcro shoes on trad pitches that require technical footwork.
The Vapor V is among these shoes that claim to perform like other sport shoes, but doesn’t lag behind on gear-protected climbs. How well do they pull it off? I put a pair through the paces over the last couple months to find out.
Sizing and Fit
First and foremost, a word about sizing: fitting a shoe for both sport and trad is a delicate art. You need your toes to fit relatively comfortably if you want any hope of jamming a thin hands crack, but any dead space that comes along with this comfort will seriously compromise performance on thin edges. And since this is made more difficult by any stretch in the shoe, finding such a narrow sweet spot can be challenging.
They’re also a bit wider in the forefoot, making them a good alternative for people who find many Sportiva shoes to be slightly too narrow.
For people with big feet like me, finding the right fit can be difficult—the sizing scale stops at 45 for many of SCARPA’s aggressive shoes. This is an industry-wide problem, and there are many of us whose shoe options are limited simply because many high-performance shoes are offered only up to 45. Can I shove my foot in a size 45 shoe? Sure. Can I then shove my foot in a thin crack? No. Thankfully, the Vapor V bucks this trend and, as of this past year, is offered in both 45.5 and 46.
As for the common, How-will-these-feel-once-I-break-them-in? problem, the stretch in the Vapor V is mercifully kept to a minimum through the use of synthetic materials in the toe box.
The orange upper around the rest of the shoe is suede and will stretch ever so slightly to give a bit more breathing room around mid-foot, but the sides of the shoe are more rubber than leather anyway, so don’t expect too much increase in overall volume.
The white fabric that forms the toe box does give a little bit, but not so much that the fit changes drastically. Mine took about 15 or so pitches to break them in, gaining about a half size in the process. I recommend sizing them snug, but not tight. If you find yourself in between sizes so that neither feels outrageously tight or too loose, then choose the smaller size. I would not recommend sizing down significantly, however, as the toe box has a thin profile and the downturn of the shoe means you get the extra edging power anyway without having your toes bent.
Shoes with a more truncated front such as, say, the Miura, can accommodate curled toes more comfortably and can be worn unusually tight. The same is not true of the Vapor V. Size these a little less aggressively, and you’ll be glad you did.