The Scarpa Vapor V Women’s Climbing Show Review
Let me take you back in time, to the moment when I bought my first pair of climbing shoes. This might feel familiar; I had no idea what I was looking for, completely trusting in the expertise of the shop attendant. I battled to jam my feet inside the shoe.
“They’re kind of…painful,” I said timidly.
She gave me a knowing grimace. “That means they’re the right size.”
Respectfully I now disagree - climbing shoes don’t have to squeeze the life and feeling out of your feet to perform well. The Scarpa Vapor V Women’s are a testament to this. Surprisingly high-performance and reliable anywhere from indoor training to outdoor sport routes to alpine multi-pitches, while also offering comfort, these are the shoes I wish I’d made my outdoor debut in. Here’s why…
Photo: Andrew Banks
The first time I tried the Vapor Vs, I could feel a difference between them and other climbing shoes I’d worn. It was the tongue I noticed immediately, padded microfibre, which cushions the top of the foot against potential chafing by the shoe’s fastenings. This is an issue I’ve had with shoes in the past – the more I tighten them, the more the fastenings rub against my foot. This padding prevents that, allowing both comfort and a secure fit, especially around the heel. I’ve found this particularly advantageous on sport and bouldering routes.
My feet are quite wide at the top, and as a result I’ve struggled to buy shoes designed specifically for women before. This was my chief concern prior to trying the Vapor V Women’s, but I was pleasantly surprised. While not as soft as my previous Scarpa shoes, the high-performance Drago, the Vapor V uppers are supple enough that, combined with the flatter toe box they provide enough give for wider feet.
I found the shoes to be a breeze on short sport routes and boulders, so it was time to really put them to the test. During an expedition to the Dolomites, they climbed several hundred metres and more than a dozen pitches of rock, and I was impressed! Sure, they pinched my toes a bit by the end of the day, paling in comparison to the positively slipper-like feeling of my usual choice for bigger routes, La Sportiva’s TC Pro. However, since I intentionally purchased my TC Pros big, I’d suggest that the Vapor V toe-pinch might also be mitigated by purchasing a slightly larger size. This might be a good option if comfort on longer routes is your chief concern and you’re reluctant to spend a small fortune on multiple pairs of shoes.
My Vapor Vs have seen a pretty diverse array of rock climbing routes, and they’ve been impressively reliable at every turn. Their slightly downturned shape is not as aggressive as some more high-performance sport climbing shoes, but their performance on small edges is almost comparable. The less aggressive shape allows for an easy transition to slab and let me tell you – these shoes stick. If you’re a nervous smearer like me, that’s a huge comfort! The secure heel is excellent for heel hooks, and also provides a reassuringly tight fit when you’re standing on your toes for long periods on demanding routes.
The only test in which the Vapor Vs fell down is an unsurprising one – they’re not so great in cracks. Designed to be light, I found them just too soft, and jamming was painful. However, for a climber looking to cycle through a diverse set of climbing styles, I’d still rate the Vapor Vs amongst the most versatile shoes I’ve worn.
The Vapor Vs retail for about $230. This pushes them towards the higher price bracket of climbing shoes, but given their versatility, I believe they’re a worthwhile investment. If you enjoy climbing diverse routes, but don’t want to financially commit to buying multiple pairs of shoes, you’ll certainly get value for money out of your Vapor Vs – they can do just about everything.
These are the shoes I wish I’d had when I started rock climbing - shoes that allow me to retain the feeling in my extremities, and provide comfort and performance across multiple disciplines of climbing. However, they are emphatically not just a beginner’s shoe. The Vapor Vs are reliable on technically demanding and long climbing routes, as well. They’re a welcome reminder to all who peddle the “pain is your friend” mantra - you don’t have to sacrifice comfort for performance. Who says you can’t have it all?