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Scarpa Instinct Lace Review

instinct-revBack in spring this year Scarpa UK kindly gave me a pair of the new Instinct Lace to run the rule over. This, along with the slipper version of the same shoe, is the latest performance footwear offering from the brand, and bar the Mago and Booster is Scarpa UK’s highest specification rock shoe. The Instinct series fills the slot left by the now defunct Spectro, although any similarities between that shoe and the Instinct end there. Using the shoes over the last few months, the one facet of the Instinct’s character which has stood out beyond all others is their fit, which strikes a seemingly impossible juxtapose between relative comfort and an incredible feeling of security and hold, as well as the toe-down grab factor one expects with a more aggressively fitting steep terrain shoe, such as the Booster. As the shoes have gone from brand new to worn in and now reached the point where they are starting to wear out, they have been used across a number climbing disciplines, and despite the fact that they have obviously bagged out and softened up with time and use, the solid, firm and almost sensual fit remains present each time they are pulled on. That said, like an aging boulderers handshake their once vice like grip has of course faltered somewhat with use.

Interestingly when I first received the shoes I was working a long boulder project line at one of my local limestone crags (image left), and although I had done all the moves the link was proving elusive. By lucky chance the well fitting, and more importantly narrow heel cup of the Instinct allowed me to navigate the crux sequence – featuring a hard to place foot lock way above your head – with greater ease and with a little more sieging I bagged a line, which initially at least, had perhaps seemed beyond me. If nothing else the events described in this short anecdote gave the Instinct's a special place in my climbing bag and since that time I have used them extensively on a number of other rock types (sandstone, rhyolite and granite) as well as many styles and angles of terrain, continuously finding the shoes to be proficient and precise throughout. More recently I have been applying their services to the trad realm of the Lakes, and despite their battered appearance they are still giving me a surefooted feel, whether it be perched on small edges, wedged into cracks or balanced on some precarious slab.

Fit & Features

The last of these shoes combines a fairly wide, high volume toe-box, with a relatively lower volume heel cup, which is in turn cranked in at the Achilles via a slingshot rand, all of which gives a great fit… providing of course your foot is compatible with the shoe. In terms of features; the now seemingly obligatory toe-hooking rubber patch is present on the toe box upper and the sole is armed with the latest rubbery masterstroke, from the guys and gals at Vibram – XS Grip 2. This is said to be Vibram’s stickiest rubber yet, and whilst I couldn’t categorically confirm or deny this fact I certainly haven’t had any complaints.


Overall I really liked these shoes, finding them more versatile and comfortable out of the box than other technical Scarpa rock shoes I have used in the recent past. In terms of who this shoe is best suited to: it is still a technical product with a slightly toe-down profile (albeit a relatively comfy one), and as such is certainly not one for those seeking all-day-comfort. However, for the active sport climber, boulderer and/or trad climber operating in the mid to higher grades this shoe offers one of the best fits, in terms of coping with varying angles, of any shoe currently available, and may just allow you to cut down on the amount of different boots you need to carry to the crag. Finally, for those who don’t like breaking their rock shoes in, this is one of the best technical shoes out of the box I’ve ever used!