By Greg Chapman
From Cinderella to your grandad, everyone loves their slippers right? Well, everyone but British climbers it seems.
Okay, so you’re always going to have your local Five Ten MoccAsym or Boreal Ninja devotee, with a stockpile of their size and the unwavering assertion that these ARE the zenith of rock shoe design, but generally speaking few recent slipper incarnations have prospered. Even the aforementioned stalwarts arguably survive on a weakening wave of nostalgia. Personally, I think climbers and brands do want to love slippers and it is true a number of models thrive on the continent. With their clean techy looks, easy on-off and a generally lower price point, you can see why the slipper has long been a staple, if sometimes peripheral, style of rock shoe.
So to the Scarpa Instinct SR, the latest attempt to persuade us that the slipper is back en vogue.
As is obvious from the name, the Instinct SR builds on the success of the extremely popular Scarpa Instinct series - VS, VS-R and Lace - whilst endeavouring to improve on the first incarnation on the Instinct slipper, the Instinct S. For a model which, on the face of it, looks pretty sleek and simple, this new Instinct packs in a host of subtle design tweaks, in an effort to create a shoe which offers something different, whilst also aspiring to overcome the achilles heel of all slippers: the lack of a closure mechanism.
The general design of the shoe is based on that of the Instinct VS-R, with the FV last, 3.5mm Vibram XSV Grip sole, Bi-Tension randing and 1mm Flaxan half length midsole all present. Major points of difference are the heel design, upper construction and entry point.
Here we have a narrower slightly lower volume fit, and the heel cup itself is constructed from a new ‘M50’ rubber, allegedly even sticker than that used on the other Instinct models.
Compared to the VS-R the Instinct SR comes with a 5-panel upper construction (rather than 6), meaning less seams and thus potential hot-spots. The toe box utilises Scarpa’s duel panel construction, with the four smaller toes set into a single piece of material and the big toe having its own separate panel. This is a unique design method, offering increased comfort as well as an improved fit. Externally the toe box is armoured with a large, perforated section of the new M50 ‘super sticky’ rubber, as used on the heel cup.
Below: The She (8A+), Livada Beach, Tinos, Greece. Photo: Julia Entwistle
As a slipper, the shoe relies on fitting well and retaining its shape over its lifespan. To aid this Scarpa have bolstered the elastic entry cuff with the impregnated rubberized strips used on the Stix slipper. Tried and tested these work well and providing the slipper fits you in the first place, it will hold its shape.
Whilst the last may be the same, the overall fit is certainly a little different to that of the other Instincts. The combination of materials and method of construction mean that not only is the heel narrower but the toe box has a slightly more tapered feel, less blocky than its Velcro siblings. My feet certainly suit the VC and Lace versions better and this may have been why I never fully took to the SR. Don’t get me wrong, I like this shoe and in combination with VS-R’s it makes a welcome addition to my climbing bag. I just find that when push comes to shove on real rock, I reach for the Lace or VC-R, finding a little more confidence in the fact you have the security of a closure mechanism. For me its niche is that for which it was originally conceived; indoor climbing and being particularly adept on steep training boards, where the super-precise and surprisingly supportive toe was excellent at picking out and grabbing small footholds.
A good shoe, designed with indoor competition style and training board climbing in mind, and certainly best suited to this end. Also well worth a look in you have found the other Instinct models a little too voluminous in the heel or want a slipper with a bit more rigidity than is the norm.