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Scarpa Vapour S | Climbing Shoe Review

Innovative brilliance in a versatile vehicle of climbing comfort and performance, it doesn't get any better than the Scarpa Vapour S. Recent years have seen a renaissance for the climbing slipper with many of the top brands ranging one, although most seem to type cast their slipper into one of two categories; the left-field performance thoroughbred or the super-soft, comfy training shoe. But, as legendary inventor Thomas Edison once said, "There's a way to do it better - find it", and I reckon Scarpa might just have done that with the new Vapour S, here's why.

The Transformer

Supreme versatility is the name of the game for the Vapour S as it meaningfully meanders between both the performance beast and all-day training shoe moulds that usually restrict a climbing slipper. This is thanks, in part, to the undeniably obvious and somewhat defining feature of the shoe - the brand new Nano-Strap system. This new, removable strapping system allows the Vapour S to hybridise between a thoroughbred slipper and well, not a slipper at all, strapping you down for the most demanding foot placements and heel hooks. How does this work in practice? It's a total breath of fresh air. Whilst the Nano-Strap is by no means a fully integrated closure system, more of a modular attachment, it does eliminate the elephant in the room that blights all high performance slipper models - their heel hooking ability. Now, with the choice of two strapping solutions to lock your foot in place, the Vapour S ticks the comfy, cragging slipper box whilst possessing a unique ability to transform into a versatile performance powerhouse that can hook too. Gone are the days when I'd have to take multiple pairs of shoes to the crag just in case there was a problem with a tricky heel hook - the Vapour S can do it all.

The new Nano-Strap system might steal the headlines but, it's under the hood where I found the S truly shines. Being a member of the popular Vapour family, the S shares a lot of its mildly downturned genealogy with the rest of this incredibly versatile range. Built on the Vapour range's foundation of excellent edging support thanks to its full length 1mm Flexan midsole, the S crucially features enough flexibility to excel both indoors and out on sand and grit stone. As such, it was the obvious choice for a recent trip to St Bees where they truly came alive on the area's coastally carved sandstone, edging and smearing with real confidence. The Vapour S comes in as the softest model within the Vapour range thanks, partly, to its full length sole of Vibram's softest and stickiest XS Grip2 compound (the Lace and V don the stiffer XS Edge2 compound). Featuring Scarpa's super soft M50 rubber hood over the toes, which connects the top of the shoe to the sole, the Vapour S isn't as laterally rigid (stiffness from side-to-side) as its sister models, the Vapour Lace or Instinct S - which both feature stiffer rubber compounds and maintain more structural conformity around the shoe's edge. In practice, this isn't to the detriment of the eding performance. Sure, laterally stiffer models like the Vapour Lace might be a better choice for sustained limestone sport routes but, the front end of the S is a more sensitive place to be and provides unrivalled feel on delicate holds.

Perhaps the most versatile shoe in the Scarpa range, the Vapour S is the first climbing shoe I've ever worn that can truly transform. Like Bumblebee, the Transformers character with whom the Vapour shares a very similar colourway, the Vapour S has the underpinnings of a Chevy Camaro-style performance weapon with that unique, Autobot ability to metamorphose to any climbing scenario, terrain or discipline at the tightening of a strap.

Fit & Feel

The fit of the Vapour S is a real work of art. Built around a special, low volume toe profile, the Vapour S fits like a glove and utilises this unique, lower volume design to give the shoe its snug, performance fit rather than relying on a more unforgiving, high tensioning system. This isn't to say the Vapour S is limp or lifeless, quite the opposite with the Bi-Tension system (found on all Vapour models) wrapping under a non-slip leather footbed to cradle the bottom of the foot and increase levels of comfort and support on small footholds. 

You might be forgiven for dismissing the Vapour S if you have higher volume or wider feet but, do so at your peril. The Vapour S is absolutely the most accessible performance shoe I've ever worn with the malleable M50 rubber hood allowing toes of different shapes and sizes to sit naturally and comfortably. I have medium to lower volume feet and downsized 3 EU sizes which has been both comfortable and perfect for precise performance on smaller footholds; but, those larger of foot shoulder consider a slightly smaller downsize.

Has the Vapour S bagged out or stretched? Not at all. Although featuring a leather footbed, the microfibre uppers and effective elastic over the top of the foot keep everything where it should be. Besides, there's always a strap!

Round Up

Building on the success of the Instinct slipper range, the all-new Vapour S is the most impressive shoe I've ever worn. Is it going to provide cutting edge performance like an Instinct shoe? Probably not, but there isn't a shoe within the Scarpa (or any brand, for that matter) range that can adapt or transform to a climbing scenario quite like the Vapour S. It can be whatever you want it to be. Like a cuckoo, it's worked its way into my climbing shoe collection and, before I realised, it has become the only shoe I reach for - awesome!

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