By Suzanne Reeves
I’ve been testing out the Scarpa Maestro over the last few months, and I’ve used them to sport climb, trad climb, boulder and train indoors. The contrast of peak gritstone and south coast limestone gave me a good feel for how the Maestro Womens performed as an all-rounder.
First things first; these shoes have laces! This is a big deal for me, because I’ve previously made a point of choosing shoes with Velcro fastening. I like my feet just to flirt with my footwear, you see – shoes are on while I’m climbing, and off at all other times. This is partly an attempt to keep my shoes as fresh as possible (valiant though my Boot Bananas are, they don’t do much to diminish the stink...) and also because climbing shoes aren’t generally known for their comfort while standing or walking around. Therefore I saw laced shoes as a serious commitment; it would surely be too much faff to keep removing and replacing them. My feet would be truly settled into the Maestros, rather than sharing the brief, sweaty embraces they were used to with my Velcro-fastening shoes.
As soon as I had slipped the Maestros on and adjusted the laces (a much less fiddly endeavour than I’d expected) I could feel the way they immediately moulded to my feet. They’re shaped with a slight downturn, but thankfully didn’t cause the sudden cramp that more aggressive shoes often do. My toes were held tightly but not painfully, thanks to the medium-to-low angled toe box. The shoes also felt very well-made as I tugged them on – the upper is composed of three panels of gorgeous turquoise Eco Leather, dotted with air holes for breathability (nice; less of a burden on my Boot Bananas!) and intricately stitched, while the sole is a 4mm Vibram XS Edge combined with a 2mm XS Grip 2 heel underlay. When I stood and scampered a little self-consciously, like I have done in shoe shops since first going in for a pair of black primary school flats, I found the Maestros very comfortable to walk in. But how would they feel while climbing?
I first wore these in the beautiful Peak District, where I thought they’d be put through their paces pretty well. I started on a slab, where I made a point of finding tiny, pebbley footholds to test the shoes’ sensitivity and precision. Their gentle downturn enabled me to put a surprising amount of power through my toes, and my feet felt secure even on barely-there holds. They also proved themselves brilliant at smearing – the midsoles are flexible enough to be pushed flat against the rock, and the Vibram rubber is fantastically sticky. On steeper climbs the Maestros’ technical design became evident – the well-moulded heel felt secure during heel hooks, and the rise of the rubber at the front lent precision and a new confidence to my historically tenuous toe hooks.
The biggest surprise for me came in the form of not feeling the need to take the shoes off between climbs – that definitely speaks to the shoes’ comfort, and supports Scarpa’s claim that they’re the perfect all-rounder. They were no doubt referring to the shoes’ adaptability to face big wall climbs as well as snappy sport routes, but for me it translated to how well they facilitated the careful stepping required to return to the crag. Routes back down were steep, precarious and often slippery, but the Maestros took everything in their stride and certainly proved themselves versatile and reliable.
I wear these shoes now for indoor training sessions, where they’ve continued to excel. Despite the Maestros’ comfort, which has increased as I’ve become more accustomed to laces and how to adjust the fit to the shape of my feet, I’ve mostly made a return to my non-committal way of wearing shoes, and belaying barefoot. It’s actually much quicker and easier to get these shoes on and off than I’d anticipated, largely helped by the double loops on the heels, and they’ve definitely won me over to laced shoes as well as back to Scarpas in general after a liaison with Boreals. My first climbing shoes were the Scarpa Velocitys, so I’m glad to have graduated to a much more technical pair.
I’m sure that the Maestros will see me through many more climbing trips, and that I’ll come to feel just as attached to them as I did to my Velocitys. Scarpa seem able to cater to a very wide variety of climbing needs, and I have to say that most of them seem to be satisfied by just this pair of shoes.