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Review: Scarpa Instinct VS Climbing Shoes

Scarpa Instinct VS Climbing Shoe

A moderately aggressive sport climbing and bouldering shoe that performs superbly on thin edges

Combining the convenience of a slipper with the snug fit of a laced shoe, the Scarpa Instinct VS climbing shoes offer high levels of feedback on demanding boulder problems and tough sport climbs. They take some time to break in, but once you’ve found your feet in them they will help your heel-hooks go through the roof and increase your ability to trust even the most thin of edges.

Scarpa Instinct VS: The stats

Type of shoe:Moderately aggressive
Best for:Performance sport climbing and bouldering
Uppers:Synthetic Micro Suede
Sole:Vibram XS Grip 2
Weight:460g per pair

Features of the Scarpa Instinct VS

Velcro straps

Velcro strap on climbing shoesThere is a single velcro strap that sits over the top of the elasticated opening to the shoe. This is fed through a metal loop to easily adjust the tightness of the strap and lock the heel down into the shoe.

Pull on tabs

Pull on tabs on shoesThere are three loops at the opening of the shoes: one at the tongue and two at the heel. Though this may seem overkill, all three are totally essential as these are not easy shoes to get on and off due to their slipper-like nature. The tabs are super strong and large enough to get more than one finger into.


Toe of climbing shoeThe down-turned toe creates a moderately aggressive shape to the shoe that allows for high levels of feedback and superb edging. There is also a large rubber patch on top of the toes to add friction and durability when toe-hooking.


Heel of climbing shoeThe sole of the shoes are constructed with hand-crafted Vibram XS Grip 2 for excellent grip and durability. This sticky 2mm rubber extends right around the back of the heel up to the base of the achilles to form a super stiff heel cup. This design keeps your foot firmly secured into the heel, and is a trusty companion on demanding heel-hooks.


Scarpa Instinct VS review

A first wear of these performance climbing shoes left me wondering why Scarpa decided that an adjustable velcro strap was necessary. The section of shoe on the top of the foot is tight and elasticated, as is the opening itself, making them feel more like a slip-on shoes. However, as the shoes started to conform to my feet I soon realised the need for the strap and the extra heel lockdown, security and feedback that it provides. It turns out that the shoes are designed to blend the Instinct S (slipper) and the Instinct Lace to create the Instinct VS – a super technical shoe that offers the best of both.

Comfort and fit and

If you’re expecting instantly comfortable shoes then you may be in for a bit of a shock stepping into the Instincts. I normally take a UK size 4.5, but opted for a size 5. They fit incredibly snuggly / tightly, with room for very little internal movement through the toes. Throughout the rest of the shoe, however, there is a little extra width that can mostly be dealt with by cinching down the strap. Extra space aside, the overall fit is very tight and secure.

Instantly comfortable, they are not. However, with wear they have started to soften a little and I notice them less and less with each outing. The synthetic uppers mean that they hold their shape for longer than leather equivalents, which is great in the long run, but less good if you’re dying for a bit more give! Persevere – it will happen.

Woman putting climbing shoes on


These beauties are a dream when it comes to edging. There is a ton of sensitivity through the toes, and stickiness that you can really trust on even the tiniest of granite crystals. Smearing and slab work, however, is a slightly different story. There is very little flex through the toe making it pretty challenging to feel what’s going on, let alone get your foot in a decent position to gain any kind of meaningful grip to push on. This is improving as the shoes soften, as mentioned, so it’s worth taking this into account when breaking them in.

Then there’s the heel. It’s positively stiff, it’s grippy and its extra thickness provides a superb base for reliable heel hooks, despite the tiny bit of extra internal space.

Rock climbing in Scarpa shoes

What I love the most about the Scarpa Instinct VS

I love working balancy, crimpy routes at the best of times. But am loving them even more, thanks to the insane edging ability of the Instincts.

I also like that the shoes can be resoled by Scarpa.

What I don’t love so much about the Scarpa Instinct VS

They take a little while to break in. This is good in the long run, but a little painful for the first little while.

pair of scarpa climbing shoes


While you may have to work to break them in, the Scarpa Instinct VS climbing shoes are worth the effort for those taking on challenging boulder problems and working technical sport routes. They edge like a dream and will send your heel hooks through the roof!

Trad climbers and those expecting to be in these shoes for hours at a time may find them a little on the tight and uncomfortable side. And beginner climbers should opt for something less technical and more foot friendly!

Find the latest price at:
Scarpa | Amazon | REI

Disclaimer: Cool of the Wild received this product free in return for an honest review. We only recommend gear that we love from companies we trust and we are under no obligation to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer and we are in no way influenced by the brand or company.

About the author


Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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