I’m about to rock the boat with a controversial opinion – the “no pain, no gain” attitude to climbing shoes needs to die. As a former dancer and situational high-heel appreciator, I have worn enough uncomfortable shoes to last a lifetime. And if you’re like me, looking to give your embattled feet a rest from traumatic footwear, I have glad tidings – rock climbing does not have to be another torturous experience!
We’ve all squeezed the life out of our feet, convinced that manipulating them into pinchy, undersized shoes like we’re playing Tetris will help us crush. But times are changing! Enter the Scarpa Vapor V Women’s – a shoe that provides the coveted combination of comfort and high-performance. From indoor training to outdoor sports routes to long alpine rock routes, these shoes have exceeded my expectations.
Have I mentioned that the Vapor V’s are comfortable? I was dubious before I tried them, and having worn the high-performance Dragos for quite some time, I was expecting a similarly constricting fit. The most noticeable point of difference between the two is the padded microfibre tongue, which cushions the top of the foot against potential chafing by the shoe’s fastenings. Generally, the more I tighten any climbing shoes, the more their fastenings rub against my foot. Extra padding inside the Vapor V’s protects against this, while allowing the secure fit necessary for performance on sport and bouldering routes.
I’m going to make a slightly embarrassing admission right here – before finding the Vapor Vs, I had never worn climbing shoes specifically designed for women. I’ve always purchased men’s shoes, generally finding the women’s variant to be far too narrow for my feet. I figured I’d suffer similarly in the Vapor Vs, but instead found that the combination of a moderately flat toe box and supple uppers provide enough give for wider feet.
The true test of my Vapor V’s came during a recent trip to the Dolomites. I forced myself to see how they would fare on long multi-pitches, expecting the comfort to end after the first fifty metres or so. Sure, they pinched my toes a bit towards the end of the day, but after climbing more than a dozen pitches, I was impressed by how minor the discomfort was. My go-to shoes for big routes are La Sportiva TC Pros, and in my opinion, these are still superior for long days of climbing. However, the Vapor V’s still hold up relatively well in this regard. I’d suggest purchasing them a size larger if you’re looking to avoid discomfort without breaking the budget with multiple pairs of shoes.
I’ll get the obvious out of the way first – these are not crack climbing shoes. They’re too soft, and jamming is painful. However, in every other setting, the Vapor V’s are impressively reliable. The toe is slightly downturned, but not overly aggressive. This allows for seamless transitions between small edges and slab – a huge comfort for nervous smearers like yours truly! Scarpa’s characteristically secure heel makes for solid heel hooks and provides a reassuring fit during long periods of standing on your toes on longer routes. I rate them highly among the most versatile shoes I’ve ever worn.
Unfortunately, that versatility comes with a price tag to match. Retailing for about $230 AUD, Vapor V’s are in the higher price bracket of climbing shoes. However, if you’re looking for a versatile option which relieves the financial pain of purchasing multiple pairs of shoes, look no further. Given what the Vapor V’s are capable of, I believe they are worth every cent.
Gone are the days when I would cringe in pain as I jammed my foot into aggressive, constricting climbing shoes. I believed I was doing what was necessary to be a better climber, but if I could go back and tell my past self just one thing, it would be this: stop this unnecessary suffering, get yourself a pair of Vapor V’s, and go enjoy comfort and performance across multiple climbing disciplines without the pain!
Sometimes, I even wear them when I’m on belay… Now I’m really rocking the boat!
More information and specifications can be found at the Scarpa Website. This is an independent review and I earn approximately 0% or less in commissions.