Two weeks ago, on a busy weekend at the Wailing Wall near Mesquite, Nevada, I was testing two new rock-shoe models. Both were touted as high-performance—the sports cars of the climbing world. One was the new Scarpa Stix. The other I’ll call Brand X.
I climbed a warm-up wearing the Stix on my left foot and Brand X on my right. Then switched. Next I climbed a harder route in the Stix, then in Brand X. I’m nothing if not methodical in my madness.
“What are those?” a climber asked, pointing at Brand X.
“Is that the new Stix?” asked another.
“Do you like them?” they chorused.
The great thing about conversation is you can be gratuitously honest.
“These *#@%ing suck,” I said, taking off Brand X and tossing them in the dirt. “And these …? These are the best shoes I’ve ever worn.”
The Stix is a stiff slipper. I usually find slippers too mushy for real rock, yet, at the Virgin River Gorge—an area where conventional wisdom dictates an edging shoe—I quickly abandoned my 2x4-stiff lace-ups in favor of the Stix. Sure, I may have sacrificed a bit of edging power, but enjoyed big gains in smearing power and confidence.
The slipper has an aggressive downturned, cambered last, and an asymmetrically sculpted toe box. Overall, it has the “banana” shape and big-toe focus of shoes primarily designed for high performance on steep terrain and short periods of wear.
The Stix is the brainchild of Austrian climber Heinz Mariacher. In 1986, Mariacher climbed Kendo (5.13d), one of the world’s hardest sport climbs of the day. Today, he is the only person in the world who is famous for designing rock shoes, first for La Sportiva and now Scarpa.
Like many great designs, the Stix V2 (Version 2) is a rework of an existing good design: the black-and-green Stix V1. The biggest change is an unlined synthetic Lorica upper rather than unlined cow-skin. The Lorica is comfortable and doesn’t “bag out.” Over the last six weeks, I’ve climbed about a hundred pitches in the V2; stretch has been negligible, and it still fits with the snappiness of a surgical glove. Dead space = nil.
Another modification is a narrower, lower-volume heel cup. This heel feels locked on, and easy to enter despite boasting more slingshots than Bart Simpson: two in the heel, a Y-shaped one in the toe box, a series of little blue ones running across the top gusset, and powerful X-shaped slingshots crossing beneath the arch of your foot.
The slingshots are tensioned just so, making the Stix very active, and reactive, tightening and relaxing depending on how much weight you apply. This springy interplay of forces is the magic that makes the Stix so versatile.
I wear an EU 43 (U.S. Men’s 9.5 - 10) street shoe. I sized my Stix at EU 41.5 (U.S. 8) and loved them. I like my shoes tighter than most people. For a performance fit the next pair I buy will be EU 41.
And, yes, I will buy my next pair, even though I get sent a flood of free new shoes to climb in.
ABOUT THE RATING 5 stars because the Stix V2 is nimble, versatile and powerful. This slipper has no flaws. It’s currently my favorite shoe (lace-ups and Velcro included) for single-pitch sport climbing and bouldering.