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Climbing Shoes

Scarpa Instinct VSR

Good choice for the steeps on a climbing trip!

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MSRP: $185

BEST FOR: Bouldering and steep sport climbing

When I first started wearing the Scarpa Instinct VSR, people would come up to me at the gym and ask, “Alex Puccio wears those, right?” What made the 11-time national champion pick these shoes over everything else? I wondered. After putting them through the wringer, I’ve started to figure it out.

The downturned Instinct VSR excels at both steep sport climbing and bouldering. The VSR has Grip2 rubber, a softer version of the original Instinct’s rubber, the XS edge. Softer rubber has two benefits: It is good for lighter-weight climbers since it needs less force behind it to achieve optimal friction, and it also ensures that there is enhanced sensitivity in the toes, a factor that often seems to be lacking in other aggressive shoes.

When taking the Instinct VSRs outside, I found that they performed well on both super steep and slightly overhanging, off-vertical terrain. As mentioned, the soft rubber proved to be ideal on more technical routes, where proper weight placement on small footholds is critical. I noticed this particularly while climbing polished limestone in Rifle. The downturned angle of the shoe is perfect for the really steep stuff though too, as it helps you to to really “grab” footholds in an overhang.

The VSR has a split sole (separate pieces of rubber for the toe and heel) allowing for greater foot flexibility while climbing. Indoors, this was much appreciated when climbing on volume-laden World Cup-style boulder problems.

All of these factors lead these shoes to be supple right out of the box; the break-in period is virtually nonexistent. From day one, I was able to wear these shoes throughout my gym session. But if you like taking your shoes on and off in between every problem, no sweat—the single velcro strap makes it quick and easy.

Overall, the versatility of these shoes and their sensitivity make them an excellent choice for a climbing trip where you’ll be on multiple types of rock or terrain. They perform well in a variety of scenarios.

Puccio, you chose well!


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Rock and Ice vigorously tests all gear it reviews for either 50 days or 50 pitches. This is a time-consuming process and limits the amount of new equipment we can present to our readers. Every year hundreds of new products hit store shelves, and most of these aren’t reviewed due to our stringent selection and review process. To better keep you more up to date on what is new, we present First Look. Gear in First Look has not always been field tested, but is gear we think you’d like to know about as soon as it is available. Some of the gear will be reviewed using our 50 days/50 pitches criteria, in future print and online editions of Rock and Ice. We have opted to use affiliate links in our gear reviews. Every time you buy something after clicking on links in our gear articles you’re helping support our magazine.