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SCARPA Vapor S Review: Real Performance With All-Day Comfort

Unboxing the SCARPA Vapor S, I was surprised at how normal they looked outside of the unique retention system made out of cords. They weren't that downturned or asymmetrical. They weren't futuristic-looking, nor did they boast about any new materials or construction technologies. But, I would soon find that the standout characteristic is incredible comfort.

Scarpa Vapor S(Photo/Seiji Ishii)
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SCARPA has been wowing me with its sport climbing and bouldering shoes for the last few years. Simply unboxing shoes like the Drago and Furia Air made me utter, “Whoa.” But not so with the Vapor S.

“OK, cool,” I thought when I fiddled with the cords that SCARPA uses as a closure system. They weren’t that sporty-looking; they have a slight downturn and moderate asymmetry and were not super soft.

Compared to the Drago and Furia Air Ferraris, the Vapor S struck me as a Honda Accord. They looked like I could count on them for many forms of rock climbing, but nothing stood out.

I tested the SCARPA Vapor S for 3 months, working them hard on training boards and for a bouldering trip to Colorado. And yes, they performed fine, but what stood out is I never wanted to take them off during long sessions. I had so many rock shoes at my disposal at all times. Unless I needed to use a dicey feature, I refused to put the Vapor S aside. They were that comfortable.

In short: The SCARPA Vapor S makes for an ideal training slipper due to its incredible comfort. It’s also an excellent slipper for long working sessions at the boulders or sport crag, or long pitches. And because of its thin toe profile, it could also be an ace for thin cracks.



  • Symmetry Moderately asymmetric
  • Profile Moderate downturn
  • Midsole Talyn
  • Outsole Vibram 3.5mm XS Grip2
  • Upper Microfiber


  • Incredible, all-day comfort
  • Comfortable and breathable upper material
  • Excellent toecap for toe hooking
  • Great fit for "duck foot"
  • Good all-arounder


  • Not a super high-performance slipper
  • Nano Strap system was only moderately effective

SCARPA Vapor S Climbing Shoe: Review

The Fit

Scarpa Vapor s

The Vapor S has the perfect forefoot profile for my wide but vertically thin foot. It fit my forefoot without any bagging or excessive pressure on my fifth metatarsal. My toes felt like they had plenty of room laterally, and my little toe felt supported by the outsole, which isn’t always the case. I haven’t had a shoe fit my forefoot better than the SCARPA Vapor S in at least a year.

I have a very narrow heel, and the Vapor S fit adequately but not as snugly as I would have liked (even considering the purposeful lower heel rand tension). There were no gaps or folds when I was standing in the shoe, but it wasn’t a secure-feeling fit. Heel hooking could induce looseness, which then hampered sensitivity and confidence. But again, I have super-small heels.

The shoes were comfortable immediately. There was no painful break-in period, nor did I feel like the fit changed that much over the testing period.

One characteristic that stood out right away was how good the upper felt against my skin. Although it is microfiber, it felt like natural leather. I thought it was leather until I looked it up. Good job, SCARPA, on specifying a synthetic that doesn’t feel like, well, synthetic.

I wear a men’s U.S. 10 running shoe and almost always a size 43 climbing shoe. The SCARPA Vapor S in 43 was the perfect fit. SCARPA also offers a women’s version. The verified weight of the men’s size 43 shoe is 1 pound, 2.9 ounces for the pair.

What’s Up With the Cords?


SCARPA dubs the unique-looking cord-based closure system “Nano Strap System,” which makes it sound more complex than it is. The looped cord and Velcro tab can be threaded through the top of the upper in two different ways, producing “Fast” and “Strong” modes. Or the cord can be omitted.

SCARPA Vapor S Performance

Scarpa Vapor S

I wore the Vapor S for mostly indoor training, either on a training board or on the gym’s bouldering problems. I then used them for bouldering on the granite blocs of the Skyland area above Crested Butte. And outside of warming up, I was almost always climbing at my limit.

The shoes were good at everything. Not stellar, but good across a very broad list of abilities. They weren’t super sensitive, but sensitive enough for high-end training and most boulder problems at my limit.

The Vapor S edged well on small features but not on micro features. The shoes’ toed pockets and heel hooked adequately. They smeared on volumes well. The SCARPA Vapor S was the generalist training slipper for me. I couldn’t go wrong packing them for a training session or for a circuit of boulders.

One thing that the SCARPA S did extremely well was toe hook. The incredible leather-like feel and conformity of the microfiber upper, combined with the generous smattering of SCARPA’s super-sticky M50 rubber compound, made toe hooking a joy. And although I didn’t try it outside of my home crack machine, my bet is that this toecap, combined with the thin vertical forefoot profile, would excel in thin cracks.

Like all high-end climbing shoe rubber, the 3.5mm Vibram XS-2 grip adhered well to both plastic and rock when clean. The only features I had to spend special attention on were the notoriously non-positive Moonboard starter feet and any small rock edge that had been worn smooth by traffic. This is what I feel about almost all high-quality rock shoe rubber.

But what stood out — and I mean really stood out — was the incredible comfort.

SCARPA landed the recipe for a perfect cross of performance and comfort. I could climb at my limit endlessly with the Vapor S, barring any super-demanding features. And not once did I have any niggling foot pains or issues. I would routinely leave them on an entire 60- to 90-minute training board session, never feeling the urge to take them off. Never could I say this about any other shoe I was testing at the time.

I could also climb, stand, and spot in them for the same duration at the boulders, even when it was hot. The heat plus toeing down on small features makes my feet swell, but it wasn’t a problem in the Vapor S.

And I could do this all day, and long days at that. I felt that much of this was due to the significant support offered by the full-length Talyn insole.

What I Would Change

Scarpa Vapor s

Given that the SCARPA Vapor S is a generalist slipper that was so comfortable, it’s hard for me to poke holes in it. Everything in rock shoe design is a compromise, and I wouldn’t want to destroy the great mix of performance and comfort that SCARPA executes. But this is what I do.

Although the shoe could toe pockets, I had to readjust my initial stab because I’m used to using a more asymmetric shoe for routes or boulders that tend to have pockets.

I would prefer the toe to be more pointy, and that point be more biased toward the big toe. The latter point would make more of a difference to me, and I honestly think it would make the shoe more comfortable than it already is for some (like me.)

And although the Vapor S fit fine without the Nano Strap System, I did employ it when I desired more security. It did provide that, but it didn’t feel as good as a strap. The limited surface area of the cord didn’t give the solid feel of a strap. So for me, I would have taken a normal strap system over the cords.

SCARPA Vapor S: Conclusion

Scarpa Vapor S on a long sandstone route

The take-home message: for long training sessions, bouldering and sport climbing circuits, or endless pitches, the SCARPA Vapor S is the king of comfort and can get the job done. This is especially true if you have a classic “duck foot.” And this shoe could be a thin crack master.

This can be the one shoe you bring to build volume, whether you are at the gym, boulders, or crags. You can work moves at or near your limit as long as you don’t have to utilize a tiny feature or require high sensitivity. The perfect strategy for me, when I was unaware of what the crux moves would require, was to bring the SCARPA Vapor S as my main weapon.

I would back it up with a pair of super-tight, uber-high-performance shoes for the send run when the footholds were on the bleak side. This strategy left my feet feeling fresher and pain-free, saving “foot juice” for when I really needed to bear down. And it allowed for more comfortable hikes out.

The pricing is high for a slipper at an MSRP of $199. But it falls in line with other newer shoes from the brand and others.

When the training plan for the day seems endless or the list of the day’s objectives is long, the SCARPA Vapor S is an excellent rock climbing shoe. Your feet will thank you.

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