The brainchild of Scarpa shoe genius Heinz Mariacher, the Chimera is “the pinnacle of modern climbing shoe design and innovation” and without mincing words – it’s true.
Indoor - 9.5/10
Outdoor - 8/10
Sensitivity - 10/10
Comfort - 9/10
Durability - 7/10
Value For Money - 8/10
- Ultra-sensitive and precise
- Great at smearing
- Excellent, secure fit
- A Little pricey
- Bad for crack climbing
- The soft rubber wears pretty quickly
Long gone are the days you had to choose between comfort or top-level performance. The Chimera is about as close as climbing shoes come to a rubber sock. While edging isn’t exactly the shoe’s forte, when it comes to smearing on slabs or hooking pockets in a cave, these shoes will undoubtedly raise your game.
Last updated on May 6th, 2023 at 03:09 am
It’s hard to know what to say about the Scarpa Chimera review. As a reviewer, you don’t want to sound like too much of a starry-eyed fan, but when you encounter a shoe that performs this well, it’s hard not to. The brainchild of Scarpa shoe genius Heinz Mariacher, the Chimera is described by them as “the pinnacle of modern climbing shoe design and innovation” and without mincing words – it’s true.
Everything about them states their next-level pedigree. They’re bright to the point of being ostentatious, downturned to the point of being extreme, and soft to the point at which you can almost crumple them up in your hand. When you put them next to a shoe like the Scarpa Helix, they look like shoes designed for a totally different sport.
Theoretically, the Scarpa Chimera should struggle on hard vertical climbing, trad etc – they are intended to be used for viciously difficult double-digit boulders and immense sport climbs in the 5.14 and above region. But in my experience, they can do almost anything well – and if your footwork is halfway decent, they can be a game-changing tool.
The key to their success is in the toe, although in reality, the toe gets its incredible performance from a unique rand, made up of eight individual strips that, when the laces are tightened, create amazing tension from the toe all the way through the midfoot and right round the back of the heel.
The toe itself is blunted, with the shape roughly mirroring that of your actual foot being wider and flat around the top of the big toe, then tapering back in a smooth curve. But it’s the interaction between the rubber and the toe that makes this shoe so remarkable.
As the rubber compresses under your weight, the initially sharp edge under the big toe deforms onto small footholds, creating what has been referred to as a ‘smedge’ – an edge that also smears onto the rock. The result is a superior version of the No-Edge technology in the La Sportiva range – a grip that is at the same time precise and sticky.
The innovative design continues over the top of the foot, without the laces providing a completely sock-like feel to the shoe without compromising on its toe-hooking capabilities – the shoe can perform on marginal scums without the outside of the foot as well as deeper toe hooks that wrap much of the top of the shoe.
Again, the tensioning system that’s at work makes the heel a high-performance beast. The shoe genuinely feels sucked onto your foot, and this makes heel-hooking secure, easy, and powerful – I think you can really crank down hard on the heel in these without any fear of slippage.
Like the rest of the shoe, it’s also really low-volume, meaning it never feels clunky or oversized for small features. I didn’t note any bagginess in the heel, and overall most climbers seem to concur that the fit is second to none, including around the heel.
The rubber on the Chimera has been used by Scarpa in a way that is genuinely second to none – although it is the same XS Grip 2 that is used on loads of high-performance shoes, it has been applied with elite precision to this shoe to create what is effectively a cleverly reinforced rubber sock, and in doing so, it has created perhaps the most high-performance shoe on the market.
As noted above in the toe section, the ability to ‘smedge’ is a crucial factor in this shoe’s success. It feels like a shoe that you’ve broken in over months and months and is nearing the end of its life – fully formed around your foot with soft rubber. But you’ve still got a great, sharp edge to apply to small holds.
The only downside is that that edge does wear off pretty quickly – but that doesn’t necessarily diminish the quality of the shoe, as it still performs exceptionally well on most other footholds, especially on steep ground, smears and friction-based holds indoors and out.
Comfort and Fit
As covered variously in other parts, the fit is a key part of the shoe, with the rand tensioning system and the lacing combining for an aggressive yet natural fit, shaping close around your foot for maximum sensitivity and precision.
The shoe probably suits those with a narrower foot, although the lacing means you can accommodate different foot types fairly easily, and whilst it is undoubtedly a performance shoe with a very tight fit, it is astonishingly comfortable on long sport routes. I felt that due to the design of the shoe molding to the foot, as long as I didn’t size so aggressively that my toes were completely cramped then the shoe remained really comfortable even when brand new.
I only dropped around 1 size from my street shoe to get a great performance fit.
This is probably the best top-end shoe on the market. As long as you don’t mind the garish colors (one friend described them to me as looking like dog toys…) then these shoes will raise your level, whatever you’re doing.
Whether it’s bouldering (Dan Varian said they were the best single pair of shoes for bouldering, Alex Puccio likes them), trad (Emma Twyford used them on her ascent of The Big Issue E9), sport, or competition climbing (too many top-end climbers using them to name!), then these are going to make you better.
We hope you have enjoyed our Scarpa Chimera review. If you can’t wait to get your hands on these shoes, why not get them on Backcountry here.