Does your technical footwork need some work? If so, the Scarpa Instinct Lace is the shoe you need in your life. The master of laser-precise footwork on both the vertical and steep stuff.
Indoor - 8/10
Outdoor - 9/10
Sensitivity - 8/10
Comfort - 8/10
Durability - 9/10
Value For Money - 8.5/10
- Awesome for technical sport climbing
- Great for edging and precise footwork
- Durable Vibram XS Edge
- High & low volume variation
- Heel cup is a bit wide
The Scrapa Lace is a comfortable performance shoe that will feel at home on any wide-footed sport climbers. Ideal for both vertical and steep sport climbing, prepare yourself for some of the best edging performance Scarpa has to offer.
Last updated on July 12th, 2023 at 06:53 am
After the enormous popularity of the Instinct VS and Instinct VSR, Scarpa made the decision to update their all-around performance shoe line with the Scarpa Instinct Lace.
The lace-up gave increased precision, better fit, and improved tension through the midsole. The result? An incredible all-rounder that can deliver on hard sport, hard trad, and even bouldering, but retains a relatively ‘wearable’ feel, allowing substantial levels of comfort for such a high performer.
For a long time, the Instinct Lace was my favorite shoe – I had worn and liked the VS version, and the Lace seemed to add everything I needed. The extra tension from the laces made heel-hooking more secure and natural (as well as providing a more custom fit), and the rubber stayed in great condition even after enormous amounts of use, meaning hard edging moves remained possible even when the shoes were old.
In general, the shoes work well on most terrain, though it is best suited to hard vertical and slightly overhanging routes. There are only a couple of downsides, which I’ll come to later in the Scarpa Instinct Lace review.
The toe is the masterpiece of this shoe. Although built on the same last as the other Instinct models (S, VS, and the VSR), the addition of laces definitely creates amazing tension from the point of the big toe all the way through the mid-sole and into the heel, allowing climbers to get the very best out of tiny footholds.
The moderate chamber contributes to this and allows you to get more out of your feet on overhanging ground: although not the most aggressively downturned shoes out there, they still hold their own against models like the La Sportiva Skwama or 5.10 Hiangle.
I haven’t worn many shoes where the toe performs so consistently well on limestone and slate-style footholds, where a good edge can make all the difference. Don’t expect total comfort – like any performance shoes they need to be aggressive but despite the extremely high level of performance, the toe box is relatively roomy and not especially uncomfortable – this means you can wear them for long pitches or for a good bout of training indoors.
Unfortunately, for every reaction, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Due to the extra space taken up on the top of the shoe by the laces (and possibly due to the design that makes them quite comfortable for aggressive shoes), these shoes are notoriously bad at toe-hooking compared to other Instinct range shoes. Although they will still perform well on deep toe hooks or where the angle allows lots of contact, they frequently slip on technical toe hooks.
The heel had the potential to be a bit of a letdown on this shoe. Scarpa describes it as a ‘bolt-on’ from the Instinct VS, where the velcro strap ensures good heel support. That shoe was at times a little clunky, and the heel felt like it had too much rubber.
However, the heel operates pretty well on the Lace. It is quite wide, with a separate rubber strip wrapping around the back of the ankle and heel that increases the overall volume. This can be useful when sitting on a heel (for a rest on steep ground, or when mantling on a good hold) but also irritating if trying to heel hook a small area (Trackside, anyone?!) so there are pros and cons.
The laces add extra security, meaning that by and large heel hooks in the Lace feel solid with minimal slippage. Although not the standout feature of this shoe, if you know how to turn your heel and lock into your hips, the heels on these shoes will certainly not let you down – allowing you to focus on their strengths in the toe area.
The Instinct Lace uses Vibram XS Edge, the slightly firmer rubber used in edging shoes by both Scarpa and La Sportiva (among others). A generally hard-wearing and direct rubber, it gives the shoe (as you would expect) fantastic edging qualities.
Nevertheless, this shoe is still really good for smearing. Compared to Scarpa’s innovative and super-sensitive shoes, like the Chimera or Drago, this shoe could feel a little solid but it performs perfectly well on friction-dependent moves.
If you like to wear a firmer shoe but don’t want to sacrifice performance on very steep terrain or friction moves, this shoe is a brilliant crossover – allowing both smears and edges to be handled smoothly and comfortably. Although it won’t let you down indoors, I think this shoe’s natural home is outdoors.
The rubber is hard-wearing, meaning the shoes last a long time, but they take a while to break in, and can remain quite insensitive for a long time. If you want to really feel your footwork, a supersoft slipper like the Drago or 5.10 Hiangle may be a better option.
Comfort and Fit
As mentioned above, this is a performance shoe – but it’s not the most ridiculous one out there in terms of sizing and comfort. I found that once broken in (this took quite a while – around a month, or 8-10 sessions), this was one of my most comfortable shoes, and could actually be worn with the laces undone for lots of climbing (a sure sign that the shape and molding are up to scratch). It delivers really well on all types of climbing without requiring you to be in agony, something most climbers will probably appreciate!
The lace closure system generally provides an excellent fit for most feet, and although many avoid laces because they see them as a bit of a faff, these are versatile and comfortable enough to largely make up for that. They’re not best suited to indoor bouldering anyway, so the chances are you won’t be taking them off and putting them on again all the time.
That said, the fit is probably best suited to those with slightly narrower feet – although not as aggressively narrow as many 5.10 shoes, these still pinch a little bit, especially where the laces tighten around the middle. If you’re thinking about how much to downsize, the answer is ‘very little’ – most people only go down 1 size from their street shoe in Instincts, and I only went down a half size in these, for a perfect fit.
Overall, the Scarpa Instinct Lace is a shoe that can help you take your climbing to the next level – especially if you are an intermediate climber looking to step up to sport climbing 7s (5.12s) or bouldering V6 and above.
No aspect of it is overdone, meaning you get an all-rounder that can consistently perform near the top end. They are fairly pricey, but fall outside the ‘upper echelon’ of shoes now being offered, and are therefore something of a bargain considering how well they perform and how long they’ll last.
I would absolutely recommend these to any reasonably experienced climber looking for a shoe that can do it all. As mentioned before, these were the reviewer’s absolute favorite shoes for several years before moving on to softer, more sensitive models and I still return to them for hard vertical walls or where I need a crucial edge.
If our Scarpa Instinct Lace review has inspired you to get your hands on these bad boys, you can find them on Backcountry here.