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Scarpa Instinct Lace


Is your technical footwork in need of some help? Look no further than the Scarpa Instinct Lace – your ticket to mastering laser-precise footwork on both vertical walls and steep terrain.

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(4 reviews)
  • Edging - 9/10
  • Smearing - 7.5/10
  • Steep Terrain - 8.5/10
  • Comfort - 8/10
  • Sensitivity - 7/10
  • Value For Money - 8/10


  • Awesome for technical sport climbing
  • Great for edging and precise footwork
  • Durable Vibram XS Edge
  • High & low volume variation


  • Heel cup is a little wide

Best For: Outdoor single-pitch sport

Summary: The Scrapa Lace is a comfortable performance shoe that will feel at home on any wide-footed sport climber. Ideal for both vertical and steep sport climbing, prepare yourself for some of the finest edging performance Scarpa has to offer.

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Alpine Trek

the complete

Scarpa Instinct Lace Review

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 – Having already enjoyed the VS version, the Lace seemed to offer that extra edge I was looking for. The added tension from the laces not only made heel-hooking more secure and natural but also provided a more personalized fit.

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. So, let’s lace up and explore this shoe in more detail.

Toe Box

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.

Scarpa Instinct Toe

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.

Scarpa Instinct Heel

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.

Scarpa Instinct Rubber

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 super-soft 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.

The Verdict

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.


Community Reviews

We’ve had our say, now it’s time for you to have yours. If you have a history with this shoe, then please leave a review! The climbing community needs your wisdom.

3 thoughts on “Scarpa Instinct Lace”

    • 8.5/10
      Edging - 8.5/10
    • 7.5/10
      Smearing - 7.5/10
    • 9/10
      Steep Terrain - 9/10
    • 7.5/10
      Comfort - 7.5/10
    • 8/10
      Sensitivity - 8/10
    • 8/10
      Value For Money - 8/10

    I love the addition of the laces to this model. You can really cinch the shoe to a new level of snugnesses. It really does create for a sock like feel. I just picked up a pair of these and only have about 1 hour climbing in them, but they’re already like butter. They don’t take much to get a good feel and the support is so far unmatched. The shoe is also really grippy. I haven’t been out on any super slick surface with them but I’m confident for when that time comes.

  1. Christopher Weaver
    • 10/10
      Edging - 10/10
    • 8/10
      Smearing - 8/10
    • 10/10
      Steep Terrain - 10/10
    • 10/10
      Comfort - 10/10
    • 8/10
      Sensitivity - 8/10
    • 10/10
      Value For Money - 10/10

    The Scarpa Instinct Lace is probably the best all-around climbing shoe on the market. Though it may not be ideal for all foot shapes, this shoe if fitted well has the potential to be great at nearly every aspect of climbing. The shoe excels the most for hard bouldering and sport climbing, much like its counterpart the Instinct VS or VSR. The benefit that this shoe offers over the VS/VSR is the lace system. The laces really allow for a dialed in fit that provided incredible security when performing hard moves. The laces, if left loosely tied, also allow for a more relaxed fit while warming up that other non-lace shoes simply cannot offer. I think this shoe really deserves full marks for edging, steep terrain, and comfort for those reasons. Due to the shoes more aggressive shape and stiffness though, it is less ideal for really smeary climbs. However, the Instinct Lace can definitely smear and perform on slabby terrain where other similarly aggressive shoes cannot, like the 5.10 Highangle or the UP NewTro. However, I believe this shoe finds its home with more edging based, pocket based or steep based climbs. Overall sensitivity of the shoe is pretty good and allows the climber to feel the rock, but without the pain softer shoes offer. The heel of the Instinct Lace is utterly bomb-proof, offering the climber a truly locked-in feel when placing heel hooks. The heel can feel a bit wide on narrower feet, but with the advantage of the laces a climber can sinch them down still providing a fit that works excellently. I do not do, much crack climbing, so I will not speak to the performance of the shoes there, but the overall shape of the shoe is quite narrow which could lend itself to crack climbing as well. Overall, I believe this is one of the best climbing shoes on the market today and anyone looking for a one shoe quiver could definitely find it with the Scarpa Instinct Lace.

  2. Julian Neuner
    • 10/10
      Edging - 10/10
    • 7/10
      Smearing - 7/10
    • 9.5/10
      Steep Terrain - 9.5/10
    • 9/10
      Comfort - 9/10
    • 8/10
      Sensitivity - 8/10
    • 9.5/10
      Value For Money - 9.5/10

    My go-to shoe for routes with small textured footholds which require you to really dig in and pull. The combined downturn and stiffness of the shoe make it the most precise I’ve ever worn. I use it as a specialist shoe for overhanging routes with bad footholds where it allows my feet to stick to the wall when over shoes don’t. The closest comparison to the Instinct Lace’s toe precision is the Lasportiva Solution for me, however I feel the added stiffness in the Instinct Lace locks your foot in place better on limit moves while sacrificing some smearing capability. Despite the stiffness of the midsole the toe still feels really sensitive, allowing me to feel out the texture of the hold and find grooves to pull on.
    Smearing in this shoe is good when you smear with your toe, but larger smears which require your whole forefoot to create contact are basically impossible for me, but if I sized it less aggressively and wore it in more I think this would improve. Toe hooks are also a little difficult, the downturn and low flexibility mean you have to hook more with your toe knuckles than the actual toe, however the toe patch is large enough to compensate for some of that. On the other hand this is probably the best heel hooking shoe on the market, especially the edges on the side of the heel rubber sole allow for incredibly technical heel hooks on micro edges, adding to the precision of the shoe.
    Aside from its performance this is just an incredibly well made shoe. Everything on this shoe from the one-piece toe patch/rand, the enforced upper, the microfiber tongue and the laces to the glueing and stitching feels as robust as I’ve seen and I have no doubt I can resole this shoe as long as I want until I get sick of it, making it an incredible value-for-money shoe especially if you can offset its initial high cost by buying it on sale.
    The shoe is also very comfortable. The padded tongue feels really nice and the wide toe/narrow heel profile of the Instinct Lace Women combined with the laces to dial in my narrow mid foot shape mean there is basically no unnecessary space in the shoe, but there is also no uncomfortable pressure at any point. This was a little different during the break-in as a seam on the big toe created a pressure point between my toe knuckle and the toe nail only when standing on the toe of my slighlty smaller right foot, so during the break-in I taped this part of my big toe which fixed the pain and after the break-in this isn’t a problem anymore.
    I sized down 1 1/2 sizes from my street shoe size for optimal edging performance during bouldering, but for longer sport climbs 1 size down is probably the better option.
    Due to the incredible edging and heel hooking performance of the shoe it is no wonder why Scarpa athletes swear by this shoe for technical face climbing or steep bouldering on minimal footholds. For me this is a specialized shoe which gives me the most security on small footholds on overhanging routes, but the aggressively downturned profile and stiff midsole make it a suboptimal choice for most indoor bouldering.


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