One of the most adaptable sport climbing shoe money can buy. Awesome for beginners, seasoned crag rats, and everyone in between.
Indoor - 7.5/10
Outdoor - 8.5/10
Sensitivity - 7/10
Comfort - 8.5/10
Durability - 9/10
Value For Money - 9/10
- Awesome all-around performance
- Very durable
- Great value for money
- Very comfortable thanks to moderate camber and padded tongue
- Not specialized, and therefore not the “best” at any one thing
- The minimal toe patch isn’t good for hooking
- Not ideal for foot jamming and cracks
Versatility would be my one word for this Scarpa best-seller. Sure, the Scarpa Vapor V feel at its best on technical single-pitch sport, but it doesn’t have that edging power of shoes like the Boostic or Mago. They smear pretty nicely too, but again, certainly not in the same league as the Veloce or Instinct VSR. They’re no Drago but they can hold their own on the modestly overhung projects in your life.
That might not exactly sound like a raving review, but hear me out.
The Vapor V’s ability to be “good” and most things rather than “great” at just a single climbing style or foot placement is exactly why this shoe is such a killer all-arounder. If you aren’t ready to invest in a collection of specialized shoes, or if you are short on pack space, then a shoe that feels “good” on most things, instead of one that feels “great” on just one specific thing is a pretty wise move.
The Vapor V is great for beginners both in the gym or at the crag, as well as advanced climbers tackling a diverse range of projects. If you are looking for a shoe that can do everything well and become a long-standing member of your collection, the Vapor V will make an awesome addition.
Last updated on July 8th, 2023 at 03:38 am
Since the release of the first generation in 2010, the Vapor V (also sold as the “Scarpa Vapour V” in the UK) has come a long way. Ever since the OG model, the shoe has always been positioned as a performance all arounder. The original design featured a full-length sole, leather uppers, and its signature dual velcro closure.
The Vapor V received its first makeover in 2015. There were some pretty noticeable differences; the new model 10% lighter than the original, and it also swapped the XS Grip full-length sole for an XS Edge split-sole design. Other noteworthy upgrades included a larger toe patch and a significantly improved heel. A laced model was also introduced the following year.
Now, in its third iteration, the fresh-faced Vapor V was released in 2019. Aside from the fresh aesthetics, a new microfiber upper, and a slightly stiffer midsole to compensate for the softer synthetic uppers, the redesigned model shares many of the features of the 2015 model.
The shoe now comes in both male and female variations, with the Female model offering a lower volume fit, narrower heel, and a softer Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber outsole, making the shoe more adaptable for to lighter climbers.
As you would expect from a performance all arounder, the Vapor V is extremely adaptable. While it’s certainly capable of hooking pockets of polished limestone, balancing on barely-there granite edges, or smearing precariously on gym volumes it’s obvious there are certain types of holds that the Vapor V takes better to than others.
Edging is one of the strongest areas of the Vapor V’s performance. As mentioned in the summary, the Vapor V probably isn’t on the same level as edging-specific models like the La Sportiva Katana or the Scarpa Boostic, but for a “do it all” performance shoe, I was pretty damn impressed. The tip of the toe comes to a nice point, and the asymmetrical shape puts the power directly over your big toe, allowing for really precise foot placements.
But their’s plenty more clever design features that give the Vapor V its edging power. The most obvious is the Vibram XS Edge ⅔ sole, which extends under the arch of the foot for that little extra underfoot support. The Flexan 1.4mm midsole runs the whole length of the shoe and wraps up the back of the heel, undoubtedly providing a large amount of underfoot support.
Scarpa has also added their clever Bi-tension rand, something I’ve found works really well on other models like the Scarpa Instinct VSR. The Bi-tension essentially works like a reverse slingshot rand, and instead of adding tension to the heel and cramming your toes forward, the bi-tension pulls from under the forefoot. It allows for nice tension throughout the shoe, which keeps the toe box extremely precise and stops the edges from rolling on smaller footholds.
If you think about it, the features that make a good smearing shoe are the complete opposite of the ones that make a shoe good at edging. Generally, a softer shoe allows for more surface contact and spreadability, which is great for smearing. A stiffer shoe, on the other hand, is more rigid and creates underfoot support, which is better for edging.
It’s unusual, then, that the Vapor V can do both pretty well. Although it takes to the edges more naturally than it does to smearing, the moderate camber, split sole, and barely-there toe kicker helps the shoe adapt to varying angles of slabs. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, the XS Edge and full-length midsole do make the shoe slightly less willing to conform, so don’t be expecting the same smearing ability as the Veloce.
Overhangs aren’t the most obvious terrain that comes to mind with a shoe like this. Don’t get me wrong, the Vapor V certainly knows its way around moderately overhung sports lines or boulder problems. The tip of the toe is laser-precise, but it falls short when it comes to mastering the cave and roof lines.
The main reason for this is that it lacks the crucial aggressive camber, especially in the toe box, which allows you to really pull and hook pockets with your toes. The stiffer rubber and midsole also don’t help here either, making it harder for the shoe to conform around the holds.
Heel and Toe Hooking
The reinvented heel cup on the 2019 Vapor V is great. For this new heel, Scarpa has taken inspiration from the Instinct and created a double-layered heel design. A slightly more complex design like this does two things. For starters, it allows you to execute a more diverse range of heel hooks, allowing you to use both the sides and back of the heel cup.
It also helps keep the back of the shoe nice and adaptable, reducing dead spots, and allowing your heel to remain nice and snug.
Toe hooking, on the other hand, is virtually none existent. While it’s easy to be disappointed at the lack of a large toe patch, this shoe isn’t designed for bat hanging from a boulder problem, so it doesn’t really need one. On the off chance you need to throw down a little toe press on a techie sport line, the sticky little M50 toe patch does the job nicely.
Gym-specific shoes all have very similar traits in common; ridiculously soft, sensitive barely-there midsoles, and large rubber toe patches. All of these are the stark opposite of the Vapor V.
This does make smearing on steep volumes, or sending the more dynamic problems slightly more difficult, but there’s still a place in the world of indoor climbing for the Vapor V. I have found them to be brilliant at the indoor lead, especially on the vertical and moderately overhung lines. In the bouldering gym, they are awesome for delicate slab problems.
If I was looking for a shoe specifically for bouldering indoors, would the Vapor V be my first choice? Probably not. But when it comes to working those slab boulders with frustratingly small jibs, I’m always glad to have the Vapor V handy.
Behind its solid all-around performance, durability is one of the big selling points of the Vapor.
The durability of a shoe like this is a double-edged sword. The first edge is the durability of the rubber. The XS Edge is the hardest compound in the Virbam arsenal, which not only makes it great for standing on small edges but also makes it considerably more durable than a softer alternative like XS Grip 2. Of course, it’s resoleable too, so when you have maxed out the lifespan of your rubber, it’s easy to bring that fresh performance feel back.
The other side of the sword is the amazing craftsmanship that is guaranteed with every Scapra shoe. The upper design looks relatively simple, but in reality, this 7-panel upper is just as complex as the Drago and other leading Scapra performance shoes. The stitching pattern around the toe box is also extremely complex, all of which help minimize stretch and expand the lifespan of the shoe.
Vapor V Size Guide
Sizing climbing shoes is always a personal affair. We all have different shapes and sizes of feet, and the preference between comfort and performance varies for everyone.
I personally sit somewhere in the middle. I like a little comfort in my life but I ultimately want a nice snug fit to get a good level of performance (remember climbing shoes are designed to be worn tight! You can learn more about sizing here). I usually wear a 44 EU street size and for the Vapor V, I found that the 42 EU was the best size for me. This is the same size I wear for both the Scapra Instinct line, as well as the Veloce.
It’s also worth remembering that because the Vapor V is a synthetic shoe (minus the suede leather footbed) there won’t be much stretch during the break-in period, so size to fit when buying these.
Fit & Comfort
The Vapor V is built on the FR last, the lowest volume, and the narrowest last shape in the Scarpa range. Naturally, then, these shoes going to suit narrow-foot climbers better. The heel cup also sits on the narrow side of the spectrum and is noticeably more narrow than the similar heel found on the Instinct.
Because the shoe isn’t overly asymmetrical and has that sitter profile, it’s a good shoe for people with Greek or Eqyiptain-shaped feet.
While I don’t have the widest feet in the game, I wouldn’t classify them as narrow either, but the Vapor V still offers a really good fit. The dual velcro closure allows for plenty of customization and they do a great job of wrapping the shoe nicely around your feet. This is helped by the elasticated strap that separates the velcro straps.
I’m also a big fan of the mesh tongue. Not only does it add that extra level of comfort, but it also keeps helping the shoe comfortable for those longer climbing days. That’s a win in my books.
Should you buy the Scarpa Vapor V?
Throughout the testing period, the Vapor V’s never ceased to amaze me with their all-around crushing potential. Many all-around climbing shoes are usually created with beginner climbers in mind, so they usually miss the mark when it comes to serious sending ability.
But that isn’t the case with the Vapor V. Sure, beginner climbers are bound to appreciate the versatility of this shoe, but this isn’t going to be lost on more advanced climbers either. If you’re looking for one of the highest-performing all-around, you may just have found it.
Microsuede & Leather
3.5mm Vibram XS Edge
Flexan Dynamic 1.4mm