Most people who start rock climbing begin the same way. Either with a pair of borrowed shoes, as I did or hiring a pair from an indoor climbing centre. Neither is ideal for many reasons, not least the hygiene issues! Anyone who has owned their own rock shoes for a length of time will know just how bad they stink after a short period of wear, especially those who climb without socks. Mainly though, the problem is with how they fit and perform on your feet…
Footwear reviews can be considered as useless really. A pair that is good for one individual may be completely hopeless for someone else. So when the time comes for you to commit to the sport of climbing and hand back that old and crusty pair of ill fitting shoes to your mate, you need to take a lot of time choosing your own. Reports on shoes from other users do come in handy though. When faced with the vast and bewildering choice in the climbing shop – I will add here that it is essential to buy your shoes from a shop and not online, so that you can try them on – you will eventually narrow your choice down to a few pairs that fit you well. Then you can take on board the opinions of others to help you make your final choice.
So I eventually bought myself a pair of Scarpa Force shoes, the men’s version is finished in a colour scheme called “Parrot” and it’s easy to see why!
Having already been climbing for a few months, I didn’t want to get a pair of basic “entry level” shoes as they tend to be very loose fitting and they will, almost certainly get left behind as ability advances. Nor did I want to spend money on a full “technical” pair that would crush my feet and make every session a nightmare. Scarpa actually market these shoes as “entry to intermediate” but the lasting (shape of the shoe) is definitely more towards the “intermediate” level.
They were immediately comfortable yet holding my feet snugly from toe to heel. The velcro fastening is quick and efficient. The two straps oppose each other which gives a very secure and even tension across the top of the foot . The straps also allow variable adjustment between bridge and toe. I find this feature very useful, for a few reasons…I can leave the shoes fairly loose while warming up or doing easy routes early in a session. As I progress to more technical moves and/or smaller holds, I can tighten them up fully to give me maximum feel and allow me to confidently put lots of power through my feet as necessary. Also depending on conditions, I sometimes find that my feet can increase or decrease in volume during a climbing session and to be able to quickly flick a strap back and forth, rather than sitting down for ten minutes fiddling around with laces is a huge bonus!
Indoors or out they work really well giving bags of confidence boosting friction from Scarpa’s Vibram XS sole. Even on polished limestone they are more than capable. The toe profile is good for maximising small cracks and pockets and there is enough torsion across the shoe to torque firmly into a foot jam.
I’ve worn these for a year or so from both long, hard, indoor bouldering sessions to days out on limestone and Peak grit, finding little to criticise. The soles are a bit awkward to “squeak” (rubbing firmly with a moistened thumb to clean the rubber until it begins to squeak.) They shed a lot of black dust into my palm every time. The colour is a little garish but that soon fades as they get some wear. Other than that, all is good.
I summary, as a first pair of rock shoes, they have been great for me. They are no where near wearing out, which pleases me as I have no desire to change them just yet…